Home' HR Monthly : March 2019 Contents 6
en years ago the keyword on everyone’s lips was ‘globalisation’
– what did it mean for the workplace and our workers?
Many conferences and professional development initiatives
had globalisation as the central theme. Today, however, interest in
globalisation has just about sunk without a trace. The community and
human resou rces profession have absorbed the fact that we live, work
and compete in a global marketplace.
Today’s greatest challenges come from our new digital-delivery world.
We are a work-in-progress as to likely workplace impacts upon our
competitiveness, and how we work. The digital life impacts all of what
we do – at home, on the job and all places in between.
Some of the biggest changes emanate from the smartphone, the
Internet of Things, particular technologies like 3D printing and virtual
reality, as well as ‘new money’ such as digital cash and blockchain.
Smartphones have rapidly become an essential complement to
everyday life. People use smartphones every nanosecond of the day
to call and tex t others, read and send emails, take photos, find a
recreational venue, operate their home security system, order rides
or flights, or book accommodation. And also to connect ‘anywhere,
anytime, any wifi’ with social media of your choice. In 2018 Sir Ken
Robinson, a leading UK thinker and author, described them as antisocial
media devices. How many times have we seen people walking blithely
along with their faces turned down completely onto their devices,
oblivious to raging currents in the river nex t to them, or to semitrailers
hurtling past on the road nearby?
The smartphone has disrupted the industries that produced telephone
books and booths, maps, tourist guidebooks and cameras. The
smartphone manages our experience of the otherwise ‘boring’ daily tasks
of life. Well, actually, they are the boring intermediary steps to events
and experiences of great pleasure.
Few understand how these devices work. The smartphone is vested
within a complicated array of base stations, cables and microwave
relays designed and built for profit, but the public is generally unaware
of the interests and incentives involved. Every use of a smartphone
generates data. It’s then stored by companies that leverage it for their
own purposes, whether that be criminal or commercial – or both. Recent
legal cases involving Facebook are apt to this very point. Further, the
smartphone has become a common medium for cyberbullying.
The Internet of Things is every device that is connected to the internet,
whether that is a fridge or a wearable device. Wearable biometric
sensors, such as Fitbit and the Apple Watch, document biological data
you can use to regulate your exercise.
Such devices promote self-awareness through benchmarked data to
improve fitness and health. While there are benefits for the individual,
Big Brother lurks beneath. Large health insu rance companies have varied
premiums for users of biometric devices who follow regular healthy
exercise regimes, or not. Some employers seek to monitor your blood
pressure in tough negotiation situations to assess if you are fit-for-
purpose in your job.
Virtual assistant devices provide forms of convenience that supplant
the need for thoughtful consumer decision-making. Alexa can order
ordinary household items for delivery to your home. As a result, A mazon
collects valuable customer data on each user’s needs and habits, which
it can analyse and reproduce as product recommendations. Did I miss
where we consented formally to all of this?
Augmented or virtual reality (AR /VR) can be used by architects to
design new buildings. Their clients can walk experientially through the
result, long before they commit money to tu rn soil and build.
Games are played on VR; historic battlefields are re-enacted. As a
corollary, psychologists are concerned VR takes people’s minds away
from actual reality, and dysfunctional behaviors or worse can occur on
re-entry to the real world.
The early predictions of threats from 3D printers to replace a
significant nu mber of manufacturing plants built on intellectual
commercial property seem somewhat exaggerated now. Digital
currencies such as Bitcoin aren’t leading to a whole new outlawed
international currency system, totally out of reach to nation states and
regulators. They represent a very small part of international reserve
currency values today, and speculative investors have
now retreated because of sudden price drops and
volatility. Bitcoin has itself become something of
a Bit-con. At the same time, digital wallets and
stored value transfers are replacing our pretty
dollar notes that are now receding in their use and
circulation. Further blockchain or the distributed
ledger technology that underpinned the Bitcoin
product has been used in other legitimate ways,
such as for confirmation and exchange of secure
Watch this space as we all work
through forthcoming chapters of this
new digital life. •••
This digital life
The fourth industrial revolution is a work in progress.
BY PETER WILSON AM FCPHR AHRI CHAIRMAN
To read past Perspective columns by Peter
Wilson, visit hrmonline.com.au
21/2/19 2:00 pm
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