January 31, 2014      

February 12 2014

When a conference becomes a movement

Everyone keeps an eye to the goings-on in Washington, DC because big, high-value things happen there, some of which become part of the nation?s social fabric.

On February 12th, Lincoln?s Birthday, while the wreath-laying ceremony is underway at the Lincoln Memorial, some very important goings-on will be taking place just two miles away at the Renaissance Washington Hotel.

A one-day conference will be taking place there with the interesting, and somewhat provocative, title of The Future of the Workforce: How the Robotics Revolution will Shape the Employment and Labor Law Landscape.

That?s a first: robots and people taken together; spoken about in the same breath, with discussions on how each will impact the other; how both will change the nature of work and the workplace; what codes of conduct, policies and laws will govern their mutual interaction.

Wow, what?s happening?

Officially it?s being dubbed a conference, although the session titles, topics and speakers from the agenda read nothing like those from a traditional robotics meeting.

More than a one-day conference, this February 12th event at the Renaissance feels more like the beginning of a movement.

And if indeed the gathering turns out that way, what better place and on what better day to run up the movement?s very first flag?

Littler Mendelson: close observers of America?s workplace

Behind it all, the driving force that?s raised awareness to this incipient workplace of the future hurtling toward us, is Garry Mathiason, chairman of a law firm with a specialty, since the end of World War II, in employment and labor law.

Garry Mathiason, Chairman, Little Mendelson

That?s almost seventy years of experience in watching over America?s workplace and advocating to its legal needs.

The firm, Littler Mendelson, knows a few things about the employment and labor law landscape.

Garry is a good friend to us here at Robotics Business Review: he?s passionate about robotics and its intersection with people in the workplace; he?s a frequent contributor of essays (see below) to our guest editorial section; and his firm is the sponsor of our Robots and the Law column.

In fact, the Robots and the Law column is how we made his acquaintance. He spotted the column, took a fancy to it?and to the publication as well.

Garry delivered a keynote presentation at our RoboBusiness 2013 conference in Santa Clara last October, which, in reflection, now seems like a mini-dress rehearsal for his upcoming one-day program in Washington.

History in the making

Robots have been freed from the isolation and grimy toil of factories and now they are out and about commingling with their makers.

they are here

Early on, Garry had a sense of the consequences of that mixing together of machines and humans, so he made it his mission to understand it.

In an interview last December with Patrick Hoge of the San Francisco Business Times, Garry made a prediction: ?Robotics and artificial intelligence systems will wipe out more U.S. jobs than they create for some of the next decade before society adapts to the new machines.?

Much the same sentiment comes from the likes of economist, Tyler Cowan, in his The Robots Are Here piece in Politico; or from Tom Friedman in his New York Times Op-ed piece, Average is Over, writing, ?? new technology has been eating jobs forever, and always will. As they say, if horses could have voted, there never would have been cars. But there?s been acceleration.? He points out that in the 10 years ending in 2009, U.S. factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs ? about 6 million in total ? disappeared.”

More technology is on the way in the form of robots, which will greatly exacerbate the acceleration of Friedman?s disappearing manufacturing jobs.

What Garry, by dint of his years in the employment arena, sees most keenly is the resulting mega-changes coming from the arrival of robots in the future workplace?a workplace that is actually closer than we think.

His time spent at Ray Kurzweil?s Singularity University only went to reinforce his belief that robots are and will be the singular force that drives all of those workplace changes.


Within his own firm he created the Robotics Practice Group to help his clients to safely and competently master the onrushing new reality of jobs, employment and work.

Garry?s mission now is to do something to mitigate those workplace collisions. Washington on Lincoln?s Birthday is where he will put some national focus to the issues.

He’s a brilliant speaker and an ardent and insightful futurist, all of which shows through in the list of program topics and star-power guest experts who will be joining him to deliver presentations on these important and fascinating topics.

Best of all, whenever Garry speaks to groups of people, is the way that he personally escorts you to the edge of the future and then artfully helps you to look within.

He alone is worth the price of admission, which, by the way, is ninety-nine bucks. Pretty cheap price to pay for admission to the beginning of a movement.

Save the agenda, it?ll soon be a collector?s item.

See download above:10 Areas of Employment and Labor Law Most Impacted by Robotics, Human Enhancement Technologies, & the Growth of AI. Garry Mathiason, Esq., Chairman, Littler P.C.

See related:Robots, the Workplace and the Law [G. Mathiason, guest editorial]