October 10–11, 2016  •  San Francisco, CA

Optimizing for humans and technology working together: Rethinking employment

Moderated by:
Leah Hunter (Tech Journalist)
Mary Gray (Microsoft Research), Virginia Hamilton (US Department of Labor), Kate Lydon (IDEO)
1:30pm–2:30pm Tuesday, 10/11/2016
Location: Olympic

As Mary Gray, one of our panelists argues, technology doesn’t deskill human labor. Technological innovation forces us, collectively, to redefine what we see as our uniquely human capabilities. As technology advances and people working with technology deliver more services, businesses and governments alike struggle to understand how to keep employees’ skills relevant. Whether using bots to enhance productivity or deliver services to customers, both the private and public sectors have a vested interest in ensuring that humans remain front and center as technology rapidly advances.

We can mitigate the anxiety generated by the future of work by supporting workers on both sides of the bot, augmenting their skills as their jobs change. What do we want our working worlds to look like? How do we ensure everyone can participate in the Next Economy? Starting with the concept of human-centered design, we can help ensure tools and technology focus on both the customer and the humans building and delivering technological services. The Next Economy won’t replace humans in the workplace but will instead keep them in the loop delivering these services to increase productivity and generate new forms of work. This session will examine how humans and technology will cocreate the future of work.

Photo of Leah Hunter

Leah Hunter

Tech Journalist

Leah Hunter writes about the human side of tech for Fast Company, the Guardian, and O’Reilly. She is authoring two upcoming books—one on augmented reality from O’Reilly and the other on the future in five years. Leah speaks about both topics, as well as fashion tech and feminism 4.0, via the Lavin Agency. Formerly an editor at MISC magazine and AVP of innovation at Idea Couture, Leah has spent her career exploring the intersection of technology, culture, and design. When she’s not writing or speaking, you can find her advising Unreasonable Women; mentoring for Decoded Fashion; emceeing for the SXSW Accelerator; leading IDEATE, a camp of entrepreneurs and world-changers at Burning Man; modeling; or teaching MBA courses and workshops on wearables and ethnography/deep observation at California College of the Arts, CEDIM-Mexico, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She shows up on stages around the world—often in boots.

Photo of Mary Gray

Mary Gray

Microsoft Research

Mary L. Gray is a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Mary also maintains an appointment as associate professor in the Media School at Indiana University, with affiliations in American studies, anthropology, and gender studies. Her research looks at how media access and everyday uses of technologies transform people’s lives. Her most recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (New York University Press, 2009), looks at how young people in the rural United States use media to negotiate their sexual and gender identities, local belonging, and visibility in national LGBT politics more broadly. Mary’s current book project, coauthored with computer scientist Siddharth Suri, uses case studies of present day on-demand “gig” work, comparing workers’ experiences in the United States and India, to think through the social impact of automation and digital labor on the future of employment.

Photo of Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton

US Department of Labor

Virginia Hamilton is an experienced public policy expert with deep knowledge of both content and process skills. Virginia currently has oversight responsibility for the US Department of Labor’s Region 6, covering the eight Western states and four territories in the Pacific, where her responsibilities include federal workforce legislation, unemployment insurance, and grants to states, local governments and non-profits to help people gain skills and jobs. She focuses on such issues as long-term unemployment, job training, youth unemployment, economic development, poverty, access, and equity. Virginia is passionate about process literacy and design and has taught leadership in organizations how to collaborate, build partnerships, convene people, have important conversations, send the right messages, and get things done. She is currently obsessed with design thinking and bringing human-centered design into the work of DOL both internally and within DOL’s stakeholder community and has worked on three projects with IDEO in the last two years focused on using HCD to help the unemployed have better customer experiences and better outcomes.

Photo of Kate Lydon

Kate Lydon


As public sector portfolio director at IDEO, Kate Lydon focuses on client relationships and content excellence across a portfolio focused on citizen impact and government organizations. With a background in brand strategy, creative direction, and architecture, Kate guides cross-disciplinary teams and clients toward visionary, innovative, human-centered solutions. She has a proven talent for reframing complex, systems challenges and developing strategy that is both meaningful and tangible. Kate is passionate about creating design work that inspires wonder and builds human connections. Her work is informed by a passion for cultural trends, community, and storytelling—as well as expertise at the intersection of digital and physical space. At IDEO, Kate’s award-winning work has included large-scale projects in education, government, workplace, and retail, and she has led programs focused on innovation in the private, public, and social sectors and tackled complex challenges, such as scaling low-cost education in Peru, building a movement around emergency preparedness, and designing networks of innovation hubs across the US.

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