Net Neutrality For the (Workers’) Win!

week 9 2015

Organizing Theory
Here’s a good analysis of the campaign to win net neutrality—which a year ago, seemed like it was on its deathbed.
What’s Going on in the Workforce?
“Those who claim to be advocating on behalf of the interests of Black and Latino workers in tech companies but ignore the pressing issues facing hourly workers in those very same tech companies are not doing Black and Latino communities any favors.”
Still think Net Neutrality is just about streaming video faster? Here’s Etsy’s CEO, talking about how it’s a workers’ rights issue for all those who make a living selling stuff online.
Geeking Out
Japan may soon house half as many robots as it does humans.
This doesn’t really fit any category on this blog…but Craig Newmark reflecting on his decisions in launching & nurturing craigslist is worth reading.
I’m continually impressed by Contributoria’s efforts to set up a site that essentially crowd-funds investigative journalism. This month, they launch “Topic Ideas,” where members can indicate interest not just in specific articles, but broad topic areas for coverage. (Can you guess which one I voted for?)
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
If you make most of your income from freelancing, it can be hard to get a mortgage. Enter a new startup.
Worker-owned co-ops are starting to gain traction as a type of economic development worth investing in. How do we make sure that the voices of worker-owners are heard, as more cities and states move forward on these efforts?
In NYC? You might want to hit up this event next Tuesday night. Cooperatives & the Sharing Economy.
An interesting in-depth look at how Chicago’s civic hackers are building apps that help their city. The best thing you’ll read about sewage today, I guarantee it.
Reputation, reputation, reputation
I have a lot of thoughts about this new app. Mostly, they involve wishing I was the kind of person who could easily block the people who cause me the most stress. Sadly, some of us are stuck having to manage relationships the old-fashioned way.
From Partners
Last year, I interviewed Brett Scott about his book, The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance. Brett just let me know that there’s a pirated pdf of it floating around the interwebs—so if you’re interested in reading it and couldn’t afford the book, you can find it here. Of course, you could also throw him a buck or two, if you find it worthwhile.
“In the new on-demand economy, companies are turning the Internet into the equivalent of a street corner hiring site and turning workers into day laborers.” NELP’s Rebecca Smith on the legal state of things in the sharing economy.

More gig economy stories than you can shake a stick at

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
“As employment decreases, it’s not like the answer is trying to get more people deemed as misclassified.” Is the gig economy about to fall apart under the weight of lawsuits? Most likely not. But what are we coming up with as solutions for people who want to freelance, and also want to be treated with respect?
I am sort of super in love with the phrase “radical disaggregation of consumption.” This is an interesting paper about what state & local governments might do to regulate the sharing economy, once it’s more integrated into our regular economy. If you want to cut to the chase of the most interesting policy recommendations (at least from my perspective), skip to page 50.
Can we learn lessons about Universal Basic Income from the dividend payments that Alaska sends to every resident?
What’s Going on in the Workforce?
Can a thick layer of software replace middle managers? If so, can someone remake the movie Office Space with some kind of API? h/t to reader Matt Dimick for pointing this one out.
And while we’re on the subject of replacing things with software—what does a union look like in the gig economy? I bet there’s an app for that.
week 8 2015

Can Mechanical Turks do creative work?

What’s Going on in the Workforce?
Sure, you can hire Mechanical Turks to do relatively simple tasks like identifying photographs. But what about real creative work?
“It would be naive to think that the basic needs of workers change with the proliferation of smart phones.” Smart thinking about what post-recession life (and regulation) might be like for on-demand companies, by Managed by Q co-founder Dan Teran. h/t to reader Natalie Foster for sending this one in.
Most hospitals will encourage you to eat more fruit. This one will encourage you to eat more fruit that you order from a fruit-named robot, who will deliver it to your room.
The BBC asks: can we make capitalism moral by letting driverless cars own themselves?
As ever, Sarah Jaffe kills it with an analysis of why wanting to work less—not make less—should be the number one issue for working women.
Organizing Theory
Great analysis by On Labor Blog of the potential problems with municipal wage laws—specifically, state-level pre-emption.
From Partners
Five of the US’s biggest foundations are worried we’re not doing enough public policy work that applies in the Internet age.  They want to know what they should fund.
Geeking Out
The Zipperbot will clearly be the new best friend of all women who live alone and wear back-zip dresses.
Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot, Spot, is getting better and better. But please, don’t kick the bots. It makes me sad.
week 7 2015

“What if poverty is like smallpox?”

Original Content
The Open Society Foundation has been releasing a series of papers on the Future of Work. Here, Ryan Johnson, Arun Ivatury and I discuss “Left Behind by the Digital Revolution.”   And if you like our original content, don’t forget to check out our Patreon page and if you can, become a supporter.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
“What if poverty is like smallpox?” Can a universal basic income be the vaccine that we need?
Want to set an ambitious sustainability goal for your city? Why not follow Helsinki’s lead? Their goal—that in 10 years, no one in the city should need to own a car.
H & M CEO argues that reducing global consumption, particularly of fast fashion, will lead to global job loss and greater economic insecurity in the developing world. Hmm.
Reputation, reputation, reputation
A long read—but for any activist worried about being spied on by the US government, a worthwhile one. The Electronic Frontier Foundation just released a policy plan for ending mass surveillance.
Organizing Theory
Greenpeace’s Mobilization Lab has a detailed write-up about using Google Glass to record direct actions or other earned media events.
“To name a problem as ‘international’ is to absolve oneself of responsibility and to place the solution in the hands of those proven manifestly incapable. The international is not international any more; it is simply us.” Do big problems need small solutions?
From Partners
“We were different from other union-side lawyers, because we both represented unions and sometimes sued them because they were not being democratic enough.” Meet this week’s updated version of Studs Terkel from In These Times: the Lawyer.
The Ford Foundation demands greater transparency from grantees by expanding the use of Creative Commons Licensing for grant-funded projects.
Geeking Out
Want to eat a chocolate bar that looks like your face? Head to the Sweetest Place on Earth, and fire up the 3D chocolate printer. (Don’t be a J1 student, though. It’s not always sweet to them.)
Meet Eve, the robot scientist who can help discover new drug formulae.
What’s Going on in the Workforce?
 As an artist, it’s nice to get paid by people who are making money off your work. But I guess platforms have to eat too—so they’ll share data instead of money. Which begs the question–at what point will we actually just start eating data?
“The lesson was that businesses really want flexibility and adaptability.” So says the guy who sold warehouse robots to Amazon.
week 6 2015

Why have a Turing Test, if we could instead have the Turing Olympics?

Geeking Out
Why have a Turing Test, if we could instead have the Turing Olympics?
I can’t even begin to describe this video of an AI-inflected Mario. You’re just going to have to watch it yourself. Bonus points if you imagine the narrator as a robot.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
The Story of Stuff wants to know—what are your sustainability priorities for 2015?
Great story about Madison, WI’s decision to invest $5 million in worker-owned cooperatives—and what that will actually mean.
Peers has a set of tax tips for sharing economy workers up on their blog. Surprise! 1099 income gets reported!
It’s almost a Portlandia setup—but it’s taking place in Cleveland! Meet the worker-owned, bicycle-driving composter coop.
How about turning your house or apartment into a co-working space?
Organizing Theory
Greenpeace’s Mobilization Lab shares some of the new social media tools they’ve been testing—and looks for suggestions for new ones to try out.
From Partners
Do you need to map strategy & make decisions remotely? Try WhatLeadsTo.
“There is not necessarily a direct connection between having a job and feeling like you’re doing things with your life that you care about or matter or make you happy.” In this week’s installment of updates on Studs Terkel’s Working, meet the Unemployed Person. Maybe I should also remind you of the first rule of the internet: Don’t Read the Comments.
What’s Going on in the Workforce?
“As workers, people in advanced industrial economies have not gained a lot from free trade and technological progress.” Huh. The Financial Times, on why tech companies need to figure out how not to destroy the economy.
Could Bitcoin someday serve as the launching pad for an organizational management structure run by machine intelligence?
Is a lack of app-savviness driving our inability to organize sharing-economy workers?  With a judge or two poised to declare that Uber drivers are actually employees, that might become relevant pretty soon.
“When smart machines can do most routine work in the economy, the demand for human labor splits into two camps. A small group with the most valued skills and talents—creative, intellectual, entrepreneurial—will earn great rewards. For the remaining jobs that machines can’t do, the qualification will be ‘being a human,’ and the basic rules of supply and demand will drive those wages to the legal minimum.” h/t to reader Joe Dinkin for sending this one in.
Robot of the Week
week 5 2015

“…our children–and now increasingly Mexico’s children—are not growing up to be farmworkers.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce?
“…our children–and now increasingly Mexico’s children—are not growing up to be farmworkers.” So naturally, farming robots.
You know you want to read a paper about the maritime implications of exosuit technology. I mean, cyborgs underwater? It’s like space, but with fish. Sign me up!
“In a world where we focus on pixel-perfect design for your app, how can you not deliver ‘pixel-perfect’ service quality when the workers delivering your services interact with customers?” Hunter Walk talks about why he invests in startups that invest in their workers—whether those are engineers, or 1099-contractors.
Here’s a curious idea—an app that will loan money to workers with precarious schedules, in weeks when they don’t get enough hours—and they pay back when times are better.
Reputation, reputation, reputation
You may have missed this story when it first launched—I certainly did. Meet Tsu, the social network that pays you for creating content. Hit me up, if you want an invite.
Wanna freak out a bunch of politicians about the need for cyber security? Why not set up an open wifi spot at a conference they’re attending, and then announce that you’ve tracked their online activity.
Organizing Theory
“Effective resistance movements depend on networks that are flexible, durable, and can adapt their strategies to changing conditions over time.” In other words, social media can’t do it all. Duh.
From Partners
BLS has put out its statistics on union members in 2014—and it will be no surprise to any reader here that once again membership declined as a part of the overall workforce. CEPR has a detailed look at the demographics of the union workforce.
This week’s 40 years on update on Studs Terkel’s Working? Meet the Web Engineer.
Geeking Out
If Stephen Hawking is worried about the impact AI research could have on society, shouldn’t you be? Here is a great list of AI research that we should be supporting. If you’re on board, sign the open letter backing it up.
The first-ever 3D printed building has become a reality.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
Interesting interview by IPS’s Sam Pizzigati with researchers who study economic inequality and health outcomes.
Excellent analysis of the history of “sharing” companies, their strengths and weaknesses, by Juliet Schor.

On robot dresses & worker-owned coops (sadly, not in the same article)

What’s Going on in the Workforce?
Sarah Jaffe has a great long read in Al-Jazeera about worker-owned coops in the US, particularly focusing on the struggles involved in setting them up.  And Abby Scher has a good look at how solidarity economy activists in Reading, PA are working to promote co-ops and other forms of community-owned wealth in that city.  Incidentally, Forbes estimates that if Apple were a worker-owned coop, every employee would earn over $400K per year.
Geeking Out
Voice recognition software gets to be the butt of lots of jokes (and I’ll always love Siri for the way she pronounces “Conshohocken”), but it’s getting so good that we’ll soon live in a world where “devices don’t have keyboards.” I guess I won’t need those haptic gloves anymore…
Robotic spider dress that protects my personal space? Where have you been all my life?!?
Organizing Theory
Thinking about organizing a skillshare in your community? Here’s a good walk-through of every step of the planning process.
From Partners
Strong work from Moshe Marvit about the right’s new push on Right to Work—passing local ordinances.
“I realized my work wasn’t necessary.” And here’s this week’s Studs Terkel Working update from In These Times—meet The Data Entry “Associate.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
What happens to a town when Wal-Mart moves out, especially after it’s destroyed every business?
Could we socialize life-saving technology to decrease inequality?
I’m always a fan of ways of organizing against the robot apocalypse—but are we really losing the moral high ground on basic income to libertarians & right-wingers?

“We are slowly entering the robotic revolution…”

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

“We are slowly entering the robotic revolution…” Look, there are even charts!  And technologist Martin Ford points out that automation and worker fears of replacement may lead to deflation as well.

Excellent piece from Forbes on the hazards that sharing economy workers face AFTER they get hurt at work.

If robots have temp agencies, can a robot union be far behind?

Sarcasm is a beautiful thing. Henry Blodget cheers on capital for “crushing” labor, and laments the probably outcome.

Geeking Out
Are you ready to drive your car with your watch?
There’s something strangely compelling about a robot with 3D vision
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
Can combining time banks & coops help to meet your community’s needs?
Reputation, reputation, reputation
Maybe we should replace “don’t be evil” with “don’t be creepy” as an internet age mantra? Until then, campaigns will be scraping your grocery receipts to target you.
The FBI thinks it doesn’t need a warrant to spy on your cell phone in public. Think about that at your next demonstration.
Organizing Theory
“Political squatting” helps win campaigns for fair housing in England.
From Partners
Philly folks—David Dylan Thomas is giving a talk at Penn on January 29th—details here. We interviewed David back in September of last year…
And for those of you in DC—The Century Foundation is having a conference on solutions to child poverty, on January 22.
This week brings another installment of In These Times updates on Stud Terkel’s Working—here’s the Adjunct Instructor.

“Don’t go back into your cave of despair.”

Organizing Theory
“Don’t go back into your cave of despair.” How to turn movement moments into movement power.
Want some policy ideas for how to bring fresh food into underserved communities? Union of Concerned Scientists has a toolkit for that.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
Relay Rides is the other thing you can do with your car to monetize it when you’re not quite willing to become a chauffeur…
“…if our reason for supporting different modes of sharing is a desire to create a more equitable and sustainable economic system, we need to significantly broaden our understanding of what constitutes a sharing economy.” 
“The idea that having a good job means being an employee of a particular company is a legacy of a period that stretched from about 1880 to 1980.” So says The Economist, writing about the sharing economy and the rise of the freelancer.
How Spanish groups are organizing collectively, including to provide trade education in communities.
Reputation, reputation, reputation
Pew on the future of privacy. “The current arms race of privacy between individuals who want it and governments who wish to eliminate it will continue unabated.”
From Partners
In These Times is revisiting Working by Studs Terkel, in its 40th year, with updated essays about work today. Here’s the Gravedigger.
Geeking Out
If you’re going to make a robot, it really ought to be a shark robot, right?
Welp. NASA emailed a wrench to the space station. H/t to reader Hannah Sassaman for this gem.
What happens when your bot breaks the law? Jeez, can’t I get my kids through high school before I have to worry about stuff like this?
What’s Going on in the Workforce?
In the “jobs so boring, it’s a good thing they made a robot for it” category? Testing car buttons.
On the other hand, do you really want fries with that? McDonald’s is introducing touchscreen ordering, to serve their next Xbillionth customer.
I continue to be convinced that artists and other content creators are going to be the people to figure out how this new economy works. Here’s Erik Arneson, talking about his success in giving away stories online, in order to build his distribution list.