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Skills Your Kids Should Cultivate to Be Competitive in the Age of Automation

By Dave Edwards and Helen Edwards // Quartz // January 18, 2017

The Amy robot is on display at the Amy Robotics booth during CES International, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in Las Vegas.
The Amy robot is on display at the Amy Robotics booth during CES International, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in Las Vegas. // John Locher/AP

We’re all getting used to the thought that in a not-so-distant future, competition for jobs won’t just be other humans; it will also be an intelligent robot, self-driving car, or other artificial agent.

But in our gut, we know this can’t be the full truth, that there’s a more nuanced story. We at least believe elite human skills will remain valuable even as automation eats the world. The hard part is figuring out which ones will be the most valuable and where they will be the most prized.

As a parent, this can be a particularly vexing problem when thinking about how to advise your kids. Common wisdom—learn to code, cultivate empathy, study STEM—isn’t especially useful because it isn’t specific enough about what it takes to stay ahead of the robots for years to come.

Many of the major advances in AI are happening in just these fields: Machine learning will ultimately eliminate a lot of coding work, perceptive and emotional AI is developing fast, machines are already good at math. So, instead of analyzing what jobs will be most threatened by AI, we turned our model upside down to look at...

Don’t Want a Robot to Steal Your Job? Be Creative

By Alice Bonasio // Quartz // January 12, 2017


If we don’t want machines to take over our jobs, we’re going to have to get creative. Literally.

Cheap computing power and rapidly advancing AI mean that machines already outperform us on tasks that involve retaining, processing and repeating rule-based information. Traditional schooling, however, still centers on a child’s ability to perform such tasks.

As a result, the growing emphasis on STEM-based learning may not adequately prepare children to eventually battle robots for their jobs. As Charlotte Blease, a philosophy fellow at University College Dublin, points out, the workplace of the future will require people prepared to ask—and answer—the questions that aren’t Googleable.

What society therefore urgently needs is an entirely new value system for both education and work; one centered around the singular thing robots can’t quite catch up with us on: creativity.

A recent report by Nesta, a U.K.-based innovation and research foundation, found that creative jobs will be much more resistant to automation, and 21 percent of U.S. employment requires people to be highly creative. But this doesn’t mean we will need more musicians, graphic designers, actors and other traditionally creative professions in the future. Rather...

Why Bosses Can Track Their Employees 24/7

By Kaveh Waddell // The Atlantic // January 6, 2017


Suppose you’re being followed. Someone’s tracking your phone, or has placed a GPS device on your car. They know if you’re at home, or a pregnancy clinic, or church, or a gay bar. Depending on who’s tracking you, this could be a violation of your fundamental constitutional rights—or it could just be another day on the job.

The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, but it only constrains the government’s actions. If local police or the FBI wants to track your car, they have to ask a judge for a warrant first. But if your boss wants to track your phone, it’s likely within his or her rights.

In fact, businesses track their employees’ locations all the time. Often, it’s to keep an eye on their equipment, like company vans or employer-issued cellphones. Other times, tracking helps bosses make sure their workers are clocking in and out on time, and that remote employees—like a technician or a plumber who makes house calls, for example—are indeed where they say they are. Tracking systems can also help employers make sure their employees are reporting mileage correctly, and that they...

The Complete Guide to Noise-Canceling in Open Offices and Other Hectic Spaces

By Amy X. Wang // Quartz // January 6, 2017

Africa Studio/

“Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption,” 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once declared. “It is not only an interruption; it is also a disruption of thought.”

The millions of employees who work in open offices today might agree. Many arrive at work every morning resolving to be doggedly focused and productive—only to be derailed by chatter, clatter and other distractions. Studies have found lack of sound privacy is the biggest drain on employee morale and workers lose as much as 86 minutes a day to distractions.

There are ways to cancel out the chaos and make noise-free work your resolution for the year. Here are some of the simplest.

Start with the ears

Investing in a good, high-quality pair of headphones is the most obvious first step to ridding oneself of unwanted noise. Yet, it can be hard to choose—not to mention financially commit.

To help, Quartz has compiled a few of the most popular choices office dwellers and introverts swear by.

  • Bose QuietComfort 25. At $299, these noise-canceling headphones aren’t exactly a steal, but they’ve won the hearts of gadget critics. Review site The Wirecutter recently ranked the headphones No. 1...

4 Ways to Better Motivate Your Employees, From One of the World’s Most Prominent Behavioral Economists

By Oliver Staley // Quartz // January 3, 2017


What makes employees care about their work?

Money is what gets workers in the door, but it doesn’t make them go the extra mile. To better understand what drives us, Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University, designed a series of experiments aimed at unlocking the roots of intrinsic motivation.

Ariely, who has written best-selling books about irrationality and dishonesty (one of which led to a documentary), condensed his findings into a book, "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes our Motivations," and discussed them in an interview with Quartz.

Make work rewarding

In one of his experiments, Ariely asked subjects to build Lego toys, called Bionicles, and he paid them $2 for the first one they built, and slightly less for each subsequent toy. In one group, after receiving the completed Bionicle, Ariely’s researchers would set it aside. With another group, the researchers began dismantling the toys as soon as they received them.

In the first group, the subjects made an average 11 Bionicles before giving up. The second group—whom Ariely compares to Sisyphus, the figure of Greek myth eternally rolling a rock up a hill— walked away after making just seven...

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