Automation: Automation does not reduce the number of jobs – it reduces wages

What: A new paper from the Brookings Institution by two labour economists shows that automation does not destroy jobs but reduces wages. Labour’s overall share of the economic pie is declining due to automation even though the impact on the number of jobs is neutral to positive. The authors assert that the emphasis on employment is the wrong focus for determining the impact of AI and other automation technologies [1].

Implications: This research negates the argument for corporate tax cuts because it shows companies are more likely to invest their extra funds in automation technologies than to employ more people or hike wages.

[1] Axios


Energy: Is this photocell the holy grail of clean energy production?

What: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has produced a hybrid of a photovoltaic cell (PV – which produces electricity from sunlight) and a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC – which uses sunlight to split water and release hydrogen). They assert that this hybrid cell (which they call HPEV) will overcome the inefficiency of current PEC devices in splitting water to produce hydrogen. The cell converts 6.8% of sunlight into hydrogen and will also convert another 13.4% of light to simultaneously produce electricity [1].

Implications: While photovoltaics generate electricity when the sun is shining, producing hydrogen enables the storage and transport of solar energy. This not only enables the production of electricity after dark but could also potentially provide clean power for aeroplanes which require greater energy density than currently possible with batteries. Japan plans on powering their economy with hydrogen in the future.

[1] IEEE Spectrum


Stock market: Insider trading is so passé – if you are a hacker

What: Ukrainian hackers made $100m out of ‘insider trading’ by hacking the newswire services to which companies release their embargoed press announcements. The hackers worked with dishonest stock brokers (with whom they shared the profits) to use their foreknowledge to trade profitably [1].

Implications: An embargoed press release is very difficult to protect because all it takes is one employee in either the company or the newswire organisation to fall for a spear phishing attack and the information escapes.

[1] The Verge


3D Printing: Dubai aims to 3D print 25% of new buildings by 2025

What: Dubai has announced a strategy whereby 25% of new buildings in the UAE will be 3D printed by 2025. This is based on a test building they produced in 2016 which was 3D printed and then installed on site. The building was constructed with a concrete 3D printer on a 6ft robotic arm. Construction required only 1 technician and then a team of people to do the on-site installation [1].

Implications: The Dubai government believes that 3D printing will revolutionise construction by reducing costs by 90% and labour by 70%.

[1] World Economic Forum


Healthcare: Antibiotic resistance could be the biggest killer in 2050

What: The biggest killer in 2050 may not be cancer or heart disease but resistance to antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics, particularly in the developing world, is leading to an increasing number of diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics. For example, an increasing number of strains of gonorrhoea are resistant to common antibiotics and only one remaining antibiotic remains effective against the disease [1].

Implications: Drug companies are not developing new antibiotics for commercial reasons (despite government incentives) so an important part of the solution will be to prevent the spread of diseases such as gonorrhoea through home testing kits or the use of low-cost DNA sequencers to ensure that the right drugs are given for each strain.

[1] Axios


Jobs: Shortage of technical skills – and truck drivers!

What: While automation is supposed to destroy jobs in the future, in the meantime, the people who create the automation – engineers – are in short supply according the US Federal Reserve Bank [1]. At the same time, the growth of online sales has led to a shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Association says that the US is short of 50,000 truck drivers [2].

Implications: Extrapolating the future of work is a risky business. While automation may reduce jobs, at the moment there is no sign of that happening at large scale.

[1] CNBC

[2] CNBC


Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin mining uses 3 times more electricity than gold mining

What: Researchers have shown that between 1 January 2016 and 30 May 2018, the amount of electricity used to mine $1 worth of Bitcoin (17 Megajoues) was 3 times more than the energy required to mine $1 of gold (5 Megajoules). Their calculations included the variation in Bitcoin price (from less than $1,000 in January 2016 to over $20,000 in November 2017 and then back down to about $6,000 in May 2018) [1].

Implications: It is well known that mining cryptocurrencies using a proof-of-work function is energy intensive, but clearly this is not a sustainable path forward. Now that the Bitcoin price has crashed even further (below $4,000), miners are starting to give up [2].

[1] Nature

[2] Twitter

Professor Hugh Bradlow is President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. He is recognised as a global leader in telecommunications technology, including being named by Global Telecom’s Business in the top 100 most powerful executives in the global telecoms Industry two years in a row, and by Smart Company as one of the 12 most influential people in Australian ICT.



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