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06/28/16
Watch-Outs. 97. Helium discovery, Jobs-computers-automation, and Impact of Sweet Chemicals
Filed under: Position Searching, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:12 am

There is a section of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book
Second Machine Age that reviews the term “technological
unemployment.
“  It is attributed to the use of human labor
not finding application in the emerging economy and finds
causes from inelastic demand (machines, robots and computers
replacing and not taking breaks in fault-tolerant activities),
people not adapting to skill needs  and long term cost
reductions.  Two recent articles speak to recent job loss
in the chemical enterprise and the perspective from a
different field, economics.

I cannot think of another situation where there is
big news of finding an unexpected source of a
needed chemical other than rare earth elements
in China..  This time it is helium.

Food science resources that might help us
manage chronic diseases seem to be rare.  The
resources we see available are mostly proponents of
use or pharma companies for encouraging various
drug candidate use.  Here is one on sweeteners that
should be shared widely.

TECHNOLOGICAL UNEMPLOYMENT
SOURCES:  J. Bessen HBR 2016, “Computers Don’t
Kill Jobs but increase Inequality

                      The Economist, 6-25-2016 “Special Report:
Artificial Intelligence

                      Dolan, Detroit Free Press,  “Dow to cut
700 Jobs in Central Michigan

Despite simple explanations that computers are growing
jobs due to new applications and broader usage, the
story is not as clear as Bessen writes.  You cannot
predict what you should learn and additionally, academics
are generally a technology generation behind actual
usage.  The Economist special section covers briefly
what is known and gives more up to date detail that
many fields are continuously evolving with new AI
methods ie ‘deep learning software available on open
source basis.’

Dow recently announced job losses in the chemical
enterprise that will have ripple effects as they “rationalize
their labor force needs”.   Sure there are business priorities
globalization will play a role as information can be shared
instantaneously and worked on anywhere in the world.
so you can see technical experts with advanced expertise
surviving, but there is much uncertainty for those seeking
full time, longer term employment.

The Economist series places one leg on each side of the
fence (pro and con), but you should look for areas of
opportunity (what robots and computers cannot do).

The longer term ripple effect of Dow-DuPont acquisition
and spin-offs are a visible example that the chemical
enterprise is not immune from this despite what popular
literature tries to sell.

HELIUM FIND IN AFRICA
SOURCE:  NYTimes feed “Huge Helium Source found in Africa
I was somewhat aware of the shortage of helium used
in many advanced technologies from Nick Leadbeater.
Working with Helium One, a Norwegian exploration firm
Oxford geologists uncovered a gas field rich in helium.
It is material released from rocks due to volcanic heat
in adjacent rocks.  The finding is of large commercial
value and may lead to testing other similar formations
goldilocks zones“.

There are important implications for industry.

TEMPTING SWEETS MAY NOT BE ALL THAT GOOD
SOURCE:  S Ernst, Amer. Laboratory, “Sweet Tooth”
 June/July 2016 p. 6-7.
Ernst’s article on Sweet tooth captured my interest.
and led me to look at Sugarscience.org.  There are
a number of metabolic tendencies that may the result
of food formulations that attract customers to purchase
and ingest what may not be best for them.  The website
seems to be a terrific repository of reviewed information
not biased by organizations that profit from its content.

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