“The technology is going to beat the law.” (Doesn’t it always?)

Original Content

Earlier this week, I talked to David Rolf & Nick Hanauer about their new paper, “Shared Security, Shared Growth.” Check it out here. And if you like our original content? Support us on Patreon.

Geeking Out

“The technology is going to beat the law.” (Doesn’t it always?) For all my “I can’t believe self-driving cars are a threat” readers—here’s a magazine pitched to drivers, telling you that you’re right.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Can face-scanning robots someday replace TSA agents?

I think I’m just going to get a tattoo that says, “You can program for tone,” so I can just show it to people who think that computers can’t replace human interaction. Like, for example, the kind that happens in customer service centers.

Pretty thoughtful discussion about the prospect of driverless trucks at mines in Canada—includes a long interview with a union truck driver.

It seems that NYU’s Arun Sundararajan agrees with Nick Hanauer & David Rolf—the on-demand economy needs to get better at providing benefits, but in its own way.

Can a bot help automate your meetings, so they can be more efficient? Please, let the answer be “yes.”

Organizing Theory

Did you change your Facebook profile to a rainbow-colored picture last Friday, or over the weekend? If so, you may have helped FB learn more about how online activism moves and spreads.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

When the sharing economy actually does… Here are three sharing economy apps that allow you to donate profits (yours and theirs) to charity.

Coops in the UK have developed a dashboard to track the cooperative economy in all of the UK’s countries.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Demographic microtargeting: or how Facebook might be influencing your credit score, in ways that would be illegal offline.

And your church might be tracking your attendance through facial recognition. If you attend a megachurch. Which is unlikely, for readers of this blog, but not impossible I suppose. Facebook, meanwhile, is working on figuring out how to recognize your face in photos, even if it’s hidden or obscured.

Final Thoughts

I would argue that “free trade” is the wrong lens through which to view offshoring. Instead, it is much more akin to virtual immigration. Suppose, for example, that a huge customer service call center were to be built south of San Diego, just across the border from Mexico. Thousands of low-wage workers are issued “day worker” passes and are bused across the border to stay the call center every morning. At the end of the workday, the buses travel in the opposite direction. What is the difference between this situation (which would certainly be viewed as an immigration issue) and moving the jobs electronically to India or the Philippines? In both cases, workers are, in effect, “entering” the United States to offer services that are clearly directed at the domestic US economy. The biggest difference is that the Mexican day worker plan would probably be significantly better for the California economy. There might be jobs for bus drivers, and there would certainly be jobs for people to maintain the huge facility located on the US side of the border. Some of the workers might purchase lunch or even a cup of coffee while at work, thus injecting consumer demand into the local economy. The company that owned the California facility would pay property tax. When the jobs are off-shored, and the workers enter the United States virtually, the domestic economy receives none of these benefits. I find it somewhat ironic that many conservatives in the United States are adamant about securing the border against immigrants who will likely take jobs that few Americans want, while at the same time expressing little concern that the virtual border is left completely open to higher-skill workers who take jobs that Americans definitely do want.

Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots

“…privacy is worth protecting even if it turns out most people don’t care about their own privacy.”

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“…privacy is worth protecting even if it turns out most people don’t care about their own privacy.” Yup.

It feels like there are more and more folks trying to figure out how to make a social network that allows users to share in the profits of their contributions to the community—first Tsu, then Reddit, now Reveal. Will one of them ever get to the point of user profitability?

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

“It’s like drawing in the air.” Robots may get disoriented during testing, but they aren’t getting the prevailing wage. Watch this 3D printer, which is about to “print” a bridge in Amsterdam.

“There’s no economic law ensuring that as technological progress makes the pie bigger, it benefits everyone equally.” Great interview with Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee, authors of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress & Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. No law, until we make one, of course.

Geeking Out

Yup, it’s 2015, and the only way we know how many Americans are killed by law enforcement every year is through crowdsourced data and incredible volunteerism.

“Oh my God, I can pinch again!” How a robotic glove is helping restore dexterity to people with limited mobility.

It’s certainly possible that Los Angeles has the coolest dashboard for any big city mayor in America.

Organizing Theory

Is all your think tank’s content locked up on non-mobile friendly delivery systems like PDFs? You might want to read this piece from digital strategist Mike Connery on how to get more page-views for your work.

Do you really know where you stand, when it comes to the distribution of wealth? If not, Harvard’s Wealthometer’s got your back. And while we’re measuring things that maybe make you happy, how was your week at work?

From Partners

David Rolf and Nick Hanauer wonder how workers in the on-demand economy can ever get ahead—and propose a Shared Security Standard that would help replace the benefits that people lose when they don’t have traditional employment.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“It is clear that the transition to a post-capitalist, sustainable economy will not happen overnight, or even in a few years.” What he said. Michel Bauwens, grandfather (?) of the peer-to-peer movement, on what he sees happening first.

Organizing + apps = a bigger, better union?

Organizing Theory

Could organizing a union be done by an app? It seems like there’s a lot of interest in it, both here and across the pond.

Five Nation writers take on the task of envisioning new ways to structure tech work platforms like AirBnB, TaskRabbit or Uber. Think coops?

Geeking Out

There’s been a lot of talk about civic tech on this blog—some researchers from the World Bank recently took a look at whether it is impacting the people who need it most.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Bots can’t practice law in North Carolina…yet. h/t to friend of the blog Thomas Beckett for this one.

“All of these suppliers are desperately trying to find ways to cut costs. The only thing they have substantial control over is labor.” And that, my friends, is why we can’t have nice things. Like clothing that was produced without human trafficking.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Bike sharing is an area of public policy that feels good all around. Here are some up and coming trends.

Interested in planning local alternative economies? This one-day conference in July could help you connect with like-minded folks.

Are micropayments the wave of the future for news services? One Dutch startup just signed up every national newspaper in Germany, on that premise.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

What’s the most embarrassing thing your search history might reveal? The folks at Nice 2 Hack You want you to know.


“Change is hard and we shouldn’t be naive about it.”

Original Content

Last week, I was on Al-Jazeera’s The Stream, talking about the oncoming robot apocalypse (joking! kind of), along with Vivek Wadhwa from Stanford, the founder of Automated Insights (aka, the robot journalist platform), and a man who wrote a book comparing humans in the digital age to cockroaches… You know you NEED to watch this.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

“Change is hard and we shouldn’t be naive about it.” Will software bots result in large scale white collar unemployment?

Last week, Tesla software principal—this week, partner at Union Square Ventures (a VC firm) tells you why this time, technological unemployment is real. Key point: “The question is can you get *paid* for whatever it is that you do.”

The problem with the techno utopians…is they have no plan for the messy problems between now and Xanadu.”

Do 40% of US workers have contingent jobs? It’s not just the Freelancers’ Union that thinks so. It’s also the US Government.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“In order not to be tracked, you have to be constantly paying attention to what every page is doing.” The ineffable Quinn Norton, on how every journalist is contributing to surveillance. On you.

I’ve been known to not be the biggest fan of Facebook. So I thought I’d give them credit for doing something good—enabling Open PGP encryption, for user emails.

Organizing Theory

Don’t say the system is broken. The Knight Foundation has a new report, studying why millennials don’t vote in local elections.

Geeking Out

“Any time you put your phone into your pocket, you have a smart jacket…the only problem is they don’t talk to each other.” I dunno, if my phone starts talking to my bra, we’re going to have issues. Google, I’m not in favor of wearables with underwire. Just sayin’.

“They’ve got this great stuff sitting in the can that they can’t use…”

Organizing Theory

“They’ve got this great stuff sitting in the can that they can’t use.” So you want to kickstarter a Republican ad? Have we got a new superPAC site for you…

Change.org is revising their data collection to capture more information about voters—so they can better target elected officials, not just companies.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Tech coops are on the rise in Silicon Valley.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Do you use Facebook Messenger? Maybe you want to turn off the location data. Or maybe you’re a really big Harry Potter fan, in which case, don’t.

Geeking Out

Finnish computer scientists write an algorithm that can compose rap lyrics. What’s up with that, West Coast?

h/t to reader & friend of the blog, Matt Richards, for this new website, which tracks robotics projects in the developing world.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

A lesson about what happened to working class America, through the lens of Windows and Onions.

Interesting debate about whether we need to create a new legal class of workers that are neither independent contractors nor traditional employees.

Hospital bots deliver pills, linens, food and more.

The first test of Uber’s self-driving car has been spotted in Pittsburgh.

Here’s Tesla’s principal software engineer, making the case that this time, it really IS different, when it comes to technological unemployment.

Al-Jazeera has a new two-part documentary series out about The Tech Threat—watch it here.