8 min read

S3T Jan 12, 2024: Robots that learn, AI gloom, the fast and the slow, Inflation disparity, Crypto ETFs, Pozole, Care

S3T Jan 12, 2024: Robots that learn, AI gloom, the fast and the slow, Inflation disparity, Crypto ETFs, Pozole, Care
Carebots via DALL-E

😎️ In this edition of S3T:

  • Emerging Tech: Robots are already learning how to do chores - will they someday provide care? AI Impacts to Jobs is unclear, as we all come down off the AI hype of 2023. What is clear: AI drives new kinds of work and risk
  • Macro: Inflation - even the narrow measures the Fed prefers, is up again. Plus: Jan 11 marks the first day of crypto ETF trading, after 11 funds gain SEC approval, after 11 years of SEC rejections.
  • Special Feature: Taking care of you and those you care for - Change leadership can be tense, stressful, and chaotic. Self care and team care are essential for change leaders in 2024.
  • Sensible Ideas: New Years is a perfect time to enjoy Pozole, a dish with a horrific origin. Its a historic reminder of just how important it is to challenge the status the status quo.

πŸ”Š Listen to this edition on the S3T Podcast (and forward to a friend!)

Emerging Tech: Help with the chores, AI & Jobs, Dual Speeds

ALOHA the Open Source Learning Robot

Needs some help with the housework? Stanford and Google have a solution for you. Watch this video of a robot doing laundry, cooking breakfast and more:

ALOHA (A LOw-cost Open-source HArdware System for Bimanual Teleoperation) is a low cost (~$20K) learning robot system that learns complex manual tasks from a human operator, and can also leverages a scheme of leader robots and follower robots.

The entire system works with off-the-shelf robot parts and 3D printed components. It allows a human to teleoperate a leader robot, while follower robots imitate the same actions. ALOHA's early performance suggests it is capable of precise, contact-rich, and dynamic work due to its learning capability.

Two implications:

  • This represents the ability to train robots based on human movement and direct guidance (vs training AI models on say Internet content, or data with anomalies in it).
  • This appears to have very wide applicability to manual work. Household chores is a logical starting point, but some are thinking along the lines of healthcare use cases.. for example in home care.

There is a lot to be tested and resolved first however. The video above shows the robot (under close supervision) operating a stove, moving heavy objects like bicycles around the house. The potential for spectacular and tragic mishaps is a bit terrifying.

Digging Deeper on AI and Job Impacts

As noted in a recent S3T edition, a Nobel Prize Winner warned that STEM jobs may be put at risk by the rise of AI.

I'm not sure if we've fully proven that AI actually reduces work, and least in the near term. It certainly can relocate or redistribute work. There is a tremendous amount of work required to make AI platforms actually provide value in regulated industries, and to resolve the risks and issues they raise.

The "progress" so far with ChatGPT - interesting as it may be - is derived from noisy internet data. I suspect we'll eventually come to see this in hindsight like training robots to build cars by letting them learn from junkyards.

What happens when we actually want to prepare and use healthcare data, financial data, other kinds of structured (not public internet) data for beneficial AI purposes? Very big projects - that's what will have to happen. This will require people with heavy data expertise to work with cross disciplinary teams to address risk and ensure the delivery of value.

Sobering realities...

This week I had the chance to attend the annual planning session of an organization that convenes a cross section of leaders from tech, finance, education and strategic consulting. Eye opening to me how established companies across the board are treading the AI space with increasing caution. General sentiment: GenAI has opened a very large and full can of worms that leaders in the existing set of regulated companies with their static org structures and job families aren't quite sure what to do with.

The hesitation leaders are feeling is articulated in sharp, provocative language in this recommended read: What kind of bubble is AI? This harks from a different source (not affiliated with the event above) yet echoes the same concerns. The piece is also a call for non-wasteful beneficial AI. If you've sensed an undercurrent toward using AI to free Big Tech from the hassles of having to employ humans, this is the read for you.

Now is the time to get ahead of this issue. Metaculus (a site that structures questions about the future and then curates predictions about them) forecasts that Artificial General Intelligence will emerge by March 2032. This timeframe for this forecast has shrunk dramatically over the past 24 months.

Dual Speeds: The Fast and the Not So Fast

Some players will have to proceed slowly, even as others continue to accelerate. In the history of innovation, some new technologies are so impactful that new kinds of companies, teams, job paths end up being created around those technologies. In these scenarios, companies don't adopt technologies; instead, technologies spawn a new kinds of companies. Incumbent players can forfeit their right to play, especially if stuck in org structures, financial models, job families, business processes, regulatory rules that evolve too slowly.

Context for Change Leaders: 4 Phases of Risk & Reward for Emerging Tech - Effective change leaders understand (and leverage) the 4 phase process of how the New becomes acceptable over time. Understanding this framework can help you advise and make decisions on how to position your team or company amid the disruptive effects of emerging technologies.

Speaking of slow regulatory moves...see the Macro segment below.


SEC Approves all 11 Crypto ETF applications

After 11 years of rejecting ETF applications for Crypto, the SEC finally approved all 11 active applications, and trading began on - of course - January 11th. The approvals mean allow top tier traditional finance firms to offer their clients exposure to crypto via Exchange Traded Funds - technically the term is Exchange Traded Products. The combined exchanges handled $4.6B in volume on their first day.

Hester Pierce the SEC commissioner who constantly challenges the SEC status quo aversion to change, minced no words in a scathing statement she released alongside the long overdue approvals.

Notable excerpt from Pierce's statement:

"Today marks the end of an unnecessary, but consequential, saga...We squandered a decade of opportunities to do our job. If we had applied the standard we use for other commodity-based ETPs, we could have approved these products years ago, but we refused to do so until a court called our bluff." 

Inflation Rising Again

Inflation rose higher than expected at 3.4% in December per latest figures released this week. The 3.4% figure masks a number of inflation hotspots where inflation is much higher (See Dec 2023 BLS Inflation Figures which includes the top level number above, but shows specific figures by segment):

  • Car insurance 20.3%
  • Car maintenance 7.1%
  • Rent 6.5%
  • Hospital services 5.5%
  • Eating Out 5.2%

In addition childcare costs are up 32% since 2019 (vs 20% for overall CPI). And as noted previously, healthcare costs have been rising 6-9% even during pre-pandemic years when inflation was supposedly tame - see this PWC report for a helpful chart. Education costs have been rising 8% per year, doubling every 9 years.

The governments status quo approach to inflation - measuring and emphasizing only selected cost factors - needs to be updated.

Special Feature

a person holding a plant in their hands
Photo by Jennifer Delmarre / Unsplash

Taking care of yourself and others this year

As the world accelerates and the stakes get higher, it's more important than ever to be intentional about taking care of yourself and those you care about. Some key considerations for change leaders in 2024.

Managing your thoughts

Ruminating and overthinking - whether it's replaying past losses, embarrassments or humiliations, dwelling on your ex, or dwelling on good old days you wish hadn't ended, rumination takes us away from the opportunities and joys of the present. How to stop (here, and here).

Helpful vs non-helpful venting

Have you ever said - or had someone else say to you "I just need to vent!" Here's a different perspective: Venting isn't always helpful (great read from Gail Cornwall and Juli Fraga). Here's the question ask: When you talk about something are you reinforcing negativity? or are you reframing it so you can move forward?

  • Venting that reinforces negativity, including anger or feelings of powerlessness only makes things worse.
  • Venting that reframes can be helpful: talking about something in a way that helps you arrive at a better understanding and broader perspective can help you set a constructive path for moving forward.

Questions that can help reframe

Recovery Village offers a handy set of questions you can use to help someone with social anxiety reframe a situation. As you'll see, these questions can be helpful for other scenarios where you want to reframe and connect to the bigger picture perspective:

  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • What is most likely going to happen?
  • What’s something good that could come out of this?
  • Have you ever felt like this before? You survived it last time.
  • If you look back at this situation years from now, what will you think about it?

More Insights

πŸ’Ž Life is a Tapestry - How to think about your less than perfectly focused life.

πŸ’Ž How to Shift from Anxiety-Driven Work to Intentional Work - When thinking about the new year, or any new chapter, use this insight to gain clarity about how you're spending your time, what you're focusing on the most, and where that's taking you.

Sensible Ideas: Pozole, a reminder that change is good

It’s Pozole Time Again! Every year just after New Years my family gathers for a Pozole stew lunch (pictured above).

Pozole - one of Mexico's oldest recipes - is a traditional favorite served around Christmas and New Years across Latin America. Pozole (also spelled Posole) is the perfect winter stew made of pork or chicken with hominy in a savory red chile and tomato broth. The soup is then topped with cabbage, lime, onions and peppers with a slice of lime or lemon (our family version). Others put cilantro, radishes and avocado. Serve it with fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal

History has it, this wonderful dish was invented sometime in the 1300s by the Nahuatl-speaking indigenous rulers of the Aztec Empire. The original recipe called for human flesh - specifically the leg of a conquered warrior - per Bernardino de Sahagun's General History of the Things of New Spain (a 16th century ethnographic research study with beautiful illustrations). 

Fortunately, the invading Spaniards challenged the status quo, and forced the recipe to be changed to turkey, pork or chicken. Perhaps one of the few clearly positive contributions of Europe to the New World.  

Two of the best recipes you can find online: Isabel Eats and Delish.

πŸ’¬ Final Note

Thanks to everyone who signed up! Please visit the Members Portal and take advantage of the tools and insights that can help you sharpen your change leadership skills and overcome challenges you are facing this week.

I'm fascinated by the emerging discipline of change leadership - a new set of skills essential for the accelerating world of the 21st century.

Change leadership goes beyond just change management and offers a framework that spans:

  • What you notice and how you see the world
  • How you initiate and mobilize
  • How you navigate resistance and challenges and move all the way to the desired outcome.

It's an exciting journey and we're so glad to have you along!


Opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not reflect the official positions of companies or organizations those individuals may be affiliated with. Not financial or legal advice. Authors or guests may hold assets discussed.