SSON Podcast: Lee Coulter returns for Ep.56

SSON's popular podcast introduces the practitioners to the global community



Seth Adler
05/12/2018

Lee Coulter joins us. Welcome to SSON on B2BiQ, I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on ssonetwork.com, through our app in iTunes, in the iTunes podcast app, in Google Play, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. First, some supporters to thank and then Lee Coulter. This episode is supported by SSON with over 100,000 members. The shared services and outsourcing network is the largest and most established community of shared services and outsourcing professionals in the world. SSON is a one stop shop for shared services professionals offering industry leading events, reports, surveys interviews, white papers, videos, editorial, infographics and more.

Engage at ssonetwork.com. This episode is also supported by SSON Analytics, digestible, data-driven insights for shared services and outsourcing. SSON Analytics is SSON's global data analytics center. It provides shared services professionals with the global data insights you need through interactive maps, tools and charts. Get headline industry statistics set straight to your inbox. It's that simple. Explore the first layer of industry data for free now. Start a conversation to find out more. Sign up at sson-analytics.com.

 

"We went from tribal nomadic to agrarian, from agrarian to farming and agriculture, from agriculture to manufacturing, from manufacturing to office work, and at every point we removed the worst work. For the first time ever, we're squeezing the middle."

Lee Coulter, CEO Ascension Shared Services; Chair, IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation; Chief Intelligent Automation Officer, SSON

Listen here...

 

 

Or read the transscript here...

 

Lee Coulter:

Stuff is happening, right?

 

Seth Adler:

We are in a place where stuff is happening. Cheers.

 

Lee Coulter:

Cheers.

 

Seth Adler:

We're bar adjacent with Lee Coulter, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

Of course.

 

Seth Adler:

We're kind of in a bar, but more kind of really in a hallway here in a giant hotel across the street from the Superdome.

 

Lee Coulter:

Across the street from the Superdome. The new and improved.

 

Seth Adler:

Indeed. Have you ever seen a game in the Superdome?

 

Lee Coulter:

You know, Seth, I had not ... This really counts as my first trip ever to Nola.

 

Seth Adler:

Really?

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah. I was like 13 the last time I came.

 

Seth Adler:

I got you. That kind of counts, but not really.

 

Lee Coulter:

Not really. Obviously Bourbon Street was not in my activities when I was 13.

 

Seth Adler:

It shouldn't have been.

 

Lee Coulter:

It shouldn't have been. It shouldn't have been.

 

Seth Adler:

We'll leave that there, yeah. All right. You and I, we've talked about you personally. We've talked about technology. We've talked about standards. Now for the first time, I want to talk about humans if you don't mind.

 

Lee Coulter:

I love humans.

 

Seth Adler:

Right?

 

Lee Coulter:

I do. Some more than others, but you know how that goes.

 

Seth Adler:

Oh yes, I absolutely know how that goes. I agree. I'm with you there. There's a ranking system of some kind whether it be cognitive or not, right? Yeah.

 

Lee Coulter:

Agreed.

 

Seth Adler:

We're here at Intelligent Automation New Orleans.

 

Lee Coulter:

We are.

 

Seth Adler:

You just gave a session. You kind of outlined here's what you might want to be thinking about and a lot of it had to do with the humans.

 

Lee Coulter:

Right.

 

Seth Adler:

The technology almost is the easy piece.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah, it truly is. This IA stuff sprang on the market whether it's RPA or RDA or whatever name. As you know, we're trying to fix the naming thing. We're talking about the human dynamics of change. A book that's been around forever called "Who Moved My Cheese?" is all about ...

 

Seth Adler:

A classic. A business classic.

 

Lee Coulter:

A classic. It really is a business classic.

 

Seth Adler:

Not written by Peter Drucker, but a business classic nonetheless.

 

Lee Coulter:

Nonetheless. It's an hour and 15 minute read if you're kind of the slow kid in class, right? It's not that complicated, but it highlights something very fundamental about we people. We little human guys and gals. What we're finding is that we came into this thing, this automation thing, and we thought this is the panacea. Everybody loves it. We're not going to have to do change management.

 

Seth Adler:

Everybody's going to be bought in from the get go. How exciting is this to everybody?

 

Lee Coulter:

How could you not love it?

 

Seth Adler:

Everybody gets this.

 

Lee Coulter:

Everybody loves it. Goodness. My aunt Ethyl loves this, and she doesn't even have a computer. I actually don't have an aunt Ethyl.

 

Seth Adler:

She wouldn't have a computer if she did.

 

Lee Coulter:

She wouldn't, yes. It was really believed that this was something that didn't trigger the change component of people.

 

Seth Adler:

To carry on from your trigger analogy, a silver bullet of sorts for enterprise, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

That lasted for a good portion of the hype cycle.

 

Seth Adler:

Which in your mind is what? How long?

 

Lee Coulter:

Hype cycle is ...

 

Seth Adler:

No, I mean this hype cycle. How long did it last within the hype cycle for this one this time? Are you talking about six months? Are you talking about 12 months?

 

Lee Coulter:

Four years.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay. Back. You're going back four years ago essentially.

 

Lee Coulter:

I am.

 

Seth Adler:

Actually five years ago.

 

Lee Coulter:

Five years ago. That's actually exactly what I would say is I'm going back five years ago because in the last 12 months, the number of times that I have talked about change management and shared that the number one strategic imperative for my organization is change management. We actually have numbers around this. This is interesting. We have some numbers that say ... It's like how far can you push a rope before somebody needs to pull it the rest of the way through the hole. I'm going to give some approximations here, but the rope starts to get kind of wiggly at about 12%. You've pushed on automation into your organization, but you've gotten about 12% of the capacity back out of it.

 

 

Then you start to notice that you're pushing, but nothing is happening. Then you get a little bit of more traction because you get kind of upset and you issue some etics and tell people just do it.

 

Seth Adler:

Which always works.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's always a fantastic strategy. Mousseline was my coach on that. No, he wasn't. Clearly the etic approach doesn't work. There was a bafflement amongst the early practitioners like well, why is this encountering a barrier? Over the last couple of years, we have been making a real study of where is the barrier and where are we receiving passive-aggressive behavior as opposed to outright rejection behavior. What should not be a surprise or fascinating, but is both surprising and fascinating is all the basic tenets of change management, guess what? They apply here.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, sure.

 

Lee Coulter:

It was one of those face palm moments.

 

Seth Adler:

How could we not have seen this coming, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

Come on. This is threatening people's jobs, their identity, their skillsets, their futures, their ability to feel confident about executing their jobs. What were thinking that automation was just going to be this panacea?

 

Seth Adler:

What was interesting to me, and you're going to share this in detail in just a couple seconds when I let you know what I'm thinking, I was extremely surprised that it wasn't the actual end employee that most rejected this, that needed the most change management because they could see ... If they're a thinking human and kind of somewhat managed correctly, they can see the benefit there. It wasn't them.

 

Lee Coulter:

They were a phase. We started to see the slowdown and projects and programs just grinding to a halt, and my level of irritation going up, right? Whenever I hear multiple stories, I say, "Let's put all the liars in one room and find out what the story is."

 

Seth Adler:

Got it.

 

Lee Coulter:

We put all the liars in one room.

 

Seth Adler:

You had mentioned outright rejection. We actually prefer that because you're not lying. You don't want it. You're telling us why you don't want it. Got it.

 

Lee Coulter:

I can deal with that. I know what to do with that. In this particular case, I'm looking for passive-aggressive or unexpressible reasons for rejection. When I say unexpressible, I want you to think for a minute about the human's ability to express certain sorts of things. I was using the example earlier, or maybe it was yesterday, about business rules. The example I used was if I gave you 10 minutes and a piece of paper, could you write down all of the business rules to be used to fill a bathtub with warm bath water?

 

Seth Adler:

I mean I could do okay. Probably not all of them, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

What set of conditions would you set for how much water to put in it? How cold you're feeling at that moment? Maybe. How much water you know you will displace when you ... There are things that we know that we just can't express.

 

Seth Adler:

I got you.

 

Lee Coulter:

The same thing applies to this I think.

 

Seth Adler:

This is us being human is your point.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah. This is us being human. There's anxiety. In fact, I wanted to actually file a patent or a trademark on #automationanxiety because it's a real thing. People have automation anxiety and for good reason.

 

Seth Adler:

Reasons they don't even cognitively understand is I think some of your point here.

 

Lee Coulter:

This anxiety is diffused and very hard to put your finger on. Some of it's pretty easy. I don't want to lose my job, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure. Well, that's the direct employee. That's that frontline person. We get it.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's the direct employees, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Lee Coulter:

As we kind of look at the levels of the organization, you can make some pretty good predictions about I should expect to find this kind of resistance or this kind of change fatigue in this level of the organization. I truly in my heart having done change management and major change initiatives for so many years, I thought I knew what I was going to find.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. We have talked about your GE days and everything before, during and in between and certainly after. What was it about this one because what we've been saying is automation, specifically RPA, is just a tool, and it's the same thing that we've always done, and don't worry about it.

 

Lee Coulter:

Well, worry about it.

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Lee Coulter:

I think that there's a connection here. Another year we'll confirm this connection. When you move from tactical automation, which is opportunistic, fundamentally cost-oriented automation, pretty much everybody can love that, right? It's stuff the people didn't want to do. The managers didn't want to manage. The leaders were just irritated that even existed, and the business is really happy to be without. That opportunistic automation is easy to see, easy to go after, and generally speaking, the rules of change management don't apply. Everybody in line is like, "Oh, thank goodness that's not something we have to do anymore."

 

Seth Adler:

There's your 100% right there.

 

Lee Coulter:

There it is. Yeah. Now what we're finding is that that is really the 10% or 12%. That when you get through that list of things, all of a sudden you're into the stuff where people are like okay, now I have to change. We're beginning to enter into an area where we're threatening people's identities. I'll give you two examples. One of them, every organization is filled with people who have made a career out of doing completely meaningless work.

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Lee Coulter:

I don't mean that in a derogatory fashion. If I have a CPA and we're paying CPA level compensation to and they're super good at digging for information, they can ... Somebody says, "Why is this number this," boy, they will dig and dig and dig and dig and dig. Did they use one iota of information that was on the CPA exam? No. No. They were digging and their whole identity, because that's what they became really good at, became about doing this thing which we don't actually want people doing anymore. That's a good example of where we're threatening somebody's identity. Over a period of decades they have developed an identity grounded in activities that are not very human.

 

 

They're very robotic in fact. That's one. The second one is fear of the uncertainty. This gets back to the question that you asked at the beginning which is this discovery that we made that the leadership was good.

 

Seth Adler:

Of course, leadership is good. Once they understand it, they're definitely good.

 

Lee Coulter:

They're like, "Wow. We can fix that. We can fix this. This is fantastic. Great." Senior management, they're like, "Oh, this has been a problem we've been battling for two years. How fantastic."

 

Seth Adler:

It's going to look great look on my P&L when we ... Right?

 

Lee Coulter:

It's going to look great on my P&L. My customer will for the first time maybe smile at me, right? I mean this is good stuff. The employees are like, "Oh, you know what? This is really cool. I am for the first time ever contributing something of significant human value."

 

Seth Adler:

I am not cutting and I am not pasting.

 

Lee Coulter:

I am not cutting and pasting or just digging for a living. What we found was our challenge was in the frontline supervisor. The people that we had somehow unreasonably expected to know how to manage a human and digital labor forced together. We didn't train them. We didn't even tell them it was coming or happening. I'm not going to say I'm ashamed because I don't know that I could have like predicted this, but I kind of feel badly that it took me this long to get to the point where I'm like, "Wow. Here's a group of people who really were not equipped for it." That's where it's stopping. That's where the resistance is.

 

Seth Adler:

Well, let me ask you this, is it because it truly is a digital workforce and maybe you were looking at it differently than it actually being a digital workforce? Meaning you want to now name these bots. I feel like you're a guy that wouldn't necessarily go in thinking, "We're probably going to have to name the bots Dave and Nancy," right, but now we actually do. Unpack that for us.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah, absolutely. Anthropomorphization is a tool in this tool belt. In our shop, I've named this strategy human bot harmony because there really is ... Once you have enterprise and option of this kind of stuff, there is an interplay between the human labor and the nonhuman labor. They pass work back and forth. There's a really good story. I won't name the company. There's a really great story. It's a large financial institution that something went horribly wrong. As they were triaging it, the human labor blamed the digital labor. What's funny about that is that the digital labor can't speak for itself, but the record of every single thing that the bots did was auditable.

 

 

It was kind of like well, how can you blame them? Well, they didn't get that done in time.

 

Seth Adler:

Wait a second.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah, hold a second. This kind of is an indicator to you of the human dynamic of working with something. I think this is a really important distinction. When you have a piece of software, PowerPoint, you don't think of PowerPoint as an automation tool.

 

Seth Adler:

No.

 

Lee Coulter:

Here's why this is different. These tools were developed from the beginning to mimic human activity. If you look at a robot that ... Let's use Alexa as a cone with a blinky light versus some of the Japanese robots that have fully morphable facial features. Alexa doesn't look like a robot, doesn't perform robotic tasks in the way that would be considered human mimicry.

 

Seth Adler:

Like passing the salt for instance.

 

Lee Coulter:

Like passing the salt.

 

Seth Adler:

She'll buy it for you.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah, she will. You'll get a really good price on it, and you can sign up for a subscription.

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Lee Coulter:

Which assumes that you're eating way too much salt by the way. Have you ever noticed the defaults on that?

 

Seth Adler:

No.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's like we think you should get 10-12 packs of toilet paper per week. Would you like to sign up for that? No. No. I don't know. Let's just leave that one alone.

 

Seth Adler:

The human behavior.

 

Lee Coulter:

The human mimicry component of this is the part that resonates with the people part and triggers this rejection and creates the appearance, the very real appearance ... I'm not even going to say it's an appearance, the very real dynamic of this being digital labor and human labor.

 

Seth Adler:

Now why would you be a proponent of raising, if you will, the digital labor to almost equitable description to human labor, wouldn't that metastasize the issue at hand?

 

Lee Coulter:

It's a great point. Perhaps I'll refine my words there because my intention was for the purposes of looking at a piece of software, Microsoft Excel, nobody's threatened by Excel. It's actually not logging into the website during this transaction, going over here, placing it on the shared drive, doing that calculation against it, loading it in SAP, putting it back on the shared drive for another bot to pick it up. It's not doing things that would have a level of complexity or sequencing that would be considered in any way mimicking human behavior. Therefore, it doesn't pass that threat thresholds for another person engaging with it.

 

Seth Adler:

For a coworker or our point here, the supervisor who has no idea how to deal with that dynamic.

 

Lee Coulter:

Right. The finding of late is that that frontline supervisor needs change management tools. They need to know how to reassure their human labor of their value, of their involvement, of the increasingly human work that those folks are doing. They likewise need to teach the organization how to work with their digital labor supporters, and I guess that's the best word I could use for them at this point in time. Understanding that some of this digital labor is remarkably smart and getting smarter. When the work teams are going through their own anxiety and there's pressure from above to do more ...

 

Seth Adler:

Above above.

 

Lee Coulter:

Above above to do more with automation and now it's starting to impact more fundamental capabilities and metrics of the organization. The frontline supervisors are just ... They're at a loss. It was a real surprise. I did some of my own investigation literally sitting with associates, and it was interesting talking to one operator as she was showing me this piece of unbelievable automation. We got a 6X improvement in throughput where ... Actually more than that. More like eight. We had six people doing one thing. We now needed one person three quarter of their time doing that same thing. She told me about her personal emotional journey of using it.

 

 

She told me about how long that lasted. It was like two days. Now she is so excited because she has seen what these other five people are now doing, what they got to go off and go do and what she gets to go off and do. She's very excited about it. The supervisor is like what on earth do I do? Am I supposed to hide this excess capacity, right?

 

Seth Adler:

It's too much.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's too much. Is this good? Is this good enough?

 

Seth Adler:

Am I going to get fired because we lost all this time for all these years?

 

Lee Coulter:

Do you still need a supervisor managing three human employees and 10 digital employees? Do you still need me to do that?

 

Seth Adler:

Because I was managing six people. Now I'm only managing three. Shall I get paid cut in half?

 

Lee Coulter:

Are they going to give me more duties? Are there expectations that I reduce that even further? Are they going to give me more complex work that I don't know how to manage? We have as leadership, and this is just dawning. I won't say it's hot off the presses, but in the last six months ...

 

Seth Adler:

This is where we are now, yeah.

 

Lee Coulter:

This is where we are. This is where the leading edge practitioners have realized, "Oh my goodness. This is business process transformation 101 and change management." Now the difference is that where you're going to target the change management, where you're going to put the skills, where you're going to do the most listening and talking, a little bit different.

 

Seth Adler:

How so?

 

Lee Coulter:

The notion of a town hall as a part of change management, that's not an effective tactic here.

 

Seth Adler:

Because not everybody can be present at the town hall?

 

Lee Coulter:

Not everybody can be present, and honestly a lot of the folks that you would have invited to the town hall are pretty cool about the whole thing, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Got it. Yeah. Right. We don't need the town hall.

 

Lee Coulter:

Doing skip levels to get at that frontline supervision and to crack the door open enough for them to begin to reveal their level of anxiety about managing in this new world, that is the new art of leadership as it pertains to IA.

 

Seth Adler:

What would be nice here is also for you to share your findings industry wide and industry wise as far as these saved FTEs and where they're going and what they're doing, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

One of the coolest things as a part of I would say an under informed change management approach when we begin our own initiative, we announced to the team communicated regularly this is not a head count take out initiative. That is not what this is about. This is about freeing up capacity to take on more new, better, different work. We have lived up to that by the way.

 

Seth Adler:

Good. Congratulations.

 

Lee Coulter:

Now did we not backfill jobs? Yes, that happens. Did we let anybody go? No.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. Not anybody that shouldn't have been let go is your point.

 

Lee Coulter:

Agreed.

 

Seth Adler:

If you can't change a people, change a people type of thing in some instances.

 

Lee Coulter:

In some instances. Absolutely. When I say that, that was outside of the normal management of unintentional ... Not intention turnover. Well, the question was ...

 

Seth Adler:

Oh yeah, no. You've done it yourself, right? FTEs. You've lived up to your promise.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yes. We've actually heard and I'm not sure any specific individual can take credit for this because I think a lot of us started talking about it, but I heard it said really well and it's catching on really, really fast which is hours of capacity return to the business. I'm starting to see this in white papers. I'm starting to see this in program metrics. We started to talk about it because boy was I peeved when the automation team came along and said, "We just freed up this 24,000 hours worth of capacity." I go over to the service delivery area I'm like, "So you have the same number of people working. What's going on here?"

 

 

They're like, "Oh, we started doing this finally. We started doing that finally." I'm like, "What? Did you ask? Did you say hey, should I take this capacity and have it do?" "Oh, but our customer said that ..." I'm like, "Okay. You're very customer-oriented. Because you're like I can do this for you, I just will for free." I'm like we need to get a little credit for it, right? At least turn in the chip that says here's 12,000 of capacity and have your customer write on that chip and say, "I would like you to take those 12,000 hours and do the following things with them."

 

Seth Adler:

As opposed to giving it away.

 

Lee Coulter:

As opposed to just this translation that never has any visibility to it.

 

Seth Adler:

The point being though we are doing more valuable work for our customers.

 

Lee Coulter:

We absolutely are.

 

Seth Adler:

We need to be compensated for it, but we're doing it.

 

Lee Coulter:

I would say at least recognized for it. I don't mean that in like a let's go and give this person an award, but the organization needs to recognize that the work that we truly wanted those teams to do is finally accessible to them. For the first time maybe in a decade or two decades, the work of business insights and understanding analytics, trending, marketing prediction, all of these things that you really wanted these scripts to be good at are finally becoming accessible. I saw a paper just a couple of days ago and it was talking about these three different companies. One had returned 6 million hours of capacity to the business.

 

 

What the business decides to do with 6 million hours of capacity, a lot of capacity.

 

Seth Adler:

Yup. It's a ton.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's a lot of capacity. What a business decides to do with that is nearly infinite in terms of what you could do with that capacity. The ability to repurpose it into different things, higher order, higher value things. Actually I've said this and I'm going to have to change my numbers because I am aware of at least three automation programs that had specific head count take out targets. Those were all in commercial BPOs.

 

Seth Adler:

That almost doesn't count. You know what I mean?

 

Lee Coulter:

That's where I am. It doesn't count because these people are fighting for their lives, right? They're eating their own children for lunch here. It's really unfortunate. It's a tough place. Being in a commercial BPO right now has got to be one of the toughest jobs because automation is changing the game.

 

Seth Adler:

They're eating out of both sides.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yes. They're getting squeezed from both sides. Their contracts unfortunately were FTE-based. The whole notion of what an FTE was and is has changed.

 

Seth Adler:

Completely disrupted. Besides those, which you and I agree kind of almost don't count, right, just because that's not what we're talking about.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's not what we're talking about.

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Lee Coulter:

When you talk to the Global 2000, the Fortune 500, I am personally not aware, and I talk to a lot of people about this, Seth, of a single initiative that was in fact built to take out head count.

 

Seth Adler:

These are clappers from some sort of game I would imagine.

 

Lee Coulter:

I think that's right.

 

Seth Adler:

You just said though that the automation wasn't built to take out head count. What I'm asking is, and yes, no, I haven't seen that either, I also haven't seen any news, and I read it voraciously, of we saved 3 million hours. We got 30% more FTE back and then we cut this much workforce. I've not seen one of those press release. You and I have not read that article of I saved 30%. That would be a great press release. If I'm publicly traded, that would be a great press release. It wouldn't be so good as far as my corporate PR and all that, but certain organizations could certainly ... You could see them saying, "Okay. Well, yeah. X, Y and Z happened, but check out Alpha."

 

Lee Coulter:

Yeah. What we're seeing is a general reticence to talk about benefit gains via AI for all the reasons you just described. You have too many constituents that are going to hear something very different. It makes it very difficult to craft a message that can be shared broadly.

 

Seth Adler:

Does it mean that that might be happening and we're just not hearing about it?

 

Lee Coulter:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay. How so?

 

Lee Coulter:

You see that in a couple of different fundamentals on companies, average revenue per employee, return on invested capital. Some of the fundamentals of organizations that are aggressive in IA.

 

Seth Adler:

Spike, that's where that is.

 

Lee Coulter:

You begin to see those moving. I think we're going to start to see ... It's maybe a larger conversation, but we interestingly continue to experience job creation, but wage compression.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah. We've noticed.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's another conversation that we can have at another time about why is that happening and how much more is going to happen. Because with every labor revolution, industrial revolution, computer age, we have squeezed the bottom of the labor pyramid and everything has moved up. For the first time, everything has moved up. We went from tribal nomadic to agrarian, from agrarian to farming and agriculture, from agriculture to manufacturing, from manufacturing to office work, and at every point we removed the worst work.

 

Seth Adler:

All of those people got new better jobs.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

All of them.

 

Lee Coulter:

For the first time ever, we're squeezing the middle. We're creating more jobs at the bottom for now. There's a ticking time bomb there at a lower wage. I mean you go in and your Starbucks barista has an MBA from Yale, right? Ordinarily that would be a sophomore at the local community college, right, as your barista. We'll save that conversation for later.

 

Seth Adler:

Just quickly just because you said ticking time bomb, as far as squeezing the middle and kind of seeing the results on the bottom there, where are you on a kind of prognostication of a reckoning? Is that two years? Is that five years?

 

Lee Coulter:

I'm going to go out on a limb here and based on numbers and adoption curves, I'm going to put us on ... This will take center stage in 2021-2022.

 

Seth Adler:

That's pretty soon. That's in four years.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's pretty soon. It will be at the front edge of a change wave. What do I mean? Today when labor performs work, labor gets compensated and labor goes home and buys washing machines and clothes and food and has to get to and fro. They reinject that income back into the economy. They are taxed on that process, which funds the social programs that support them. Now the labor that is performing the work doesn't go home and the capital owner is not taxed on the work that was done. All of the revenue from that work is kept by the capital owner.

 

Seth Adler:

Fine.

 

Lee Coulter:

The distance remediation there is the funding for social programs because the number of people hasn't change.

 

Seth Adler:

Well, also what happened to that person though?

 

Lee Coulter:

Well, that's what I'm talking about. We'll begin to see in certain specific sectors unemployment begin to climb. We will start to see governments complain about funding for social programs and a need for alternative or new taxes to cover those.

 

Seth Adler:

Totally understood.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's where we're going to be in about four or five years.

 

Seth Adler:

I'm following you.

 

Lee Coulter:

I don't think we'll be in crisis mode yet.

 

Seth Adler:

I got you.

 

Lee Coulter:

When self-driving vehicles hit, we've got 19 million people worldwide that in the course of a decade with largely put out of a job.

 

Seth Adler:

What happens to those people?

 

Lee Coulter:

That's a really good question.

 

Seth Adler:

Because we're not now able to fund social programs, right? Because we're not taxing the robots. I would imagine you come down on not taxing the robots, right, or do you?

 

Lee Coulter:

I'm as yet undecided on this.

 

Seth Adler:

Because of what we're talking about.

 

Lee Coulter:

Because of what we're talking about. Here's the reality, there are two schools, dystopians and utopians, on the coming change. What's interesting is I just saw Andy McAfee just a month ago. He and Erik Brynjolfsson have done some really foundational work in the space. Something Andy said was rather you are a utopian or dystopian, the facts are it's happening. One way or the other we're going to found out whether we've created a utopia or a dystopia or how long it takes for the dystopia to resolve itself, but no question that the wheels are in motion and all the fundamental indicators are there. It is coming. It's just the pace and how long it takes civilization to absorb it.

 

Seth Adler:

Do you think that as far as our global civilization we're ready for what will be happening in what you say is three to four years?

 

Lee Coulter:

No. Absolutely not.

 

Seth Adler:

Not at all.

 

Lee Coulter:

Here's the really simple answer is regulation and legislation simply cannot move this fast. The disruption ...

 

Seth Adler:

Look at Bitcoin. I think it went up another 4,000 today.

 

Lee Coulter:

Today.

 

Seth Adler:

Today. I think. I might be wrong. I think I saw that.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's wacky.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, exactly, which lets folks know that this would be a Pearl Harbor Day. Our thoughts and feelings and prayers and whatever. Absolutely. Podcast land knows no time, so I got to say which day it is. It's upon us.

 

Lee Coulter:

Interestingly, so people talk about Bitcoin. The thing that people should probably be more, well, as concerned about is Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. That is separate from Blockchain. Blockchain is something ...

 

Seth Adler:

Well, it's built on Blockchain, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

It utilizes Blockchain.

 

Seth Adler:

Thank you.

 

Lee Coulter:

It is not Blockchain.

 

Seth Adler:

Understood.

 

Lee Coulter:

It uses something called distributed ledger technology, which a specific variety of it. There's another variety of it called permissioned ledger technology, PLT, which businesses ... Permissioned ledger technology stands to be as disruptive or more disruptive than intelligent automation.

 

Seth Adler:

Wow.

 

Lee Coulter:

You're going to see this land in such rapid and spectacular fashion that whole industries will disappear.

 

Seth Adler:

All right. You and I, we've had a pace of talking kind of once a quarter. I guess we're going to have keep doing that.

 

Lee Coulter:

I think we are. I think it's been maybe once every other quarter.

 

Seth Adler:

Something like that. I think it might be even more often than you think.

 

Lee Coulter:

Maybe it is. We should stay in touch and see how the prognostication goes. What's interesting, in late 2014 I did a presentation where I had predicted that the first government in 2020 would tax digital labor. Three weeks later, Mary Lacity, who's a very active researcher in the space, she sent me an article that in Germany they had just almost passed the digital person's bill of rights.

 

Seth Adler:

Well, Saudi Arabia has got a citizen, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

That's right. They do. I don't think they're taxing him, but do they get the stipend? Do they get the oil stipend?

 

Seth Adler:

Who knows? Right. Yeah. Exactly. You should ask them and Alaskans by the way.

 

Lee Coulter:

That's right. If an actual person of Eskimo heritage built the robot, do they qualify for the oil subsidy in Alaska?

 

Seth Adler:

We'll do some research on that. Before we get out of hand, I'm going to ask you the three final questions for returning guests. These are new. These are new.

 

Lee Coulter:

Oh, they're new?

 

Seth Adler:

These are new. The last one is the same as it always is, but the two precursors are different, and they are if you could change something about yourself, what would it be? If you could change something about anything else, what would it be? Then on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there. That's always the same. The first question is if you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? It might be something you're already working on like I want to do yoga. I want to go to the gym. I want to eat more carbs.

 

Lee Coulter:

It's larger than that. Yeah, I want to eat more carbs. That's good. With that and sugar at the same time.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, absolutely. I had the opportunity to answer this question recently. I'll let the readers look up this word.

 

Lee Coulter:

You realize that these are listeners, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yes.

 

Lee Coulter:

Well, here we go.

 

Seth Adler:

They can read something. You're suggesting that they read something, right, so they will become readers.

 

Lee Coulter:

The listeners may ask uncle Google for the definition of temperance.

 

Seth Adler:

Interesting. Okay.

 

Lee Coulter:

I would like to have increase temperance.

 

Seth Adler:

I can't wait to find out what that is. I like the kind of choose your own adventure style to that. Then it's what would you change about anything else if you could? You can be omniscient. Okay? You can have all of the power in the world. Space time continuum. Go ahead and bend it. If you could do anything else, what would it be? Change anything else, what would it be?

 

Lee Coulter:

To answer that question, I'm going to ask you, do you remember that Star Trek episode? Did you watch Star Trek as a kid?

 

Seth Adler:

I am not a Trekkie. I apologize.

 

Lee Coulter:

This isn't going to work on you. It's this notion of original sin, right?

 

Seth Adler:

I've engaged in that if that's helpful.

 

Lee Coulter:

I think we all have and can say we have. The part that I would like to see if there's some way to do a reset on is why were we built with temptation? Doesn't that seem just a little bit mean spirited?

 

Seth Adler:

It does, but I'll tell you, here's my argument for regulations. It's God, if you believe in him or her, put us on earth and then pretty quickly in the grand scheme of things said, "Oh, wait a second, hold on one second, they're going to need these 10 commandments," which are of course, regulations. I'm not saying a ton of regulations, but sensible regulations. They'll do us good, right?

 

Lee Coulter:

I've spent some time examining this recently, and I'm going to have to talk to some people who are smarter than I am, but it just seems like how did the snake get into the Garden of Eden? That's what I want to know. Okay. I get that Eve ate the apple all right, but why was the snake there in the first place, God?

 

Seth Adler:

Is it that it would be too easy if we didn't have the snake? You know what I'm saying?

 

Lee Coulter:

That's the question I want to have answered.

 

Seth Adler:

I feel like it would be, wouldn't it? It would be a utopia. I mean it would be literally the Garden of Eden. Everything will be fine.

 

Lee Coulter:

You know what? This leads us well into your third question, which is the soundtrack of my life.

 

Seth Adler:

Indeed.

 

Lee Coulter:

The Pentatonix "Do You Know What I know." Isn't that do you know what I know?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Lee Coulter:

Yes. The Pentatonix holiday station on Pandora I've been listening to. I love acapella. They are without a doubt the finest acapella group I've ever heard. That particular song, their rendition of it is really fantastic. It's just been sticking in my head. Since we were just talking about if I could be omniscient, well, that's the soundtrack I'm in for this quarter's input.

 

Seth Adler:

Lee Coulter, it's always a pleasure checking in man.

 

Lee Coulter:

Always great talking to you, Seth. Thanks.

 

Seth Adler:

There you have the inimitable Lee Coulter. Always appreciate spending time with him and kind of gleaning that insight. Very much appreciate his time, very much appreciate yours. Stay tuned.