31 October 17 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from October.

Although I was tempted to centre this month’s Super8 around ghastly tales of ghouls and goblins, I thought I’d focus on a topic that strikes fear into the hearts of many—the Rise of the Machines. From the future role of robots to the benefits of boredom, I’ve curated a list of articles to keep you intrigued this Halloween. Welcome to Super8 October!

1. Voice search spells trouble for both brands and retailers.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Mark Ritson.  
  • Contributor: Zoe Warne.

At August, we’ve been closely following how voice interfaces have been improving over the past few years. We are particularly interested in how these interfaces will be combined with other technologies—like artificial intelligence and photo recognition—to provide us with new ways to interact with our devices.

Prof. Mark Ritson analyses the impact of voice interfaces on consumer search, brand choice, and purchasing behaviour. If you haven’t played with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, you might not fully appreciate the imminent changes described by Ritson in his article; you might even be thinking that all this isn’t for you—but you’d be wrong. You’ll be hearing the dulcet tones of a computerised voice in your home all too soon and you won’t know how you managed without it.

There is no doubt that voice search will become one of the major innovations of the next decade. And after the initial minor advances of controlling your lights and garage doors, the big implication will be the effect it has on brands.

2. You will lose your job to a robot—and sooner than you think.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Kevin Drum. 
  • Contributor: James Otter. 

The correlative relationship between hard work and success is an oft-quoted topic; but what happens when a robot makes your job redundant? And what happens when this happens on a scale that we’ve never seen before?

Kevin Drum addresses some of these topics and how society may respond to a world where what we consider ‘work’ no longer exists. Take a look into a not too distant future where your job is taken over by a robot.

3. The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Eshe Nelson.  
  • Contributor: Vivi Chau. 

In case you missed it, this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Richard Thaler, who is—as you will find out— an American economist from the University of Chicago. You may know of Thaler’s work from his book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness, which he co-authored with Cass Sunstein—not to be confused with the comedic genius that is Nudge from the Australian ’80s sitcom Hey Dad..!.

Although considered contrarian by many in his field, Thaler’s theories about how people behave have turned out to not be so contrarian after all. Consider how human flaws and biases impact our ability to make rational economic decisions. If you haven’t read much of his work, I hope this article will inspire you to discover more about this interesting economist.

4. What boredom does to you.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Manoush Zomorodi.  
  • Contributor: Elliott Grigg.

It has been said that ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’. Putting aside the debate over the existence of an evil supernatural being that induces the worst of human behaviour—if Kevin Drum is correct and robots take our jobs, we’re going to have a lot of time on our hands. What happens to us when boredom eventually sets in? Are we destined to become an army of uninspired, unemployed zombies with no direction or motivation?  Manoush Zomorodi isn’t convinced.

In this article, she discusses the positive effects of boredom on creativity and our imaginations.

You could say that boredom is an incubator lab for brilliance. It’s the messy, uncomfortable, confusing, frustrating place one has to occupy for a while before finally coming up with the winning equation or formula.

5. The problem with ‘roadmap first’ teams.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Ariel Verber.  
  • Contributor: John Broadfoot.

We’ve all heard the latest round of buzzwords: agile, lean, roadmaps, sprints. For those who were here for earlier buzzword rounds, there is a familiarity about all this that is both scary and reassuring.

It’s rare for us to come across an article that catches our eye like this one from Ariel Verber. Having adopted some ‘agile-oriented’ process at August over the past year, we can relate to the tendency to move from one story to the next without reflecting on our work and improving upon it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of prioritising doing more over doing less, better. We found this article a timely reminder, we hope you do too.

6. First evidence that online dating is changing the nature of society.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Emerging Technology from the arXiv. 
  • Contributor: Rowan Barnes.  

It will come as little surprise to anyone—unless you have been living under a rock—that online dating has significantly impacted how people socialise. It’s easy to be critical of many of these changes, and to attribute many of society’s ills to the shallowness of swiping left and right.

However, this article published in the MIT Technology Review blog describes some of the more positive impacts of online dating. It is reassuring to see that love in the time of robots may not be all that bad.

7. The frightful five want to rule entertainment. They are hitting limits.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Farhad Manjoo.  
  • Contributor: Steph Little.  

These last two articles are about a different type of robot: social media.

It is easy to lose sight of what we are dealing with when we interact with the ‘Frightful Five’. The likes of Facebook and Google have done an astoundingly good job of allowing us to think that we are socialising with our family and friends when we like one of their photos or send them a birthday message. The truth is you are communicating with a robot that is running a vast and sophisticated catfish platform cleverly disguised as your social network.

It makes perfect sense that these companies want to control the entertainment we consume. Here, Farhad Manjoo explains why they are finding it so difficult, and prompts us to consider why we might want to keep them at bay.

8. How social media endangers knowledge.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Hossein Derakhshan.
  • Contributor: Sarah El-Atm. 

The last article in this edition of Super8 is a call to arms.

Instead of a quest for knowledge, [social media] engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences.

This Wired opinion piece reminds us that we need to defend knowledge and its role in our society. But to defend it, we must recognise and understand its foes. Here, Wired proposes that the likes of Facebook and Instagram pose serious threats to human knowledge and an engaged society.