The 47% Solution?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

“…jobs are at high risk of being automated in 47% of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted.” What’s going to happen after that?, the Economist wonders. If only we lived on widgets alone…

More and more of us are going to need to figure out how to work best in distributed environments. Here’s a great post from the folks at web-hosting company Mongo on how they make it work for them.

In a new take on “non-traditional worker” organizing, Canadian clergy are organizing with a chapter of Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor.

It often seems like there’s an unresolvable tension between utopians (tech will bring us happiness & prosperity!) and dystopians (tech will wipe out wealth & through us into poverty!)—and not just on my to-be-read shelf. Erik Brynjolfsson talks a little bit here, about why he’s a mindful optimist on this.

Tired of getting the side-eye from your local barista, and yet not quite willing to plunk down the coin for a co-working space? How about a cafe where you pay for the time you spend there, not the number of cups of coffee you drink?

Geeking Out

So you wanna build a car from a kit? Say hi to Tabby, the Ikea of cars.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…if the lower cost is because the formerly unionized employees are now freelancers, or because there’s no minimum wage, or because tips are hidden from the customer and the employee, the cost of these apps can be pricier than they look.” The perils of the “share washing” economy.

In a sure sign that the “sharing” economy is here to stay, its had its first Congressional hearing.

Organizing Theory

If you’re in charge of figuring out how to incorporate online activism in campaigns, you’re really going to want to read this new report by Greenpeace Mobilisation Lab on online petition campaigns. Key takeaway for me? Online petitions that target high-level elected officials or major corporations are less likely to win than those that target small businesses or local electeds. And as with anything, wins matter.

Last month, I went to my first-ever Rootscamp in DC, and the people who sent chills down my spine talking about their work were the online organizers of OUR Walmart. Sarah Jaffe profiles their organizing techniques, here.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

In the UK, the right of unions to protect their confidential membership data from the government is under attack.

If big retailers have their way, “discriminatory pricing” could be coming to a Target near you. Interested in how that works? Try searching for the same flights on a MacBookPro, and then from a cheap netbook.

It’s not just the driverless car that will be able to track your every move—today’s cars store data about where & when you travel. Do we need a privacy policy for our cars?

From Partners

Lots of us spend time figuring out how to win campaigns—the folks from the Freelancers’ Movement have laid out their analysis of a successful campaign website here. Bonus points for its in-depth look at the structure of Peers’ website.

And speaking of worldwide activism, here’s a call for folks to participate in a worldwide wave of actions in 2014.

Final Thoughts

“In protest, there must never be any compromise. In politics, there is always compromise.”

Bayard Rustin

Is permatemping the new model in manufacturing?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Is permatemping the new model in manufacturing? Sarah Jaffe takes a look at the history of temps and how they’ve expanded in our economy—and how we’re all paying to subsidize them.

When lots of people are working from home, it’s hard to know what they’ll accomplish. Internet platform Automattic has given their hiring a lot of thought, given those circumstances.

Want to avoid buying clothing that was sewn by children in sweatshops overseas? There’s an app for that. (Well, okay, it’s really a browser extension, but still.)

Geeking Out

Internet centralization makes it easier for the NSA to spy on us. Radar O’Reilly explains how.

In much less-serious news—I’m admittedly a crazy baker. But this goes pretty far into cookie insanity. This guy hacked together a machine to make one cookie at a time, so he could test 20 recipes at once.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Here’s an interesting video about how to use a time bank to seed a worker cooperative, for not so much money.

And while you’re thinking about co-ops, why not read this excellent look, from Truthout, on unions & worker-owned co-ops?

Wanna talk to co-op folks from around the world? The international co-op community will be in Quebec in October 2014.

How is the sharing economy changing cities? Well for one, millennials want to stick around more.

Organizing Theory

How do you get your organizational data to line up, when you’re using multiple vendors to store it? These progressive data geeks are working on a new protocol to help.

What if the sharing economy was about sharing and not profit?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Intangible feelings of community do not excite venture capitalists as much as profitable enterprises such as AirBnB, but that does not mean they lack value.” What if the sharing economy was really about sharing, and not at all about profit? And to that end…do you have a fruit tree in your neighborhood that always produces more fruit than anyone can use? Why not tag it on this site?

What do workers in the sharing economy have in common with domestic workers? They’re both on the cutting edge of defining what it means to work in the 21st century.

Looking for some ways that your city can promote local job growth through sharing economy solutions? It’s not all through the AirBnB model…

Journalists-do you have a story idea you want to pitch, but you’re not sure who to pitch to? Why not join Contributoria, and pitch for votes (and eventually, money), in this cooperatively organized online community.

Ed Mayo, the Secretary General for Coop UK, has some New Year’s resolutions for the co-op movement.

From Partners

The Sidney Hillman Foundation is seeking nominations for the 2014 Canadian Hillman Prize, for journalism in service to the common good.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Imagine that you’re a union organizer who works with retail or fast food employees (for many of you, this won’t take much imagination). Now imagine that Wal-Mart or McDonald’s gets to have a giant database of recognized faces, and they use it to keep you out of their stores. I’m guessing that, if they get to write the rules on acceptable uses of facial recognition, this is going to end up as an acceptable use.

So you signed up for that OKCupid account, and then had regrets. This site will tell you how difficult it is to delete your online profile from just about any web service, and tell you how to diminish yourself online. (PS—this is what anonymous email accounts are for, kids.)

And by the way—you’re not worried about NSA spying because they’re only collecting metadata? These researchers figured out the owners of 73 of 100 random phone numbers by googling, or matching them through Facebook.

Geeking Out

Do you want to mix the concept of basic income with a digital currency? Check out this beta test of an app that does just that. Sorry Androiders, it’s iOS only as of now.

You probably know that Wal-Mart lets RV owners park in their lots overnight. But have you seen who actually stays?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Imagine every company had a formula for figuring out salaries for everyone who worked there—and published that on their website? The social media company Buffer just did it—the comments on this post are not to be missed.

The theories about why Google is investing in robotics companies are flying fast & furious—here’s one that seems highly credible to me. “They’re working on the last mile problem. I’m working on the last inch.”

More robot restaurants—this time, in New Zealand. Get your hamburgers via pneumatic tube.

You may have read that Zappos (the online shoe seller) recently decided to adopt a flat internal structure. Here’s another look at a way to run a company without titles.

Organizing Theory

Here’s another take on “The Unbundled Union,” this one by labor policy PhD student & blogger Doug Williams.

Final Thoughts

No big thoughts for this week…just a video. Made by a Safeway employee, who was losing his job, and thought, “what would it be like if Safeway was blown up by aliens? Or monsters? Or other random action movie special effects?”

“It’s Not OK That Your Employees Can’t Afford to Eat”

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

“It’s Not OK That Your Employees Can’t Afford to Eat” Seems basic, and yet the Harvard Business Review apparently needs to tell people this…

Prompted by the fast food strikes of early December, investing site NerdWallet took a look at how long it takes an hourly worker to earn the hourly pay of their CEO, and found that the typical retail employee would need to work OVERTIME for 2.65 months to earn what their CEO does in an hour.

$45 million will buy you a machine that can process 1500 chickens in an hour, which is 10X faster than doing it by hand. Trigger warning—watching this video might turn you into a vegetarian.

I don’t think they’ve figured out how to get the food to your table without a server yet, but here’s a video of the Chili’s “replace a waiter” tablet in action.

The question of whether humans will largely be replaced in the workforce by robots is one that is hotly debated by economists of our time. Here’s a quick video lesson on the economic debate about industrialization by contemporary & classical economists.

You’ve probably got a lot of things to worry about in the legislative arena. If you’ve got space in your brain for one more—here’s the a suggestion: start caring about open spectrum auctions.

Geeking Out

Wanna better way to crowd-source than Kickstarter? RocketHub claims that you’ll get the money that is raised, regardless of whether you meet your goal.

It’s an artificial eye, printed in 3D. I really don’t have anything more to say.

From Partners

The National Institute on Retirement Security has a new report out, documenting that people of color in the US are more likely to be severely challenged in preparing for retirement.

Save the date! The New Economics Institute is holding a gathering for folks working in/on the New Economy in Boston, June 6-8, 2014.

Next year’s US Worker Cooperative Conference will be in Chicago, May 30-June 1.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Software that aids in facial recognition has its upsides and downsides for sure. On one hand, it’s much easier for governments, corporations, and just plain creepy people to spy on us (or to attack us in public ways that are only possible with the web). On the other hand, it can be a tool to fight things like child labor. Want to avoid easy recognition by computers? Try some of these ideas for ‘face to anti-face.’ Looks like Lady Gaga might be on to something…

Organizing Theory

If you missed it live last week, check out this interesting discussion between Peter Murray of Accelerate Change & Dave Karpf, GWU professor, about different tactics for scaling social change.

The Singularity Approaches

This seems much more appealing to me than Google Glass (maybe because I’ve been struggling to figure out if you can even wear Glass, if you wear glasses)—hi rez displays for regular glasses.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…approaches that really don’t even question the role of private capital in generating shared innovation – before and beyond the trend of the so-called “Sharing Economy” – only can offer simplistic interpretations.” If you want to read a great analysis of the tensions that are being created in the sharing economy by influxes of venture capital, look no further than this post by @meedabyte.

Do you have an idea for a sharing economy app? This new service wants to make it easy for you to bring that idea to fruition, even if you can’t code. (Though take it from me, folks, a technical co-founder can be a good thing!)

Now here’s a sharing economy idea I can get behind—Ikea Switzerland doesn’t want you to be alone at Christmas.

Final Thoughts
“You’ve probably heard of FICO scores, which serve as credit ratings in the United States. The company that created FICO scores–Fair Isaac Corporation–is now working on creating a Medication Adherence Score, which is exactly what the name suggests. The company won’t disclose the details behind the score, but it uses certain variables–such as how long a person has lived at one location and whether that person has owned a car–to measure the likelihood of taking proper medications. The current plan is to use this information to send vulnerable patients email reminders to take their medication, but of course such numbers usually evolve to serve multiple functions. Doctors will send away some of the very worse patients, in part to avoid wasting their time, in part to avoid the feeling of failure, and in part to protect their own performance ratings.”

Tyler Cowen, Average is Over

Don’t ship the beta…

Geeking Out

When I hear that Google is buying robotics companies, the first thing I wonder is…are they gonna ship the beta? Or should we demand that each one be programmed with the understanding “Don’t Be Evil?”

Will you ever be able to download and print a house? The folks at Wikihouse think you will.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Iceland’s government has announced that it will write off €24,000 of every household mortgage in the country, in order to boost household income. Shockingly, the world financial community considers this a bad plan.

Are you thinking about setting up a co-working space, or just renting out an empty desk in your office? Here are some best practices, from Shareable. And while you’re at it, why not kick down some coin for Shareable, so they can hire an organizer to build a Sharing Cities Network.

Are you interested in where the money that’s funding the sharing economy is coming from? You might wanna check out this new report from the Knight Foundation on the funding of civic tech…not great news for those of us who care more about improving voter technology than shared housing…but Ashton Kutcher fans, take heart—he is a source all his own, and he’s funding at a higher source than any foundation named.

There’s a real tension between the folks in the sharing economy who are interested in promoting sharing, and the ones who are simply interested in producing profits. Here’s one of the more profit-minded fellows. And here’s one of the more sharing-minded ones.

Here’s one from the anti-solidarity files. You may remember when Jack Welch famously wished he could put every GE plant on a barge, so he could float it to the country with the lowest standards? Well, what if we put all the 1% on a cruise ship. For life? You might note, they plan to build a school system.

From Partners

Will you be in Brussels next week? Fight austerity & free trade, by blocking the EU summit.

How do we develop more ways to finance the New Economy? Dollars & Sense looks at what’s going on, in the US and abroad.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

It’s funny to me how the same companies that are complaining about
government surveillance are perfectly happy with private sector surveillance. In related news, don’t turn on iBeacon when you’re in the Apple Store. If  you haven’t figured out yet whether you’re worried about either the government OR corporations having unlimited access to your data—this post from the ACLU might tip the scales.

This writer posits: what if local governments, who want to collect taxes on sharing economy industries like AirBnB & Uber also agreed to host review sites for local hotels & taxi services?

Organizing Theory

Want to do some in-depth reading and thinking about improving locally-based coops? Check out this new report from the UK.

And another new UK coop report—this time about how can we make local media work better?

The Singularity Approaches

Sure, car-sharing is nice. But what if you’d rather bike? Sometimes, you might need a little extra energy to get around—so robotocize your bike! And why not top that off with some gloves with turn signals on them? (I know those are going on my Christmas wish list next year).

Right now, digital piracy is a problem mostly for goods that are content-based—like movies and music. But in a world of plentiful 3D printers, will you be able to pirate everything?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

We’ve shared a couple of articles about the increase of gaming & data mining by recruiters. Are those kinds of tools baking more inequality into the system?

Some say robots are causing it, others say it’s the decline in US workers’ bargaining power—these economists blame the decline in US income on the fact that freelancing & outsourcing has occurred in higher-payroll jobs.

You probably saw a lot about last week’s fast food strikes in your daily news clips—but did you know that Korean women held a strike against precarious work in the food service industry on November 29th?

Final Thoughts

If polarization happens first among the electorate, and only later in Congress, then voters are driving it, in which case it might merit another, better name: “representation.” If it happens first in Congress, and only later among voters, and especially if it’s a consequence of legislators answering to special interests and campaign contributors rather than to voters, polarization in some instances might be more aptly called “corruption.”

Jill Lepore, “Long Division” New Yorker, 12/2/13

“Will this hire be a good one?”

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Having spent about five years working on and off on an internal, staff evaluation project that was known colloquially as “Moneyballin’,” I’m skeptical that our movement will adopt these recruitment techniques anytime soon. But employers, generally, really want to know: “will this hire be a good one?”

From Partners

The Center for Effective Government just released this new report on the pensions of the 1/%… as they, of course, lobby for retirement insecurity for the rest of us.

Unite, the UK union, has an app for members to get information about their union—and for non-members to have a quick way to join. Are any US unions doing something similar?

A couple of weeks ago, we linked to EPI’s blog post about robots in the workforce & their impact on wage inequity—here’s the full report, now online. (PS—I don’t blame the robots. I blame the CEOs.)

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Are ride-sharing services becoming better versions of gypsy cabs? Here are two articles that argue they’re moving away from the “community” model, at least in CA.

So you wanna start a worker-owned co-op of knowledge-based freelancers? Start here.

Uber wants more people to buy cars. Well, until they the can figure out the self-driving car thing. Then, no doubt, they’ll be helping robots get loans.

I only wanna live in a cloud country if we can call it Cloud Cuckooland.

Geeking Out

Sure Apple’s new fingerprint ID is cool—but what if your phone could identify you by the blood vessels in your eyes? Here’s hoping the security on THAT database is at an all-time high.

First, you can have sushi served by a robot in Japan, then jet on over to China for a stay in the robot hotel.

Organizing Theory

Paid sick leave is an important fight that many of us are engaged in right now, and it’s a particularly pressing one for working moms. But what about the fight to know your work schedule in advance?

Want to attack wage inequity? How about a ballot initiative, capping the pay of CEOs to what the president makes? Yes, the President of the United States. It’s gonna be quite a pay cut, for some.

As the parent of a 14-year-old, my involvement in anything makes it less cool. So maybe I won’t start taking 3-finger salute selfies, in the hopes that my kid and her friends WILL be joining this effort by the Harry Potter Alliance.

The Singularity Approaches

Scientists have started using software to comb through thousands of research papers to make connections that can lead to new discoveries, quicker. I guess it’s only a matter of time before software will replace me, in writing this blog!

I can’t wait till I can send a robot to do ALL my work travel for me…

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

The freelance economy is winning—not just in the US—and a cloud-based freelancer system makes an IPO.

Arizona State University is moving to online learning in the classroom—so instead of lecturing, instructors wander the class helping students who are stuck in specific problems. This seems like an interesting hybrid of MOOC and old-school pedantry.

Employee ownership takes many forms. In the tech industry, it gets granted as equity shares in a company. Here’s one approach of how to do it in a way that keeps low-seniority workers invested in staying for the long haul.

Phlebotomists beware—Walgreen’s wants you not to have to deal with rolling veins anymore. Or, really, any blood draws.

You probably wanna use a junk email address to sign up for this one…but MIT Tech Review has a report out about workforce automation.

Americans are really bad at taking vacation. No, Chevy Chase is not involved.

Final Thoughts
So first– a retraction…last week I sent out a story about a 3D printer jam causing a fatal shooting–I didn’t make it up, but someone else did, apparently.

To all our US readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope your turkeys are moist, and your pies applecious!

Do you know your phone number’s reputation?

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Online reputation—for workers, sellers and buyers—is becoming increasingly important. But it’s hard to find all the places that reviews for different people and companies exist online. RepStamp wants to create an aggregated online reputation for sellers.

You know what else is getting a reputation? Your phone number. You’re gonna wanna read this one.

Corporate America may love robots in the workplace—but they don’t want to pay for advertising that is only consumed by bots. So they’re funding a startup to fight bots that consume ads. Maybe they should just starting paying all of us to watch them?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability



“We rescue people not banks” is setting up city networks to connect people who are interested in leading the sharing economy. Is your city on the list? Are you interested in helping people start food service businesses? One sharing economy way to do that is by forming a kitchen incubator.

Is the co-op movement a political movement? This essay argues that it should be.

These Canadians banded together cooperatively to buy and operate a mountain ski resort.

The Singularity Approaches

A 3D printer that uses fresh ingredients, instead of plastic filaments, and prints food? Hello, Star Trek TNG.

Watch this guy teach a robot how to manipulate a knife so it doesn’t scare nearby humans.\

From Partners

Students at UNLV are building an incubator to help build a worker-owned Las Vegas. They’re currently trying to raise $900 to travel to a conference that’s being held by the USW and Mondragon. Can you kick in a couple of bucks?

Rolling Jubilee recently announced that they’ve bought & forgiven $13.5 million in medical debt.

Geeking Out

A 3D printer in Austin shot and killed two workers who were trying to print a gun, and injured a third. No, I did not make that up.

I’m not always sure I understand what tech folks are talking about when they talk about “natural language search,” but here’s one experiment in figuring it out.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

I can’t wait until Larry McMurtry writes the seminal novel about robots herding cows in some steampunk-esque version of the Wild West…

Maybe there’s hope for higher ed after all…the father of MOOCs isn’t satisfied with his own product.

Maveric Media recently released a documentary about all the ways work is changing in the UK, particularly when it comes to technological unemployment. Here’s a segment of it that talks about how the retail sector, in particular, is changing. On a related note—Sears is turning some of its shuttered department stores into data centers.

Could Artificial Intelligence help generate leads for investigative journalists? Enquiring minds want to know…

Here’s a good first-person blog post, written by a musician, about the “tentacles” that the music industry has developed to find artists and give them exposure, but no money.

Final Thoughts

(In the future) “Refusing to make money off your own data might be as political an act as refusing to drive a car or eat meat.”

~Evgeny Morozov

“…our last resort is industrial action. And this we will continue.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

“…our last resort is industrial action. And this we will continue.” Did you know that Amazon warehouse workers are conducting a series of rolling strikes with the support of their union, Verdi?

Does American society value work too much? This seems unlikely, to those of us who organize workers that are routinely disrespected & underpaid. But this writer makes the claim that “Having more of our human workers get replaced by machines is the best thing that could possibly happen to us.” And it’s hard to argue with, in context.

Read this amazing first-person narrative by an 40-year-old undocumented single mom farmworker in California. Have tissues nearby.

Jobs of the future may involve more quality assurance and usability testing. Because the robots can’t replace humans as testers of goods for humans…

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Thanksgiving is coming—do you have all the cooking equipment you need? If you search for a last-minute turkey baster on your smart phone and then you click an ad for Williams Sonoma, Google may be tracking your phone to see if you went to the store.

The Singularity Approaches

One of the (hopefully soon-to-be-realized) promises of Obamacare is that we’ll have better coordination between health care providers, through the use of electronic medical records. A new company is hoping to manage health IT for senior living centers in the US and abroad. “The competition is phones, faxes, paper, voicemails—that’s health care past and present.”

For every parent who’s ever wondered—how do I get my kids to reduce their screen time in favor of physical activity—here’s the solution! A desk you pedal to power your tech.

Before wearable computing can really take off, the question of how to give silent input without a keyboard must be solved. Here’s a quick look at what Google’s looking to patent, in the way of gesture tech.

Here are some easy questions to ask your self about any new technology:

tech questions


On the other hand, if you tend to be the kind of person who scares easy, don’t read this interview about our future after AI takes over the world.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…consumption isn’t the only thing that needs to be collaborative,” argues this new post from ImpactLab. “…freelancers—not companies, websites or apps—are responsible for the tremendous growth of the sharing economy…”

Sometimes, blogs give you a glimpse into a life you might’ve lived, had something been different. Sometimes, they let you see up close what it’s like to do something you’ve never done. Here’s an amazing look at one man’s decade-long efforts to report on the recycling industries in China that take your used soda bottles, Christmas tree lights, the change you never emptied out of your car, and well everything—and strip them down for reuse. He’s got a book coming out, too.

And while you’re wondering—what gets made out of my recycled soda bottles? This new foundation is working to make sure that the stuff of 3D printing—filaments that feed the printers—comes from recycled sources.

Students at Auburn University have been building one $20,000 house a year for low-income residents for the last 20 years. This year, they aim to build 8—but in order to meet their goal, they need to raise $160,000. Why don’t you go clean that change out of your car, and kick something in?

Here’s a follow-up to the worldwide sharing economy mapping project from a few issues ago…this one looks at how the mapping actually worked in different cities around the globe.

You’ve heard about the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, and have a sneaking suspicion it’s bad for workers, but are not sure why? Check out the executive summary of this new report by the Seattle to Brussels Network that shows how it takes bad US business practices and exports them to the EU.

From Partners

A new post by Economic Policy Institute’s Lawrence Mishel argues that we shouldn’t blame the robots for slow job growth in the last decade. I’m personally terrified whenever someone uses the phrase, “Let’s start from some basic macroeconomics mathematics”, but YMMV.

Organizing Theory

Who needs a supply chain (or a theory of supply chain disruption) if the majority of products are printed-to-order, in-store? Wal-Mart is experimenting with 3D printers in their stores.

If you’re not a lawyer, you may not be aware of this case that the Supreme Court is about to hear…but if you want to organize in the context of agreement elections—you need to learn about UNITE-HERE v. Mulhall.

Geeking Out

The heaviest metal there is? Or maybe the robot really does sing of love… Would you go to see a concert in which the only performers were robots?

This is old, but one of the best things I’ve ever seen–watch Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, one of the first computer programmers, explain what a nanosecond is, to Dave Letterman.

Final Thoughts

“Zombified industries have four telltale signals: a glacial pace of innovation and a lack of new ideas; apathetic customers; dwindling brand equity; and increased marketing investment.”

Umair Haque, The New Capitalist Manifesto


“Most of the workforce is already robots, just of the meaty variety.”

What would it really cost to cut poverty in the US in half? $3,000 per person, estimates Demos Institute’s Matt Bruenig. If you’re not thinking seriously about Universal Basic Income, you should. On a related note, this thread on Reddit discusses whether a Basic Income program in the US would cause more automation in the US workplace. Money quote? “Most of the workforce is already robots, just of the meaty variety.”

If you’re in New York, and you’re interested in single-subject news sites, check out this conference at Columbia next weekend. I may just pack the kids in the car and make them come with me, depending on the soccer schedule.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

How will we measure jobs, and economic impact, as the sharing economy grows? If it’s true that Airbnb hosts in NYC earned an average of $7,500 a year, does that count as a part-time job? Don’t think Airbnb is a real job? Here’s a first person account by a guy who bought an apartment in Vegas exclusively to rent it out on Airbnb.

These seven workers took the money they got for being laid off when their company closed, and used it to reopen their factory as a worker-owned co-op.

A great, long read about Amazon’s business model, where Jeff Bezos is described as an apex predator.

We’ve come a long when from the Agricultural Revolution—but farmers still have things to learn. This engineer just created a farm bot. It’s open source. Sort of like migrant farmer labor.

If you’re in a line of work where you talk to a lot of manufacturing employees and skilled machinists, you may want to read this article about why this company switched to using robots, instead of hiring more workers.

Are you trying to design an office that maximizes collaboration on creative tasks? The results of this survey may surprise you. Spoiler alert—millennials do not want more videoconferencing.

The Singularity Approaches

In all likelihood, you’ve never given one single thought to the security of your car’s computerized control system. Bad news–neither did the engineers who programmed it, so they’re pretty easily hackable. That can’t end well.

Not sure how you might use a 3D printer? Check out this helpful info graphic on the things that they can make, these days.



From Partners

Privatizing job developers—yay or nay? Good Jobs First has a new report out, showing it’s a bad, bad plan. Unless what you’re trying to do is further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the unemployed…

Here’s a really good, interesting look at the failure of one part of Mondragon’s cooperative businesses, by Gar Alperovitz. As Alperovitz points out, it’s necessary to decide if co-op developers are trying to succeed inside the current economic system (as Mondragon largely has done), or to make an effort to fundamentally change the way businesses relate to the economy.

Great, in-depth article about the pressures that cause medical residents to want to unionize, by Sarah Jaffe.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Can I get an umlaut with that? IKEA recently started a platform for reselling your second hand, no-longer-wanted furniture. Not clear if it comes with used cursing for assembly, or if you have to add your own.

There’s been a lot on this blog about Greeks fighting austerity—here’s a group of Greeks who have banded together to support indy media, to make sure that news is getting out.

Last weekend, European activists held a conference to discuss debt, rights and democracy—check the website for video of their discussion.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

It’s possible that the Amazon review you’re reading was written by someone who didn’t pay anything for the product in question. Should we demand that reviewers disclose this kind of thing? Guess that apex predators don’t always feel the need to be transparent…

Geeking Out

Are you a creator or a curator? Or both? Check out this new Pew Study on the rise of both kinds of behavior by American adults.

You might not think that the way the internet is structured has much impact on our economy—I know I didn’t, until recently. But the way we share things online (hello creators & curators!) right now advantages the people who own the servers our data is stored on—so what happens if the data gets stored and shared differently? We might be able to make a new model of how to pay for content.

This vending machine bills itself as a 24-hour library. While I’m all for people getting books in malls, I’m reserving judgement till after I see it calm a roomful of unruly toddlers during storytime.

In the words of my 10-year-old: “That’s really crazy. And lazy.” Pizza delivery by robot. When will it need two-step authentication?

Final Thoughts

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, to our UK readers (follow #millionmaskmarch on Twitter today)…and for those of you on the other side of the pond, don’t forget to vote!

“Where are the eager cub reporters?”

Organizing Theory

“Where are the eager cub reporters?” As an organizer, it’s sometimes hard to remember that if you dissuade new activists from doing work by constantly correcting them or telling that they’re doing it wrong–it just means they quit and there’s more work for you in the long run. Seems like the editors of Wikipedia need to have a similar realization. Collaboration requires a diversity of views, not a winnowing of them.

How does the trade union movement use digital communications tools? Read about it in this new book, Firefox OS for Activists.

And speaking of digital communication tools— has recently rolled out a new feature, where elected officials can directly respond to petitions directed at them. Here’s David Karpf on the possible ups and downs.

What’s Going On in the Workforce

In thinking about how to broaden the scope of this blog, I’ve been struggling around the idea of how to raise enough money to pay writers. It’s not a problem just here, of course–content creators are having a tough time of it, lately. Micropayments may be the way that writers, photographers and musicians have an economic future. Bitwall is trying to help.

Companies are starting to use phones’ tracking systems to see what field & service workers are doing at all times. Telling people to turn their phone off every night when they go home, if they’re worried about being spied on is just one more way that the burden of privacy is being continually shifted to individuals.

Some people think the future of higher education can be found online. How is the existence of the digital divide getting in the way of access to MOOCs?

This waiterless Japanese sushi restaurant may mean struggling writers and actors need to find a different day job. Sure, a conveyer belt can bring me sushi–but will it sing “Happy Birthday” to me?

But maybe we all just need to work less. A new book, Time on our Side, looks at why we all need a shorter workweek.

The Singularity Approaches

What if the singularity happened and all the corporations turned autonomous? Wait, aren’t they already autonomous?

The energy you throw off when walking down the street may someday be used to power your city.

Worried about the safety of driverless cars? New data shows that they already drive better than you, and that’s without the factor of your texting-while-driving habit.

From Partners

A new co-operative think tank has been launched in the UK, to design future ways of living and working.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

In the Bay Area and want to learn more about employment law & your sharing economy business? Check out this event hosted by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

Want to build a business in a new kind of way? Cutting Edge X claims to create capital for the 100%–not the 1%, through investment crowdfunding.

Greek workers have had many different responses to the austerity crisis in their country. These workers at Bio Me took over their factory, and turned it into a co-op.

You probably already know that much European & US trash ends up in the developing world to be stripped & recycled. But have you seen this video of a car made from recycled parts, in Ghana?

Occupy Money Cooperative launches its own debit card. Quizzical looks ensue. I wonder if they used this nifty co-op building tool, in creating their business plan?

Maybe the professor who wants to live in a dumpster also wants to teach in one? The new urban space.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

It’s harder than you think, to make up a totally fake person online. But it’s not impossible. Now, if only I could write off my imaginary friend as a dependent, on my taxes…

An FTC commissioner writes about the need for data mining companies to protect consumer privacy through a new initiative called “Reclaim Your Name.”

Read a first-person account by a corporate CEO, targeted by Greenpeace (requires registering for free account).

Geeking Out

Colombian design student Adrian Zapata wants to help you clean your house with flying robots. But what happens if my @classwarkitteh eats one?

An eerily beautiful video of robot evolution at the University of Pennsylvania.

This group of Brooklyn Millennials is building a wifi mesh network to protect their community during times of emergency.

Final Thoughts

“Providing an escape valve for a system’s strongest users lessens the pressure for change.”

Nathan Heller, “Bay Watched,” New Yorker, 10/14/13