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A_woman_thinking

What I read:

There’s no Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence. We need to discuss this as a society. I will write about the alarming piece this week.

I loved the idea of WeWork in the beginning but I feel it’s moving society in a wrong direction. The digital hippies want to integrate life and work — but not in a good way.

I went to Slush17 this week and I was mostly impressed by Ovamba, a short-term capital VC in Africa. Made me think how much we don’t know about Africa and we should know.

What I listened to:

Ezra Klein interviewed Rebecca Traister on #MeToo, Anita Hill and many others topics. In general, his podcast is a weekly highlight.

Slow Burn, a new Slate Podcast about Watergate. I gave the first episode a try and have to say that I can’t wait for the rest of the work. I thought I knew quite a bit about Watergate and I was wrong.

Yes, Howard Stern is the best interviewer out there but his interview with Jon Stewart was really special. Raw, real and very introspective. Don’t miss.

Bjork’s Utopia came out this week and it is her best work in more than 10 years.

What I wrote this week:

The Hemingway Law of AI.

The Future of Work in the Age of AI.

Guess what I’m focused on at the moment?

 

 

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A new report predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. The study, compiled by the McKinsey Global Institute, says that advances in AI and robotics will have a drastic effect on everyday working lives, comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution. In the US alone, between 39 and 73 million jobs stand to be automated — making up around a third of the total workforce.

But, the report also states that as in the past, technology will not be a purely destructive force. New jobs will be created; existing roles will be redefined; and workers will have the opportunity to switch careers. The challenge particular to this generation, say the authors, is managing the transition. Income inequality is likely to grow, possibly leading to political instability; and the individuals who need to retrain for new careers won’t be the young, but middle-aged professionals.

As with previous studies on this topic, there’s much to be said for taking a skeptical view. Economic forecasting is not an exact science, and McKinsey’s researchers are keen to stress that their predictions are just that. The figure of 800 million jobs lost worldwide, for example, is only the most extreme of possible scenarios, and the report also suggests a middle estimate of 400 million jobs.

Nevertheless, this study is one of the most comprehensive in recent years, modeling changes in more than 800 occupations, and taking in some 46 countries, accounting for 90 percent of world GDP. Six nations are also analyzed in detail — the US, China, Germany, Japan, India, and Mexico — with these countries representing a range of economic situations and differently organized workforces.

A few highlights:

  • Automation will impact mostly Western countries. As an example, only 9% in India compared to 26% in Japan.
  • Up to 375 million people may need to switch occupational categories with the highest share in advanced economies.
  • If displaced workers are not reemployed quickly, countries will face rising unemployment and depressed wages. Unless retraining efforts are being implemented quickly, wage polarization in advanced countries could continue.
  • Business and policymakers will need to act to keep people working as automation is adopted.
  • Magnitude of potential job dislocation from automation through 2030 is not unprecedented. However, with a lack of innovation in policy and debt-laden countries major political responses are rather unlikely.
  • Technology displaces some work but creates new jobs, sometimes in unforeseen ways.
  • The global trend of aging population will create new and additional labor demand for health care.
  • “Marketization” of unpaid work could create new jobs.

The report closes:

“For society as a whole, machines can take on work that is routine, dangerous, or dirty, and may allow us all to use our intrinsically human talents more fully and enjoy more leisure. Yet even as we bene t, our societies will need to prepare for complex transitions ahead, as machines replace workers in many areas. Our research suggests that it may be time to refocus the current anxious debate about automation toward issues of demand growth, and how to manage the inevitable transitions created by automation. The task at hand is to prepare for a more automated future by emphasizing the skills that will be needed and ensuring dynamic job creation. The technology is advancing rapidly; the policy choices should not tarry.”

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“How did you go bankrupt” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

The Hemingway Law of AI applies to many situations. It’s when the creaking of your back porch doesn’t matter much, until the day you put a foot through the floor. It’s when the cracks and rust on the stairs don’t seem to matter, until the stairs break. It’s the concern that you can see signs that the risk of a financial crisis or a stick market run, but little action is taken until the crisis is upon us. It’s the concern that the costs and risks of climate change may look quite reasonable, until something large and perhaps irreversible happens all at once.

AI has gradually nibbled away at human work and skills over the last few years:

  • Trade stocks, book flights, give directions and predict the weather
  • Play Go, Jeopard, Chess and Poker
  • Fly a plane, detect a fire, maintain the temperature of your house
  • Trade stocks, place online ads and recommend the next book to read

The AI Revolution is happening gradually, currently focused on things humans don’t like to do anyway. The jobs machines are replacing are often mind-numbing and repetitive. Not many people want to sort tomatoes all day long or press the same button for hours. Machines are better at these tasks, they don’t tire and improve over time. But many people will miss the community, the income and pride that comes along with going to work every day. The foundation of the Middle Class were repetitive jobs and AI nibbles constantly on that foundation.

For the majority of us, the AI revolution feels small now. Until it suddenly changes everything.

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That was wonderful.

The last few months have been filled with clarifying moments. And they culminated in the last 2 days with the Inauguration and Women’s March. Here we are. The road ahead is clear:

  • The most powerful weapon you have isn’t anger or violence. Your most powerful weapons are kindness, generosity and respectful dialogue. A generous word, a hug, a small gesture of humanity, a small donation or a banner held high in peaceful protest has never meant as much as it does today.
  • We still need to take more stock and understand how we got into this mess globally. Here is just one problem: we have, in addition to 7.5 million officially unemployed (a number that is closer to 15 million when all the hidden unemployment is accounted for), 23.5 million Americans aged 25-to-54 who reside outside the confines of the labor force. And at a time when job openings are at record highs.The problem is that unqualified applicants for these openings also are at a record high. The number of jobs available that are not being filled because the skill set is absent is at an unprecedented level. The question is what is in the policy playbook to redress this situation? What we need is a policy playbook that makes education, apprenticeship and training a major priority. Oh, and the robots are coming, climate change is happening, the world is unstable. Need I say more? We need to think these challenges through more.
  • We need to develop a vision for the future. The EU was founded on the ruins of WWII, ensuring such a conflict would never happen again. It had a moral center, a purpose, a vision. Today, people have forgotten about the vision, about its purpose. That’s the fault of technocrats, focusing on economics and regulations. The US had a vast moral purpose once: it was able to convince the world to follow its lead, to adopt first constitutionalism, then liberal democracy, then capitalism. America has been losing moral purpose for decades. An Iraq war here, secrets jail here and there, needless spying everywhere. That’s how you end up with a transactional Presidency. What we saw in the marches was an emotional connection that will help carry people through the future and give them hope. What we need now is an intellectual, policy-driven, philosophical, humane and imaginative vision for the future. It has to be much bigger than a party platform, much, much bigger than just resisting and fighting an administration. Because the EU and US have lost their moral purpose, they lost the most valuable thing of all: trust, faith and self-worth. And their soul, these constructs feel empty and hollow inside. We have to fill them with life and purpose.
  • You need to be the change you want to see: Some will run for office, some will be activists, some will create art, some will analyze and offer insights, some will help the ones left behind. It doesn’t matter what you are going to do but this is a good time to take a close look at your life: If you’ve always wanted to change the world by implementing an amazing idea, this is a good time to start. If you have a project you’ve been putting off for a long time, now is a good time to get to work. Changing the world seems impossible, there are so many processes and forces fighting against you. Changing the world doesn’t mean reversing Brexit or impeaching Trump. These are hollow discussions on social media, a waste of your time. Just doing one thing a week can bring enormous change: Joining a credit union. Learning a new skill. Stay away from social media for a day and read a book instead. Buy from responsible brands. Understand that spending hours on Facebook makes you part of the problem, not of a solution. Saying something nice to someone you’ve been meaning to say so. Start a diary. Start painting. Take care of your body and sleep.

I know, it sounds so silly and pedestrian. But change is not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary. Resolutions are useless because they rely on revolutionizing your behavior. Change comes in small steps, one at a time.

And, most importantly, take care of yourself and each other. I’m as Globalist as they come but the real change happens in your local community, at your house, in your family, with your friends, on the streets you walk and drive on every day. It’s not fancy, it doesn’t create headlines but it the most impact you’ll ever have.

Imagine your world and moral purpose. Because true change only starts in your imagination.

 

 

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I was introduced to the idea of theme for the year by Maria Sipka. It’s incredible simple: You start setting a theme minutes before midnight NYE (just a word) that would let serendipity and synchronicity take its course. As I tend to do, I didn’t follow instructions to a T because “work” as the word of the year has been too obvious to me for the last few months:

  • Millions of jobs will disappear in the next few years due to automation and technology. Will we find ways to replace those jobs with new opportunities? Hwat happens if those jobs disappear forever, never to be replaced?
  • Some countries and communities like Finland, Utrecht (Netherlands) and Oakland, California will experiment with Universal Basic Income in the months and years to come. Manitoba in Canada implemented this concept successfully but it was buried when political winds changed.
  • Projections of future job losses are all over the place, ranging from 10 – 40% in the next 10 years. How will our society change when a vast minority faces a jobless future?

On a more personal level, just like almost everybody in my life, I’m struggling with the blurring lines of work and life. More than that, I still tend to define myself mostly through work and its outcome, not enough through myself and who I really am. How do I combine meaning of life and work, where are the lines of separation? How can i rediscover the small pleasures of work that were once embryonic forms when I was a child? How can I forget about typical job categories and rather categorize based on pleasures: I might want to go back to “I am motivated by serving” or “Its’ understanding that gets me going…” How can know myself better, remember where the true sources of excitement and interest lie for me to get to the goal of a more satisfying work and life.

365 days to answer these initial questions and many more. My mission is to cross paths and meet with 50 thinkers and doers who are focusing on new ways to work and live. I want to learn as much as I can and, hopefully, contribute on any level. Definitely write about it, maybe start a podcast, the opportunities are endless.

If you know anybody I should talk, meet with or explore their projects, please share any ideas.

Let’s get to “work”.

 

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This was the first Christmas she didn’t believe in Santa Claus. I had to put food for the old man and his reindeer in front of the tree. She just shook her head because I tried to keep the story going. I shared the “Yes, Virginia, there’s a Santa Claus.” to keep the spirit of Christmas alive and not just make it about presents and Christmas trees.

She leaves the house now daily at 6.30 by herself, takes the tram, the train and finally the bus to her school. While there are still many moments we share, Winnetou and Sissie movies we watch, vacations we take – I can see a future where this will become the exception, not the current norm.

There’s sadness in this: Longing for the days when she always held my hand crossing the street, when she walked in the kitchen first thing in the morning, just hugging me for the longest time.

And there’s pride: How she’s turning into a fine, young lady. Independent, loving books and happy to take on a new world and life in Amsterdam. Much quicker than I expected.

There’s also recognition: The life we live is not ours – Her life, your life, my life.

While there’s sadness, pride and pain seeing children grow up, we would never want to stop the process. And, thankfully, we can’t. Just like we can’t stop our lives from changing as children take the necessary steps that, one happy/sad day they will leave their home to create their own elsewhere. We did the same one day and arrived where we are because progress and change can’t be stopped.

“The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” – C.S. Lewis

No matter what I do, how good a father and husband I am, how much I love, help others, I still live on borrowed time. We all have borrowed lives.

There’s no extension, no money-back guarantee. No ownership, no lemon law, no trade-ins.

This life is all we have. Each moment of it – sadness, happiness, love, pain, the past, children, work, the future, the present.

Enjoy the journey and each moment. Make the best of your present. Very soon, all of it will be gone.

Until that day, be the best borrower you can be.

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It’s been pretty dark months for liberals, city-dwellers, experts, gay people who desire equal rights, women who don’t want a President who boasts about sexually assaulting them, people of color who want to be heard.

Welcome to the pain of the citizens of Istanbul, of New Delhi, the liberals of Russia and Israel. Suddenly, you feel as if your countrymen have become strangers to you and your fond expectations of progress are revealed as childlike fantasy.

Others have castigated us as an elite, out of touch with real people and their real concerns. Apparently, we have been numb to the fact that this is a deeply divided world. Many want us to give up on our beliefs and leave the stage to politicians now displaying confidently their  isolationist views, their sexism and homophobia, they belief that all people are not born equal.

Well, sorry, but we are not going anywhere.

And, we are not shutting up.

The use of the word ‘elite’ to describe those that believe of us in education equality and opportunity for all is particularly shameful. It’s said with a sneer and suggests that those  to be in the elite somehow think they are better than everybody else. It’s intended to divide. More than that, it’s an attempt to suggest there are fewer of us than there really are. A reminder: More than 62 million voted for Hillary Clinton, while in the UK more than 16 million voted to remain in the European Union. Those voters are not the elite. They were 48% of voters in the UK and 51% of voters in the US.

We need to remember we have strength in numbers.

And, we also need to remember we are right.

There is nothing wrong believing in equality. That everybody should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexuality. That women should not be sexually assaulted, verbally abused in the street, and discriminated against at work. That black and Hispanic people should not be racially abused, Muslim or Jewish people targeted and no race should be targeted by the police because of the color of their skin. There is nothing wrong with being an expert, in getting an education, specializing in a chosen field, and using that knowledge to better understand the world around us. There is nothing wrong with being Cosmopolitan, learning a language, understanding different cultures, mixing with people who are from different parts of the world.

Oh, and let us pause for a moment and consider the absurdity that we, the ones with passports, the one with friends, family and colleagues from around the world, we are accused of living in a bubble.

Revisit the assumption that people themselves are inevitable becoming more inclusive and tolerant.

Yes, some of our fellow citizen around the world feel the stress of dislocation and dispossession. Fighting against this is part of being liberal. But don’t deny the fact they chose freely to blame that stress on those who have not caused it – Foreigners, Muslims, immigrants, women, the poorest of the poor.

Do not cozy up to the left, do not compromise with the right. Do not aspire for some ideological purity of your ilk. If they had the answers, the right would not have defeated them. The left hates you as much as the right does.

Liberals need to remember this important fact: Right now, we are losing. Not by much, but by enough. Therefore, we need to fight for our values as vigorously as they do for theirs. We need to be as adapt in using language as they are. We need to be as smart in engaging with people who are not automatically agree with us as they are. Now is not the time to hide away, lick our wounds, and meekly accept that the battle is lost.

We can’t deny the choice the UK and the US made, that would be condescending. It would be fatal to ignore it and just carry on, hope for better outcomes in the years to come. The choice needs to be fought, not wished away. The historic error corrected, not accepted.

Brexit and the last few days might feel like an endless nightmare to you. Actually, you finally woke up from your slumber and now understand fully what your country and the world is. And how fellow citizens are vastly different from you.

It will get better. And, if you don’t give up, one day your country and the world might feel familiar again.

 

 

 

  
Flowers at home make me so happy. Even in my poorest days, there was always enough money to bring the beauty of flowers home. 

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I fell in love with Mary Oliver’s poetry. The combination of tough mindset and tender heart really speaks to me. ‘Wild Geese’ is one of my favorites.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

 

“Wild Geese” embodies everything that I value in a poem: captivating opening lines; carefully chosen and concise language; similes and repetition; natural imagery; enough room for the reader to understand Oliver’s point of view while still imposing their own; and ending lines that make the reader feel complete. Her work pulls the reader out of a moment in our pressured world, and puts us into another moment – one vastly more real, more understanding.

 

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(Don’t dream our life. Live your dreams. – German writing in Byron Bay, Australia)

We live our lives making careful decisions. We try to be smart when we come to a conclusion, and then act. We take our time.

The real hard choices are not made by us. Any life-changing and heart-wrenching decision is made for us. We didn’t have a choice, we were chosen. It might feel unsuitable but it’s so powerful and uncontrollable, we just have to hand over the controls. Maybe a well-lived life is knowing when to take control and when to let go.

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Albert Camus said “Life is the sum of all choices.” I would add that the art of life is surrendering to the choices that were made for us. The biggest regret you can experience is when you were called upon and you felt an unknown power rising inside of you. And you gave it neither power nor time.

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The biggest decisions in my life were made for me, I just executed them: I had no choice when leaving my hometown, when changing careers, when moving to the US, when getting married, when having a kid. It was meant to be and I had to surrender to the choice that was made for me.

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When we packed up our stuff and moved our lives into one suitcase each, I never had a doubt. When you have no choice, why bother doubting that non-existing choice? We heard many remarks during the year, calling our travels courageous and crazy. For me, not taking this step would have been courageous and crazy.

When a choice is made for you, is it divine intervention, is it the Universe calling you or just a deep-seated intuition that knows more about your well-being than your conscious mind does? Smarter people than me will have the answer one day. What I know is that we need to have an open heart and mind to accept the choices that were made for us.

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My daughter was homeschooled throughout the trip, she worked many hours weekly on her math, read a gazillion books and more than half of the Nancy Drew series, she went to 2 German schools for a month each and she almost never watched any TV. A productive year.

As a bonus, she did all that while meeting new people every day, eating strange food, being awed constantly and learning to appreciate how small this world really is. A special year.

After all is said and done; when she looks back at this year, when these million moments are compressed into one thought, I just hope that she remembers it as the year where she learned that when you’re called upon and you feel an unknown power rising inside of you; you give it all your power and your time.

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Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? –Mary Oliver