The latest shenanigans about Facebook and the harvesting of people’s personal data for commercial purposes reminds us that information technology is not just about the domination of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google in deciding how we communicate with our friends, what we watch and how we buy and sell consumer goods. New technology is changing everything on a global scale.
What to Do When Machines Do Everything is a wake-up call for businesses to either embrace new technologies or die. “Those who succeed in the next phase of the digital economy are not those who can create new machines but those who figure out what to do with them.” Although it is written for an American audience, it is relevant to anyone interested in the impact rather than the process of technological change. It helped me understand why automation is dubbed the 4th Industrial Revolution: because it is changing everything we do.
The challenges for Wales are huge.
Take Manufacturing. We take great pride in our Welsh steel industry - it provides well paid jobs to thousands of people and our other manufacturing industries rely on Tata, Celsa and the rest to produce the highest quality steel products to build the buses, bridges and tall buildings of the future. Quality assurance is already largely computerised because machines are much better at spotting small production inaccuracies than humans. Welsh steel can only stay ahead of its international competitors if they continue to deploy new technologies to, for example, reduce the weight of vehicles to increase their fuel efficiency or reinforce the safety of buildings.
But future success is not just about keeping abreast of new technologies. It also requires the best ingenuity of the human brain to develop new applications; that cannot be done by machines. The challenge is to make sure our universities are sufficiently geared to turning out the metallurgists and engineers who understand that collaboration between different disciplines is the key to the product breakthroughs of tomorrow. The Cardiff University Brian Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) has amply demonstrated that.
Research on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UK  highlights that this not just a manufacturing challenge. Whilst the biggest job losses are predicted in the manufacturing hub of Alyn and Deeside, nearly 20,000 jobs are at risk in Cardiff Central, mainly in retail and business administration. Just as garage mechanics are already redundant unless they have computers to identify faults in car engines, other service industries will be eliminated unless they harness the ability of machines to do the repetitive bits of their operations. Welsh law firms must use machines to trawl through case law relevant to their client’s case. The growing financial services industry in Cardiff needs to compete with financial service start-ups operating out of their back bedroom. The UK equivalent of US robo investment advisers, Betterment and Wealthfront, are already challenging who can trade in stocks and shares. It is clear that computers can do a better job than compromised accountants when it comes to spotting impending disasters like Carillion.
The challenge for the National Assembly is to ensure that Welsh businesses, big and small, are given urgent support to identify which repetitive processes in their enterprise can be done by machines before their competitors have figured it out and under-cut them.
On the face of it, this makes depressing reading for trade unions. How on earth can they continue to maintain the wages and conditions of their members in the face of these technological challenges? On their own they will be unable to resist the elimination of their members’ jobs and the general impoverishment of whole communities. Regulation will be required to prevent that. For example Uber. There is nothing wrong with the technology used by Uber to deliver a cheaper, more efficient door to door taxi service. What is wrong is the failure of Uber bosses to a) regulate their drivers; failing to check whether they have a violent history poses a risk to their passengers; b) pay their staff a living wage so that the benefits of new technology are shared by the workforce rather than a greedy few at the top.
There are ways in which we can harness AI for the general good. Not a day passes without union leaders flagging up unsustainable pressures on teachers and health workers in a perfect storm of rising expectations within a straightjacket of austerity. I am keen to explore how we reduce the pressure on them by getting machines to do the uncreative parts of their jobs.
Teachers are exhausted by the requirement to constantly evaluate the progress made by each individual pupil. Continuous assessment is however essential if future teaching and learning plans are to meet individual pupils’ current level of understanding. In an ideal world, a class of 30 pupils needs 30 different lesson plans tailored to each individual’s learning style. Sounds utopian but Frank, Roehrig and Pring point out that an application like McGraw Hill Education’s Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces(ALEKS) can deliver quick and accurate assessments of what each student knows. Using such technology can free up teachers’ time for the creative, human task of how to deliver the next lessons which grab pupils’ attention in big or small groups or on a one to one basis.
Equally digitising patients’ medical history would enable health workers to process the relevance of a patient’s presenting symptoms and get a list of different options for treating them, giving more time to listen the patient and discuss what suits them best. That would save both time and money. Patients wouldn’t have to tell their story again and again and it would reduce misdiagnoses.
New technology can also be applied to encouraging people to look after themselves and stay well for longer. Discovery, a South African car and health insurance company in South Africa is using financial rewards to get people to do the right thing. Tracking the number of times people eat healthy food and take exercise makes good commercial sense in a privatised health system. But the NHS cannot ignore the way in which new technologies can be used to make our nation healthier, eliminate waste and redirect NHS budgets to things we currently cannot afford.
So the really big question is who will benefit from the 4th Industrial Revolution. New technology has the potential to improve everyone’s wellbeing. How do we prevent the FANGs of tomorrow using new technology to gobble up their competitors and become near monopoly providers? And how can we ensure the savings made are equitably spread rather than increasing the gap between the haves and the have nots, not just in Wales but across the world?
National governments are increasingly frustrated by global companies that are bigger and more powerful than they are. Just as a global response is required to put an end to tax havens, we also need a global response to the new technology that increasingly dominates our brave new world. The European Parliament AI Charter is a good start. The irony of leaving the EU is not lost.
 When Machines Do Everything. How to Get Ahead in a World of Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data by Malcolm Frank. Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring. @2017 ISBN 978-1-11927867-2(ePDF)
 The Impact of AI in UK Constituencies, Future Advocacy Oct 2017
 European Parliamentary Research Service, Should we fear artificial intelligence?, March 2018, PE 614.547, Available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2018/614547/EPRS_IDA(2018)614547_EN.pdf
 Jenny Rathbone is the Assembly Member for Cardiff Central
The latest shenanigans about Facebook and the harvesting of people’s personal data for commercial purposes reminds us that information technology is not just about the domination of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix...Go to the post
The Welsh government today announced it is investing £1 million on tackling period poverty and dignity.
I have been raising this concern with the Welsh Government since October last year so I am delighted that the Welsh Government has followed up the commitment made to me by Carl Sargeant.
Local authorities will receive £440,000 over the next two years to tackle period poverty in their communities where levels of deprivation are highest and £700,000 of capital funding to improve facilities and equipment in schools - ensuring that all girls and young women can access good sanitary facilities when they need them.
I agree with RCT that sanitary materials are as essential as toilet paper.
There are two key issues here
- Disadvantaged women including families relying on food parcels, homeless women, as well as women with addiction problems who simply do not have the money to buy pads and tampons. In the 6th richest economy in the world it is unacceptable that women are having to use loo paper and rags to deal with their period.
- Period dignity. Surveys done by RCT councillors and Wings, a grassroots women’s organization in Ogmore and Bridgend demonstrate that many schools are inadequately equipped to support girls dealing with the monthly event that is a sign of a healthy young woman. Many primary schools do not provide sanitary disposal bins – a recipes for blocked drains and not all schools provide easy access to pads and tampons when pupils need them.
Jane Hutt AM and I have proposed a motion on Period poverty and dignity. I hope that the motion that will be debated in Plenary after the Easter break.
Friday 23 March 2018
The Welsh government today announced it is investing £1 million on tackling period poverty and dignity. I have been raising this concern with the Welsh Government since October last year...Go to the post
On the 5th March at 6.30pm Labour are holding a public meeting at the Powerhouse Llanedeyrn to give local residents the information they need on Universal Credit.
On the 5th March at 6.30pm Labour are holding a public meeting at the Powerhouse Llanedeyrn to give local residents the information they need on Universal Credit. For more information...Go to the post
Jenny Rathbone AM is very concerned at the number of families living in fuel poverty on one of the coldest days of the year.
Today is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day. One in four households in Wales are living in fuel poverty. That’s nearly 300,000 households that cannot afford to keep warm, or who are living in crippling debt to their energy supplier.
Jenny Rathbone AM is very concerned at the number of families living in fuel poverty on one of the coldest days of the year. Today is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day.... Read more »Go to the post
Find out what Universal Credit could mean for you and how to get help.
Find out what Universal Credit could mean for you and how to get help. Read more »Go to the post
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/gareth-hughes-725717540/default_20180207-170637-m4aGo to the post
“At the Safe and Legal Exhibition in the Pierhead this lunchtime I was shocked to learn that 50 years after the 1967 Abortion Act women are still facing unacceptable delays to obtain an abortion”, said Jenny Rathbone, AM for Cardiff Central.
“At the Safe and Legal Exhibition in the Pierhead this lunchtime I was shocked to learn that 50 years after the 1967 Abortion Act women are still facing unacceptable delays... Read more »Go to the post
This week I met Hannah Blythyn AM, Minister for Environment, and senior people from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to discuss the Roath Flood Defence Scheme. Other local elected representatives were also there.
This week I met Hannah Blythyn AM, Minister for Environment, and senior people from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to discuss the Roath Flood Defence Scheme. Other local elected representatives were... Read more »Go to the post
I am concerned about the inadequate travel arrangements for secondary school pupils living in Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn who attend Llanishen High School.
When the Lib Dem administration decided to close Llanedeyrn High School, they refused to allow Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn pupils to be considered for Cardiff High School, the nearest alternative English medium County School, which is within walking distance of most Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn residents. Instead they were directed to go to Llanishen High School.
At the time a concession was made to lay on dedicated free transport for a transitional period. This free bus service ended in July 2016 and the Education Service currently charge £350 per pupil for 39 weeks a year for this dedicated bus service. This is not a cost that can be recovered from either in-work or out of work benefits so nearly £10 a week per pupil is a very high cost for unemployed and low income families, particularly if they are having to pay for more than one child.
I am campaigning for a fairer, affordable system for all pupils to be able to travel to school in the easiest, most sustainable way.
If you are affected by this school transport problem and live in Cardiff Central, please get in touch by Jenny.Rathbone@assembly.wales, or calling 02920 256 255.
I am concerned about the inadequate travel arrangements for secondary school pupils living in Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn who attend Llanishen High School. When the Lib Dem administration decided to...Go to the post
Jenny Rathbone AM Supports Launch of MASIC in Wales
The MASIC (Mothers with Anal Sphincter Injuries in Childbirth) Foundation was launched in Wales on Tuesday the 26th September at the National Assembly for Wales.
Over 50 people attended the launch, including patients, health campaigners and clinicians from across five health boards. The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being, and Sport, Vaughan Gething, also attended.
The MASIC Foundation is a registered charity which supports mothers who experience anal sphincter injuries during childbirth, which can often result in bowel incontinence. Latest statistics suggest that over 10% of women having a baby vaginally may suffer some form of bowel incontinence.
The evening, hosted by Jenny Rathbone, included presentations by Dr. Julie Cornish, a consultant and colorectal surgeon at Cwm Taf UHB, Professor Michael Keighley, President of the MASIC Foundation, and Simon Emery, consultant and uro-gynaecologist at ABMUHB. Testimonies from those affected were also be heard, in order to consider how the medical profession could help improve outcomes and change healthcare policy to reduce the impact of birth injuries on the health of mothers.
Jenny Rathbone said:
“In the last ten years, the numbers of women disabled by third and fourth degree tears during labour as increased three-fold. We need to raise awareness of the issue in order to stop mothers suffering in silence.”
Baroness Cumberlege CBE (Head of the National Maternity Review and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health from 1992 to 1997) said:
"The MASIC Foundation aims to reduce the incidence of birth injury as well as help new mothers who are suffering from its symptoms which are too often hidden from society. These issues are crucial to the future wellbeing of these women and their families."
Jenny Rathbone AM Supports Launch of MASIC in Wales The MASIC (Mothers with Anal Sphincter Injuries in Childbirth) Foundation was launched in Wales on Tuesday the 26th September at the...Go to the post