This week: where cars are going, banking on automation, and Apple glass, Facebook torture and robots in other news. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

The rise of self-driving vehicles and car ownership

NAB is letting go of 6,000 staff but hiring 2,000 new people

Will the future of cars be utopia or nightmare?

Is artificial intelligence killing Japan’s banks?

Other banks are preparing for AI too

Future bites

What’s really going on in those Boston Dynamics robot videos?

Employees at Apple’s new headquarters keep crashing into the glass walls

Uber is preparing to sell its Southeast Asia business

How to lose friends and influence people 

Robot of the week

Headless robot skiers beyond the Olympics

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Our theme music was composed and played by Linsey Pollak.

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Dr Sandra Peter is the Director of Sydney Executive Plus at the University of Sydney Business School. Her research and practice focuses on engaging with the future in productive ways, and the impact of emerging technologies on business and society.

Kai Riemer is Professor of Information Technology and Organisation, and Director of Sydney Executive Plus at the University of Sydney Business School. Kai's research interest is in Disruptive Technologies, Enterprise Social Media, Virtual Work, Collaborative Technologies and the Philosophy of Technology.

Disclaimer: We'd like to advise that the following program may contain real news, occasional philosophy and ideas that may offend some listeners.

Intro: This is The Future, This Week, on Sydney Business Insights. I'm Sandra Peter and I'm Kai Riemer. Every week we get together and look at the news of the week. We discuss technology, the future of business, the weird and the wonderful and things that change the world. Okay let's start! Let's start!

Sandra: Today in The Future, This Week: where cars are going, banking on automation, and Apple glass, Facebook torture and robots in other news. I'm Sandra Peter, I'm the Director of Sydney Business Insights.

Kai: I'm Kai Riemer, professor at the Business School and leader of the Digital Disruption Research Group.

Sandra: So, Kai what happened in the future this week?

Kai: Our first story comes from SingularityHub, it's titled "Why the rise of self-driving vehicles will actually increase car ownership". So, the article starts out by saying that Waymo which is the Google or Alphabet owned self-driving car venture, has purchased several thousand new Chrysler Pacifica minivans that it will equip with self-driving equipment and launch as driverless taxis in a number of U.S. cities. And the article then goes on to examine the popular wisdom of more self-driving vehicles will mean a drop in car ownership and comes out with an assessment that says no, that's not likely to happen.

Sandra: So, we picked this article because it's one of the few times we've seen people go against popular received wisdom, that more autonomous vehicles, more self-driving cars will lead to a decrease in car ownership, and there have been a number of studies, many of which are actually mentioned in SingularityHub, one of them comes from KPMG. There is an estimate that by 2030, midsize car sales in the US will decline from about five and a half million that we have today to about 2 million. A number of other research firms offer even more pessimistic numbers that look at the 70 per cent decrease in new vehicles and the overarching receive wisdom is that we will have more shared vehicles rather than an increase in car ownership.

Kai: So, the article repeats that common argument that as we have more autonomous vehicles we will also see an increase in these cars sharing initiatives and people will have less need to actually own a car because those self-driving car drones will roam the streets and just be available to hop in and out. And why would anyone want to own a car. The authors go on however to make a strong argument that not only will car ownership persist, there might actually be certain factors that will drive car ownership.

Sandra: So, they take a different view on the future and tried to think about cars not as a proxy for what will become taxis but cars as something that will become robots, so a different category altogether. And they say that people will continue and increase to buy their own cars a.k.a. robots because of five different reasons. One will be the cost simply because we'll have electric engines. The cost of these vehicles will decrease to, I think their estimate is about ten thousand dollars per vehicle.

Kai: Many of these cars can be smaller, they are more light weight, they'll use less materials and therefore over time as we have economies of scale in producing these vehicles, the price will drop to about a third of what a car costs today.

Sandra: The second argument they make is that of personal belongings the fact that we will want to do more things in these car is because we don't have to drive them, so we will want to keep more personal things in the car, whether they're for work for play for everything else will want to have these personal items so we will want to own this car so that we can personalize them in the way we see fit.

Kai: The third argument is around frequent upgrades. As these cars become more like gadgets that are loaded with software and technology features, people will want to own the latest model and while to a certain degree upgrades can be done on the basis of software, they argue that as we enter this new era of having these new robotic self-driving gadgets in our lives, and given that the cost is much lower than today's cars, people will have an incentive to actually own the latest model and upgrade more frequently.

Sandra: Then there is an argument for instant accessibility. They're saying that even though in urban settings you might be able to get a driverless taxi to show up at any point, there are many people who don't live in dense urban settings, so these might be people who live outside of the city, and in order to access these vehicles they will actually need to own one.

Kai: And the last one centers around what they call diversity of form and function. The fact that one size doesn't fit all, and they reckon we will have custom made purpose built autonomous vehicles that serve different functions and so they will be different cars purposes. So, let's unpack this for me what the article points out is that when we have the discussion around autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and the future of the car industry, quite often we discuss on a set of taken for granted assumptions that we rarely ever seem to bring to the fore, and one such assumption is that we always think about the city. So, we think about urban environments, we think about the needs of young professionals that are using Ubers now, that will then switch to Waymo or these self-driving taxi drones, but that leaves out a lot of the population. So, the article makes the argument we have to look at families, we have to look at people who live in the suburbs who'll need cars for commutes, the weekend drive to IKEA or people who live out in the country who have to navigate areas that are arguably much different to an urban environment.

Sandra: So, we found this way of looking at the future of self-driving cars interesting in one respect because it's one of the few ones that actually does try to take into account the diversity of situations in which you may want or not want to own a car.

Kai: Yeah, I absolutely agree. A lot of the time when the future of self-driving vehicles, autonomous vehicles, is discussed as with much of the automation argument really, we apply a utilitarian, quite reductionist view, because we look at the task. We look at someone needs to go from A to B, someone needs to go to work, someone needs transport, and on a purely task based utilitarian view as an absolute no brainer that some of that might be done by an autonomous vehicle that is owned by someone else and they just pay for the service, so why should I own a car to fulfil that task if someone else can provide that service cheaper. But that leaves out a lot of reasons for why people actually own cars and want to own cars.

Sandra: So, what you're saying is that having a car has a lot to do maybe with our identity, with the fact that this is part of growing up, this is part of being a member of society in the western society.

Kai: Absolutely. Overcoming this will be very hard. Sure, there's statistics in New South Wales for example in Sydney having a driver's license...

Sandra: Not as popular as it used to be.

Kai: No but that leaves out that, Sandra, you live in the city, I live out in the country. Where I am in the growth belt of Sydney, where most of the growth in housing is in the suburbs, where there is no public infrastructure, car ownership is just something completely taken for granted. By and large, having a car, owning a car, getting your driver's license is for most people still just what one does. It is just part of growing up and being a person in this society. So, overcoming this and going to a model where this is not normal will take time and a complete rethink, not just of how do I solve this transport task, but what does it mean to be a member of this society? Which is a much deeper problem.

Sandra: And we should not forget also that this is not just an issue that we need to discuss for Sydney's CBD, but if you look at growth markets, if you look at places like China, car ownership and car acquisition has been hugely on the rise. So, China is now accounting for the biggest number of cars sold by most Western companies as well. And there as much as it is in the West, car ownership or owning a fancy car is an identity argument as well.

Kai: Absolutely. It's not just about having a car, it's also the kind of car you own is a way to express who you are. That's actually one of the arguments made in the article that people will want to own particular vehicles to express their identity. But even more basic, I think a lot of the conversation around self-driving cars leaves out the reality of other parts of society, like the elderly, disabled people or just parents with children. Single parents with two children, two car seats, they're not going to hail an autonomous vehicle and schlep everything including two car seats, what they need for the day, and install it in the self-driving vehicle. So, for a lot of people car ownership will just be a necessity, unless we come up with a much more complex solution to catering for a wide range of needs in solving this problem, and not just solving the inner-city commute problem for young professionals.

Sandra: But I think the identity issue is not the only one that's interesting to look at here. I think if we take a step back, what this article allowed us to do is really to try to think about how you explore a future of a technology that is not yet here, not yet perfected, but that needs to live out to play out in the world. And we've seen many attempts at this and all of them pretty much go down the same lines, whether or not they and in car ownership or in a shared vehicle future. A good example for that was an article in The Conversation this week as well.

Kai: So, this article is titled "Utopia or nightmare? The answer lies in how we embrace self-driving electric and shared vehicles." So, the article brings together a number of trends that they have identified. So, the first one is the move from fossil fuels to electric powered vehicles. The second trend is car sharing. The third one autonomous vehicles and then a fourth one is an increase in urban density. So, one of the megatrends that we have identified at Sydney Business Insights which is called rapid urbanization. And the authors make the argument that only if all of those four trends come to fruition will we come to a future that is actually agreeable and they go as far as saying that if one of the four is missing we will end up with nightmare scenarios.

Sandra: So, to me, this goes to how do you think about the future of these kind of problems in general. The first thing people seem to do is to try to extrapolate what we see here to some variant of the future.

Kai: So, the article identifies those four trends and then comes up with statements about what would we see if we took each of those four into the future and then to various combinations of those trends and the authors have developed a colourful figure which arguably is quite useful but also jumps a little short in what they come up with. For example, the nightmare scenarios that they come up with, they are either implausible or rather unrealistic, such as for example, what if we ended up with autonomous vehicles, increased urbanization and car sharing but no electrification of cars. Which to me is completely implausible because we're much closer to achieving electric cars than autonomous vehicles, so why would this happen, it doesn't really cut it for me. But also, some of the scenarios that they come up with they just read like versions of what we have today anyway. If we don't get autonomous vehicles which is not unlikely because we haven't solved this problem yet, we might end up with a world in which we have human drivers in taxi like cars and we still have congestion in the streets. It almost reads like a version of today which, okay, for some Sydney drivers might be a nightmare scenario because that's what they live out on the roads every day. But it's not necessarily earth shattering, any of this.

Sandra: My question is, is this way of looking at the future of autonomous vehicles actually useful? Because I would argue that for certain types of problems, these kinds of extrapolations of a limited number of trends that seem to play out without discussion of changes in regulations, there is no discussion of any changes in any other social or cultural practices that people will have around these vehicles, is this way of looking at the future actually useful? Because it seems to treat this the same as we would treat climate change. This is something that is going to happen to us and the only way forward we have is how do we link the point we have now with the end point that we are quite clear on. But this is a completely different problem to climate change for two reasons. One is that unlike with climate change, at this point we have a lot of agency in this problem, we are talking about industries that we regulate, we are talking about purchases that we make, we are talking about legislative frameworks and incentives that we actually do control. So, there is a lot that we can do about how we achieve this future. The second is, we are also talking about the future that we can influence, so a useful way of thinking about this might be what exactly do we want from this future. What is the world that we want to live in and then work towards making that happen rather than waiting for it to happen to us.

Kai: Yeah and that requires not just looking at current technology trends or society wide trends and extrapolating them, but actually looking at the lived experience of people and what cars and transport does in their lives which harks back to the diversity argument, which harks back to different life situations, but also recognising that there's a lot of agency involved in this process, but the outcome is hardly predictable anyway. So, in the digital disruption research we've been studying the autonomy of disruptive episodes for quite a while now. And one thing that stands out is that any industry disruption always comes with a change in world view, with the change in understanding that fundamentally changes what counts as the product, what is worthy of consideration, what is important about the industry and what counts as the industry to begin with. And so the car industry finds itself in an interesting period at the moment which could be described as a form of a crisis in the sense that it's quite unclear where things are heading but there's a lot of turmoil and especially a lot of players coming to the table from outside of the industry and Tesla is the prime example here, a player that is not beholden to the established ways of doing things in the car industry so they can think outside the box and think outside of the paradigm. And so if we look at other disruptive periods in other industries like the music industry which is much more progressed than what we can see is that the change from CD based business models to streaming and download of music has not just resulted in different practices of how you go about doing your business and different business models, but in fundamental different understanding of what is important about the product: convenience, accessibility rather than sound quality and durability of storage is no longer about ownership of a CD, it's much more about accessibility of all the music in the world. And this fundamental shift in understanding we take for granted today and in hindsight this shift away from CD to digital looks entirely inevitable, but it wasn't such at the time. So, when this disruptive change unfolds it's pretty unclear where things are going. And it rarely ever turns out to be just an extrapolation of trends that are already evident to the actors in the industry.

Sandra: They are evident in hindsight but not while they are happening, and hence studying this sort of phenomenon is really very difficult to do with our traditional ways of looking at the future. The number of uncertainties that we have around things like the future of autonomous vehicles, or driverless cars, the number of uncertainties that we have and the ways in which they can play out are so numerous and depend on so many other things that quite often this might not be the best way to investigate the future. So the way in which we collapse those uncertainties, to say four scenarios in which three of the four trends play out and so on, might not be the best ways to investigate those futures but rather ways in which we think about desirable states or other ways in which we run small pilots for instance or we run small experiments that might tell us about what such a world would look like.

Kai: I absolutely agree, so rather than trying to predict the future by extrapolating which in past episodes, in other industries didn't work the conversation should be about what do we want it, should be a discussion around values and it should be a discussion around influencing the process to achieve a desirable outcome that we influence rather than to expect that something will just happen to us because after all this might reshape society in quite profound ways. And the discussion should be an active one that includes people and not just certain types of people but a diverse range of experiences that people have. So while The Conversation article seems to assume that it's desirable to go to the end state of all of those four trends and what policymakers and societies should do is manage us to get to that point, I think we are much better off studying smaller phenomena, what the industry is doing, and the whole car makers are collaborating with new entrants to the market or engage in smaller scale experiments where we can actually see what might happen when we introduce technologies to people's everyday lives.

Sandra: One way you could set up such an experiment, and this comes from our colleague Associate Professor Matthew Beck from the Institute of Transport and Logistics...

Kai: ...Here at the University of Sydney Business School.

Sandra: So, Matt had this wonderful idea of what if we were to think about the future of autonomous vehicles through a small rural town somewhere let's say in outback New South Wales. The way you would set this up is to rethink this town as a fully autonomous town. This is something that's achievable, you could provide incentives for car companies, you could provide legislative frameworks, you could rethink the traffic system to allow for this to happen and then see how this plays out within the context of the lived lives of people in this town. This would allow you to inspect what would happen not if two or three autonomous vehicles run in downtown San Francisco but rather if you rethink a community to work with autonomous vehicles and the results might be quite surprising.

Kai: And the emphasis here is on not just simulating a particular use case but actually changing a community in holistic ways and problem solve and see how you can actually evolve that system with those technologies over a period of time and so come to a real live laboratory set up to learn about what a particular future would look like, might feel like and would actually be experienced by people in their everyday lives.

Sandra: And Matthew and us both agree that actually New South Wales is quite a good place to be thinking about running such experiments because we have both the interest and initiative around innovation throughout the state but also the location and the space and the communities in which we could make this happen, so maybe something interesting to consider.

Kai: So, we'll stay with the automation theme and come to our second story which concerns the banking industry and our story comes from ABC News and it's titled "NAB workers latest to fall as automation transforms the economy."

Audio: Six thousand retrenched NAB employees, one in every five members of the workforce start leaving this week. The cuts were announced in November the same day the bank revealed a five-billion-dollar full year profit. It's the crest of a digital wave flooding through banks, financial institutions, accounting and law firms as software takes over tasks and increasingly complex decision making. It's raising questions about the future of work and how we prepare the workforce for what comes next.

Sandra: So, what's happening here is that one of the large Australian banks is starting to prepare itself for the automation that is taking over a lot of the banking and finance worlds.

Kai: They call it a crest of a digital wave flooding through banks, financial institutions, accounting and law firms.

Sandra: So really what we're talking about is machine learning, algorithms, artificial intelligence coming to play a bigger and bigger role in the finance world.

Kai: In the kind of jobs that primarily have to do with data, quantitative skills, calculations, information, all of the kinds of things that naturally lend themselves to algorithmic processing and the kind of decision making based on pattern matching that AI is already advancing into.

Sandra: So, two things to note before we have this discussion is first that this is not necessarily something new or something that has happened over the past couple of months or cutting-edge AI that we're working on. If we look at some of the McKinsey studies for instance, they were looking at they think for 60 percent of the jobs a third of the activities could be automated with technologies that we already have today. So many of these things can already be automated with technology that we have or that already exists. Second thing we need to not forget is that currently a large amount of the work that these banks are doing, and their employees is in various ways trying to understand and assess risk and this has been a domain where machine learning and algorithms and the availability of ever increasing amounts of data that have made huge advances.

Kai: And this is not without risk of course and we have discussed this previously we're not going to rehash here the discussion around inbuilt biases and problems with diversity and the kind of issues that arise from algorithmic decision making when it comes to deciding on who deserves to get a loan or any of those things, so this is not about this. What is significant about this article for me is two things. One is this is happening now so banks laying off people at a large scale are justified by the onset of automation. And the second thing is that it says so in the article that at the same time that they are laying off 6000 people with a certain type of skill they are actually hiring 2000 people with a different skill set.

Sandra: So, they're looking at hiring around 2000 what they call tech specialists and really what these have been identified is data scientists, people who work in machine learning, people who broadly understand and can work with technology.

Kai: Yeah but the article also says that it's not necessarily the so-called STEM disciplines of science technology engineering and mathematics it's especially people with people skills, with empathy, with analytical skills that understand the social side of things, the sociotechnical influences of these changes. So, in other words people who bridge between the technology and the use of these algorithms and the more softer side of things of dealing with clients, of building an organisation and the analytical skills that come with bringing those two worlds together.

Sandra: So, let's talk a little bit about this transition because this clearly has implications not only in how we train a new generation of graduates of business schools but also has implications for how we retrain those people who are being displaced by this wave of automation.

Kai: So, we're hearing a lot in this automation argument about the jobs of the future, the kind of roles that people will step in to that haven't even been invented yet. But how do you prepare someone who is being displaced today for the kind of hypothetical roles that we might see in the future? Are we prepared to do this as a society? Do we have a conversation around this? Is this actually something that is on the agenda because we're talking a lot about AI and the future of work but it doesn't seem to register yet that this is happening now, 6000 people are being retrenched now and in the next few months and while those might be absorbed in a climate where some banks are only just thinking about AI, this is a wider phenomenon that will only get the speed as far as we can see now.

Sandra: I think that's a crucial point and that any conversation around that should start with the acknowledgement of a complicated truth that whilst we can clearly see which part of tasks and of jobs we can automate today that is quite easy to identify the areas in which machine learning or algorithms are making inroads. It is slightly harder to see what the new jobs of the future look like and how we should think about training people to do this. Clearly with automation and AI there will come a range of new business models and new activities that will be enabled by this and just thinking about the new business models that you could build on the back of some of these technologies will be some of these new jobs but how you train people for things we don't clearly yet understand is a very difficult thing to acknowledge. Second of all there is a real danger that we've brought up before on The Future, This Week of this polarization of society because with the loss of jobs to automation we're also seeing a huge increase in a different type of jobs and we've had this conversation before where we discussed how Facebook is hiring, I think it was up to 8000 new people to basically just weed out inappropriate content, sit and watch hundreds of hours of videos that might be of suicides or beheadings of all sorts of other inappropriate content and delete that. Those are also the jobs of the new economy and there is a huge risk in polarising the society between very creative high-end jobs and a lot of jobs that are minimum wage jobs that are really not what we call meaningful fulfilling jobs.

Kai: So, one part of this argument is how do you prepare a society for those changes that come from automation in the labor market. The other question is where are banks going as such. And we found quite a sobering article in The Japan Times this week which is called "Is artificial intelligence killing Japan's banks?" Now arguably Japan has some very particular characteristics, zero interest rates and an economy that is not quite comparable with Australia and especially the banking sector. But the article makes the argument that to a large degree what banks are doing is prone to automation and goes as far as saying and I quote "banks are basically salesmen who collect handling fees for delivering products and services. Once that task is automated or otherwise rendered obsolete by new technology what's the point of a bank."

Sandra: So, the case that this is making is that banks are really clearing houses for other financial products or for services that can be offered by other organisations. And we're seeing this quite a bit in the fintech space where there are a lot of new types of financial ventures that make use of these technologies and automate away parts of what traditionally would have been called a bank's domain. It also raises questions around some of the major purposes that the bank used to fulfill, for instance, assessing something like risk. What happens in the world where the amount of data that you collect through a company let's say like Google, enables you to maybe assess your risk as an individual not only when I give you the mortgage but on a daily on an hourly basis they would be able to assess that and then to adjust the services and the financing that I give you. So, rethinking the role of a bank in the lifecycle of this product but also in the life of businesses and individuals.

Kai: So the outlook presented in this article is rather bleak and, in my view, it’s largely frankly bullshit to assume that banks are going to go away because we can automate certain arguably big tasks that they fulfil and are much more interesting way of looking at it is to look at what banks are already doing and where they are adding value. I think banks are looking at a much more positive role that they can fulfill in their customers lives like for example keeping track of their spending, helping customers deal with their financial complexity, it's something that banks will look at where skills are coming into play which need empathy, person-ability which need to build relationships with customers that are not merely transactional. I think banks have a role to play in this space but again this means that the skill set and the investment in people will draw much more on the kind of soft skills that will actually position the banks as partners of customers which incidentally might also go a long way of improving the image that banks currently have in Australia with customers. So I think we're going to see a shift in how banking is interpreted, as technology takes over certain parts of what banking used to be.

Sandra: So clearly we're in the transition period.

Kai: And we are going to keep an eye on this. But for now, let's go to our future bites short stories. So Sandra what interesting facts that you learn this week.

Sandra: For me there was a short update on one of the stories we did last week on China's Unicorn's and interestingly it seems Uber is reportedly preparing to sell its South Asia business as well. And this comes after late last year Uber sold off its business in China to basically its main competitor. So it's interesting to see I think how some of the future in both the sharing economy and autonomous vehicles might come from places that don't pay enough attention to.

Kai: So what is interesting for me about this story is that it shows that the Western business models are not necessarily transferable one to one in to other cultural contacts so that's one, but also that there is a number of competitors that are growing quite large and powerful that we will have to keep an eye on so China is definitely a topic that we're going to come back to.

Sandra: And as much as many of these business models, at first glance look very similar to what is happening in the West, they have very different business dynamics underpinning them. Something to keep an eye on. What was one of your insights of the week?

Kai: Oh yeah that's a short and funny one actually. It's in TNW "The Next Web". It reports on Apple and we call it Apple glass. Very different to Google Glass but this story is about Apple's new space ship campus. And if you haven't seen pictures you've probably lived under a rock. But it's this UFO space ship shaped campus which is very flash, very pretty, uses a lot of really great design or does it? Because it turns out that a lot of walls inside this campus are made of glass. And apparently a significant number of Apple employees while texting on their phones keep banging their heads into glass walls which has resulted in them putting post it notes over the glass walls to remind them not to bump into it, which has then raised the eye of the manager who said you are ruining the aesthetic design of the campus and have gotten rid of those post it notes. So a little brouhaha around the pretty new campus and some teething problems of getting used to the new place.

Sandra: There are a few stories this week on the robots. A good one for me was one picking up on the Boston Dynamics robot videos and I'm pretty sure most of our listeners will have seen these two robots that look a bit like dogs from Boston Dynamics where one of them opens the door and both of them eventually escape the room that they're held in. And this has done the rounds on the Internet and on social media. Robots are coming to take over the world. The robot apocalypse is finally here.

Kai: The video is a really nice embodiment of the robots are coming for us theme, because it turns out they can now open the door to your house.

Sandra: A good article in Wired magazine tried to look at this through the eyes of an expert and see what are we really seeing in that video and I think that was a good call to reality. So understanding things like the margin of error that is involved in some of the activities that many of these robots from Boston Dynamics have to do, where they do not have to worry about really small accuracies, but rather a given the huge margin of error to do many of these activities. And please don't forget that the film at the time that they managed to open the door correctly and leave the room, for every one of those there is many many incidents where they haven't managed to achieve that goal. And the video also tends to eclipse the fact that these robots are not fully autonomous. A big misconception when we see these sort of videos is that these robots are doing all of these things with absolutely no outside help. They haven't been programmed, they just thought about it. This is quite often done with a lot of human input a lot of human pre-programming and sometimes even through remote control or at least on-board computing, a lot of this is happening to achieve these goals. So remember that they're not autonomous. One of the other things that the article brings up is that so what? Because bot mini looks a bit like a dog and the other robot that they have Atlas looks like a person we quite often tend to think of them as humans but.

Kai: They're not.

Sandra: They're really not, they're just machines. So really let's a) congratulate Boston Dynamics for still a very very cool thing but let's have no fear.

Kai: What do you mean no fear? They can open the door. Okay here's my last one. It's from BuzzFeed and it reads "How I correct Facebook's new algorithm and tortured my friends." Okay so we've reported about this and we did a big special on Facebook last week. Facebook in the wake of the fake news saga has changed its algorithm to foreground posts from your friend network at the expense of posts from news media. And the author here Katie Notopoulos reports how she figured out how this algorithm works and was able to actually run a little joke on the friends in her Facebook network and so what she did is she posted incredibly boring and tedious video. A six-minute clip of a twentysomething white woman showing off her small blandly decorated Brooklyn apartment. Now, what happens is she posted this and because it's video content and because it's coming from a person and not from a news outlet it made its way into the streams of their friends who then started commenting - what the heck is this video? and what does that do here? and this is so boring! And it turns out that with every comment on the video the Facebook algorithm will interpret this as engagement and therefore more highly prioritized the video in the streams of their friends which then leads to a more angry posts which is then interpreted as engagement and just means that the video will stay there for days and days eliciting more angry posts. Which again goes to show how great Facebook's algorithm is able to understand human conversations, interpreting the rage about this video as true engagement which is worthy of acknowledgement through promoting the video. So I think a great story.

Sandra: One that we wish we had last week. But before we go.

Audio: Robot of the week.

Sandra: This is happening during the Winter Olympics, so it had to be the headless robot scares that are tackling the slopes.

Kai: In Pyeong Chang, in South Korea, a tech demonstration took place, 8 bizarre looking robots competed in robot skiing. Those robots have to stand on two legs, use skis and poles and be over 50 centimeters in height and they basically have to negotiate a set of eight red and blue gates, doing a little slalom and there's a video with the article that we're going to put in the show notes, and the results are hilarious but the main question that this raises for me - Why no heads? Those dogs from Boston Dynamics have no heads, those skis things while they're wearing a winter jacket - no heads! What's up with that? It's freaking me out.

Sandra: Maybe they're just trying to put Elon Musk at ease, that the robot apocalypse is not coming. How are they going to conquer us all if they've have no heads?

Kai: No heads no brains. And that's how they ski basically and that's all we have time for today.

Sandra: Thanks for listening.

Kai: Thanks for listening.

Outro: This was The Future, This Week, made possible by the Sydney Business Insights team and members of the Digital Disruption Research Group. And every week right here with us, our sound editor Megan Wedge who makes us sound good and keeps us honest. Our theme music was composed and played live from a set of garden hoses by Linsey Pollak. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us online, on Flipboard, Twitter or If you have any news that you want us to discuss, please send them to us at


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