Not even good for capitalism?

Shock horror!

Amazon has patented a way of tracking hand movement to monitor their workers’ performance. Nothing Amazon do should shock; they’re a corporation fighting for dominance in a capitalist world.

Maybe they are planning on tracking movement, comparing it against the efficiency algorithms and punishing the transgressors. Wouldn’t that be a shot in the foot though? It presumes that the optimum movement has been found and precludes those clever inventive humans from improving what they do. That can’t be good for leading edge capitalism, can it?

Or maybe they’re going to use the workers movements to train the machine learning robots of the future.

Whichever it is, it sends an unpleasant tingle down my spine.


photo credit: corno.fulgur75 13e Biennale de Lyon: La Vie Moderne 2015 via photopin (license)

4 responses on “Not even good for capitalism?

  1. Jez

    Though algorythems have their place i find it hard to understand breaking down the complexities of human interaction to a numerical formula, however complex. Most of the unique things in our world made by people are by subtle manipulations with accidental conciquences that produce something new and interesting. This is something i don’t see maths producing as it is always an accurate imitation however complex.
    Why does efficiancy drive everything when we are a collection of people trying to lead content and constructive lives?

    1. Stephen Oram Post author

      I agree, there’s something special about creativity. It’s been said for a while that corporations are machines, are in fact artificial intelligence’s set up to drive the most profit for the least cost. The drive for efficiency is simply a machine doing what it’s designed for. Let’s not recreate the same with automation and machine learning. What’s interesting, and maybe gives hope, is that Deepmind’s AlphaGo apparently made such an innovative move when it beat the world champion that the Go experts are still studying it. It was almost as if it had some amazingly creative inspiration.

  2. Caroline Dudley

    There was a special report on workplace AI in The Economist last week that might interest you. It read like one of our near-future ‘horror’ stories, but in real companies, right now… There were employees who had their movements and interactions recorded and analysed, ‘morale monitors’, and facial cue algorithm-based recruitment. Here’s a link to one of the articles:
    https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21739426-ai-will-make-workplaces-more-efficient-saferand-much-creepier-there-will-be-little
    Terrifying stuff!

    1. Stephen Oram Post author

      It’s hard to know where to start with what’s terrifying about that article… what struck me most was the reliance on ‘algorithms’ to work out what’s happening with people. The lack of trust and human emotional intelligence that implies is scary. As you say, reminiscent of some of our near-future ‘horror’ stories, but happening now. Which just goes to show how important it is to continue to write stuff that warns about technology as well as celebrate it.

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