Talking Robots and Jobs with Google's Hal Varian, Wharton's Lynn Wu, and WPI's Mike Gennert

From 2014 to 2016 I volunteered for the MIT Alumni Association as the founding host of a program called Faculty Forum Online — Alumni Edition. It was a series of live video conversations meant to illustrate the diverse jobs and challenges that MIT alumni are tackling around the world. The forums were multicast on Google Hangouts, and my guests responded to chat questions coming in from audience members watching remotely.

This Monday, May 22, I reprised the moderator role for a special "FFO/AE" conducted with a live audience at Newbury Court, a beautiful retirement community in Concord, MA. The topic was "Robots & Your Job," an area I touched on in Soonish Ep. 1.04, Future Factories, With Workers Built In.

Dozens of MIT alumni joined the online audience to watch, and participate in, a chat with three experts on the impact of robotics, automation, and information technology on today's workplaces. Here's the video:

The Alumni Association rounded up a fantastic group of panelists for the talk, including:

  • Hal Varian, MIT '69, Chief Economist, Google; Professor Emeritus, University of California 
  • Mike Gennert, MIT '80, SM '80, ScD '87, Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute 
  • Lynn Wu, MIT '02, MNG '03, PhD '11, Assistant Professor, The Wharton School

As with any Web-based video conversation on a free platform like Google Hangouts, there were a few audio glitches. We overcame them—but I have to say that I'm really glad to be working as the host of an asynchronously produced podcast, not a live video show. It's stressful! I don't know how public media talk-show hosts like Tom Ashbrook, Michael Krasny, and Brian Lehrer juggle their guests, their callers, and their thoughts day in and day out. (Well, I do know—they're cool, consummate pros and they're backed up by very hard working producers.) Anyway, enjoy the video.