The future — probably — isn’t as scary as you think

In an interview with the Freakonomics podcast, Kelly acknowledges that artificial intelligence will be a threat in some ways, but promises great benefits.

“Artificial intelligence will become a commodity like electricity, which will be delivered to you over the grid called the cloud. You can buy as much of it as you want and most of its power will be invisible to you as well,” says Kelly, who co-founded Wired in 1993 and whose new book, “The Inevitable,” is about the “deep trends” of the next 20 years.

Most people think that most jobs in the future will be taken over by AI — but not their own jobs, Kelly says.

From what we’ve seen of AI so far, it’s most powerful when paired with human judgment. A person working with an AI is a better chess player or doctor than a person or AI alone, Kelly says.

A taco truck on every corner would create 63 million new jobs and an economic Renaissance

The national economic implications of a taco truck on every corner – Philip Bump, The Washington Post

Here in San Diego we do not have a taco truck on every corner but we do seemingly have a taco stand — or two or three — on every street. And they all seem to have names ending in -erto: Roberto’s, Umberto’s, etc. Somehow we bear the yoke of this cruel oppression.

The Singularity is a white person’s problem

terminator

Rich white folks worry about the Singularity, but AI is already making problems for the rest of us.

Kate Crawford, The New York Times:

According to some prominent voices in the tech world, artificial intelligence presents a looming existential threat to humanity: Warnings by luminaries like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom about “the singularity” — when machines become smarter than humans — have attracted millions of dollars and spawned a multitude of conferences.

But this hand-wringing is a distraction from the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many “intelligent” systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.

Software used to assess the risk of recidivism in criminals is biased against blacks, as is software used by police departments across the US to identify hotspots for crime. Amazon’s same-day delivery service was initially unavailable for ZIP codes in predominantly black neighborhoods, “remarkably similar to those affected by mortgage redlining in the mid-20th century.” And women are less likely than men to be shown ads on Google for highly paid jobs.

Thanks, Cory!

As senator, Clinton promised 200,000 jobs in Upstate New York. Her efforts fell flat.

Jerry Markon, The Washington Post:

In her presidential bid, Hillary Clinton has made job creation a centerpiece of her platform, casting herself as a pragmatist who would inspire “the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.’’

Her argument that she would put more Americans to work has focused on her time in the Senate, when she took on the mission of creating jobs in chronically depressed Upstate New York. As her husband, former president Bill Clinton, put it recently, she became the region’s “de facto economic development officer.”

But nearly eight years after Clinton’s Senate exit, there is little evidence that her economic development programs had a substantial impact on upstate employment. Despite Clinton’s efforts, upstate job growth stagnated overall during her tenure, with manufacturing jobs plunging nearly 25 percent, according to jobs data.

The former first lady was unable to pass the big-ticket legislation she introduced to benefit the upstate economy. She turned to smaller-scale projects, but some of those fell flat after initial glowing headlines, a Washington Post review shows. Many promised jobs never materialized and others migrated to other states as she turned to her first presidential run, said former officials who worked with her in New York.

Clinton’s self-styled role as economic promoter also showcases an operating style that has come to define the political and money-making machine known to some critics of the former first couple as Clinton Inc. Some of her pet economic projects involved loyal campaign contributors, who also supported the Clinton Foundation, The Post review shows.

As New York Senator, Clinton sent lucrative business to private companies to deliver jobs to upstate New York. The jobs didn’t materialize, and the companies contributed financially to the Clinton campaign and foundation.

Unlike the mailgate and Benghazi nonsense, this matters. It might make me support the Republicans — but sadly the Republican candidate is a crazy shouty homeless guy.

Help wanted: Questions to weed out job applicants can be accidentally discriminatory

Help wanted: Questions designed to weed out unsuitable job applicants can turn out to be accidentally discriminatory.

Automatically ruling out people with felony convictions, or setting arbitrary standards on experience, can disenfranchise many workers. Better to look at the applicants as whole people.

But what hiring manager has time to do all that, along with their regular work, particularly when hundreds of people are applying for a single position?

Planet Money looks into it, but doesn’t have any answers:

When you’re an employer looking at a giant stack of resumes, you have to find some way to quickly narrow the field. But how do you do that fairly? And what happens when your good intentions backfire?

In this episode, we bring you a group of stories about hiring. We talk to a female software engineer who’s trying to bring blind hiring to Silicon Valley. She’s come up with a way to mask applicants’ voices during an interview—we hear what it sounds like. And, we look at what happened when the nation’s biggest employer began hiring people who had felony records. It turned out that those employees performed just as well as people with no criminal background—sometimes better. The employer? The United States military.

The odds are against us

America now has nearly 5 PR people for every reporter, double the rate from a decade ago [Mike Rosenberg – Muck Rack Daily]

15 years ago there were two PR people for every reporter in the country. Now the ratio is 4.8:1.

But wait, there’s more: Journalism is contracting, while PR is growing. The number of news reporters declined from 65,900 in 2000 to 45,800 in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of PR people has gone from 128,600 to 218,000.

This is a huge change, as companies and organizations are seeking to bypass a shrinking media industry and tell their own stories. What this means is that people are getting less objective news and more biased content.

Also, the pay gap between journalists and PR people is widening.

And this:

Digital sweatshops 

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

Dan Lyons at The New York Times:

I am old enough to remember the 1980s and early ’90s, when technology executives were obsessed with retaining talent. “Our most important asset walks out the door every night,” was the cliché of the day. No longer.

Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

HubSpot was founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., and went public in 2014. It’s one of those slick, fast-growing start-ups that are so much in the news these days, with the beanbag chairs and unlimited vacation — a corporate utopia where there is no need for work-life balance because work is life and life is work. Imagine a frat house mixed with a kindergarten mixed with Scientology, and you have an idea of what it’s like.

I joined the company in 2013 after spending 25 years in journalism and getting laid off from a top position at Newsweek. I thought working at a start-up would be great. The perks! The cool offices!

It turned out I’d joined a digital sweatshop, where people were packed into huge rooms, side by side, at long tables. Instead of hunching over sewing machines, they stared into laptops or barked into headsets, selling software.

I’m fortunate that my job isn’t like this. We respect people, and don’t have illusions about the nature of work.

The 89% Pay Cut That Brought Trump-Mania to America’s Heartland

 

“Nafta is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the U.S.,” said Beverly Anderson, a Scottsville councilwoman who worked at the town’s now-shuttered electric-motor plant for 28 years.

For millions of white working class Americans, a vote for Trump is a vote against NAFTA, which one economist estimates has cost 850,000 Americans their jobs. That job loss causes a ripple effect that cuts wages for everyone without a college degree.

Amid the rugged cattle farms that dot the hills of southern Kentucky, in a clearing just beyond the Smoke Shack BBQ joint and the Faith Baptist Church, lie the remains of the A.O. Smith electric-motor factory.

It’s been eight years since the doors were shuttered. The building’s blue-metal facade has faded to a dull hue, rust is eating away at scaffolding piled up in the back lot and crabgrass is taking over the lawn. At its zenith, the plant employed 1,100 people, an economic juggernaut in the tiny town of Scottsville, population 4,226.

Randall Williams and his wife, Brenda, were two of those workers. For three decades, they helped assemble the hermetically sealed motors that power air conditioners sold all across America. At the end, they were each making $16.10 an hour. That kind of money’s just a dream now: Randall fills orders at a local farm supply store; Brenda works in the high school cafeteria. For a while, he said, their combined income didn’t even add up to one of their old factory wages.

Politicians “keep saying things are going to get better,” [Williams, 60] said while waiting for customers to show up at the farm supply store on a recent weekday afternoon. “They’re not going to get better.”

Jeff Woods is still angry, too, about A.O. Smith’s departure. His mother had worked at the factory. Today, she’s a pharmacy technician, making a fraction of her old wage. “Somebody works there all their life and you get to be 50-something-years-old and your income gets cut in half because the place moves to Mexico,” he said. “That’s not right.”

Woods played it coy when asked which candidate he backed. He wouldn’t outright say, but he went on to speak glowingly about just one of them—the one who’s not a career politician and who says he’ll crack down on illegal immigrants and bring jobs back to America.

The 89% Pay Cut That Brought Trump-Mania to America’s Heartland [Thomas Black & Isabella Cota  – Bloomberg Business]