The Digital Divide and New Classism

This week we've entered The Odd Couple territory. Brian's relentless optimism and hope for harnessing technology for a bright future contrast with Phillip's expressed skepticism that advancements in AI and automation will benefit the working class without regulatory oversight.

Get out your Xanax and buckle up!

Making Walmart cool again

The Digital Divide:

  • Many Americans are in a lower market tier based in cash only transactions, and companies like Walmart are trying to enable these customers to purchase digitally. But how do Walmart's upmarket aspirations affect the working class market?
  • Brian thinks Walmart's just appealing to all markets, not just moving up. The middle class is a new opportunity, and they have the scale to expand.
  • Brian's optimistic about the future of technology and the working class:  "maybe there will be more people in the lower class, but the lower class won't suck as much."
  • He thinks technology is enabling us to be more efficient and provide better products, better services, and better life for the working class.
  • Counterpoint: Only the top 1% of earners will benefit from AI and machine learning: Robby Berman posits that AI will serve and make life better for humans, but only the top 1% of humans.
  • A Princeton study on bias in bots explores how AI has the problematic ability to target people for committing potential crimes based off the bias and prejudice of the bot creators.
  • Walmart has a litigious history of negative workforce practices partly due to their workforce scheduling algorithm.
  • Brian sees the problem as cultural. He wants business leadership to create ethical algorithms and let the responsibility rest on individual business leaders making ethical decisions.

Retail Apocalypse:

  • Bloomberg's collaborative article explores the reasons behind the "retail apocalypse."
  • It's not just about how many people have real estate and retail debt but about the number of people delinquent per capita in certain markets.
  • The consumers in debt don't have the income and opportunity to pay it back due to lack of employment in retail.
  • "You can be as rosy as you want about the corporate ethics, if there are no jobs, then it doesn't matter what how ethical the corporation is."
  • Brian thinks we can create better jobs and pay better wages, and maybe it's ok that retail jobs shrink over time. He considers Amazon's warehouse workforce.
  • And Brian takes comfort in the employment rate being at an all time high.

AI enabling job elimination:

  • Chris Gardner from Forrester predicts that automation will eliminate 9% of jobs in 2018.
  • "These jobs are not low end jobs, they're white collar jobs being replaced."
  • Brian is again optimistic: a whole new host of jobs will be created for creating and servicing AI.

Bank of Amazon:  

  • Internal rumblings that Amazon might also become a bank. Some regulators are willing to explore this option.
  • Brian's optimist view: As Amazon has a view into our finances, they're going to start to help us like mint does by keeping track of our purchases and how they relate to other items.
  • They might even create living type packages. Amazon will aggregate your financial data and help you craft a livable and economically responsible lifestyle.
  • Phillip feels like the foxes are guarding the hen house in that scenario.
  • When you rely on a few companies that do way too many things so that they become ingrained in society, then when that company fails, a disproportionate amount of the population is negatively affected.

AI and Permanence:

  • Reuters reported that a son used data to recreate his dad as a chatbot.
  • Listen to this week's FC INSIDERS Exclusive Content on the possibilities of body data and machine learning.

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