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Will Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robots Steal Our Jobs?

The documentary ‘Humans Need Not Apply‘ was viewed over five million times, the possibility of mass unemployment due to advances in artificial intelligence and robotics seems to be a big concern of the public, Silicon Valley giants and futurists alike. This concern is not necessarily a new one. Fears of jobs being lost to immigrants or machines have existed since the dawn of the industrial revolution. But these science fiction futures that both delight and terrify us remain elusive, productivity has levelled out and innovation is largely stuck at ‘good enough’. To explain why this is possible the case requires an examination of the relationship of technology and innovation to business competition and labour, as well as the political economy of employment.

Innovation is the result of careful planning. Engineers operate off of a set of assumptions and objectives. There is a problem statement. Dramatic innovation doesn’t just happen thanks to plucky tech-heads in a garage igniting runaway discoveries. Mass unemployment thanks to automation is not an inevitable linear trend unless there is also change in our attitude towards work. This is possibly why we don’t live in a Jetsons world of flying cars in the 21st century. We get ‘good enough’ when the problem statement is formulated within the bounds of the given and the assumptions are not challenged. Innovation driven by the competitive demands of business competition leads to ‘good enough’, not science fiction utopias.

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Enterprise Bureaucratic Stultification – does unnecessary specialisation make for dumber employees?

I am an identity and access management specialist, an area of technology which has good reasons for being a niche specialisation, as do many other other technology areas. But you can imagine my surprise at receiving this unsolicited email from a recruiter:

“My client, a leading British Bank, require a Role Based Access ControlManager to join their offices in Edinburgh on a 6 Month Contract basis with the possibility of extension.
The RBACM will help design the Role Based Access for technology partners throughout my client’s Separation and Business Proving stages, all the way through to transitioning the service to BAU functions. It’s important to note that this role is a Technical ‘Hands-On’ role which also requires Project Management capabilities and the ability to plan.”

Let’s begin with the meaningless drivel, the kind many supposed HR experts suggest we fill our CVs with. Beginning with ‘technical hands-on’ and ‘management’. What usually happens when you follow these self-professed career gurus and add such an inane line to you CV is that a firm looking for a technical role will think you’re not technical enough: who has met a project manager who had the time to get ‘hands-on’ in a multi-million dollar project? Also, requesting that a candidate ‘has the ability to plan’ is just insulting.

Now on to the central issue with this role, role-based access control (RBAC) is one of the many skills an experienced IAM consultant acquires in the course of their career. Every organisation is different, there is no RBAC school or certification, just as there are no IAM schools. Working in IAM requires you continuously keep several key questions in mind in every project: ‘who are you?’, ‘what is your relationship to the organisation?’, ‘what are you allowed to access?’ and how to always be able to monitor that the answers to these questions, defined by business rules, can be continuously monitored and irregularities rapidly identified and remediated.

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