Some well-known (and some lesser-known) facts about digitalisation, deindustrialisation and the future of work

Skills and Work

By Stijn Broecke.

blog52-0Today the OECD has released a new working paper by Thor Berger and Carl Frey (famous from his work on theautomatability of jobs) which provides a systematic overview of the literature examining the impact of digitalisation on labour markets. By now, the stylised facts are becoming well-known:

  • Over the course of the 20th century, technological change has increased the demand for skilled workers more than for unskilled workers (i.e. technological change has been skill-biased)
  • In more recent decades, computers and robots have been increasingly used as substitutes for workers performing routine activities (i.e. technological change has been routine-biased)
  • The latter has resulted in a “hollowing out” of the labour market in many countries in terms of jobs involving mid-level skills, combined with an expansion of low-skilled and high-skilled (i.e. job polarisation)
  • While technologies have displaced workers in a wide range of jobs, they have…

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Reform and the (not so) new role of stewardship

helen dickinson

This is a re-posting of a blog I wrote for the good people over at Power to Persuade

The Victorian government recently announced a new reform agenda to develop a ‘public sector that delivers exceptional outcomes for Victorians…[and] set out a new way of thinking about how government works, all the way from strategy to service delivery’.  This will be achieved through a focus on four areas (outcomes, systems, people and accountability) which are interconnected around the improvement of government and delivery of ‘public purpose’.

The case for change includes some of the more well-rehearsed factors (e.g. demographic, digital, environmental shifts) and also the re-emergence of others (e.g. corruption).  Perhaps, though, the most significant driver outlined in the report is that of the changing nature of government.  The argument goes that over the past few decades we have seen a gradual erosion of the volume of direct service…

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WMD articles and interviews


I haven’t been posting too often, in part because I’ve been traveling a lot on book tour, and also because I’ve been writing for other things and interviewing quite a bit. Today I wanted to share some of that stuff.

  1. I wrote a Q&A for Jacobin called Welcome to the Black Box.
  2. I wrote a piece for Slate called How Big Data Transformed Applying to College.
  3. Times Higher Education chose my book as their reviewed Book of the Week and had a nice spread about it.

There may be more, and I’ll post them when I remember them.

Also, great news! My book is a best-seller in Canada! Those Canadians are just the smartest.

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Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age


bigdata Pic by Jim Kaskade (flickr creative commons)

Matthew Salganik, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, has recently put his forthcoming book on social research and big data online for an open review. Matthew is the author of many of my favorite academic works, including this experiment in which he and Duncan Watts test social influence by artificially inverting the popularity of songs in an online music market. He is also the brains behind All Our Ideas, an amazing tool that I have used in much of the work that I have been doing, including “The Governor Asks” in Brazil.

As in the words of Matthew, this is a book “for social scientists that want to do more data science, and it is for data scientists that want to do more social science.” Even though I have not read the entire book, one of the things that has already…

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The Illusion of Agency


At this year’s Innotribe Sibos, we have a session about digital ethics. Part of a full day on man-machine convergence.

Some of that conversation will be about the use and control of data. With this post, I would like to add my perspective to that conversation, based on some recent thinking on human agency.

At a recent MyData2016 event in Helsinki, i was surprised how little the thinking about personal data stores has evolved since 2012, when i was myself deeply in the trenches of the topic of distributed data sharing.

It was a really great conference, well organized, cool audience etc, but like many conferences, it was the tribe talking to tribe, believers talking to believers, all thinking that their lens to look at things was the right one, with little or no contrarian view.

I wanted to be that contrarian, and challenge a bit the assumptions.

At the…

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Googling Before Google: A Brief History of Search

chad wellmon

To search is to google––to use Google’s search engine to find something on the Web. The search for meaning, love, purpose, or God––search as an existential feature of being human––has, in little more than a decade, been reduced to a secondary meaning.

[I delivered various versions of this talk this past fall and spring at Boston University, Ohio State University, and McGill University. It’s just a talk and hasn’t been published. So it’s rough. Comments welcomed and needed. I’m writing a book on the history of search.]

From its now almost apocryphal beginnings at Stanford in 1998, Google was described by its co-founders Larry Page and Sergy Brin as a technology designed to “organize the world’s information.” In Google’s first press release on June, 7 1999, Brin said that a “perfect search engine will process and understand all the information in the world.” In its first decade, Google focused on…

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The NDIS, markets and self-regulation: If we build it will they come?

excellent commentary on the problems with public markets – which by default fails in favour of suppliers at the expense of consumers

helen dickinson

I recently was invited to speak at an event hosted by the Victorian Council of Social Services on the topic of markets and human services.  I spoke about the need for more active market management in disability services and was asked to write up the talk for Power to Persuade’s current series on Social Service Futures.   The link to the piece can be found here.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been described as a once-in-a-generation reform that will benefit all Australians. The A$22 billion scheme is in the process of being progressively rolled out across most of the country.  
For many, the NDIS is an incredibly welcome scheme. For too long, Australian disability services have been underfunded, inflexible and built around the needs of the system rather than those of the individual. An OECD study found that Australians ranked lowest in terms of quality of…

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