Issue 17: Innovation Through Collaboration

 
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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. We’re thinking about a symbiotic robotic future – Joseph Dana, Senior Editor


THE BIG TAKE

Innovation through Collaboration

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The robots are coming! They’re going to take our jobs! We’ve all heard this line about the future of automation, but the reality is different. From the space race to the internet, the engine of innovation is collaboration between humans and machines. The rise of robots shouldn't change that. The robots may well be coming but they’re going to create more jobs and improve existing jobs.

Can Amazon lead? As a technology company, Amazon is a global leader in automation, with a global workforce three times larger than Microsoft and 18 times the size of Facebook. According to the company, 300,000 full-time jobs have been added globally since Amazon introduced robots into the workforce in 2012.

Upskilling: To prepare for more automation, Amazon just announced a plan to “upskill” roughly 100,000 employees in data mapping, data science, and other professions related to advanced robotics. What does this mean for us? Given Amazon’s growing footprint in the Middle East through the acquisition of souq.com in 2017, these upskilling trends will hit close to home. Coupled with investment in robotics by governments like the UAE, we’re going to see a major change in how we interact with robots in the near future.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We're fascinated with robots because they are reflections of ourselves."

Ken Goldberg, author


OUR VIEWS THIS WEEK

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Revealing debate: Facial recognition has taken centre stage in the news lately. The discussion might focus on the dark side of facial recognition software, but what about fundamental concerns of data privacy, regulation, and safety? That’s something we all have a stake in. We outline how facial recognition software on its own is not nefarious but data regulation continues to be a major challenge.

Future farming: Technology is disrupting agriculture, too. With agtech on the rise, we unpack how the UAE is positioned to lead a new crop of food pioneers. Not only will this transform food security in the Arabian Gulf but it will also have a ripple effect across emerging markets.

Smart Cities Index: Our first Smart Cities Index is out. In it, we set out to determine the global cities best at adopting technology and highlighting the human experience. We also consider where collaboration thrives and which cities remain true to their roots. Do you think we got it right? Be sure to have a look.


SPOTTED ELSEWHERE

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Tech on the mind: Another bold idea has come from serial innovator Elon Musk this week. This time, the Tesla CEO wants to connect the human brain to a computer interface and use artificial intelligence to transform how we think. Musk envisions a neural link with a computer, through software that relies heavily on Bluetooth. That’s right, Bluetooth in your brain.

What a dumbphone: It’s no secret that we spend too much time on our phones, but could the cure lie with a dumbphone? The Swiss company Punkt thinks so. With its elegant and beautiful MP02dumbphone, the company is trying to give consumers more control over their connected lives. It might not be for everyone (and carries a hefty price tag) but the idea is certainly striking.


 

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