Understanding Automation and the Digital Transformation of Labour

RPA, or robotic process automation, is becoming an increasingly disruptive force within the global economy. A complete transformation of labour — a Fourth Industrial Revolution — is already upon us, driven by advances in the areas of artificial intelligence. AI has already begun to impact both the philosophy and practice of business, and as it accelerates to include a wider range of applications, will become increasingly intertwined in all areas of life.

For millennial workers today, the workplace is changing beneath our feet. Technology jobs may offer flexible perks and benefits, and technology itself clears a path for efficiencies untold — but is there anything lost in the ongoing quest to further quantify, automate, and outsource natural human intelligence?  A thorough examination of its ethical implications is imperative as both its power and reach becomes more total.

The Evolution of Automation

The evolution of technology triggers an avalanche of societal and economic consequences. And the greater marriage of human intelligence to machine intelligence has, throughout history, meant many unforeseen changes. Incorporating more advanced AIs into our world means many new questions, as these bots are (at least in some sense) working as functional participants in society. How should they be programmed to make choices that reflect an ethical awareness and responsibility?

AIs, fundamentally, are computer programs capable of autonomous decision-making. Within the last 300 years, automation technology has disrupted the lives of all human workers. When work first moved from the farm to the factory in the 19th century, labour met a new reality — the meaning of a “job” was redefined as people left behind an agricultural life for public work in mills and factories powered by machinery. Automated manufacturing gained further momentum during World War II in the manufacture of military supplies. In the 1950s and 60s, following the war, the United States experienced a second period of industrial upheaval. Many companies introduced newly sophisticated computers to the workforce, automating processes and functions to gain competitive advantage.

Gaining Momentum

The 1960s were defined by a willingness and a capacity to challenge the status quo — in 1964, IBM introduced the first mass-produced computer operating system, setting to motion today’s fast-paced era of digital innovation. Today, the combined force of digital technology and automation continues to redefine the nature of “work” and what the future of jobs will look like.

Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator Andrew McAfee, imagine that “Digital technologies — with hardware, software, and networks at their core — will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.” To come out ahead in the oncoming “race against the machines” depends on “recognizing the problem and taking steps such as investing more in the training and education of workers.” 

Evolving With Automation

Millennials are the largest generation working today. Employees in this demographic — digital natives — do have a much easier time adapting to new technology and digital workflows compared to older generations. Many millennial workers don’t want to find ways to conform to old, outdated business practices. When faced with a sluggish traditional job market, swathes of the millennial labour force have moved online to participate in the growing “gig” economy.  New platforms, like UpWork, TaskRabbit, and Textbroker, allow economic activities to be accomplished by on-demand freelancers rather than full-time employees. 

The future, they say, belongs to the fast. And according to futurist Dr. James Canton, “It is largely a matter of coevolution. With automation driving down value in some activities and increasing the value of others, we redesign our work processes so that people are focused on the areas where they can deliver the most value by partnering with machines to become more productive.”

Many workers in the “millennial” generation realize that in order to compete with computers, they must complete “natural intelligence” tasks with ever-greater speed and efficiency. This means handing out certain jobs to automation software, or even intelligent digital assistantsWhile there may be less paid work available for IT specialists, accountants, or even customer relations associates in the future, “social” skills and roles requiring collaboration with both humans and machines are in increasingly greater demand.   

However fast it will happen, there’s no doubt that a great shift is on the horizon. Working alongside “intelligent” bots and navigating the new digital economy will demand fearlessness in the face of digital automation. Remember we are only human, but in the future, that may be our greatest advantage.

Low-Maintenance Plants That Also Work as Air Purifiers In Your Home

Prone to killing plants? It’s time to turn a new leaf and not only improve the air quality of your home, but your plant watering skills as well. Improve your home’s air quality with some of the easy-to-care-for plants below.

Spider Plant

These plants remove various toxins from the air such as formaldehyde and xylene. Though this plant does require a little upkeep, all you have to do is trim the dead leaf tips off every once in a while when they start to turn brown. Spider plants are to be watered occasionally with room temperature water, and to be kept in indirect sunlight in a bright room that is 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the soil you buy for your spider plant drains well and that it is placed in a drainage pot. The Spider plant produces flowers that are usually white in colour.

Dracaena

Another low-maintenance plant that’s actually perfect for apartment living, a Dracaena removes toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. However, if you have any pets like dogs or cats, stay away. If your pet consumes this plant, it could make them sick. A Dracaena plant is best kept in a drainage pit with soil that drains well. For care, put in bright to moderate indirect sunlight and water it when the soil is dry to the touch. Place in a room from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If a Dracaena plant looks droopy or seems to be yellow in colour, this means that it is over-watered or there is not enough drainage.

Peace Lily

Among other popular indoor plants, the Peace Lily eliminates toxins like ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. To keep your Peace Lily alive, store in indirect sunlight or even a shady area for maximum growth. Year round, you’ll have to keep the soil moist and keep the plant in a room above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If your Peace Lily isn’t blooming flowers, it is not getting enough sunlight. Remember, no direct sunlight = happy Peace Lily. Avoid keeping a Peace Lily in a cold environment because it will not grow. Root rot is common among Peace Lilies, so make sure that you invest in a pot with good drainage.

Aloe Vera

Are you prone to both killing plants and getting sunburnt? Then owning an Aloe Vera plant is perfect for you. These plants remove a toxin called formaldehyde from the air. Keep your Aloe Vera plant in a drainage pot along with soil that drains well. It is best grown in indirect sunlight or artificial lighting. Water your Aloe Vera plant deeply but not too often.

Clean the air in your home and cure sunburn at the same time! The healing properties of Aloe Vera can do wonders. Once your plant reaches maturity, you can start harvesting the leaves for its cooling contents.

Orchids

A flowering plant by large, Orchids remove a toxin called xylene. When it comes down to watering upkeep, this plant is the best for those who are forgetful because Orchids only require water every 5-12 days, depending on the type. Orchids require shallow planting and should not be left sitting in water. They grow best when placed in indirect sunlight and in a room that is from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the type of orchid, adjust the room temperature accordingly. For the record, most Orchids are best kept in humid environments.

Snake Plant

Removing a few toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene, the Snake plant, also known as the Sansevieria plant, can live in drier conditions than other plants. When watering, check every two to three weeks to see if the soil is dry. If it is, then water your Snake plant. Only use room-temperature water to water the plant. Not only does this plant require little sun but you can also let your Snake plant soak up some vitamin C from fluorescent lighting. Keep the plant in a room between 40-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

With so many plant options to choose from, you’ll be wanting more than one! “Go Green” with a plant air purifier and forget those pesky plants that always seem to die on you.

A No-Nonsense Guide To A Natural Healthy Pregnancy & Baby

Pregnancy is an incredible, life-changing experience. The health of your mind, body, and spirit are all tested in ways you probably never thought possible. Most women know that staying healthy themselves is the best way to have a healthy baby, but we needn’t over-complicate things.

Here are just a few no-nonsense rules to help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby — naturally.

Visiting Your Doctor or Midwife

Your first step toward having a naturally healthy pregnancy and baby is to make a prenatal appointment with your doctor or midwife. They will monitor your baby’s progress, can prescribe remedies (even natural ones), and ensure you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy so you can prevent the need for unnatural interventions. Many women choose to work with a midwife instead of an OB/GYN in order to have expanded freedom for more natural treatments and techniques.

While there is a lot you can do to maximize your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby, don’t beat yourself up if something out of your control happens. It’s important to identify problems early so they can be treated before they get serious and put you or your baby at risk.

Relaxing and Preparing

One of the best things you can do to have a naturally healthy pregnancy and baby is to reduce your stress. Striking a balance between relaxation and preparation is imperative.

Oftentimes one of the greatest stressors after birth is the sudden impact of the cost. Medical bills from the delivery start pouring in, baby needs his or her own insurance, and — wow — you went through those diapers from your baby shower fast!

One thing’s for sure: You’re not alone in feeling the financial squeeze. Raising babies has gotten more expensive, as this article from BumpReveal outlines. From daycare to health insurance, babies simply cost more than they did in 1960.

After you set your preparatory budget, make sure to actively seek ways to relax. Take warm baths with scented oils, read some new books in a cozy spot, take a specialized pregnancy yoga class, or get a prenatal massage. Make time to relax just as you do to eat — relaxation fuels and nourishes your mind and body, which helps make for a naturally healthy pregnancy.

Eating Right

Speaking of eating, we know that following a proper diet during pregnancy is extremely important for ensuring a healthy pregnancy and baby. While all women are recommended to take a prenatal vitamin to cover any deficiencies, doctors still tell us that Mother Nature knows best. Whole foods (including fruits and vegetables), lean protein, and healthy amounts of fat (including Omega-3s) are vital sources of nutrients for baby and mom.

At the same time, try not to stress too much in early pregnancy if you are unable to eat a perfect diet due to morning sickness. Many women are stuck eating a lot of simple carbs like crackers or rice because it’s the only thing they can keep down. If you are struggling to eat a well-rounded diet, consult your doctor or midwife for some natural remedies to stay healthy, including ginger (in various forms like candy, gum, soda, tea, or capsules), Sea Bands, and peppermint tea.

Exercising

Keeping your blood flowing and your muscles strong is crucial. Being fit helps reduce the growing aches and pains of pregnancy and can make your labor, delivery, and recovery go more smoothly. It can also reduce the risk of some pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

If you’re already pregnant and do not have a current exercise routine, consult with your doctor before beginning one. While it’s generally safe to continue exercises that you are already conditioned for pre-pregnancy, if you haven’t been working out, you’ll want to start slow. Doctors will usually recommend 30 minutes or so of walking to get started.