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

Try the Mystery Meat…

Organizing Theory

Try the mystery meat. Want to engage young people in a campaign? Try asking them to upload photos of their school lunch…

Networked Labour is an effort that emerged from a conference in May 2013, to improve the online networking of the international labor community. In this blog post, they talk about the online tools they use to create community & exchange ideas.

Are you running a campaign where you need to find email addresses for many corporate executives? You might wanna talk to this guy.

Here’s a new book that offers how-tos for organizers in the building trades.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Ecuador is asking their citizens to help write a new law—about free & open software. Is open-sourcing the opposite of lobbyist-sourcing?

I’m pretty sure that talk of a Grand Unified Global Income Tax will bring the black helicopter-fearing crowd out of the woodwork. Still, from a policy perspective, this new paper is worth reading.

Do you want to make sure that your shopping habits line up with your activist beliefs? Try this app, the next time you’re at the grocery store. Or anywhere, really.

The Singularity Approaches

Do you know how to identify one paper shredder over another? Probably not. The systems at Google do, of course. The weird part is, no one really programmed them to do it. So how did it happen?

If you were hiding under a rock on Sunday night (or still in a tryptophan coma), you may have missed the announcement that Amazon wants to launch (pun intended) drones to deliver packages, as early as 2015. But is delivery dominance their real mission?

Reputation, reputation, reputation

If my life’s going to have a ‘personal dashboard,’ shouldn’t I be able to monetize myself in some way? And no, I’m not talking about Klout Perks. If you’re a programmer, you can have keep your data private—I’m not sure how an amateur user would.

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I think Snapchat is the devil. Need more evidence? Turns out those naked selfies don’t really get erased from your phone…

From Partners

ICYMI, TechPresident had a great write-up on coworker.org last week.

LabourStart is holding their annual conference in Berlin, next May. I’ll be kickstarter-ing a ticket any day now…

Geeking Out

Worried that you’re going to regret that drunken tattoo? Try programmable e-ink under your skin, instead.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

If there’s one thing I wish that people in the economic justice movement would learn from tech folks, it’s how to work asynchronously & in different places, using technology.

Organizing security guards? Say hello to the $6.25/hour robot night watchman.

Is globalization causing a decline in labor standards? These academic researchers say yes. (Non-paywalled, earlier version here.)

Is Silicon Valley really that different from the rest of corporate America? Claims of meritocracy notwithstanding, it looks amazingly similar to the Fortune 500…

“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

IMG_6653

 

“We rescue people not banks”

Peers.org 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.

The-Possibilities-of-a-3D-Printer

 

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—change.org 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

“Kitchens are just factories we haven’t automated yet.”

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

“Kitchens are just factories we haven’t automated yet.” Hey baristas…this company thinks they can replace you with with robots.

The American Prospect recently wrote about the move toward a more automated economy, with a detailed look in a Skechers warehouse in Moreno, CA. Perhaps the most telling thing about this article is the comments section–which intersperses real people being passionate about the future with automated bots telling everyone how to work from home for big bucks.

Is the future of higher ed going to mean there are only 10 universities left on earth? Audrey Watters tells us why that won’t happen.

Are you a Militant Optimist or a Lifestyle Hacker? European Alternatives have come up with four different ways that young people are coping with making a living, in today’s economy.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Are you ready for everyone with a smartphone or Google Glasses to be able to recognize you on the street? What if they could see your credit score, or know your sexual orientation? These researchers at Carnegie Mellon are working to make that a reality. And these folks from Brunswick Insight want you to think about what it’ll be like when everyone and everything has a rating.

The Singularity Approaches

What do we laugh about, daily? New additions to this open google doc, “Alternatives to the Singularity.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

One way that we might form a new economy involves micro-payments for original content–think about the potential of making money from Facebook photos or tweets. This publishing company wants to fund writers with a model like the way we fund farmers through Community-Supported Agriculture. On another, more perverse note–why not buy a share in a star athlete?

We wrote about Shareable’s efforts to map the sharing economy–here’s what one view of New York City’s “solidarity economy” looks like, mapped.

Talk about a Basic Income led Demos’ Matt Bruenig to develop a basic income calculator for the US. Cost of halving the poverty level in the US? A little less than a trillion dollars.

Geeking Out

Think it’s going to be Google that cracks the market on driverless cars? Anki Drive might beat them to the punch–by building a better robot car for your kids, first.

Can you copyright a ringtone? Some thoughts on why intellectual property rights and 3D printing might not get along.

From Partners

The Ethical Consumer held an essay contest last year on “Co-Operative Alternatives to Capitalism. Here’s one of the winning essays, “Open Source Capitalism” on why open source capitalism can’t look exactly like open source coding.

UNI has a new report out showing how multi-national retailers are squeezing the global supply chain, making their labor force live much more precariously, over the past five years.

Organizing Theory

Want to hack a new app to help advocate for comprehensive immigration reform? FWD.us, the tech industry’s immigration reform campaign is holding a hackathon in late November–if you want in, apply here.

A group of Spaniards who’ve been forced to emigrate, due to the terrible joblessness caused by austerity programs have formed a new transnational movement–say hello to the Garnet Tide.

Final Thoughts

“Resilient organizations, instead, are masters of ‘survival of the fittest.’ They have the capacity to evolve better stuff faster than rivals by letting the bad stuff fail. Instead of protecting yesterday’s uncompetitive business models, products and services, they expose products, services, and entire businesses to the freest and fairest exchange so they can evolve what is more competitive. They are driven by competitive selection. By evolving more and faster than rivals, like Google, they are able to survive and thrive in the fiercest of conditions.”

Umair Haque, The New Capitalist Manifesto

new biz model

Some Thoughts on “The Unbundled Union”

Harvard Law professor Benjamin Sachs has written an article for the latest Yale Law Review, titled “The Unbundled Union: Politics Without Collective Bargaining,”  in which he suggests a reform of U.S. labor law that would allow for the creation of a new kind of “political union,” that does not have the responsibility for collective bargaining.

Sachs argues that the playing field in Congress has turned more and more in the direction of advancing the political interests of the wealthy (and who could argue with that?), and cites a study that shows that “the views of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution received no weight at all in the voting decisions of their senators.”

I am in support of efforts that would increase workers’ power in the political establishment, and I am always happy to see academics joining practitioners in promoting innovative ideas in organizing. Expanding the right of the working & middle classes to do more effective political organizing is a social good, and should be celebrated.

The two examples Sachs cites in his paper of unions that have organized workers with explicitly political motives in mind—namely, nursing home workers in California, and home care workers in Illinois—were campaigns carried out by the nation’s largest union, the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU*). They required massive expenditures of traditional dues dollars—it is hard to imagine how a start-up political union would have the resources to launch either. If this kind of organizing is funded by traditional unions, it is likely to be eventually pointed in the direction of organizing workers into a more traditional collective bargaining relationship.

Winning political victories in historically Blue states is by no means easy. But winning back enough ground for working people in Congress will require that we win in swing states, and swing districts, and even some deep Red districts. It is to imagine the sustained effort required to do that being funded by political unions which are supported through voluntary dues, that employers will (at least initially) not even be required to collect. If you’re thinking, “well everything will be better after redistricting,” I’d strongly encourage you to read this piece about the electoral bias created by where we all choose to live.  Gerrymandering is not our only problem.

It is rare, in political organizing, for a single conversation with a total stranger to be transformative. Most of us change our deeply-held political beliefs only through repeated interactions, over long periods of time, with people that we trust. Sachs’ plan relies on the need to build long-term relationships—traditional unions have used worksite access to have those conversations, both by sending organizers to hold them in break rooms, and by training rank-and-file leaders to better communicate with members about the union’s political agenda.

If we want to make political unions a reality, I propose the following, as practical questions that should be considered—and I encourage others to add on, as well:

  • Will it be legally possible for traditional unions to host or sponsor political unions? What about worker-owned co-ops, or other forms of worker-led organizations? Professional associations?
  • Typically, the voluntary contributions made by union members to support political organizing are dwarfed by the amount that members contribute in dues. How will political unions scale up, without the staff support that has traditionally been paid for by dues?
  • Does it make sense to seed the organizing of political unions in places where winning political victories is more likely (ie—cities or “Blue” states)? If so, what are the likely long-term ramifications of building political power in ways that will be perceived to be urban, or left-leaning, when it comes time to organize in worksites that are located in more conservative jurisdictions?
  • (Quoting Sachs) “…some political unions might choose not to advance economic goals at all.” If a political union doesn’t choose to advance economic goals, what makes it a union? Simply the fact that it is organized in a worksite?

It is clear that working-class & poor people in this country have experienced a tremendous decline in political influence, over the past forty years, and that decline has led (in part) to an increase in income inequality. We need out-of-the-box thinking to turn it around. I applaud Sachs for taking a step in that direction, and challenge all of us to move this discussion on.

*disclosure—both Sachs & I have worked for different branches of the SEIU.

“…you have to find a job at IBM to live from Linux code.”

“…you have to find a job at IBM to live from Linux code” Why building a new kind of economy requires cooperative accumulation.

Most content creators (don’t believe me? here’s David Byrne from the Talking Heads, on Spotify) are fighting a losing battle in an effort to make a decent living from their work. But somehow, books carry on. Why is the publishing industry still thriving?

Worker-owned co-ops have a different approach to employee engagement than corporations. Here are some looks at how they do it. Co-op developers use a kind of franchising that looks much more friendly than the model used in the fast food industry.

Headed Down Under? Want to rent a caravan? The sharing economy’s got you covered. In the UK? Got a broken iPhone screen? The Restart Project wants to teach you how to fix your phone, instead of replacing it.

French filmmaker Maxime Leroy spent years interviewing people building sharing networks in cities around the world for his documentary, Collaborative Cities. Here’s an interview where he talks about the process of making the film, and how he got involved.

Margination just put out this youth-produced video about the building of a community farm in Chester, PA. Hey folks, I also love pesto–can I get a hook up?

Britain’s FabLab is a new kind of makerspace–one that aims to connect regular people to engineering experimentation.

Organizing Theory

Organizing within the global supply chain has the potential to truly link workers at every point of the transaction to build real solidarity. This new tech (developed by an NGO who wanted to give fashion companies a way to talk to “their” workers) might give us a breakthrough in how to organize inside chains.

From Partners 

Harvard Law professor Benjamin Sachs has a new paper out, advancing a theory that US labor law be amended to allow unions to separate out their collective bargaining from their political organizing. His blog post on the subject is here, full paper is online here. I’ve had some thoughts about it–interested to hear from others as well.

Sarah Jaffe has a new piece out, detailing efforts by workers at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York to organize a union. H/T to them for enlisting digital organizing in the efforts–but why not use coworker.org for their petition?

Are you in the Bay Area, and interested in the collaborative economy? You might want to attend this event.

Organizing against austerity, in the EU or beyond? Head to this conference in Frankfurt in late November. I bet these Greeks who are fighting water privatization will be there.

The Singularity Approaches

Self-printing prosthetics churned out by 3D printer. Sarah Connors of the world, you might want to read this one.

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

The move to computer software that is based on recognition natural language is coming–Siri’s made all of us more comfortable with talking to our machines. This raises the question for educators–will teachers of writing need to start incorporating dictation?

What if you had to play a video game well, to secure your next job? Can you say ‘gaming the system?’

Your next international flight may feature an automated passport control system. And your next package (if you’re an Australian college student) may be delivered by drone.

Checking passports is one thing or delivering text books is one thing. Killer drones, with no humans at the wheel? This seems wrong.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Are you paying for Facebook likes & Twitter followers? Did you know that there are people, not bots, behind some of those services? Here’s a shocker–the pay for that work sucks.

Thought DRM went away with Napster? A Microsoft leader is resurrecting it, in trying to protect your data.

Geeking Out

Want to find out if people think capitalism is working for them? Watch this video by an artist who installed a scoreboard in Times Square (“the heart of capitalism,” according to one participant) and asked people to vote.

You may remember that Elon Musk announced a theory of Hyperloop back in August–but didn’t have a plan to start building it. This new team does.

Final Thoughts

“…a robust critique of technology should, first of all, be a critique of neoliberalism itself.” Evgeny Morozov