Robots and Real Estate

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Wall-E people

I just got back from a great two-day conference at the Virginia Military Institute, Ethical Dilemmas in the Digital Age, and my mind is reeling a bit, so I’m sharing initial thoughts/notes so I can reference them later. Hopefully, you’ll find value in them as well.

From panel discussions touching on autonomous robots with kill authorization to a lively debate about social media’s impact on critical thinking (moderated by the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don ‘t Trust Anyone Under 30)“) — he got hammered by the Corps and the panelists — to the one that blew me away, a dinner discussion by Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future“.

A few slides from Martin Ford’s talk (click to embiggen)

From a real estate perspective, I left with questions

  • What jobs will my future clients have if/when robots take over?
  • What careers are safe?
    • One thing he said was, (paraphrased) “if someone else can learn what you do, based on data about how you’ve done the job before, a robot can do that.”
  • What do I need to do now with respect to smart homes?

Not-necessarily-real-estate observations

  • Encryption and anonymity matter.
  • Digital citizenship needs to be taught – in schools and by parents (and peers)
    • How to avoid being tracked, how to anonymize yourself online
    • Be aware of your digital surroundings
  • Your data matters; it can be used to predict things you wouldn’t expect. Unrelated data signals are have astonishingly huge relevance. (bolding mine in a story that was referenced)
    • “One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.”

Watch this video.


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