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April, 18 2019

On the Fringe with Amy Webb: VICE

Amy Webb // WTF VICE

We pride ourselves on burning the midnight oil: working long hours, getting little sleep and optimizing our daily routines for maximum output. As it turns out, productivity is a vice, and we’re all addicted to getting stuff done. (Or at least feeling like we are.) WTF asked quantitative futurist Amy Webb to give us some ideas of things to watch.

1. Getting paid while you sleep — Distributed computing is a process where large computer problems are broken down into smaller segments that can be calculated on multiple regular computers, instead of on centralized super computers. Distributed computing technology enables idle processor time on personal laptops, cell phones and other digital devices to become a valuable resource. There are a number of distributed computing startups hoping to take advantage of our smartphones and smart devices in the Internet of Things era. The Golem network platform shows how idle computer resources are a valuable asset that can be monetized. Golem is built upon the Ethereum blockchain, where users can rent out idle computing resources like storage, processing power and bandwidth. The platform is designed to focus on rendering computer generated images, DNA analysis and machine learning. There are three roles in this ecosystem: providers of resources, users of resources and software developers. The intent is to use the idle processor in your phone to perform distributed computing calculations overnight to earn money in the form of cryptocurrencies.

2. Make your robot do it — Robotic process automation (RPA) enables businesses to automate certain tasks and processes within offices, which lets employees spend time on higher value work. For instance, Google’s Duplex  bot is designed to make routine phone calls to other people. Amazon uses RPA to sift through resumes before prioritizing top candidates for review. In banking, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere help staffs process repetitive work. The availability of artificial intelligence tools and frameworks is allowing companies to digitally automate more of their functions. RPA will eventually augment staff and shift their productivity into higher gear, especially as adjacent fields like natural language processing advance. This will allow companies to make better real time predictive decisions in a host of different areas, from customer service to cost savings. In 2019, the RPA ecosystem will grow to include open automation architecture and third party service integration. However, scaling RPA beyond a handful of robots and integrations may still prove a challenge, as most organizations have yet to test managing a fleet of 1,000 customer service bots.

3. Productivity bots — Productivity bots help teams and individuals operate more productively by automating tasks that are time consuming and mundane for people but perfectly suited to bots. With more than 8 million daily active and 9 million weekly active users, Slack is by far the most popular platform integrating hundreds of productivity bots into the workplace. The Obie bot, an on boarding tool, allows new employees to find answers to simple questions about the company. Scheduling bots like Meekan sync with co workers’ calendars to provide possible meeting times. If you’re trying to reduce the wasted time during a stand up meeting, bots send out a request for an update from team members and push out a report once everyone has responded. Bots like Lunch Train help coordinate team lunches and locations. Slack isn’t the only platform being used: Mattermost, Trello, Asana and Rocket.Chat are all helping boost productivity. With distributed teams and co working spaces on the rise, automation and productivity tools will continue to move toward the mainstream, cannibalizing traditional office technology like email.

Amy Webb is the founder of the Future Today Institute, a professor at New York University Stern School of Business, and author of “The Big Nine,” about the future of Artificial Intelligence.

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What the Future is a quarterly deep dive into different aspects of consumer and social thought and behavior. Each edition features exclusive new data from world-leading research firm Ipsos. WTF explores how a single industry or behavior fits into the broader culture now and in the coming decades. Read Previous WTF Issues »


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, Founder, Future Today Institute

Amy Webb is the founder of the Future Today Institute, a professor at New York University Stern School of Business, and author of “The Signals Are Talking.”



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