Uber for the elderly?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Uber for the elderly? Why not pair up home care workers with seniors in need of rides?

The fight between AirBnB & NYC’s affordable housing activists.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Facebook wants to sell your data to advertisers, even if you’re not looking at ads on their site. Read about how their new ad platform links eyeballs on ads back to specific social media profiles.

Geeking Out

Want to know how to tell if a robot hand wrote you a letter?

Oculus Rift brings journalists a new way of telling stories. And the Des Moines Register is on the cutting edge of using this tech. No, really. Des Moines.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

What happens when self-driving cars get combined with Uber-like on demand availability? These researchers in Texas have a theory.

The makers of Etsy have put together a series of policy proposals for how government agencies can become more accessible to and supportive of the maker economy.

Need to figure out how to spy on your workforce without invading their privacy (doesn’t this seem contradictory?). Here are some suggestions.

Final Thoughts

“One should be wary, however, of the conventional wisdom that modern economic growth is a marvelous instrument for revealing individual talents and aptitudes. There is some truth in this view, but since the early nineteenth century it has all too often been used to justify inequities of all sorts, no matter how great their magnitude and no matter what their real causes may be, while at the same time gracing the winners in the new industrial economy with every imaginable virtue.”

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century

When flexible scheduling goes so, so wrong…

Original Content

Do you ever wonder how artists are making it in the new economy? I talked to David Thomas about how he sustains his independent filmmaking through a combination of crowdsourcing patronage & bootstrapping.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Got a free moment, and thinking “hey, I wonder if any stores around here need their shelves stocked?” Wonolo’s got you covered. Sheesh. When flexible scheduling goes so, so wrong.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program made a major change, this year, that’s affecting the way that non-US requestors can use their services. Could be a real problem for international researchers.

In the last 15 months, the number of trips in traditional taxis in SF has plummeted, thanks to new ride-sharing services. But it is it harming wheelchair-bound customers’ ability to get around?

Reputation, reputation, reputation
“…being private requires work and often the benefits of working for privacy are too abstract.” Shouldn’t we all be more worried about government—and corporate–surveillance?

On that same topic—this new report on Civil Rights, Big Data & Our Algorithmic Future is riveting—particularly the section about jobs. Is a hiring algorithm discriminating against you because your potential commute is too long?

A new experiment reveals the efficacy of Facebook “Like” farms.

Organizing Theory

Sir Tim Berners-Lee talks about how he designed the World Wide Web to be democratic—in that your content should be delivered the same way, regardless of what browser you use, or what country you’re in—and why he’s kicking off the Web We Want Festival in the UK next weekend. h/t to reader Paul Beauvais for sending me this video.

From Partners

Two EU unions have partnered to put out this tremendously in-depth booklet with an overview of a series of campaigns fighting privatization.

Do you need a quick check-in on your social media strategy? Social Movement Technologies is offering free 1:1 help for organizers and unions—for one month only.

Geeking Out

Well, at 10 mph, this robot is not quite yet a cheetah—but check out this amazing robot that can run, untethered, in an open field.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Did you give away any money on September 15th? This group of folks did, to commemorate the anniversary of the Lehman Bros. collapse, and spark a conversation about how our relationship to money might be different.

Steve Denning asks: Is the internet economy going to finally allow us to cast off the shackles of “pervasive short-termism?”

This new platform, for artists, makers and technologists, aims to create a place for the sharing economy to be really social just.

TechPresident examines the struggles that the Detroit Water Project has had—with no staff on the ground—reaching people who need help paying their water bills in the city.

“…that world is uncertain and full of novelty.”

Original Content

This week, I talked to Brett Scott, author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance, about Hacking the Future of Money. Watch here.

Geeking Out

“…that world is uncertain and full of novelty.” And that’s why robots need to learn to program themselves—so they can learn to load dishwashers. Not certain on the explanation for why my 11 year-old can’t learn the same skill.

Will you someday drive a 3D printed car (or will the robots drive it for you)? And before that robot-driven car can get on the road, what laws will we need to update?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

What’s a happy medium between your public bus system, and a private  car service like Uber or Lyft? Check out Bridj, a new way of scheduling multi-passenger trips. And while we’re on the subject of ride-sharing, this new website lets you compare what you’d pay for the same ride on Uber, Lyft & using a traditional taxi.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Are you a Facebook Messenger user? You might be surprised to see how much data they’re collecting about you…even when the app’s not running.

Organizing Theory

This article looks at the evolution of independent media from the ‘70s to today, and wonders if the onset of the internet has robbed the politics from the DIY movement.

“…for every voter who registers through an app, there are many more who would be better served by making Election Day a national holiday…” On civic tech, and what challenges it should turn to, next.

From Partners

Amalgamated Bank has a new video out, featuring their commitment to creating an economy that works for everyone.

The New Economy Coalition is sponsoring a week of action asking a series of questions to get people thinking about what it will take to build the economy we need, October 13-19th. Organize an event in your town!

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

What exactly do we mean when we talk about digital labor? Is it the online freelancer? The programmer in India? The guy who mines minerals that are needed to make smartphones? This new paper looks at what those jobs—and others—have in common.

Do we need a new type of worker classification, something between permanent employee and independent contractor? In the words of my Magic 8 Ball, “Signs point to yes.” A long read, but an excellent paper exploring the ups & downs of the peer to peer economy.

“…overwork is not elective, it is part of a new social contract.” An essay about a little magazine that thought it could talk about work and technology in a new way…wonder why that appeals to me?

“The future of labour in the robot age has everything to do with capitalism.”

Original Content

Have you read our new post, “Interview with a Roboticist” yet? If you like our original content, consider supporting us through Patreon.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

It’s not just robot waiters that are bringing tech to restaurants. It’s the ability to crunch data that some chains are finding very attractive. But while we’re on the topic of food and robots—check out GoCart, a robotic food delivery system for nursing homes and other elder care facilities.

“The future of labour in the robot age has everything to do with capitalism.” Welp. Yes.

Are there GOOD ways for computer scheduling to work in retail and restaurant situations? Harvard Biz Review thinks you can make it work for employees and profit motives.

“The autonomous nature of labour is not unique to its unwaged digital variant.” A paper on unwaged digital labor? Yes, thanks, I will.

The Freelancers’ Union just put out a new paper looking at the 50M+ Americans who work, in some way, as freelancers.

If anyone should be able to explain why net neutrality is a workers’ rights issue, it should be someone who runs an online marketplace. Check out this piece by the CEO of Etsy.

Is it time for a four-day workweek? The folks at Social Media Week say yes.

Geeking Out

Visually disabled people are in the vanguard of using tech to make life more accessible. We’ll all be needing these advances, as we age–especially if we want to count on technology to help us make it through life.

Interview with a roboticist

Part of my ongoing interest in writing about technology and work is inspired by the feeling that there really is a lot of cool stuff going on in the world–it’s not all just about my worry that we might find ourselves automated out of jobs, without a plan to replace income from work.

After the announcement of our twitter chat on #robotwork, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to talk to a roboticist–and of course, I said yes. I was hoping to have this interview posted before the chat, but due to a schedule mishap of my own making, that wasn’t possible. But I’m still very excited to have conducted our very first (email) interview with someone who’s working to make the world a better place, through robots.

Meet M. Bernadine Dias, Associate Research Professor in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University.

HtU: What was it that got you into this line of work?

Dias: I started in Physics because I was always interested in understanding how the world worked and using this knowledge to invent tools that serve humankind.  In university, I was introduced to Computer Science and was intrigued by the numerous ways in which computers can impact the world.  Robotics to me was the perfect marriage of Physics and Computer Science! So after University, and a double major in Physics and Computer Science, I went into grad school in Robotics.  However, I was born and raised in Sri Lanka, in a lower-middle-class family of six kids and one income, so people and community have always been very important to me. My undergraduate degree was also in the Liberal Arts.  So even though I double majored in Physics and Computer Science, I also minored in Women’s Studies, and took courses in Philosophy, Sculpture, Economics, and much more. So my vision was always to use technology to help preserve communities and their cultures while empowering each community to realize their vision of progress.  That is how and why I started my research group TechBridgeWorld after I completed my Ph.D. in robotics.

HtU: What is the “problem” that your work is trying to solve?

Dias: In general, my work aims to empower technologically under-served communities with technology tools that cater to their needs and help them to overcome their challenges and move towards their vision of progress.  I therefore primarily work with people in developing communities and people with disabilities.  So we build tools such as low-cost devices to help blind children to learn to write braille using the slate and stylus method which is used in the developing world. You can see an article I wrote for Footnote.

Other relevant articles you may find interesting are:

Information & Communication Technologies for Development

ICT4D2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development

HtU: What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

Dias: That’s tough.  I work on a lot of cool things 🙂 I guess I’ll pick my newest project – which is titled assistive robots for blind travelers.  We are exploring how different types of robots can effectively interact with and assist blind people in the context of future urban travel. This is a new project funded by NSF so we don’t have a lot of results yet, but you can follow our work on our website.

HtU: Are there places—conferences, conventions, online spaces, etc.—where roboticists talk about the future of work & what role they/you play in creating it?

Dias: Yes – this is an integral topic that many roboticists discuss both formally and informally – mostly under the banner of the ethics of robotics.  Here are some resources:

Robot Ethics (MIT edition)

Robot Futures

Robot Ethics (IEEE edition)

Center for Law & Society–Robotics (Stanford)

Ethics & Emerging Sciences Group (CalPoly)

Ethics & Robotics (CMU)

HtU: What are some jobs that might be created in the future, using tech that you are working on now?

Dias: I think the technology we are collectively building will lead to a lot more (primarily “technician” and service category) jobs where the job will entail things like calibrating robots (you’ll already see some of this in the medical industry with the higher end technology being used for things like imaging and surgery), overseeing teams of robots (this could be in security, agriculture, construction, etc.), deciding the rules and regulations for technology and robots (law and philosophy), working with robots to accomplish complex tasks (surgeons are already doing this with complex surgeries), designing, fabricating, programming, servicing, marketing, and distributing robots, and much more 🙂

HtU: What are some of the ethical questions that are raised in your work, that civilians may not think about?

Dias: Some of the questions I wrestle with are how can we use technology to empower the disempowered? Or how can technology make society more inclusive? Or how can technology enable people with disabilities to lead more independent lives and increase their safety? Or what are the cultural implications of introducing a technology into a community and who should be a part of the decision of whether or not to introduce that technology and how can these decision makers be empowered to make informed choices?  We also think about the environmental consequences of the technology we build and the tradeoffs we have to make between environmental, societal, cultural, economical, and practical considerations.

HtU: What’s the one thing that you wish people who don’t work with automated technology knew about robots?

Dias: 🙂 Hmmm…It’s tough to pick one thing.  I guess I wish mostly that they knew real robots are not necessarily what you see in the movies (especially the blockbuster movies). We have been seeing more of a shift with the general public view of robots though.  We used to get visitors who always expected to see robots that looked like the Terminator. Now we get a wider variety of expectations and my son and his classmates assembled their first robot at the age of 2 with their daycare educators ((using a kit they bought from Amazon). These kids at the age of 3 now will tell you that robots come in many forms with wheels and legs and wings etc. We also had a blind teacher in a small school for blind childrern in India ask us for a robot that could help her carry her things around 🙂  So perceptions are certainly changing! Robots, just like any other technology or machine or fashion trend are really what we make of them.  So we just have to make sure we include all the relevant voices in the discussions of what we should do with robots and make the best informed and inclusive decisions we can so that humans can be safer, have more flexibility in work location, spend their time doing more interesting things, and accomplish previously impossible things using the technology we build. Roboticists always talk about robots that tackle the 3 D’s: Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous tasks.

This is not your mother’s use of eye shadow

Original Content

Thanks to everyone who joined our tweet chat on the future of work on Labor Day evening—check out a storify of selected tweets.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Wanna hide from facial recognition software? Here’s a good walk-through of how to use makeup to do it. Note: this is not your mother’s use of eye shadow.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Sure, you’ve used Uber to get from one place to another. But has the sharing economy reached your municipal government yet? There’s only so many potholes that one small town can fill in a year—why not share an asphalt spreader?

And while we’re on the subject of public-private partnerships, why not read up on Secaucus, NJ’s experiments with an entirely new kind of public transit system? Solar-powered, no less.

Will the full fruition of the sharing economy make us lonelier?

In the EU, and have stuff in your house you’re willing to share with a neighbor? This project will give you stickers to put on your mailbox, showing what you’d be willing to share.

Would a basic income make a more equal society in the UK? New Statesman says yes.

Organizing Theory

Wonder what a day in the life of a social media organizer is like? Here’s an interesting interview with meme slinger Joe Solomon of Upwell.

If you’re working to increase digital innovation within a pre-internet era organization (perhaps, a union?), you should check out these best practices from a panel at last year’s South by Southwest.

Amnesty International launched a partnership with Tinder (swipe right?) to raise awareness that not all women have the right to pick their own partners, on International Women’s Day.

From Partners

Open-source map-making software that can use data from XML feeds, Google Fusion Tables and other online data? Sign us up for MapMaker!

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

When are most Americans at work? NPR’s Planet Money produced this helpful infograph to chart what time different job classifications work during the day. Sadly, organizer doesn’t make the cut.

Southern California Uber drivers ally with the Teamsters.

Want to join the battle for Net Neutrality? September 10th will be Internet Slowdown day—click to join.

Last week, we wrote about Uber’s decision to start short-term, same-day delivery service. This week, they’ve opened their API to new app developers. Conclusion? You’ll eventually Uber everything. Uber for Pizza? Uber for Cat Litter? I just hope they bring back the Uber Kitten program.