The Software Society

How digital technology is changing our culture and economy

Can Artificial Intelligence create a new non-technical job category?

As the Wall Street Journal put it in its May 3 headline, “Job Growth Gathers Strength,” but with the caution that there were “numerous worrisome signs, among them another exodus of workers from the labor force and persistently weak wages.” Technologies such as speech recognition and natural language processing can reduce the number of jobs that formerly required human skills (e.g., medical report transcription and call center agents). What new category of well-paying jobs might these language technologies create to compensate for those lost? There are, of course, highly technical jobs in language technology itself that require years of education or experience. But is there a new job category that doesn’t require years of training?

Will mobile apps redefine the Web?

The growth of the Internet has historically been based on Web sites, search engines that help locate sites of interest, and Web browsers to display the search engine and Web site content. The search engines that drive all this are free, supported (lucratively) by advertising revenues. The result is synergistic: Search makes content findable, encouraging the generation of more content.
This model is being challenged by the explosion in the use of mobile devices to access the Web. Of course, an individual can use the Web browser on a mobile device just as they would on a PC. But, increasingly, access to information and services on the Web is through apps, software that works around browsers and Web search engines to give direct answers or directly launch specific Web sites without going through a classical Web search.

The Productivity Paradox: Efficiency without Jobs?

A core problem is largely being ignored—a “productivity paradox.” If a company can produce a product or service at less cost, that company has improved its productivity and potentially its profits. But, when a company improves productivity by reducing the number of employees, jobs disappear. For most of modern history, new categories of quality jobs appeared quickly enough to replace the jobs lost. Today, productivity improvements driven by accelerating technology development are destroying jobs faster than good jobs are being created. This leads to an economic problem rather than the boost that productivity has historically given the economy.

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Don’t underestimate Microsoft

William Meisel, The Software Society blog Microsoft is frequently criticized for being late in adapting to the smartphone/mobility trend. In some areas, Microsoft is suffering from success. The large installed base using both Windows and Office resist change, simply because change requires a new learning curve. But Microsoft is currently resisting the temptation to be […]

Is speech recognition on mobile phones a big deal, or just a gimmick?

Having a conversation with your mobile phone gets lots of attention, with even a movie this holiday season about a guy falling in love with his mobile personal assistant. Apple and Google have competing entries for your conversation, with Google’s voice search evolving into a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri. (And it is competitive: Apple […]

Chain reactions in technology

November 12, 2013 [Continuing discussion on themes from The Software Society: Cultural and Economic Impact (2013), by William Meisel] Much has been made of the exponential improvement of parts of technology. Moore’s law on the steady improvement of gate density on chips is the most common example. The rate at which speech recognition makes word […]

Samsung works to develop a technology community

October 29, 2013 [Continuing discussion on themes from The Software Society: Cultural and Economic Impact (2013), by William Meisel] Samsung is currently holding a Developer’s Conference in San Francisco to encourage the development of apps specifically tuned to Samsung smartphones and tablets, as opposed to running on any Android-based system. Samsung is trying to create […]

It’s all about jobs

October 23, 2013 [Continuing discussion on themes from The Software Society: Cultural and Economic Impact (2013), by William Meisel] The latest employment numbers support my concern in The Software Society that the economy was generating too few jobs because companies were automating away jobs at a faster rate than individuals or the economy could adapt. […]

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