“…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

“If the goal is scale, promote theft.”

“If the goal is scale, promote theft.” If organizations that are trying to effect wide scale social change don’t open-source their successes & failures–we’ll never get to victory. All leaders of movement organizations should read this piece.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

The issue of how to maintain one’s online reputation is going to be a pressing one, in coming years. One country considers criminalizing slander on social networks.

Xbox One might be TV that watches you. No, like really watches. Down to your heart rate response to advertising. I wonder what a marketer would pay for that kind of data?

If Twitter’s going to turn into another company that turns our comments into data for the company to sell to advertisers–what are we getting out of the deal?

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

In the “that was quick” department, here’s a site offering freelance work to furloughed federal workers.

Ever wonder how China is so successful at censoring internet use? Chalk it up to 2 million “internet opinion analysts.” I guess they didn’t want to use Mechanical Turk?

What’s it like to take a MOOC? Somewhat unfulfilling, evidently. I bet it’ll be even better when the video editing of same becomes completely automated.

I tend to fall on the side of those who are convinced that technological change is disrupting employment faster than it’s making new jobs. Here’s an opposing view. On the other hand, rail automation replaces Australian train engineers who get paid $240K a year. And anesthesiologists fight being replaced by CRNAs, but now they’ve also got to fight machines. Not in a cool, Hugh Jackman kind of way either. Lest my Sheetmetal friends be thinking that they’re exempt, here’s a robot that can learn to weld without being programmed for a specific intersection.

In related news, the fast food industry’s fighting a hike in the minimum wage by threatening that US workers will be replaced by robots.

From Partners

The Democracy Collaborative recently put out a new paper describing some of the best practices for using anchor institutions–like hospitals or universities–to meet the needs of the low-income communities they sit near or serve.

The new Cry Wolf Project aims to debunk claims by conservative think tanks & business groups that progressive reforms hurt the economy.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

If you missed the launch of the final chapter of The Story of Stuff last week, you really ought to watch it.

Want to help map the shareability of cities in the US? Join up with this mapping venture in mid-October. And while we’re on the topic of sharing and October–check out New Economy Week.

You may think that you’re committed to sustainability–but are you “moving into a dumpster” committed? Or perhaps you want to move to an island made of recycled ocean plastic? It seems like a fitting penance for my dirty Coke Zero habit…

Maybe you should just start a community currency, instead. (Though as someone who lives in a town where the local ‘Cash’ looks like Monopoly money, take my advice–invest in graphic design.)

What if you know how to fish, but you can’t get access to a fishing hole? Ed Whitfield, a member of the US Federation of Worker Co-Ops, breaks it down in this video. In order to allow more co-ops to buy those fishing holes (could this metaphor get any more tortured?) the bank belonging to the world’s largest worker-owned coop (Mondragon) recently agreed to partner with the US’s National Cooperative Bank.

The price of car sharing may be too high to make it sustainable for short-term rentals, at least for now.

The Singularity Approaches

Any day now, we’ll be stalked in the wild by galloping robots.

“Robotics without wires or motors.” If you’ve been wondering how self-assembling machines will happen, watch these program-embedded materials turn themselves into things. Imagine if water pipes could expand or contract to meet supply or shifting weather conditions? MIT’s all up on the self-assembling–here are some cubes that build themselves, too.

Are we at peak Google Glass yet? Probably not, if we’re just now figuring out how to make computers visually recognize objects.

If you’re in the US, and you’re nostalgic for Lee Majors http://imdb.to/18JXt0T, check out this upcoming show on the Smithsonian Channel “The Incredible Bionic Man.”

Geeking Out

I don’t know if I want to brush my teeth with something that came out of a 3D printer & looks like a caterpillar–but you might.

You’ve probably already used an app to hack your body in some way–calorie counting, tracking exercise, logging sleep–but have you tracked & hacked your driving habits yet?

Final Thoughts

“Anything that you measure in public, people will strive & self-organize to improve.”

Rick Falkvinge, Swarmwise

Reputation, reputation, reputation

future health care

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

If you work in the sharing economy, you might want to check out this new tool launched by the Collaborative Fund. And of course, you probably wanna check out today’s launch of the insurance exchanges, created by the Affordable Care Act.

Bike sharing programs are doing well in all kinds of cities–except the ones that require riders to wear a helmet. If you have a personal bike you’d like to share (or many other kinds of personal possessions), you might want to check out this new app, peerby.

Zacary Adam Green says Silicon Valley’s version of the sharing economy is “a temp agency crossed with a Zynga game.” PBS’s Idea Lab has a cure for that–“let’s make all apps more civic.”  And Shareable is launching a new column by Denise Chang of MIT, to explore the future of work.

Want to make your local economy more democratic? Here are ten ways to make sure capital is invested in your neighbors and you. European readers who are interested in promoting some of these ideas might want to go to this meeting in Rome, in early November (because, well, Rome!). And while we’re pimping international efforts, Canadians should join The Media Co-op–they have openings on their board.

If you’ve got to have money, why not Occupy your money?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Reporters–think your industry has been disrupted enough already? Think again. Get ready for 3D immersive virtual reality journalism.

“There’s the whole ethical question of whether a country of freelancers is really the sort of place anyone wants to work in, but whatever.” Oof, PandoDaily. Here’s the future of cloud computing–HR management of freelancers. Take 10 minutes and watch this video about smart work changes that organizations need to make in the age of offices that can be anywhere. I guarantee you will not regret it. You might even be happier.

Is the teaching of writing, in the digital era, different from days gone by? This new book from CMU Press says yes.

If you haven’t yet watched The Take,  you really should. Here, Nora Leccese goes back for a decade-later look, and finds out how Argentine workers are seeding workplace democracy overseas, as well.
Like Cassio, we understand it can hard to fix a damaged brand–whether it’s personal or corporate. Launching a new section this week:

Reputation, reputation, reputation

And it’s just in time–as Acxiom launches a new line of data products that will allow their clients to combine offline and online targeting data.

From Partners

Civis Analytics has a cool new tool for mapping the uninsured by census tract. If you’re looking to target uninsured workers for ACA advocacy or enrollment, check it out.

The Singularity Approaches

But on the way there, we’ve gotta make sure it’s safe. The downside of this surgical robot, promoted by UC Irvine Med School docs? It’s been linked to 71 patient deaths.

That next “highway to the danger zone” may be flown by an empty fighter jet.

What makes robots move more like humans (or animals, I guess)? Tendons.

The cost of this 3D printer may make you rethink how quickly you’re prepared to put one in your kitchen. After all, if they’re good enough for NASA’s use in saving astronauts, they’re good enough for you.

Geeking Out

Yahoo Japan helped a special needs school move into the 21st century, with a 3D printer that can be used by the visually impaired. You can donate model files to the school’s database, to expand the range of things that students can print.

I had a conversation with a disability rights activist lately about the issues in work & tech–he gave me a different way to look at it, pointing out that technology was the only thing allowing him, a person with a physical disability–the ability to live and work in the community. This piece reminded me of our conversation.

And finally–if you ever felt lied to by science fiction writers, because they’ve promised you a jet pack for years–I have good news. If you have $200,000 you’re not doing anything with. Sure, the price will come down eventually–but you’ll miss out on the joy of being an early adopter!

“We’re removing labor, error and waste.”

robot error

What’s Going on in the Workforce

We’ve got a whole lot of robot stories this week. I’m sensing a trend…

I don’t know what servo motors are, but these machines sure are building a lot of them, without human intervention. And BMW is pushing the envelope, with robots that are safe for humans to work side by side with.

The beauty of military robots is that they can prevent soldier injury & death, by going into situations that are too dangerous for humans. But what happens when soldiers start to empathize with robots?

“We’re removing labor, error and waste.” Well. I guess that’s that then–robots are replacing pharmacists in some Pennsylvania nursing homes.

On the manufacturing side…with the renaissance of American manufacturing, we may need to clarify: “Made in America” does not always mean “Made by Americans.” And electronics manufacturing is coming back to Haiti. At a wage of $200 per week…

The Singularity Approaches

Well, robots might make us obsolete at work, but our dogs will still love us, right? Or will they

If you’re sad about your dog loving a robot more than you, here are some tips for drowning your sorrows by maximizing service from your friendly neighborhood robot bartender. (Shouldn’t we program the robots better, instead of the humans?)

Is our world really “photocopiable?” That reality is certainly closer with a 3D scanner. Our roads might also start charging our electric cars. It’ll only cost a trillion dollars or so.

“We will become cyborgs and it will be seen as just a normal thing.” Now you’re just teasing me, Wired.

Economic Sharing & Solidarity

The Shareable blog has come out with a new report showcasing policy advice for cities that want to encourage the sharing economy. Ecuador’s government is taking this idea seriously–they’re working with the Peer-to-Peer Foundation’s Michel Bauwens to re-imagine their country based on the principles of open networks and good living.

new app from UC Davis aims to create a social media platform for workers in low-paid, precarious employment to create solidarity with each other.

How can co-ops do a better job of working with each other to really promote and coordinate each others’ success? One proposal would see the services and apps of the sharing economy transform themselves into co-ops.

Here’s an interesting theory about the self-driving car: “People will not buy robotic cars, they will subscribe to them. But maybe you don’t want to share a car with a stranger…how about your boat?

Are you one of those people who always cooks too much food for dinner? This new online community connects Greek eaters with people who have extra food to share–for a nominal price.

Geeking Out

It may not be as reliable as a doctor, but given that 90% of all concussions go undiagnosed, I think football parents everywhere are probably saying, “Thank God there’s an app for that.” And on a related note–would you agree to real-time monitoring of everything that goes on inside your body? What if it would help detect cancer?

Final Thoughts

“Markets are an information technology. A technology is useless if it can’t be tweaked. If market technology can’t be fully automatic and needs some ‘buttons,’ then there’s no use in trying to pretend otherwise. You don’t stay attached to poorly performing quests for perfection. You fix bugs.

And there are bugs! We just went through taxpayer-funded bailouts of networked finance in much of the world, and no amount of austerity seems to be enough to pay for that. So the technology needs to be tweaked. Wanting to tweak a technology shows a commitment to it, not a rejection of it.”

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future

 

The Robot Sings of Love

musical robots

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Why is labor’s share of American income falling? Economist Timothy Taylor breaks it down. With charts! The New America Foundation just released a study showing that policies that make up the “low wage social contract” are not overcoming the impact of low pay on America’s service sector. The first step toward fixing it? A higher minimum wage, and more progressive taxation.

Want to develop some understanding of why companies want to move to a more flexible work arrangement? Here’s a good piece by Roger Martin.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 11.36.45 AM

No LinkedIn for blue collar workers? WorkHands wants to work with union halls to maximize hiring. Another new platform, Zipments, wants to make it easier for couriers to maximize the work of same-day delivery. (Does it come with that cool green t-shirt?)

How is technology changing education? Joel Klein has some ideas  And on the higher-ed side, Google’s getting into the MOOC game.  But not to worry, the Chronicle of Higher Ed assures us that companies don’t want to hire people who have online-only degrees. What makes that assertion confusing is that Wharton is putting their first year MBA curriculum online. My guess is that they’re not worried about getting grads placed.

On the health care side, did you know that Kaiser Permanente has a fake hospital set up to allow healthcare workers to use/test new tech in a realistic setting?

Economic Sharing & Solidarity
Are you a handy person? Think about starting up a repair cafe in your neighborhood, so people can get stuff fixed, instead of throwing it out & buying something new:  Or how about starting a cooperative bank? (I think they might be called credit unions, but w/e). The Transition Network just released this report on the transformative potential of re-localizing our economies through inter-locking & mutually-reinforcing businesses. Another slightly older (but still worthwhile) report on the success of interconnectedness of the collaborative economy was produced last year by the Peer to Peer Foundation. Finally, the trade association for co-ops in the UK just put out a report showing that the co-op economy has outperformed GDP growth in the UK for the fourth consecutive year.
Will Byrne argues that it’s time for social do-gooders to link up their collective purchasing power, and move corporate America through the power of the purse.  Some people are already trying to adopt a better food distribution model, by breaking the May-October farmers’ market cycle in favor of year-long distribution of locally sourced foods.

Folks in the co-op crowd, here’s an interesting discussion about how to take lessons learned from the open source movement and apply them to other parts of the sharing economy.

The Singularity Approaches
A carpenter in South Africa has made his 3-D printable robot hands an open source design, in order to make sure it’s accessible to amputees regardless of their ability to pay. China may be the first country to legalize package delivery by drone. Worried about your pacemaker being hacked? Researchers at Rice are figuring out how to encrypt them, so that can’t happen. Meanwhile, maybe you should practice being the kind of person no one wants to murder in a completely diabolical way…

If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention. A new report from Oxford shows that nearly half of American jobs will be automated in the next 20 years. After all, who’s going to need an optometrist when your smartphone will be able to write you a scrip for glasses?  On the flip side, a new report from the IT Innovation Fund argues that there isn’t anything to see here–no jobs will be harmed by the production of new technology.  Apparently, they haven’t been hanging out on this subreddit much.
It seems like much of our online stock trading economy is now happening too fast for humans to react to in time to do anything about it. Hi robot overlords. We love you! Please don’t destroy our 401Ks.

Maybe the real reason to embrace a future without work is that it will finally give us the ability to appreciate leisure? We’d all be happier with more time to participate in crowd-sourced movies.

Geeking Out
Are you ready for furniture printed out of salt? Does it come with ketchup?

Final Thoughts
Today’s picture (and subject line) come from this amazing article documenting the fight the American Federation of Musicians waged against recorded music in the movies, after The Jazz Singer came out. I’m pro-serendading robots, for the record. But pro-serenading humans, too.