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u n t h i n k i n g . p h o t o g r a p h y
"Unthinking Photography is an online resource that explores photography's increasingly automated, networked life."
photography  publishing  automation  networking  networks  online  web 
march 2019 by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself with Dr. Richard Wolff - YouTube
"Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass - Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism's internal contradictions, and more."
richardwolff  karlmarx  academia  academics  capitalism  accounting  us  inequality  communism  socialism  marxism  berniesanders  labor  idealism  materialism  radicalism  philosophy  dialecticalmaterialism  humans  systems  change  friedrichengels  slavery  automation  credit  finance  studentdebt  poverty  unions  organization  systemschange  china  russia  ussr  growth  2016  power  democracy  collectives  collectivism  meansofproduction  society  climatechange  environment  sustainability  rosaluxemburg  militaryindustrialcomplex  pollution  ethics  morality  immorality  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  corruption 
november 2018 by robertogreco
5 Star Service: A curated reading list – Data & Society: Points
"This reading list by Data & Society Postdoctoral Scholar Julia Ticona, Researcher Alexandra Mateescu, and Researcher Alex Rosenblat accompanies the new Data & Society report Beyond Disruption: How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing.

As labor platforms begin to mediate work in industries with workforces marked by centuries of economic exclusion based in gender, race, and ethnicity, this report examines the ways labor platforms are shifting the rules of the game for different populations of workers.

While ridehail driving, and other male-dominated sectors have been at the forefront in conversations about the future of work, the working lives of domestic workers like housecleaners and nannies usually aren’t included. By bringing these three types of platforms and workers together, this report complicates simple narratives about technology’s impact on labor markets and highlights the convergent and divergent challenges workers face when using labor platforms to find and carry out their work.

The report weaves together often disparate communities and kinds of knowledge, and this reading list reflects this eclectic approach. Below you’ll find opinion, research, reports, and critique about gendered service work and inequality; labor platforms and contingent work; algorithmic visibility and vulnerability; and risk and safety in the gig economy.

This list is meant for readers of Beyond Disruption who want to dig more deeply into some of the key areas explored in its pages. It isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but rather give readers a jumping off point for their own investigations. Suggestions or comments? E-mail julia at datasociety dot net."
labor  automation  economics  inequality  gender  work  contingentwork  algorithms  vulnerability  visibility  juliaticona  2018  race  ethnicity  technology  policy 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Novels Are Made of Words: Moby-Dick, Emotion, and Abridgment
"Paul Valéry tells the story: The painter Edgar Degas was backhanded-bragging to his friend Stéphane Mallarmé about the poems that he, Degas, had been trying to write. He knew they weren’t great, he said, “But I’ve got lots of ideas—too many ideas.” “But my dear Degas,” the poet replied, “poems are not made out of ideas. They’re made of words.”

Paintings, for that matter, are not made of pretty ballerinas or landscapes: they’re made of paint.

Which brings us to Syuzhet, Matthew Jockers’s new program that analyzes the words of a novel for their emotional value and graphs the sentimental shape of the book. Dan Piepenbring has explained it all here and here on the Daily, with links to the original postings and the various outcries, some of them in the comments, that have blown up around Jockers.

Many people apparently find Jockers’s research the latest assault of technocratic digitocracy on the citadel of deep humanistic feelings, but that’s not how I see it. What the graphs reveal about potboiler narrative structure versus high-literary arcs, for instance—Dan Brown’s higher average positivity than James Joyce’s, and his more regular cycle of highs and lows to force the reader through the book—is insightful, useful, and great.

In some ways, it’s hard for me to even see what the fuss is about. “It’s not that it’s wrong,” one commenter writes. “It’s just that it’s an extremely poor substitute for reading, enjoying, and discussing literature.” But who said anything about a substitute? Does this commenter not notice that the discussions of the graphs rest on having read the books and seeing how the graphs shed light on them? Another: “Okay, fuck this guy for comparing Dan Brown to James Joyce.” Well, how else can you say Joyce is better and Brown is worse? That’s what’s known as a comparison. Or do you think Joyce can’t take it?

Freak-outs aside, there are substantive rebuttals, too. What seems to be the most rigorous objection is from SUNY professor and fellow digital-humanities scholar Annie Swafford, who points out some failures in the algorithm. “I am extremely happy today” and “There is no happiness left in me,” for example, read as equally positive. And:

Longer sentences may be given greater positivity or negativity than their contents warrant, merely because they have greater number of positive or negative words. For instance, “I am extremely happy!” would have a lower positivity ranking than “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again.”

But let’s actually compare “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again” to “I’m sad.” The positivity or negativity might be the same, assuming there could be some kind of galvanometer or something attached to the emotional nodes of our brain to measure the “pure” “objective” “quantity” of positivity. But the first of those sentences is more emotional—maybe not more positive, but more expressive, more histrionic. Ranking it higher than “I’m sad” or even “I am very happy” makes a certain kind of sense.

“There is no happiness left in me” and “I am all sadness from now on” are the same seven words to a logician or a hypothetical emotiomometer, but not to a novelist or a reader. Everyone in advertising and political wordsmithing knows that people absorb the content of a statement much more than the valence: to say that something “is not horrific and apocalyptic” is a downer, despite the “not.” Or consider: “Gone for eternity is the delight that once filled my heart to overflowing—the sparkle of sun on the fresh morning dew of new experience, soft envelopments of a lover’s thighs, empyrean intellectual bliss, everything that used to give my life its alpenglow of hope and wonder—never again!” and “I’m depressed.” An algorithm that rates the first piece of writing off-the-charts positive is a more useful quantification of the words than one that would rate the emotional value of the two as the same.

Some years back, Orion Books produced a book called Moby-Dick in Half the Time, in a line of Compact Editions “sympathetically edited” to “retain all the elements of the originals: the plot, the characters, the social, historical and local backgrounds and the author’s language and style.” I have nothing against abridgments—I’ve abridged books myself—but I felt that what makes Melville Melville, in particular, is digression, texture, and weirdness. If you only have time to read half the book, which half the time is more worth spending? What elements of the original do we want to abridge for?

Moby-Dick in Half the Time seemed like it would lose something more essential than would Anna Karenina in Half the Time or Vanity Fair in Half the Time or Orion’s other offerings. I decided to find out. So I compiled every chapter, word, and punctuation mark that Orion’s abridger cut from Melville’s original Moby-Dick; or The Whale, and published the result, with its inevitable title, as a book of its own: a lost work by Herman Melville called ; or The Whale.

Half the Time keeps the plot arc of Ahab’s quest, of course, but ; or The Whale arguably turns out closer to the emotional ups and downs of Melville’s novel—and that tells us something about how Melville writes. His linguistic excess erupts at moments of emotional intensity; those moments of intensity, trimmed as excess from Half the Time, are what make up the other semibook. Chapter sixty-two, for example, consists of a single word, “hapless”—the only word Orion’s abridger cut from the chapter, trimming a 105-word sentence to 104, for some reason. That’s a pretty good sentiment analysis of Melville’s chapter as a whole. Reading ; or The Whale is a bit like watching a DVD skip ahead on fast forward, and it gets at something real about Melville’s masterpiece. About the emotion in the words.

So I would defend the automated approach to novelistic sentiment on different grounds than Piepenbring’s. I take plot as seriously as he does, as opposed to valorizing only the style or ineffable poetry of a novel; I also see Béla Tarr movies or early Nicholson Baker novels as having plots, too, just not eventful ones. Jockers’s program is called Syuzhet because of the Russian Formalist distinction between fabula, what happens in chronological order in a story, and syuzhet, the order of things in the telling (diverging from the fabula in flashbacks, for instance, or when information is withheld from the reader). It’s not easy to say how “plot” arises out of the interplay between the two. But having minimal fabula is not the same as having little or no plot.

In any case, fabula is not what Syuzhet is about. Piepenbring summarizes: “algorithms assign every word in a novel a positive or negative emotional value, and in compiling these values [Jockers is] able to graph the shifts in a story’s narrative. A lot of negative words mean something bad is happening, a lot of positive words mean something good is happening.” This may or may not be true, but novels are not made of things that happen, they are made of words. Again: “When we track ‘positive sentiment,’ we do mean, I think, that things are good for the protagonist or the narrator.” Not necessarily, but we do mean—tautologically—that things are good for the reader in the warm afternoon sunshine of the book’s positive language.

Great writers, along with everything else they are doing, stage a readerly experience and lead their readers through it from first word on first page to last. Mapping out what those paths might look like is as worthy a critical approach as any."
paulvaléry  edgardegas  writing  novels  mobydick  mattherjocker  2015  digital  words  language  hermanmelville  reading  howwewrite  automation  emotions  algorithms  narrative  nicholsonbaker  bélatarr  moby-dick 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Podcast, Nick Seaver: “What Do People Do All Day?” - MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing
"The algorithmic infrastructures of the internet are made by a weird cast of characters: rock stars, gurus, ninjas, wizards, alchemists, park rangers, gardeners, plumbers, and janitors can all be found sitting at computers in otherwise unremarkable offices, typing. These job titles, sometimes official, sometimes informal, are a striking feature of internet industries. They mark jobs as novel or hip, contrasting starkly with the sedentary screenwork of programming. But is that all they do? In this talk, drawing on several years of fieldwork with the developers of algorithmic music recommenders, Seaver describes how these terms help people make sense of new kinds of jobs and their positions within new infrastructures. They draw analogies that fit into existing prestige hierarchies (rockstars and janitors) or relationships to craft and technique (gardeners and alchemists). They aspire to particular imaginations of mastery (gurus and ninjas). Critics of big data have drawn attention to the importance of metaphors in framing public and commercial understandings of data, its biases and origins. The metaphorical borrowings of role terms serve a similar function, highlighting some features at the expense of others and shaping emerging professions in their image. If we want to make sense of new algorithmic industries, we’ll need to understand how they make sense of themselves.

Nick Seaver is assistant professor of anthropology at Tufts University. His current research examines the cultural life of algorithms for understanding and recommending music. He received a masters from CMS in 2010 for research on the history of the player piano."

[direct link to audio: https://soundcloud.com/mit-cmsw/nick-seaver-what-do-people-do-all-day ]

[via: https://twitter.com/allank_o/status/961382666573561856 ]
nickseaver  2016  work  labor  algorithms  bigdata  music  productivity  automation  care  maintenance  programming  computing  hierarchy  economics  data  datascience 
february 2018 by robertogreco
How to Learn Stuff | vextro
"My understanding of a workable, comprehensive goal for education, is something that meets and facilities the needs of students. This has to go beyond surmised vocational preparation. Needs is a semantic to soften the core of education: teaching students survival skills. It’s an obvious mistake to treat kids and students like organic computers for information to be punched into. To condescend is to lose their humanity.

What I mean is, how useful will these menus and tables of arranged factoids be under economic collapse? Or maybe our future is positive: how useful will they be under automation? If the signs can be seen it feels imperative that, in whatever way possible, mentors prepare their mentees for times of crisis. And I think the most crucial element of that is reaffirming their value as a person and an individual, by encouraging and thinking through their perspectives as a collaborative effort. Though not to complicate this rhetoric anymore: anti-capitalist education is anti-hierarchical education.

Honestly I felt a vision of what edutainment together was like playing Learn 100 Words: One at a Time! It’s a deceptively simple game, made for a deviously indulgent glorioustrainwreck’s challenge to make a hundred games. So a microgame per word; play goes rapidfire through a collection of microgames, with various styles of play: quizzes, platformers, find-an-object, each based on vocabulary someone (probably) doesn’t know. It’s good natured and very goofy. Some microgames are obviously jokes, but others are very in earnest, and are surprisingly entertaining!

Lean 100 Words is made in Clickteam software (as GT games often are) and I don’t know what version, or what parts come from official asset packs, but I do recognize the buoyant, iconic clipart-esque sprites. Backgrounds are dark, hard gradients, with chunky buttons, reminiscent of web 1.0 or even a Vasily Zotov game. A wall of retro-futuristic, full bodied synth sounds greet on start up. All of the UX has a pleasant shape and exaggerated proportions, which gets me nostalgic for edutainment games of my childhood, and more oddly, the various online classes I’ve taken in my life.

I think it’s the hardest I’ve laughed at a game in a long time too. The game’s tone is just so innocuous from the get. Like the first word (when playing alphabetically instead of randomly) is aal, and I was like, that’s a word? That’s not a word… is this game about made up words? It is a word though, it’s a really technical term that I don’t really understand. But it’s a word! The hint is, “I couldn’t find a textbook definition,” so I slowly scrolled around and eventually clicked on a textbook, and completed the game. Close enough to the real definition? Honestly, sure!

Whether it’s intentional, or a happy accident of trying to do a lot with whatever means, Learn 100 Words is a genuinely hilarious parody of edutainment games. Instrumental to this are voiceovers done by the developer of every word and accompanied hint. They’re off the cuff, not really rehearsed."



"In Learn 100 Words it’s feels fine to hear misspeak, it’s fine for hints to be somewhat mistaken, or trail off, lose their thread, because it still comes back to learning 100 words. The goofs put me at ease, like, I don’t feel self-conscious about the stuff I don’t know. This is a big contrast to the real methodical approach for a standard edutainment game, games that fuss over whether its textbook blocks are working. No matter how vibrant a game like that manages to be, it’s still cut up by a very rigid, very institution-minded push for absolute legibility. A vague, palpable desperation could be felt over their needy hope that this information is getting through to my swiss cheese brain. In other words, capitalist about its use, and condescending.

Further, Learn 100 Words doesn’t shy from expressing poetic game design, like the former microgame for abaton. Maybe the most successful “mnemonics” are associations formed by emotional impact. Getting someone to care is an obvious step to engagement, but there’s a tendency to overthink, overpolish what generates care. There’s something about candidly, simply, presenting ideas, with personality. Concepts are expressive vehicles and are sometimes better expressed by individualistic interpretations.

I don’t think the process to genuine retention, learning, growing, can be calculated. In my lifetime effective education came from mentors who felt invested in my development and were willing to learn with me. I don’t think there’s a combination of software or even other programs that will magically work. Curriculum, which edutainment is, should be about creating environments that can facilitate positive relationships, that can generate a mutual investment in growth.

The coldness of profit extraction will tinge and undermine self-determination. I remember most of the silly, complicated words I learned from playing Learn 100 Words, while I’ve absolutely struggled through other language software (some from my youth, some from the now). My point isn’t that games need to “learn” from this and try to imitate a casual friendliness, it’s that compassion is done, not imitated."
via:tealtan  games  videogames  seriousgames  gaming  play  edutainment  2017  leeroylewin  sfsh  howwelearn  education  capitalism  self-determination  tcsnmy  compassion  relationships  mentorship  howweteach  curriculum  growth  environment  interpretation  engagement  emotion  learning  humanity  automation  hierarchy  horizontality  microgames 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Why capitalism can’t survive without socialism - Vox
"Sean Illing

This raises a thorny question: The kinds of skills this technological economy rewards are not skills that a majority of the population possesses. Perhaps a significant number of people simply can’t thrive in this space, no matter how much training or education we provide.

Eric Weinstein

I think that's an interesting question, and it depends a lot on your view of education. Buckminster Fuller (a prominent American author and architect who died in 1983) said something to the effect of, "We're all born geniuses, but something in the process of living de-geniuses us." I think with several years more hindsight, we can see that the thing that de-geniuses us is actually our education.

The problem is that we have an educational system that's based on taking our natural penchant for exploration and fashioning it into a willingness to take on mind-numbing routine. This is because our educational system was designed to produce employable products suitable for jobs, but it is jobs that are precisely going to give way to an economy increasingly based on one-off opportunities.

Sean Illing

That’s a problem with a definable but immensely complicated solution.

Eric Weinstein

Part of the question is, how do we disable an educational system that is uniformizing people across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to remind ourselves that the hotel maid who makes up our bed may in fact be an amateur painter? The accountant who does our taxes may well have a screenplay that he works on after the midnight hour? I think what is less clear to many of our bureaucrats in Washington is just how much talent and creativity exists through all walks of life.

What we don't know yet is how to pay people for those behaviors, because many of those screenplays and books and inventions will not be able to command a sufficiently high market price, but this is where the issue of some kind of hybridization of hypercapitalism and hypersocialism must enter the discussion.

“We will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this continuing insensitivity”
Sean Illing

Let's talk about that. What does a hybrid of capitalism and socialism look like?

Eric Weinstein

I don't think we know what it looks like. I believe capitalism will need to be much more unfettered. Certain fields will need to undergo a process of radical deregulation in order to give the minority of minds that are capable of our greatest feats of creation the leeway to experiment and to play, as they deliver us the wonders on which our future economy will be based.

By the same token, we have to understand that our population is not a collection of workers to be input to the machine of capitalism, but rather a nation of souls whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered on independent, humanitarian terms. Now, that does not mean we can afford to indulge in national welfare of a kind that would rob our most vulnerable of a dignity that has previously been supplied by the workplace.

People will have to be engaged in socially positive activities, but not all of those socially positive activities may be able to command a sufficient share of the market to consume at an appropriate level, and so I think we're going to have to augment the hypercapitalism which will provide the growth of the hypersocialism based on both dignity and need.

Sean Illing

I agree with most of that, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to adapt to these new circumstances quickly enough to matter. What you’re describing is a near-revolutionary shift in politics and culture, and that’s not something we can do on command.

Eric Weinstein

I believe that once our top creative class is unshackled from those impediments which are socially negative, they will be able to choose whether capitalism proceeds by evolution or revolution, and I am hopeful that the enlightened self-interest of the billionaire class will cause them to take the enlightened path toward finding a rethinking of work that honors the vast majority of fellow citizens and humans on which their country depends.

Sean Illing

Are you confident that the billionaire class is so enlightened? Because I'm not. All of these changes were perceptible years ago, and yet the billionaire class failed to take any of this seriously enough. The impulse to innovate and profit subsumes all other concerns as far as I can tell."



"Sean Illing

I suppose that’s my point. If the people with the power to change things are sufficiently cocooned that they fail to realize the emergency while there’s still time to act, where does that leave us?

Eric Weinstein

Well, the claim there is that there will be no warning shots across the bow. I guarantee you that when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators left the confines of Zuccotti Park and came to visit the Upper East Side homes of Manhattan, it had an immediate focusing on the mind of those who could deploy a great deal of capital. Thankfully, those protesters were smart enough to realize that a peaceful demonstration is the best way to advertise the potential for instability to those who have yet to do the computation.

“We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars”
Sean Illing

But if you're one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters who fired off that peaceful warning shot across the bow six years ago, and you reflect on what’s happened since, do have any reason to think the message was received? Do you not look around and say, “Nothing much has changed”? The casino economy on Wall Street is still humming along. What lesson is to be drawn in that case?

Eric Weinstein

Well, that's putting too much blame on the bankers. I mean, the problem is that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the bankers share a common delusion. Both of them believe the bankers are more powerful in the story than they actually are. The real problem, which our society has yet to face up to, is that sometime around 1970, we ended several periods of legitimate exponential growth in science, technology, and economics. Since that time, we have struggled with the fact that almost all of our institutions that thrived during the post-World War II period of growth have embedded growth hypotheses into their very foundation.

Sean Illing

What does that mean, exactly?

Eric Weinstein

That means that all of those institutions, whether they're law firms or universities or the military, have to reckon with steady state [meaning an economy with mild fluctuations in growth and productivity] by admitting that growth cannot be sustained, by running a Ponzi scheme, or by attempting to cannibalize others to achieve a kind of fake growth to keep those particular institutions running. This is the big story that nobody reports. We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars."



"Sean Illing

So our entire economy is essentially a house of cards, built on outdated assumptions and pushed along with gimmicks like quantitative easing. It seems we’ve gotten quite good at avoiding facing up to the contradictions of our civilization.

Eric Weinstein

Well, this is the problem. I sometimes call this the Wile E. Coyote effect because as long as Wile E. Coyote doesn't look down, he's suspended in air, even if he has just run off a cliff. But the great danger is understanding that everything is flipped. During the 2008 crisis, many commentators said the markets have suddenly gone crazy, and it was exactly the reverse. The so-called great moderation that was pushed by Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others was in fact a kind of madness, and the 2008 crisis represented a rare break in the insanity, where the market suddenly woke up to see what was actually going on. So the acute danger is not madness but sanity.

The problem is that prolonged madness simply compounds the disaster to come when sanity finally sets in."
2017  capitalism  socialism  business  dystopia  history  seanilling  ericweinstein  economics  politics  policy  productivity  technology  inequality  revolution  dignity  creativeclass  creativity  repetition  ows  occupywallstreet  banks  banking  finance  ponzischemes  alangreenspan  timothygeitner  civilization  systems  systemsthinking  growth  society  science  automation 
august 2017 by robertogreco
What is not machine-like
"
“REJOICE IN HUMANNESS! Machines can’t make mistakes. If you compete with a machine on its terms YOU LOSE! So don’t reduce your writing to be like type. YOU ARE NOT A TYPEWRITER! Admit mistakes, correct them, & go right on.
—Jacqueline Svaren, Written Letters

Andy Warhol said, “I want to be a machine,” but we’ve been there and done that, and besides, he was delight-full of crap, like all great artists, because when I stood in front of those big silk-screened flowers last week they sure didn’t feel like they were made by machines. You could sense the human behind them…

[blackoutpoem: "hire a heart with an eye
No tech can know its algorithm"]
“These are not yet automata.”
—Studs Terkel, Working

I remember a few years ago how triumphant I felt when the Twitter spam account @horse_ebooks turned out to be a human pretending to be a machine. Some were disappointed, but the feed seemed too weird and beautiful to me to be completely random. I was happy to see a human behind it.

[blackout poem: “Machines help you act machine like”]
“The next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.”
—Wendell Berry

I like my machines just fine, but I’m not interested in turning into one. I’d like to remain a person. I truly believe one of the most subversive things you can do today is spend as much of your time as possible nurturing what is not machine-like in you."
austinkleon  2017  machines  cyborgs  humans  humanism  studsterkel  jacquelinesvaren  wendellberry  humanness  automata  imperfection  technology  automation 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools - The New York Times
"The involvement by some of the wealthiest and most influential titans of the 21st century amounts to a singular experiment in education, with millions of students serving as de facto beta testers for their ideas. Some tech leaders believe that applying an engineering mind-set can improve just about any system, and that their business acumen qualifies them to rethink American education.

“They are experimenting collectively and individually in what kinds of models can produce better results,” said Emmett D. Carson, chief executive of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which manages donor funds for Mr. Hastings, Mr. Zuckerberg and others. “Given the changes in innovation that are underway with artificial intelligence and automation, we need to try everything we can to find which pathways work.”

But the philanthropic efforts are taking hold so rapidly that there has been little public scrutiny."



"But many parents and educators said in interviews that they were unaware of the Silicon Valley personalities and money influencing their schools. Among them was Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin Independent School District, a public school system in Lufkin, Tex., where students regularly use DreamBox Learning, the math program that Mr. Hastings subsidized, and have tried Code.org’s coding lessons.

“We should be asking a lot more questions about who is behind the curtain,” Ms. Davis said."
automation  education  personalization  facebook  summitpublicschools  markzuckerberg  publicschools  edtech  data  chaters  culture  2017  marcbenioff  influence  democracy  siliconvalley  hourofcode  netflix  algorithms  larrycuban  rafranzdavis  salesforce  reedhastings  dreamboxlearning  dreambox  jessiewoolley-wilson  surveillance  dianetavenner 
june 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — The automated island
"(For some background to this discussion of automation in our very eccentric and local context, revisit one of our first posts - ‘The pleasures of prediction’ [http://crapfutures.tumblr.com/post/133794965489/the-pleasures-of-prediction ].)

There’s a spot we often go swimming in Madeira called Ponta Gorda, ‘Fat Point’. It’s like a public swimming pool - in fact it does have a decent saltwater pool - but most people who go there dive straight into the open sea, which gives you the thrill of swimming in very deep water - 2,000 metres close to shore descending to 4,000 metres further out. So the sea is a public swimming pool, and you pay your euro for amenities like the changing rooms and cafe. It’s a good place for lunch or a cold beer when the sun is shining. Umbrellas and sunbeds cost extra, but we prefer to bake on the hot concrete after a cool swim.

Into this idyllic scene comes automation. There’s a person who works in the entrance booth and takes your euro, and adjacent to the booth is a row of turnstiles. Presumably until a couple of years ago you paid your money and went straight in. Since we’ve been going to Ponta Gorda, however, a newer system has been in place: an automated scanning system.

The system is supposed to work like this: first you buy a barcoded ticket or charge your card with the person in the booth; then you scan your ticket, unlocking the turnstile, and you walk through. (The scanner uses that red laser thing to read the barcode.)

What actually happens is this: we arrive at the booth, say hello to the friendly woman who works there - because we all know each other by now - pay for a ticket or charge our card (if we’ve remembered to bring it, which is rare), try to scan the barcode under the laser in the bright midday sun, fail miserably, smile at the woman in the booth to signal our failure, wait as she grabs her keys and comes out of the booth, watch as she tries in vain to scan it several times, exchange sympathetic smiles when she too fails, together blame the sun, stand by while she unlocks the gate at the side, and walk through.

We’re not sure why the automatic gate always fails. Things often don’t work on this island. They remain broken for months or years, and people get used to working around them. The parking garages and supermarket checkouts are the same: there is always someone to help you scan your ticket or purchases because the scanner never works properly. These are de-facto semi-automated systems that require the same human worker they required before the machine was installed. So why have a scanner at all? Who said this was a good idea? What was wrong with the old way?

Well, it’s progress, innit? Unfortunately what may work under ideal conditions in, say, London or Oslo may not necessarily work under less than ideal conditions, and without maintenance support, in Madeira. It’s like those tractors in the Soviet Union under collectivisation that broke down or simply ran out of petrol and were left to rot in the fields. Not to mention the fact that automation is often about efficiency, and efficiency - in terms of saving either time or labour - is not something this sleepy island particularly wants or needs.

People in Madeira are adaptable, they get along fine with less than optimal technology. But significant resources are wasted in the pursuit of Mainland ideas of progress. Then there are the side-effects of automation that are not particular to islanders: deskilling, alienation from labour. Few people actually lose their jobs because the technology can rarely be trusted - but everywhere you see people sitting idle in their work, passive, mere appendages of the machines they are paid to assist. Is this the techno-utopia we were waiting for? Sometimes on the periphery, as Laura Watts said to us recently, small perturbations are felt more distinctly than in the centre.

In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain.

In the next post we’ll go deeper into a taxonomy of automation. Now we’re going for a swim."
crapfutures  automation  labor  madeira  wendellberry  technology  problemsolving 
june 2017 by robertogreco
David Byrne | Journal | ELIMINATING THE HUMAN
"My dad was an electrical engineer—I love the engineer's’ way of looking at the world. I myself applied to both art school AND to engineering school (my frustration was that there was little or no cross-pollination. I was told at the time that taking classes in both disciplines would be VERY difficult). I am familiar with and enjoy both the engineer's mindset and the arty mindset (and I’ve heard that now mixing one’s studies is not as hard as it used to be).

The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive."
davidbyrne  2017  automation  ai  business  culture  technology  dehumanization  humanism  humanity  gigeconomy  labor  work  robots  moocs  socialmedia  google  facebook  amazon  yuvalharari  social  productivity  economics  society  vr  ebay  retail  virtualreality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — Maybe I like the misery
"Working within such a system each day we become less and less conscious, less in control, more passive in meeting our needs and fulfilling our desires. The system calculates, the system learns, and of course, the system benefits. As this piece in Wired reminds us, ‘The more we use the butler, the more power it will have.’ This includes the power to manipulate its putative master. In the case of our cafe, there were no discernible ulterior motives - they just wanted to keep the line moving. In the case of the big four tech companies, control is very much an issue. So we should always ask: Who or what is taking control of our desires? Who or what do we increasingly rely on for the handling and fulfillment of those desires, and what do we give them in return? Whose script are we living by?"



"What will this reality look like? What dark aspects of ourselves will we reveal? Will it be a sexy-lonely vibe, like Spike Jonze’s Her, or something more adversarial-sinister-anarchic, like Chaplin’s Modern Times? One point to keep in mind: when automation is employed to play to its strengths, the potential consequence is that we in turn become automated – less emotional, more rational, programmed and predictable. Technology effectively replaces human thought. This in turn brings to mind Theodor Adorno’s critique (in Minima Moralia): ‘Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men.’"
crapfutures  automation  smarthomes  iot  internetofthings  technology  2017 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The EdTech Rebel Alliance – Learning {Re}imagined – Medium
"Papert, who I had the opportunity to spend time with in those years, had developed a learning theory he called “Constructionism”. Papert had been a student of Piaget and Vygotsky who had developed philosophies about the nature of knowledge called Constructivism and Social Constructivism respectively.

[Seymour Papert
https://medium.com/learning-re-imagined/thanks-for-sharing-this-bd5f1f736599#.s4s05qelz ]

Constructivism is primarily focused on how humans make meaning in relation to the interaction between their experiences and their ideas. That is, their learning is as a result of their experiences.

Such experiential learning, rather than the abstract learning of content by rote, inspired Papert to develop his own Constructionist learning theory. Papert saw how, at the dawn of the micro-computer, learning could be a reconstruction of knowledge rather than simply a transmission. That learning could be personal, experiential and situated where, aided by digital systems, learners would effectively construct their own meaning as a discovery of knowledge. This, Papert believed, was the true liberating power that computers would bring to future learners and teachers as creators of learning experiences.

[Situating Constructionism
http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html ]

But this is where the similarity between 1985 and 2017 ends. The optimism that we shared for the future of learning dwindled as technology was co-opted not to liberate but to reinforce standardisation and automation of schools ways.

In 1993 in his book,”The Children’s Machine”, Papert lamented:
“Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: Instead of cutting across and so challenging the very idea of subject boundaries, the computer now defined a new subject; instead of changing the emphasis from impersonal curriculum to excited live exploration by students, the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralised by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.”

[The Children's Machine by Seymour Papert
http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emurphy/stemnet/papert.html ]

As I walked around the 2017 Bett Show I was struck by how exceptionally bland everything was, bathed in fluorescent lighting that felt like it was irradiating the soul out of the machines like it was E.coli. Despite the incredible financial bets being made on EdTech, with more money than ever being injected into start-ups, they’ve turned EdTech into the equivalent of airport passenger conveyors or “satellite navigation” for learning which means you never get lost and you always end up at the same destination passing through the town of Boredom.

[Edtech is the next fintech
https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/13/edtech-is-the-next-fintech/ ]

Enslaved to the tyranny of testing and measurement, the affordances of todays technology in EdTech form are being used to develop ever more efficient ways of delivering a 19th century curriculum. Perhaps we have lost sight of what education is for and why we send our kids to school?

Essentially we are using today’s digital platforms to go into reverse. We’re talking about content, and teacher at the front distribution while measuring the effectiveness of our tech by improvement in measured learning outcomes for which read, passing tests.

When you look at who’s making the big financial investments in EdTech things suddenly become clear.

[Who's Investing in Ed-Tech (2010-2016)
http://hackeducation.com/2016/05/03/who-is-funding-this-bs ]

There is a chain of command of organisations, think tanks, agencies and deliverologists who brief financial institutions that whatever bells and whistles you’ve got the point is to get school kids through a set of tests preferably owned by another multinational corporation like, for example, Pearson.

[https://vimeo.com/165124568 ]
Standardised, Automated and Privatised

This, while the creeping privatisation of state education via academisation, charter and free schools who are adopting similar leadership strategies to those used in retail or fast food outlet management to the shop floor. Sorry, I mean classroom.

These strategies are based around standardisation and automation of content distribution and testing. By focusing on instruction rather than the learner, actual personalisation can take a backseat.

But what about “personalised learning” I hear you cry? Well, it takes a human being, practiced in the craft of teaching, to do that. Personalised learning is focused on the child rather than the instruction and the individuated or differentiated learning that software is capable of, think Amazon recommendations for example, is all about instruction. This is what is known as “Instructionism” or the explicit teaching of facts or showing students how to solve problems and then having the students practice them. Instructionists believe that learning is the direct result of having been taught.

But all is not lost.

Amidst the big budget trade stands/booths at the outer fringes of the galaxy are new start-ups, many of which are existing on the financial equivalent of fumes. This, to me, was where the action and excitement was. New EdTech designers like Night Zookeeper, Erase All Kittens, SAM Labs, Pi-Top, Stepping Into Business, Detective Dot, A Tale Unfolds, Technology Will Save Us and many others have embraced, wittingly or unwittingly, the spirit of Papert’s Constructionism. These young organisations are all about providing the tools and the opportunities for experiential learning that is centred on the learner rather than the instruction.

[https://www.nightzookeeper.com/
https://eraseallkittens.com/
https://www.samlabs.com/
https://www.pi-top.com/
http://steppingintobusiness.org/
https://www.detectivedot.org/
https://ataleunfolds.co.uk/
https://www.techwillsaveus.com/ ]

I would argue that it is organisations like these who, rather than those seeking to automate and standardise education, are like a “Rebel Alliance” liberating learners and teachers alike to create their own, powerful learning experiences. Learning how to learn, solving abstract challenges and creating new knowledge must surely be some of the most vital competences that a child can leave school with.

It’s hard to see how another interactive white board or learning management system, with or without AI, will provide access to these skills. Yet these nascent enterprises give me hope that EdTech has yet to have its soul completely crushed, swallowed and spat out as another uberfication of education where the learner is simply a passenger and the destination is a set of certificates from a bygone age.

Perhaps we need an alternative event to the kind that the Bett Show, or ISTE for that matter, has become. Perhaps we actually do need to form an “EdTech Rebel Alliance” where all of the stakeholders of learning, that includes teachers, parents and learners can converge to design new learning futures.

It strikes me that we need something that isn’t just another EdTech incubator/accelerator/trade association Ponzi scheme where whoever pays the most cash gets the most attention. I’m thinking of a mutually supportive collective committed to radically transforming education not by automating it but by liberating it from the tyrannical business plan of a multinational corporation."
education  technology  automation  grahambrown-martin  2017  resistance  children  constructionism  contructivism  socialconstructivism  seymourpapert  jeanpiaget  vygotsky  experientiallearning  sfsh  canon  privatization  instructionism  standardization  personalization  differentiation  unschooling  deschooling  learning  howwelearn  control  content 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Seeing and killing with police robots | Javier Arbona
"Much more will need to be studied in the weeks, months, and years ahead. However, I wanted to touch on a question about how “unprecedented” this case was, given how oft the words “first” and “unprecedented” are being thrown around. Anyone familiar with the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia should not be so surprised by this supposed “first”. More recently, the outcome of a standoff with Chris Dorner, a Black officer, ended with a robot shooting smoke bombs that burned down the cabin Dorner was hiding in. So, since it was not unprecedented, in effect, how come ‘we’ (what we?) are caught by surprise, playing catch-up with the ethics and capabilities of the police? Perhaps this raises more questions about the culture around policing with a certain lack of critical memory, than about the policing itself."



"I’m curious about these two goals for the robot; one as a ‘seeing’ entity, and another as a killing machine. These separated endeavours, anticipated more than a decade-and-a-half ago, bring up many questions about the nature of identification and violence. As a relative of mine put it, they did not send a robot to capture or kill, for an example, white supremacist Dylann Roof, the suspect in the mass killing inside a Black North Carolina church. So, thinking about the writing of Simone Browne here, in the very same context of the Black Lives Matter protests that were going on in Dallas in the wake of more police killings this past couple of weeks, it’s impossible to separate who becomes targeted by automated or semi-automated killing machines, and who is taken alive, and how are the visual regimes of each sort of operation organized."
javierarbona  dallas  police  blacklivesmatter  automation  robots  seeing  simonebrown  lawenforcement  us  militarization  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
what Thomas Hardy taught me | Fredrik deBoer
"Never mind that the idea of salvation through technology is the hoariest old cliche in the history of education, stretching back to the fear among the educated classes that the invention of the printing press would render education obsolete. Never mind that the radio was sure to change teaching forever, or that the television was too, or that the VCR was, as was the personal computer. Never mind that I still hear people talking about what the internet will surely do for the schools of the future, despite the fact that we had the internet in our classroom when I was in junior high school 21 years ago, the school of the past. Never mind that one of the most easily predicted outcomes in educational research is that a highly-touted educational technology will result in no meaningful difference in learning gains. Nope: it’s the same old shit. We’re better and smarter than those other guys who told you that they were better and smarter than the guys who came before them. Our jargon is newer and better. Gamify the cloud with synergistic flipped classrooms that take an active learning approach to emergent technologies and the internet of things. Our app has flavor crystals. Rinse and repeat, now and for forever.

A piece like this makes you realize the real tragedy of this (profitable, and thus perpetual) fantasy of remaking education is that its progenitors are guilty of precisely what they accuse others of: a complete failure to think of education outside of a narrow, restrictive framework. Mead refers to the educational vision on offer here as utilitarian, and I suppose it’s that. But I would argue that the current orthodoxy about education — which, make no mistake, all these proud free thinkers clearly share — is fundamentally mechanistic. That is, it presumes that there is a basic correspondence between particular inputs to a student’s learning and straightforward and clearly-defined outputs in a student’s outcomes. So you teach a student division, and they’ve learned division, and nothing more; you teach a kid to code (in a language that will be obsolete by the time they reach even undergraduate education) and they learn to code (a skill that will be largely automated by the time they reach middle age) and that’s why you bother to do it. And you don’t teach them to read poetry or to dance a waltz because you can’t get a job troubleshooting Geico’s android app with those skills. Everything is a simple and uncomplicated matter of what you put in and what you put out, and the value and importance of what you get out depends entirely on what’s taken seriously by the staff at Wired magazine."



"In a very real way that was the moment when I contemplated the world outside of my own subjectivity in a genuine and mature way. And like so many other important ideas, its consequences continue to spool out in my mind for years to come. It multiplied complexity; it introduced patterns of thinking and difficult questions that I had never thought to consider before. It deepened my mind in more ways than I can express. And yet the value of this insight, in any conventional educational assessment you can name — and I say that as an expert — would be nil. This understanding, which has been central to my development as an adult intelligence, would not factor into any assessment of my academic aptitude. We do not have instruments that measure this kind of learning and we never will.

Now: I don’t and can’t represent myself as anyone’s definition of a human success. And I’m not interested in making this about the rigor or quality of my research or my field. But I can say that, by the typical benchmarks of educational success, I have performed well. I graduated from high school, finished a bachelor’s degree, and went on to two graduate degrees. I’ve performed very well on standardized tests, both state-run assessments of educational progress and entrance exams like the SAT and GRE. I’ve been published in major newspapers and magazines. I’ve written a major policy position paper for a respected think tank. I’ve been published in peer reviewed journals. If you want to get neoliberal about it, I’ve gotten jobs and earned something like the median income. Again, this is not about representing myself as some sort of great success story, but rather just to establish that I have had the kind of academic outcomes that policy makers, members of the media, and parents say they want.

Yet on the level of thinking of our Silicon Valley overlords, aspects of my cognitive abilities that are absolutely central to my educational success are taken to have literally no value at all. In educational research, perhaps the greatest danger lies in thinking “that which I cannot measure is not real.” The disruption fetishists have amplified this danger, now evincing the attitude “teaching that cannot be said to lead to the immediate acquisition of rote, mechanical skills has no value.” But absolutely every aspect of my educational journey — as a student, as a teacher, and as a researcher — demonstrates the folly of this approach to learning."



"The point is not that the humanities, or the liberal arts, or the deeper concepts and values of civilization, or whatever only have value because of how they support more narrowly-remunerative skills. The point is that these deeper values and these monetizable skills exist in relationships so deeply intertwined that they are permanently inextricable from one another. And the utter folly of disregarding those traditional aspects of education that can’t be immediately tied to skills you list on your Monster.com profile is one we and our children will pay for, for generations. I have no doubt that we will come in time to learn again the absolute necessity of learning that goes beyond the rote skills we currently perceive to be important, that someday people will learn to again see the utter necessity of humanistic thinking. But such understanding will only come after we have allowed deluded privateers to wring every last dollar out of our educational system as they strip it of all learning that has a function other than training more efficient little capitalists.

Albert Einstein was obsessed with music. Would he have been a better physicist, or a worse one, had he spent the time he devoted to music and the other arts on what we now call “STEM subjects”? It’s an absurd, pointless, unanswerable question. What matters is that Einstein was a full-fledged human being, and enjoyed an education that permitted him to be that, and that took the creation of such full-fledged human beings as its central mission. And if we only have the courage to devote ourselves to that project, too, the rest will sort itself out in time."

[See also: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2016/silicon-valley-v-the-liberal-arts/ ]
freddiedeboer  humanities  altschool  education  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howwelearn  measurement  2016  automation  complexity  economics  politics  rebeccamead  edtech  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  whywelearn  thomashardy  alberteinstein  stem  interdisciplinary  silos  rotelearning  rote  disruption 
march 2016 by robertogreco
How to Think About Bots | Motherboard
"Who is responsible for the output and actions of bots, both ethically and legally? How does semi-autonomy create ethical constraints that limit the maker of a bot?"



"Given the public and social role they increasingly play—and whatever responsibility their creators assume—the actions of bots, whether implicitly or explicitly, have political outcomes. The last several years have seen a rise in bots being used to spread political propaganda, stymie activism and bolster social media follower lists of public figures. Activists can use bots to mobilize people around social and political causes. People working for a variety of groups and causes use bots to inject automated discourse on platforms like Twitter and Reddit. Over the last few years both government employees and opposition activists in Mexico have used bots in attempts to sway public opinion. Where do we draw the line between propaganda, public relations and smart communication?

Platforms, governments and citizens must step in and consider the purpose, and future, of bot technology before manipulative anonymity becomes a hallmark of the social bot."
bots  robots  ethics  ai  artificialintelligence  twitter  bot-ifesto  programming  coding  automation  samuelwoolley  danahboyd  meredithbroussard  madeleineelish  lainnafader  timhwang  alexislloyd  giladlotan  luisdanielpalacios  allisonparrish  giladrosner  saiphsavage  smanthashorey  socialbots  oliviataters  politics  policy 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Learn Different - The New Yorker
"Students at AltSchool are issued a tablet in pre-K and switch to a laptop in later years. (For now, AltSchool ends at the equivalent of eighth grade.) When I visited a mixed classroom for second and third graders, most of the children were sunk into their laptops. All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it was an online task. Two children were doing keyboarding drills on a typing Web site. Their results would be uploaded for a teacher’s assessment and added to the student’s online Learning Progression—software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress.

The curriculum is roughly aligned with the Common Core, the government standards that establish topics which students should master by the end of each grade. But AltSchool’s ethos is fundamentally opposed to the paradigm of standardization that has dominated public education in recent decades, and reflects a growing shift in emphasis among theorists toward “personalized learning.” This approach acknowledges and adapts to the differences among students: their abilities, their interests, their cultural backgrounds.

A girl in the class was completing an offline task—reading a book about polar bears. A boy lay on his stomach on the carpeted floor, headphones on, using a Web site called BrainPOP to learn how to calculate the perimeters of basic shapes. “Two out of five!” he shouted at one point, as oblivious of those around him as a subway rider wearing earbuds and singing along to Drake.

Not all the activities were solitary. Two girls sat together, laptops before them, using Google Images to scroll through pictures of seals for a social-studies assignment; occasionally, they paused to compare notes. Every so often, a student spoke with the teacher, a young woman in jeans and a loose top, her iPhone tucked under her thigh as she sat on the carpet. One girl had been using her laptop to research castles—an area of sustained interest. She and the teacher discussed princesses and castles, and whether they always went together. “That’s a good question,” the teacher said, and then asked, “Does America have princesses?”"



"At the same time, educators at AltSchool are discussing whether children really need to attain certain skills at particular stages of their educational development, as the Common Core implies. Seyfert thinks that it might be more useful to think of learning not as linear but as scrambled, like a torrent file on a computer: “You can imagine all the things you need to learn, and you could learn it all out of order so long as you can zip it up at the end, and you are good to go.”

Like other AltSchool teachers, Seyfert was drawn to the startup because of its ambition to make systemic change. Two or three times a week, she told me, she gives colleagues feedback about the school’s digital tools. The Learner Profile, Stream app, and other tools are only about a year old, and AltSchool’s personalization still requires considerable human intervention. Software is updated every day. Carolyn Wilson, AltSchool’s director of education, told me, “We encourage staff members to express their pain points, step up with their ideas, take a risk, fail forward, and fail fast, because we know we are going to iterate quickly. Other schools tend to move in geologic time.” (Ventilla may question the utility of foreign-language acquisition, but fluency in the jargon of Silicon Valley—English 2.0—is required at AltSchool.)

Ventilla told me that these tools were central to a revised conception of what a teacher might be: “We are really shifting the role of an educator to someone who is more of a data-enabled detective.” He defined a traditional teacher as an “artisanal lesson planner on one hand and disciplinary babysitter on the other hand.” Educators are stakeholders in AltSchool’s eventual success: equity has been offered to all full-time teachers."



"Some education advocates are wary about potential privacy violations that might result from data collection on the scale intended by AltSchool, particularly given that AltSchool is a for-profit company. (Most independent schools are not-for-profit institutions.) These concerns could complicate the adoption of AltSchool software by public school systems. Ventilla says that there is no intention to use AltSchool data for commercial purposes, and that AltSchool can gather data in a way that will respect a student’s anonymity. Only salient moments in the classroom videos are saved, he says, and most are not even stored. “I would never want to record all the things a kid says and keep them around,” he said. But he added that looking at vocabulary-acquisition patterns in aggregate could provide teachers with valuable information that will help them teach each individual more effectively. “The collection of any kind of data is not free,” Ventilla acknowledged. “But the alternative is the incredibly invasive, inaccurate standardized-testing regimen that we have now, which comes at a lot of cost, psychic and otherwise, and doesn’t provide nearly the amount of benefit that we want.”

Daniel Willingham, an education scholar at the University of Virginia, told me that adopting technology in schools can be maddeningly inefficient. “The most common thing I hear is that when you adopt technology you have to write twice the lesson plans,” he told me. “You have the one you use with the technology, and you have the backup one you use when the technology doesn’t work that day.” Willingham also notes that the most crucial thing about educational software isn’t the code that assesses student performance; it’s the worthiness of the readings and the clarity of the math questions being presented onscreen. “People are very focussed on the algorithm,” he said. “But equally important is the quality of the materials.”

The gap between AltSchool’s ambitions for technology and the reality of the classroom was painfully obvious the morning that I spent in the Brooklyn school. One kindergartner grew increasingly frustrated with his tablet as he tried to take a photograph of interlocking cubes that he had snapped into a strip of ten. (He was supposed to upload the image to his playlist.) He shook the unresponsive tablet, then stabbed repeatedly at the screen, like an exhausted passenger in a cab after an overnight flight, unable to quell the Taxi TV.

Even when AltSchool’s methods worked as intended, there were sometimes questionable results. The two girls whom I watched searching for seals on Google Images found plenty of suitable photographs. But the same search term called up a news photo of the corpse of a porpoise, its blood blossoming in the water after being rent almost in half by a seal attack. It also called up an image in which the head of Seal, the singer, had been Photoshopped onto a sea lion’s body—an object of much fascination to the students. To the extent that this exercise was preparing them for the workplace of the future, it was also dispiritingly familiar from the workplace of the present, where the rabbit holes of the Internet offer perpetual temptation."



"There had been some bumpy moments for the Palo Alto school, which opened last fall. One family left after concluding that there wasn’t enough homework. Other parents wanted to know the curriculum in advance—an impossible demand in a school dedicated to following children’s interests. A look around the classrooms confirmed that for some children the ability to follow their own passions reaped rich dividends. I observed the kindergarten-and-first-grade classroom during afternoon “choice time,” and saw two children separately involved in complicated long-term projects. A seven-year-old boy with an avid interest in American history had built a dining-table-sized model of Fort Sumter out of cardboard—he was painting black-splotch windows on its perimeter. He had also composed a storybook about Paul Revere, which was vibrantly written, if impressionistically spelled. Another seven-year-old boy had undertaken a physics experiment, building two styles of catapult out of tongue depressors and tape. He was measuring their power with the help of a yardstick affixed to the wall, and recording the data in a notebook. The AltSchool environment—and an inspiring young teacher named Paul France—had liberated these children’s individual creativity and intellectual curiosity in just the way that the parents of a potential Elon Musk might hope.

The boys’ classmates, however, had made less demanding use of their choice time, and this had apparently allowed the teaching staff to provide the necessary support for the more ambitious projects. Four boys were seated on the floor making primitive catapults with Jenga blocks. Half a dozen girls had chosen “art creation,” and were sitting around a table affixing stickers to paper and chatting. One girl had opted to work in clay. But no students had chosen to engage in dramatic play, or to work at the light table, or to do jigsaw puzzles—options that were displayed on a wall chart. The remaining eight children—six boys and two girls—had selected “tablet time.” They were sitting around a table, each with headphones on, expertly swiping and clicking their way through word or number games. Their quiet immersion would be recognizable to any parent who has ever bought herself a moment’s peace from the demands of interacting with her child by opening Angry Birds on her phone."



"When the AltSchool technologists who participated in the December hackathon shared their discoveries at the end of the session, the team that had focussed on bookmarking video seemed particularly pleased with its innovations. The team had decided to try to find a “fun route” to help … [more]
altschool  education  schools  2016  children  learning  pedagogy  amplify  teachtoone  brooklyn  paloalto  maxventilla  surveillance  standardization  blendedlearning  howweteach  howwelearn  automation  technology  edtech  sanfrancisco  gender  siliconvalley  commoncore  standards  brainpop 
march 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — counter-constraint #1: non-progress dogma
"The world’s fairs also offer their insights into this dichotic system. For example, Futurama’s hidden agendas are strikingly revealed in E. L. Doctorow’s novel World’s Fair (1985). As a family leaves the exhibit, the father says: ‘“When the time comes General Motors isn’t going to build the highways, the federal government is. With money from us taxpayers.” He smiled. “So General Motors is telling us what they expect from us: we must build them the highways so they can sell us the cars.”’

Bel Geddes’s vision of super-highways largely came true, but so did various dystopian imaginaries that were generated out of the Futurama vision. In ‘Futurama, Autogeddon’, Helen Burgess describes the way in which ‘a messy, always-under-construction, polluted highway system, beaming cheerfully forward into the future, is reflected back to us in the second half of the century as a degraded landscape in J. G. Ballard’s Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition. In these tales,’ Burgess writes,

Bel Geddes’ optimistic narrative of the Interstate has collapsed … because the Interstate system is unsustainable - both narratively and ecologically. The ghosts of the highway call back to us from these future narratives, reminding us that death is just around the next bend.

Progress dogma as an eternally recurring phenomenon

The progress boosterism in the West of the 19th century was followed by two highly regressive world wars. Yet the postwar period saw an almost immediate return to … optimism! Progress dogma was reborn! America, isolated from the worst ravages of the two World Wars, kept blowing the trumpet for progress, and the other western countries followed. The lessons of history continued, and continue, to fall on deaf ears.

Designing counter-constraints

We realise now that we’ve not set ourselves an easy task. These are massive, complex systems that are more easily identified and critiqued than challenged with alternatives. But inaction is no solution. So we’ll go on, inspired by historical examples of how critical approaches have impacted on specific research directions and undermined progress dogma. The public inquiry into genetically modified food development in Europe and the consequent demonising of an entire scientific area (‘Frankenstein foods’) led by certain newspapers is one example of technology being steered away from its intended trajectory. In that case, however, the approach was problematic because the debate was simplified as a contest between good and evil, dystopia vs. utopia, rather than being an open and constructive dialogue. As this article suggests, the reality is often more nuanced and complex than a simple binary opposition can express.

So how do we move toward a more constructive approach to counter-constraints?
Here, as a discussion starter, are some first steps:

1. Stop assuming that, through technology, the future will be better than the present.
2. Be wary of too-positive presentations of technological future solutions.
3. Don’t assume that any of society’s problems will be solved by technology alone.
4. Do assume that for every benefit a new technology brings there will be unforeseen implications.
5. Remember to ask: ‘Progress for whom?’
6. And: ‘What in this specific case does progress actually mean?’
7. Remember that progress is easily confused with automation. Or efficiency.
8. Watch Adam Curtis’s The Century of the Self (and then watch it again).
9. Find ways of encouraging a critical perspective in others, without being a dystopian dick about it.
10. Actively start building the future you want, with or without technology.

One approach where we have first-hand experience and that begins to address point 10 is speculative design, which aims to facilitate a more critical and considered approach to future-formation. By countering the constraints that limit normative design to slavishly serving the market, speculative design is free to present futures that are neither explicitly utopian or dystopian. Using this approach we can explore possible scenarios when specific emerging technologies collide with everyday life. Or we can see what happens when we apply alternative configurations of contemporary technologies or systems to generate fresh perspectives on particular problems (a counter-constraint to constraint no. 2: legacies of the past, which we’ll return to in a future post). Speculation is time well spent.

We’ll give further thought to counter-constraints over a game of ping-pong on our rough-hewn autoprogettazione table, followed by coffee and toast. More, much more, to come. "
crapfutures  counter-constraints  futures  speculativedesign  design  2016  technosolutionism  technology  progress  progressdogma  automation  efficiency  normanbelgeddes  eames  productification  utopia  dystopia  resistance  richardbarbrook  processfatigue  eldoctorow  helenburgess  interstatehighways  cars  history  optimism  sustainability  boosterism  adamcurtis  thecenturyoftheself  statusanxiety  bladerunner  pollution  traffic  futurama  world'sfairs  1939  1964  ibm 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism will eat democracy -- unless we speak up | TED Talk | TED.com
"Have you wondered why politicians aren't what they used to be, why governments seem unable to solve real problems? Economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, says that it's because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, "one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian."



"Whereas Athenian democracy was focusing on the masterless citizen and empowering the working poor, our liberal democracies are founded on the Magna Carta tradition, which was, after all, a charter for masters."
capitalism  democracy  yanisvaroufakis  politics  economics  2015  labor  marxism  keynsianism  libertarianism  greece  debt  inequality  wealth  magnacarta  poverty  automation  waste  society 
february 2016 by robertogreco
My family uses Slack. It’s pretty interesting. | Labs
It turns out our school is living in the future, providing a RSS-feed per child. I had no idea. RSS works very well with this setup.
via:alexismadrigal  rss  slack  schools  education  sweden  2016  automation  chat  parenting  communication  internet  web  online 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"



"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."



"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."



"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."



"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Do the Robot – The New Inquiry
"Miya Tokumitsu had a good critique of the Do What You Love ideology in Jacobin, in which she argues that “do what you love” means turn your passion into human capital — the real subsumption of identity in another guise. She writes,
According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Having a “real” passion for your job is the extension of exhibiting “genuine” feeling in the workplace, but instead of serving a customer, it serves a boss or client. Again the metric that establishes the reality of feeling is ex post profit. If no one wants your passionate work, it’s not really passionate and you are self-deluded.

Tokumitsu argues that genuinely lovable work is a privilege that comes at the expense of lots of unlovable work being done by others:
Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished).

As a result, Tokumitsu argues, unlovable work becomes “dangerously invisible” to those whom it permits to do what they love. And in the meantime, those who love what they do work harder for less or no pay.

But the logic that sees competitive advantage in the “human touch” means that all work must be lovable and be performed as such for customers (and the managers who are supposed to be their proxy). Unlovable work isn’t made invisible but is made to seem visibly, irrepressibly loved. After all, what keeps a crappy job from being automated, from this perspective, is the joy in it that a worker can manifest and woo customers with. What prevents a job from being automated is not necessarily its complexity, as Peter Frase explains in this post (and elsewhere):
From the perspective of the boss, replacing a worker with a machine will be more appealing to the degree that the machine is:

• Cheaper than the human worker
• More convenient and easier to control than the human worker

If workers demand more wages, machines become more attractive to bosses. Likewise with “meaningful work”: If workers demand more meaningful, lovable work, then they become less “convenient” to bosses. But workers whose value rests in how much they show they love their job are quite easy to control. Servility is built into the practice. Frase writes that “the truly dystopian prospect is that the worker herself is treated as if she were a machine rather than being replaced by one.” Even more dystopian is the prospect of being treated like a de facto machine while being expected to express boundless “human” joy about it.

The threat of automation, then, can be used to extract more emotional labor and more competitive advantage from humans. After all, one of the few things a robot can’t supply is enthusiasm."
labor  robhorning  authenticity  exploitation  robots  automation  emotionallabor  sales  2015  economics  business  peterfrase  miyatokumitsu  work  humans  huamntouch  passion 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Debating the Gig Economy: Going Past Industrial...
"Yesterday Hilary Clinton mentioned the “gig economy” in a speech. She said
Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

This is of course a topic I have been speaking and writing about a lot. Like Fred [http://avc.com/2015/07/the-gig-economy/ ], I think that this is a discussion we need to have. I think the framing though of the question has to be quite different. We need to move past traditional concepts of work and jobs towards an era of economic freedom enabled by a universal basic income and something akin to what I have called the right to be represented by a bot.

As long as we frame the debate in terms of “work-place protections” and a “good job” we are still caught in the industrial system. The hallmark of the industrial system is what I call the job loop: most people sell their time and receive a wage in return — they then use that wage to buy products and services, which in turn are made by people selling their time. This job loop has been extraordinarily successful. In combination with relatively free markets it has given us incredible progress. But it is now breaking down due to automation and globalization.

The rise of the gig economy is a part of this break down of the job loop. Instead of trying to fix it and to imprint traditional work and labor thinking on these new platforms I propose an entirely different approach: truly and deeply empower individuals to participate on their own terms. Just imagine for a moment a world in which everyone can take care of basic needs such as housing, clothing, food, healthcare and education.

In such a world any and all participation in “gigs” will be entirely voluntary. People will have real walk away options from gigs that don’t pay enough. That also includes “jobs” at McDonalds, or Walmart or the local nail salon. In such a world there is no need to distinguish between a W2 employee and a 1099 contractor.

Such a world is now possible thanks to the productivity gains we have made over many years and the ones that are just now emerging. If you want some good numbers on the economic feasibility of a Universal Basic Income I propose reading this piece by Scott Santens. You can also listen to and read about a discussion from a few weeks back at Civic Hall which includes additional thoughts on funding.

Empowering individuals economically through a Universal Basic Income is just the start though. We also need to give individuals informational freedom. This means that if I am a driver for Uber I should have the right to access Uber through a third party app that strictly represents me. In the open web era that was the browser (not by accident referred to as a “user agent” in the http protocol). We need the equivalent for apps.

The combination of economic and informational freedom for individuals will be a far better check on the power of platforms such as Uber, Etsy, Airbnb, etc. then any attempt to have government regulate directly what these companies can and cannot do.

So this is a perfectly good time to suggest you watch my TEDxNewYork talk on basic income and the right to be represented by a bot.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8qo7pzH_NM ]

If you prefer to read, there is a transcript [http://continuations.com/post/108912689660/big-and-bot-policy-proposals-transcript ] instead. I am also happy to report that my book (which will really be a long essay) on this topic is making good progress."
economics  universalbasicincome  2015  albertwenger  socialsafetynet  work  labor  technology  freedom  scottsantens  fredwilson  automation  gigeconomy  freelancing  hillaryclinton  uber  etsy  airnbn  policy  jobs  progress  inequality  agency  motivation  politics  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
What I learned by asking 100 school kids about the future of work
"In May this year I gave a different style of presentation at an Ignite event in San Francisco to the ones I normally do. As an analyst and someone who gets excited by telling stories about the possibilities of technology I do a fair bit of research and digging around, but I needed something different. Simply regurgitating the same facts and numbers over and over in meme fashion that we read every week wasn’t enough.

So I went back to school. Literally.

I approached the head teacher of a local primary school and asked her help, I needed to find out from the kids what they expect their future to look like when they enter the business world. She graciously agreed and roped in the other teachers to coordinate. Bear in mind we’re talking a vast age range here, from 5 to 11-year-olds, girls and boys. I really didn’t have any expectations, save for feedback like ‘flying cars’, ‘moon based offices’, like a cross between the Jetsons and Star Trek.

What I got back was so grounded and well thought out its made me challenge just how we seem to approach our own thinking about the future.

I, robot
Kids love robots but there wasn’t a hint of Optimus Prime anywhere. They wanted helpers in the office, assistants to help them achieve their work in a more productive way. They expect things like virtual assistants that we are learning to live with in Cortana and Google to be completely woven into the fabric of business, ambiently aware of our needs and not explicitly called into action. They understood that robots have a purpose and they should be part of the process, not extraneous to it.

What, no PC and Pa$$w0rd5?
There was no mention of the humble PC. In fact, if it has a surface, kids expect to be able to interact with it, be it a table, wall, window. Everything was game. Virtual reality and holography were key to how kids today expect to conduct business tomorrow. Not only that, the notion of passworded security didn’t even feature. Everything was passively tied to a user’s biometrics, whether fingerprint, facial or voice recognition, security and privacy was again an ambient process that wasn’t explicitly invoked.

Children value the idea of privacy long before they understand the full implications of it.

I don’t want e-mail
What child does? These were no exception. They valued multi-video collaboration and mobile working above traditional methods we use today. Kids collaborate using Google Hangouts and Skype to complete their homework assignments — at the age of 11. Yet in an office environment we still find it rare to conduct business this way. Kids won’t when they enter the business world, they expect it as a minimum.

Change the emotion of work
Perhaps the best conclusion from the entries was that children expect work to have an emotional connection, not be a hard, grey environment they spend the vast majority of their lives in. The whole office is expected to be crowdshaped according to the moods from the workers, in real-time. Colours, visuals, smells, sounds.

It’s not a bad idea, and beat the ubiquitous bean bag and pinball machine afterthought some companies subscribe to.

Another brick in the wall?
This became the title of the presentation, which you can find on my Slideshare account and also can view the Ignite talk from the MemSQL HQ. After reading 100+ golden nuggets of inspiration four things became clear:

1. We are ignoring a key generation in understanding what they want us to build for the future, and not everything they suggest is far-fetched. Millennials are the wrong people we should be talking to if we want to stay ahead of the game.

2. We are guilty of not taking the business and IT world into the classroom earlier. We surround ourselves in stats and scores to affirm our position around STEM education, genders in classrooms, and wait for the policymakers to change things. We should be the ones to change things.

3. We need more -eers. There has been an overt focus on developers. Indeed most curriculums are looking into computer science and programming to be part of the education system because of the shortfall in skills predicted. But we need to think broader than this. We need more engineers, imagineers, creationeers. People who can create, build and program. If we truly are entering an age where 50 billion devices will connect and talk across the Internet then who is going to build and maintain them all? A developer can’t, but an engineer can.

4. It was the girls who gave the most detailed feedback in the entries I received. Stop creating pie charts about girls leaving STEM subjects and just talk to them.

Kids want to learn about business, IT, and STEM subjects faster than we are prepared to keep up with because we’re so preoccupied about creating a future we want to see, but will never inhabit by the time it’s built.

So, my advice. This year go back to school. Search out the golden nuggets that are hidden in the classrooms across your countries. Talk to the real generation we should be building a future for.

You might learn something."
2015  theopriestley  children  wrok  future  via:willrichardson  education  email  robots  automation  work  labor  fulfillment  collaboration  videoconferencing  computing  technology 
july 2015 by robertogreco
A World Without Work - The Atlantic
"Decades from now, perhaps the 20th century will strike future historians as an aberration, with its religious devotion to overwork in a time of prosperity, its attenuations of family in service to job opportunity, its conflation of income with self-worth. The post-work society I’ve described holds a warped mirror up to today’s economy, but in many ways it reflects the forgotten norms of the mid-19th century—the artisan middle class, the primacy of local communities, and the unfamiliarity with widespread joblessness.

The three potential futures of consumption, communal creativity, and contingency are not separate paths branching out from the present. They’re likely to intertwine and even influence one another. Entertainment will surely become more immersive and exert a gravitational pull on people without much to do. But if that’s all that happens, society will have failed. The foundry in Columbus shows how the “third places” in people’s lives (communities separate from their homes and offices) could become central to growing up, learning new skills, discovering passions. And with or without such places, many people will need to embrace the resourcefulness learned over time by cities like Youngstown, which, even if they seem like museum exhibits of an old economy, might foretell the future for many more cities in the next 25 years.

On my last day in Youngstown, I met with Howard Jesko, a 60-year-old Youngstown State graduate student, at a burger joint along the main street. A few months after Black Friday in 1977, as a senior at Ohio State University, Jesko received a phone call from his father, a specialty-hose manufacturer near Youngstown. “Don’t bother coming back here for a job,” his dad said. “There aren’t going to be any left.” Years later, Jesko returned to Youngstown to work, but he recently quit his job selling products like waterproofing systems to construction companies; his customers had been devastated by the Great Recession and weren’t buying much anymore. Around the same time, a left-knee replacement due to degenerative arthritis resulted in a 10-day hospital stay, which gave him time to think about the future. Jesko decided to go back to school to become a professor. “My true calling,” he told me, “has always been to teach.”

One theory of work holds that people tend to see themselves in jobs, careers, or callings. Individuals who say their work is “just a job” emphasize that they are working for money rather than aligning themselves with any higher purpose. Those with pure careerist ambitions are focused not only on income but also on the status that comes with promotions and the growing renown of their peers. But one pursues a calling not only for pay or status, but also for the intrinsic fulfillment of the work itself.

When I think about the role that work plays in people’s self-esteem—particularly in America—the prospect of a no-work future seems hopeless. There is no universal basic income that can prevent the civic ruin of a country built on a handful of workers permanently subsidizing the idleness of tens of millions of people. But a future of less work still holds a glint of hope, because the necessity of salaried jobs now prevents so many from seeking immersive activities that they enjoy."
2015  universalbasicincome  labor  work  society  economics  automation  technology  derekthompson  us  inequality  wpa  history  future  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Abandon hope (summer is coming) | k-punk
"So it was to be a re-run of 1992, after all. It seems that even elections are subject to retromania, now. Except, this time, it is 1992 without Jungle. It’s Ed Sheeran and Rudimental rather than Rufige Kru. Always ignore the polls, wrote Jeremy Gilbert late on election night. “You get a better sense of what’s going on in the electorate by sniffing the wind, sensing the affective shifts, the molecular currents, the alterations in the structures of feeling. Listen to the music, watch the TV, go to the the pubs and ride the tube. Cultural Studies trumps psephology every time.”

Contemporary English popular culture, with its superannuated PoMo laddishness, its smirking blokishness (anyone fancy a pint with Nigel?), its poverty porn, its craven cult of big business, has become like some gigantic Poundbury Village simulation, in which nothing new happens, forever … while ubiquitous “Keep Calm” messages, ostensibly quirky-ironic, actually function as They Live commands, containing the panic and the desperation …

England is a country in which every last space where conviviality might flourish has been colonised by a commercial imperative …. supermarket check-out operatives replaced by crap robots… unexpected item in bagging area… every surface plastered with corporate graffiti and haranguing hashtags … no trick missed to screw every last penny out of people… exorbitant parking charges in NHS hospitals (exact amount only, no change given), all the profits going to private providers …

Everything seen through a downer haze… “Mostly you self-medicate” … comfort eating and bitter drinking …. What’s your poison?"



"Blogs and social media have allowed us to talk to ourselves (but not to reach out beyond the left bubbles); they have also generated pathological behaviours and forms of subjectivity which not only generate misery and anger – they waste time and energy, our most crucial resources. Email and handhelds, meanwhile, have produced new forms of isolation and loneliness: the fact that we can receive communications from work anywhere and anytime means we are exposed to work’s order-words when we are alone, without the possibility of support from fellow workers.

In sum, the obsession with the web, its monopolisation of any idea of the new, has served capitalist realism rather than undermined it. Which does not mean, naturally, that we should abandon the web, only that we should find out how to develop a more instrumental relationship with it. Put simply, we should use it – as a means of dissemination, communication and distribution – but not live inside it. The problem is that this goes against the tendencies of handhelds. We all recognise the by now cliched image of a train carriage full of people pecking at their tiny screens, but have we really registered how miserable this really is, and how much it suits capital for these pockets of socialisation to be closed down?"



"The problem is that, in order to struggle against time poverty, the main resource we require is time – a nasty vicious circle that capital, with its malevolent genius, now has … This problem is absolutely immanent – writing this and the other posts I have completed this week has meant that I have fallen enormously behind on my work, which is storing up stress for the next week or so.

The first thing we must do in response to all this is to put into practice what I outlined above: try not to blame ourselves. #it’snotyourfault We must try to do everything we can to politicise time poverty rather than accept blame as individuals for failing to complete our work on time. The reason we feel overwhelmed is that we are overwhelmed – it isn’t an individual failing of ours; it isn’t because we haven’t “managed our time” properly. However, we can use the scarce resources we already have more effectively if we work together to codify practices of collective re-habituation (setting new rules for our engagement with social media and capitalist cyberspace in general for example).

Any way, here goes:

1. Talk to fellow workers about how we feel This will re-introduce care and affection into spaces where we are supposed to be competitive and isolated. It will also start to break down the difference between (paid) work and social reproduction on which capitalism depends.

2. Talk to opponents Most people who vote Tory and UKIP are not monsters, much as we might like to think they are. It’s important that we understand why they voted as they did. Also, they may not have been exposed to an alternative view. Remember that people are more likely to be persuaded if defensive character armour is not triggered.

3. Create knowledge exchange labs This follows from what I argued a few days ago. Lack of knowledge about economics seems to me an especially pressing problem to address, but we could also do with more of us knowing about law, I suspect.

4. Create social spaces Create times and spaces specifically dedicated to attending to one another: not (yet more) conferences, but sessions where people can share their feelings and ideas. I would suggest restricting use of handhelds in these spaces: not everything has to be live tweeted or archived! Those with access to educational or art spaces could open these up for this purpose.

5. Use social media pro-actively, not reactively Use social media to publicise, to spread memes, and to constitute a counter-media. Social media can provide emotional support during miserable events like Thursday. But we should try to use social media as resource rather than living inside it at all times. Facebook can be useful for discussions and trying out new ideas, but attempting to debate on Twitter is absurd and makes us feel more stressed. (He says, thinking of the time when, sitting on a National Express coach, perched over his handheld, he tried to intervene in an intricate discussion about Spinoza’s philosophy – all conducted in 140 characters.)

6. Generate new figures of loathing in our propaganda Again, this follows up from what I argued in the Communist Realism post. Capitalist realism was established by constituting the figure of the lazy, feckless scrounger as a populist scapegoat. We must float a new figure of the parasite: landlords milking the state through housing benefit, “entrepreneurs” exploring cheap labour, etc.

7. Engage in forms of activism aimed at logistical disruption Capital has to be seriously inconvenienced and to fear before it yields any territory or resources. It can just wait out most protests,but it will take notice when its logistical operations are threatened. We must be prepared for them cutting up very rough once we start doing this – using anti-terrorist legislation to justify practically any form of repression. They won’t play fair, but it’s not a game of cricket – they know it’s class war, and we should never forget it either.

8. Develop Hub struggles Some struggles will be more strategically and symbolically significant than others – for instance, the Miners’ Strike was a hub struggle for capitalist realism. We might not be able to identify in advance what these struggles are, but we must be ready to swarm in and intensify them when they do occur.

Summer is coming

The Lannisters won on Thursday, but their gold has already run out, and summer is coming. What we saw in the debates dominated by Nicola Sturgeon was not a mirage – it is a rising tide, an international movement, a movement of history, which has not yet reached an England sandbagged in misery and mediocrity. Comrades, I hope (ha!) for the sake of your mental health and your blood pressures that you didn’t see the right wing tabloids over the weekend (tw for class hatred): middle England crowing over its “humiliation” of “Red” Ed. Well if they think Ed was Red, wait until they see the coming Red Swarm. Outer England has been sedated, but it is waking from its long slumber, carrying new weapons …."

[via: http://stml.tumblr.com/post/118858720560/contemporary-english-popular-culture-with-its ]
uk  politics  2015  1992  care  activism  labor  government  money  capitalism  communism  resistance  conviviality  affection  time  timepoverty  work  neoliberalism  collectivism  popculture  media  power  humanity  humanism  socialization  social  society  k-punk  commercialism  automation  malaise  blogs  socialmedia  behavior  behavio  subjectivity  filterbibbles  markfisher 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Invented History of 'The Factory Model of Education'
[Follow-up notes here: http://www.aud.life/2015/notes-on-the-invented-history-of-the-factory-model-of ]

"Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of “the factory of model of education” that posits the United States adopted Prussia’s school system in order to create a compliant populace. It’s a story cited by homeschoolers and by libertarians. It’s a story told by John Taylor Gatto in his 2009 book Weapons of Mass Instruction. It’s a story echoed by The New York Times’ David Brooks. Here he is in 2012: “The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.”

For what it’s worth, Prussia was not highly industrialized when Frederick the Great formalized its education system in the late 1700s. (Very few places in the world were back then.) Training future factory workers, docile or not, was not really the point.

Nevertheless industrialization is often touted as both the model and the rationale for the public education system past and present. And by extension, it’s part of a narrative that now contends that schools are no longer equipped to address the needs of a post-industrial world."



"Despite these accounts offered by Toffler, Brooks, Khan, Gatto, and others, the history of schools doesn’t map so neatly onto the history of factories (and visa versa). As education historian Sherman Dorn has argued, “it makes no sense to talk about either ‘the industrial era’ or the development of public school systems as a single, coherent phase of national history.”"



"As Dorn notes, phrases like “the industrial model of education,” “the factory model of education,” and “the Prussian model of education” are used as a “rhetorical foil” in order make a particular political point – not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future."



"Many education reformers today denounce the “factory model of education” with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. That argument is now and has been for a century the rationale for education technology. As Sidney Pressey, one of the inventors of the earliest “teaching machines” wrote in 1932 predicting "The Coming Industrial Revolution in Education,"
Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods. This does not mean, in any unfortunate sense, the mechanization of education. It does mean freeing the teacher from the drudgeries of her work so that she may do more real teaching, giving the pupil more adequate guidance in his learning. There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.

Pressey, much like Sal Khan and other education technologists today, believed that teaching machines could personalize and “revolutionize” education by allowing students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. The automation of the menial tasks of instruction would enable education to scale, Pressey – presaging MOOC proponents – asserted.

We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization – the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.

And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market."
factoryschools  education  history  2015  audreywatters  edtech  edreform  mechanization  automation  algorithms  personalization  labor  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  mooc  moocs  salkhan  sidneypressey  1932  prussia  horacemann  lancastersystem  frederickjohngladman  mikecaulfield  jamescordiner  prussianmodel  frederickengels  shermandorn  alvintoffler  johntaylorgatto  davidbrooksm  monitorialsystem  khanacademy  stevedenning  rickhess  us  policy  change  urgency  futureshock  1970  bellsystem  madrassystem  davidstow  victorcousin  salmankhan 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Machines Are Coming - NYTimes.com
"But computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.

Machines aren’t used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a “good enough” job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans. Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency.

This used to be spoken about more openly. An ad in 1967 for an automated accounting system urged companies to replace humans with automated systems that “can’t quit, forget or get pregnant.” Featuring a visibly pregnant, smiling woman leaving the office with baby shower gifts, the ads, which were published in leading business magazines, warned of employees who “know too much for your own good” — “your good” meaning that of the employer. Why be dependent on humans? “When Alice leaves, will she take your billing system with her?” the ad pointedly asked, emphasizing that this couldn’t be fixed by simply replacing “Alice” with another person.

The solution? Replace humans with machines. To pregnancy as a “danger” to the workplace, the company could have added “get sick, ask for higher wages, have a bad day, aging parent, sick child or a cold.” In other words, be human."



"This is the way technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers’ dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Many technological developments contribute to this shift in power: advanced diagnostic systems that can do medical or legal analysis; the ability to outsource labor to the lowest-paid workers, measure employee tasks to the minute and “optimize” worker schedules in a way that devastates ordinary lives. Indeed, regardless of whether unemployment has gone up or down, real wages have been stagnant or declining in the United States for decades. Most people no longer have the leverage to bargain.

In the 1980s, the Harvard social scientist Shoshana Zuboff examined how some workplaces used technology to “automate” — take power away from the employee — while others used technology differently, to “informate” — to empower people.

For academics, software developers and corporate and policy leaders who are lucky enough to live in this “informate” model, technology has been good. So far. To those for whom it’s been less of a blessing, we keep doling out the advice to upgrade skills. Unfortunately, for most workers, technology is used to “automate” the job and to take power away.

And workers already feel like they are powerless as it is. Last week, low-wage workers around the country demonstrated for a $15-an-hour wage, calling it economic justice. Those with college degrees may not think that they share a problem with these workers, who are fighting to reclaim some power with employers, but they do. The fight is poised to move up the skilled-labor chain.

Optimists insist that we’ve been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills. But that is not a sufficient answer. One historical example is no guarantee of future events, and we won’t be able to compete by trying to stay one step ahead in a losing battle.

This cannot just be about machines’ capabilities or human skills, since the true solution lies in neither. Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities.

It’s easy to imagine an alternate future where advanced machine capabilities are used to empower more of us, rather than control most of us. There will potentially be more time, resources and freedom to share, but only if we change how we do things. We don’t need to reject or blame technology. This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
zeyneptufekci  future  automation  robots  labor  work  machiens  humans  2015  empowerment  control  surveillance  economics  history  technology  wages  shoshanazuboff 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages. [emotional-labor.email]
"emotional-labor.email
Automate emotional labor in Gmail messages.

Lighten up your email with the Emotional Labor extension. Works on any email sent through Gmail.

First write an email. Then click the smiley face to brighten up the tone of the email before sending."

[Describes in this post:
https://medium.com/message/canned-email-eb6f4ba843d9

"I feel more acutely aware of the strain of feigned enthusiasm when I am writing email. I guess it is not much different than day to day interactions like answering “things are going good” when asked, when actually things are not so great. But some email correspondence feels like a race to collect and dispense exclamation marks and xoxos. As if we could cash them all in for prizes upon achieving — Darth Vader voice, flashlight under chin — inbox zero.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxooxoxooxooxoooooooooxooxoxoxooxoxo!!!!!!!!!!!

That paragraph I just wrote appears more cynical than I intended. But that’s my point. It is hard to communicate in words. It is work. What was once the concern of professional writers is now a burden we all share, as we communicate all day long over email and texts.

We might garnish our messages with emoticons and emojis like strewing garland and bunting to demonstrate emotion. Sometimes that comes out naturally. But that fake smile, “yeah, things are going good,” way of deflecting attention, and containing unhappiness, plays out differently in written correspondence. When I attempt to display an emotion I don’t actually feel over email, I fret over sounding insincere or abrupt or otherwise upsetting someone unintentionally.

That’s why I made this: the Emotional Labor email extension. Install it in Chrome, then click on the smiley face after composing an email in Gmail to brighten up the mood of the letter. It replaces serious words with playful ones, swaps out periods for exclamation marks, and a adds cheerful introductory text.

Everyone has a story you tell again and again. But you alter it a bit upon each re-telling don’t you? You edit it for length, you play up certain details depending upon company. Customer service is where that line blurs. It can be impossible to tell whether a voice on the phone is automated or a real person speaking committedly to a script.

I was inspired to create the extension after many futile attempts to start using canned responses. “Canned responses” — email written in advance to send again and again — is a common bullet point on content listicles suggesting ways someone might improve their productivity. Canned responses are kind of like a one-on-one FAQ. If people often ask directions to your office, you can write a canned response to send rather than writing the directions out over and over. Or, if you are a vendor that often receives the same question from customers, you can send a canned response with the answer instead of cutting-and-pasting again and again. I have a few shortcuts for texting on my phone (autocorrect “OMW” to “On my way!” has saved me precious seconds when I’ve needed to remove my gloves to text someone in the cold.) But I never found a reason to use canned answers. Nothing in my life is structured for its use.

The Emotional Labor extension is also a response to an app released last year: Romantimatic. It automates sending texts like “I love you” and other sweet nothings to a person’s love interest. While canned answers were developed for professional use, the Romantimatic app less ambiguously demonstrates where credence to authenticity should outweigh urgency and obligation. One of the suggested messages to send is “I can’t get you off my mind,” which is ridiculously untrue if this app is in use.

The Emotional Labor email extension looks fake. That’s the point. I wanted to reveal my exhaustion, my fatigue in needing to attend to so much correspondence. Until there is an emoticon for “Things are kind of not great but I don’t want to disturb you let’s just pretend things are fine,” that’s the grey area where this project resides. I made this to reveal the friction in my indecisiveness — how many xs do I normally sign off — one, two, three?

Perhaps it may be of some use!!!! Or, at the very least, I hope you find it amusing!!!!!

XOXO"]
extensions  gmail  email  joannemcneil  writing  communication  2015  tone  correspondence  automation  emotions  emotionallabor  cannedresponses  productivity 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The real robot economy and the bus ticket inspector | Science | The Guardian
"Hidden in these everyday, mundane interactions are different moral or ethical questions about the future of AI: if a job is affected but not taken over by a robot, how and when does the new system interact with a consumer? Is it ok to turn human social intelligence – managing a difficult customer – into a commodity? Is it ok that a decision lies with a handheld device, while the human is just a mouthpiece?

What does this mean for the second wave robot economy?

Mike Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey from Oxford University have studied the risk of automation in the US economy, concluding that 47 per cent of jobs in the current workforce are at high risk of computerisation. They come to this conclusion by looking for jobs that can’t be automated; the 47 per cent is what’s left over. In their model, there are three bottlenecks that prevent automation:
…occupations that involve complex perception and manipulation tasks, creative intelligence tasks, and social intelligence tasks are unlikely to be substituted by computer capital over the next decade or two.


These are bottlenecks which technological advances will find it hard to overcome. The authors predict that the next decade will see steps forward in the algorithms that automate cognitive tasks, including cutting edge techniques like machine learning, artificial intelligence and mobile robotics.

This second wave of the robot economy follows a first wave that automated manufacturing and repetitive manual tasks. So many of the desk jobs that our parents and grandparents would have done, like typing and manual data entry, are now becoming obsolete. And according to Osborne and Frey, some of the jobs that are most at risk of automation, were formerly present in droves at many city offices. This includes the likes of accountants, legal clerks and book keepers - dying breeds, and casualties of the robot economy. But Osborne and Frey think that tasks like navigating complex environments, creative thinking and social influence and persuasion will not be automated as part of these advances.

Some of my colleagues are interested in the second kind of task – creativity. They are working with Osborne and Frey to understand how resistant the creative economy is to automation: how many jobs in the creative economy involve truly creative tasks (if that’s not tautologous). Preliminary results look pretty good for creative occupations. 87 per cent are at low or no risk of automation.

Maybe service occupations where persuasion and influence are important will be saved too. The bus ticket inspector requires exactly the kind of social intelligence that Osborne and Frey argue a machine cannot replicate. But this doesn’t take into account the subtleties I witnessed on the top deck of the 76. It may not be job titles or wages that are most affected by the day-to-day of a robot economy. Automation of parts of a job, or of the context that someone works in, means that jobs not taken by machines are fundamentally changed in other ways. We may become slaves to hardwired decision-making systems.

To avoid this, we need to design human-machine jobs with the humans who will be part of them. I met Carla Brodley, Computer Scientist from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in the US a few months ago. She has applies advanced computing techniques to med­ical imaging, diagnosis and neu­ro­science. Brodley has publicly argued that the most interesting problems for machine learning come from real world uses of these computational techniques. She says the tough bit of her job is knowing when and how to bring the expert - doctor, radiologist, scientist - into the design of the algorithm. But she is avid that the success of her work depends entirely on this kind of user-led computational design. We need to find a Brodley for the bus ticket inspector."

[via: "'The real robot economy and the bus ticket inspector' @pesska on why we need user-led computational design."
https://twitter.com/Superflux/status/567745423163789312 ]
automation  robots  2015  design  jessicabland  computationaldesign  technology  london  mikeosborne  carlbenediktfrey  computerization  economics  services  socialintelligence  ai  artificialintelligence 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Chain restaurants are killing us: Billionaire bankers, minimum-wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation - Salon.com
"At both the corporate and the franchise level, industry officials are keeping their mouths shut about the strike, and for obvious reasons. Acknowledging worker discontent is a no-win situation for enterprises that have invested so much in depicting themselves as enclaves of family-friendly happiness. I mean, nothing deflates a carefully constructed brand image like an angry worker standing out front screaming about not being able to vaccinate her six-month-old on said brand’s lousy pay.

However, the industry’s D.C. attack dog, Rick Berman, felt no such compunction, and commenced snarling immediately. On the day of the strike in August 2013, his Employment Policies Institute ran a full- page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal featuring a big photo of a Japanese kitchen robot. The fast-food protests “aren’t a battle against management,” the ad proclaimed, but a “battle against technology.” Should workers push too hard for super-size wages, shiny automatons might well be deployed in restaurants across the country, making you-know-who totally redundant.

The ad’s implication was that companies employ humans as an act of charity. If those ingrate humans mouth off too much, those noble companies will just go ahead and take the bottom-line steps they’ve magnanimously refrained from taking until now. “Hard work” and an “honest living” actually mean nothing in this world; capital means everything. Look on my technology, ye powerless, and despair!

I thought about that nightmare of automation for quite a while after Berman’s ad ran. It has a grain of truth to it, of course. Journalists have been replaced with bloggers and crowdsourcing. Factory hands have been replaced with robots. University professors are being replaced with adjuncts and MOOCs. What else might the god Efficiency choose to de-skill?

Here’s a suggestion: the ideological carnival barkers in D.C. As I watched the creaking libertarian apparatus go into action, sending its suit-and-tie spokesmen before the cameras to denounce unions and order fast-food workers to shut up, I wondered how long capital would tolerate its old-fashioned existence. In many cases, these people haven’t had an original thought in years. Their main job is to appear concerned on Fox News and collect a six-figure sinecure at some industry-subsidized think tank. To say that they “work hard” for an “honest living” is to bend meaning to the point where its fragile chicken bones snap beneath its rubbery flesh. In a sane world, they are the ones who would be most profitably replaced, their space in the CNBC octobox taken by Hatsune Miku–style projections, attractive Republican holograms whose free-market patter could be easily cued up by a back-office worker in Bangalore."
fastfood  2014  thomasfrank  chains  economics  capitalism  globalization  banking  minimumwage  us  technology  ideology  health  cities  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cars  deproffessionaliazation  automation  efficiency  productivity  obesity  power  control  inequality  work  labor 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Rem Koolhaas in the country - Icon Magazine
"Rem Koolhaas thinks that too little attention is paid to the countryside, where change is happening at a faster rate than in most cities. In this illustrated essay, the OMA founder argues that architects need to take stock of a new agricultural revolution"



"Based on these observations, we began realising that there is a totally new condition taking place in the countryside.

Yet practically all our attention goes to the red (urbanised) areas which physically constitute a very small part of the world.

In architecture books we are bombarded with statistics confirming the ubiquity of the urban condition, while the symmetrical question is ignored – what are those moving to the city leaving behind?

The rest, a significantly larger section of the world, falls under neglect and lack of knowledge.

However, it is subject to the same market forces encountered in cities.

You could therefore see the countryside as a place where people are disappearing from. In this void new processes are taking place and new experiments and developments are being made.

At this scale, agriculture is being increasingly submitted to the market economy and now this is the new state, a more digitalised landscape.

This new digital frontier is changing the way we understand even the most far removed environments and they are becoming better known than many parts of the city. There is a software, Helveta, that enables people in the Amazon to identify and track every single tree. Swathes of forest are now carefully inventorised environments and tribesmen are turned into digital infomers.

A colossal new order of rigour is appearing everywhere. A feed lot for cows is organised like the most rigid city and server farms are being hidden in remote forests and deserts – the countryside being the ideal situation for these types of conditions.

Today, a hyper-Cartesian order is being imposed on the countryside, enabling the poeticism and arbitrariness, once associated with it, to now be reserved for cities.

The countryside is now the frontline of transformation. A world formerly dictated by the seasons and the organisation of agriculture is now a toxic mix of genetic experiment, science, industrial nostalgia, seasonal immigration, territorial buying sprees, massive subsidies, incidental inhabitation, tax incentives, investment, political turmoil, in other words more volatile than the most accelerated city.

The countryside is an amalgamation of tendencies that are outside our overview and outside our awareness. Our current obsession with only the city is highly irresponsible because you cannot understand the city without understanding the countryside.

We are now only beginning to increase our understanding of conditions that were previously unexplored – a process to continue further."
remkoolhaas  ruricomp  cities  urban  urbanism  automation  change  2014  rural  economics  transformation  capitalism  production  oma  agriculture  countryside  farming 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Toward a Luddite Pedagogy - Hybrid Pedagogy
"In stark contrast to the fluffy talk of a thousand “revolutions” coming from plush conference halls in places like Long Beach, California – talk that reduces serious political discourse to the level of a sales pitch – the Luddites were willing to pay the ultimate price for a real revolution in the prevailing power relations, hoping to build a social order that forward-thinking people like the Luddites might be able to believe in.

A Luddite pedagogy for the 21st century

Just as the 19th century Luddism was interested far more in a forward-looking political agenda than in particular pieces of technology, so a 21st century Luddism in education will be concerned with more important issues than whether or not allowing pupils to use their own devices in class is a good idea. Like their political ancestors, the Luddite pedagogues will wield a hammer, but they won’t see any urgency in bringing it down on trivial things like touch-screen gadgetry. Instead, the targets lie elsewhere.

One place they lie is in the false talk of liberation that has gained popularity among people using the #edtech hashtag. A Luddite pedagogy is a pedagogy of liberation, and, as such, it clashes head on with the talk of liberation peddled by advocates of edtech. According to the latter, the child, previously condemned to all the unbearably oppressive restrictions of having to learn in groups, can now be liberated by the tech that makes a 1:1 model of education feasible, launching each and every child on an utterly personal learning journey. Liberation as personalisation – here the Luddite finds something that ought to be smashed.

But what needs to be smashed is less the pedagogy itself than the idea of freedom it rests on – the more general political notion that freedom is all about freeing individuals from social constraints so that they can pursue their personal projects unhampered by the claims of society. This is the essentially liberal idea championed by Sir Ken Robinson, for instance, for whom it is enough for individuals to find things to do that they enjoy and that allow them to develop a talent.

But we need to be clear here: Luddism doesn’t want to smash the concern for personal freedom, rather it wants to smash the idea that it is enough. The untruth of personalisation is its unjustified narrowing of the horizon of liberation."



"A Luddite pedagogy takes its cue from this need to build (and later maintain) a world – a society – of a certain sort. And in pursuing this end, the Luddite hammer has to be brought down again on a number of currently dominant assumptions about education.

One is the assumption that education must be child-centred. Luddites laugh at the assumption that education must have a single centre. No, it has two (as Hannah Arendt argued). It must also be centred on the needs of the society whose construction and maintenance depend partly on education. Rather than the ideal of letting the child pursue his or her curiosity unconstrained (an impossible ideal in any case), Luddite teachers are right to cultivate the broadest possible engagement with the world that children will find themselves bearing responsibility for in the future.

And this means that the education of children at its best is less about personalisation than socialisation. And, no, it is not a form of indoctrination beginning with infants being frogmarched around the schoolyard before being compelled to learn the Little Red Book off by heart.

This does not imply any antithesis to solitary work or personal choice or occasional use of 1:1 techniques. All it entails is the inclusion of these in the broader framework of an education taking place chiefly in a school outside the home, where children can be introduced to the habits, values, ideas and ways of thinking that are crucial to a free society.

Like all societies, that free society, at the very least needs to be able to use the pronoun “we”. We can only achieve freedom historically if we find ourselves among people similarly engaged by the questions of who we are, what we are doing, what we believe and what makes sense to us. As preparation for this, a crucial initial task of school is to enable children to feel that they are part of a larger whole beyond the family, and then to equip them and inspire them to carry on the dialogue about the beliefs and ideas and frameworks of sense that hold society together."



"Because of the centrality in that debate of the questions about who we are, what we are doing, what we believe the Luddite pedagogy entails what might be called a Delphic model of education (recalling the inscription outside the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Know Thyself), and it entails bringing the Luddite hammer down hard on the liberal taboo against what we would call an education in belief (and they would call indoctrination).

The broader liberal framework of personalising edtech requires keeping values out of education as much as possible, except as things to be studied “objectively” (e.g. in the form of comparative religion, where belief systems are presented without being questioned and evaluated). Only a minimal set of values are to be openly endorsed: chiefly the values of a respect for the facts and logic, combined with the minimal liberal agenda of tolerance, peace, and the value of a sort of idle critical thinking (idle because it is not really in earnest about criticising other systems of belief – that would be too illiberal).

A Luddite pedagogy puts the non-idle interrogation of values at the centre of the curriculum, at least in the high school, when children have a broad enough background to draw on when making their critical appraisals of ideas about value – the aim being to help children begin to think more deeply about what we believe and what makes sense and what doesn’t."
tornhalves  luddites  history  2014  luddism  edtech  education  socialization  democracy  learning  howwelearn  individualization  technology  1:1  kenrobinson  tcsnmy  freedom  collectivism  collectivity  debate  discourse  curriculum  walterbenjamin  hannaarendt  progress  disruption  mechanization  automation  atomization  subservience  revolution  neoluddism  society  unschooling  deschooling  personalization  schools  schooling  child-centered  children  1to1 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Why Tech Still Hasn't Solved Education's Problems - The Atlantic
"Why is that? Why has the promised boom in educational technology failed to appear—and why was the technology that did appear not very good?

Paul Franz has a guess as to why. Franz taught in Hawaii before, in 2011, researching ed tech as a doctoral candidate at Stanford. He’s now a language arts teacher in California. On his Twitter feed Sunday, he gave some reasons why the ed tech buzz seems to have simply disappeared. They mirror my own sentiment, that education is a uniquely difficult challenge, both technically and socially, and that its difficulty confounds attempts to “disrupt” it.

Here are his thoughts:

"It's so liberating to spend my mental energy thinking about how to be a good teacher.

What I'm doing now is more fulfilling and more meaningful. I was around ed tech long enough to see that it's mostly hot air.

The problem with ed tech, add a sector, is not that it is capitalistic. It's that education is so much more complicated than anything else.

Seriously. MOOC hype, for example, was a classic case of techies and entrepreneurs not even remotely understanding how learning works.

Don't get me wrong. There are some good people at Coursera and all. But that they're not going to revolutionize anything is clear by now.

And they never were because education poses social, economic, cultural, and psychological problems they aren't equipped to address.

So it's all well and good that some people learn some skills through MOOCs, but that does not a revolution make.

In short, designing for learning is hard. Pretending that all it takes is faster computers and more money is foolish.

That's a core tenet of technological determinism though... Faster computers and more money solve everything.

Thing is, again, education poses the hardest problems. Harder than software can solve.

There was no app in the world that would have made a whit of difference with the kids I worked with in Hawaii with NALU Studies.

People made a difference.

The best educational technology we have is always our attention."

“I don't think that technology / software are irrelevant to the challenges in education, but I think by their very nature there are issues they can't address,” he added in an email response:

Thinking about software as the primary way of solving problems (in any field) forces us to frame problems in terms that software is capable of addressing. That's especially dangerous in education because solving educational problems involves leveraging knowledge and expertise from pretty much every other social science (anthropology, economics, psychology, political science, etc), not to mention knowledge from content areas. Software might be good at categorizing and organizing knowledge, but it's not so good at synthesizing and applying knowledge in the creative, and often highly contextualized and personalized, ways that educators and educational leaders have to employ every day."
paulfranz  robinsonmeyer  mooc  moocs  edtech  education  teaching  learning  technology  attention  software  howweteach  cv  schools  automation  hardproblems  2014  via:caseygollan 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Lying is the best and often also the most ethical way to get a job. at Everything In Between
"For $150, this guy bought a fake résumé & callable references in an industry he’s never worked in. And got hired:
For a small fee, CareerExcuse.com promises to not only craft an elaborate lie based on your exact job specifications but to see it through for as long as necessary. The site will provide a live HR operator and staged supervisor, along with building and hosting a virtual company website—complete with a local phone number and toll-free fax. CareerExcuse will even go so far as to make the fake business show up on Google Maps.

William Schmidt started the site in 2009, after being let go from his job in a round of layoffs during the lowest depths of the recession.

“While we were all unemployed, a couple of my former coworkers asked me to act as their reference for job interviews,” Schmidt recalled. “I did it for free for my friends, but then I realized that this is some there’s a pretty big demand for. It was something I could take to the public.”

He was right. Within the first 24 hours of launching the CareerExcuse site, Schmidt had already received multiple order for his services. He’s quick to brush off ethical concerns, citing horror stories from his clients about being mistreated by their former employers (and thus being unable to acquire a reference) and noting that it becomes more difficult to land a job the longer someone’s been unemployed.

Employment is a racket. So is college.

I dropped out of middle school and never went back to any educational institution, because they’re liars and thieves. All “employable” skills I have I learned while on the very same jobs that I told my hiring managers I already knew how to do, but didn’t until after I got hired, of course.

My first job was in telemarketing, and I was terrible because I spent most of my time trying to find ways around the Windows kiosk so I could play minesweeper. Then they “promoted” me to the office, and I automated my admin assistant job to the point of the push of a button. I’d come to work, press my “do my job” button, and spend the rest of my day reading programming books and learning about Web servers.

I never told my boss that I had automated my job. Why would I? Jobs are intended to take the one thing that’s most valuable away from you: your time.

Eventually, of course, my bosses were finally so impressed with my “efficiency” that they wanted to promote me to an Assistant Database Administrator position with the actual IT department of the company, as opposed to the administrative office assistant position. They thought they were offering me something awesome: a decent raise and a lot more “challenging work.” So, obviously, when presented with the promotion opportunity, I quit on the spot.

The look of surprise on their faces was absolutely priceless.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Now I live out of my car because I recognize that jobs are fundamentally unethical and coercive way of organizing human labor. Jobs are what people do when they are being crushed by the system. Jobs don’t produce social value. They’re a starvation mitigation strategy."
meitarmoscovitz  2014  employment  jobs  education  liars  lying  capitalism  efficiency  productivity  work  labor  resumes  jobapplications  williamschmidt  careerexcuse  dropouts  unschooling  deschooling  learning  automation 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Google's chief economist describes life in the robot-run economy in 1 meaty quote | VentureBeat | Business | by Gregory Ferenstein
"If ‘displace more jobs’ means ‘eliminate dull, repetitive, and unpleasant work,’ the answer would be yes. How unhappy are you that your dishwasher has replaced washing dishes by hand, your washing machine has displaced washing clothes by hand, or your vacuum cleaner has replaced hand cleaning?

My guess is this ‘job displacement’ has been very welcome, as will the ‘job displacement’ that will occur over the next 10 years. The work week has fallen from 70 hours a week to about 37 hours now, and I expect that it will continue to fall. This is a good thing.

Everyone wants more jobs and less work. Robots of various forms will result in less work, but the conventional work week will decrease, so there will be the same number of jobs (adjusted for demographics, of course). This is what has been going on for the last 300 years so I see no reason that it will stop in the decade.”

There is solid evidence that many low-skilled employees are working less, but the reverse is not true for high-skilled employees. In other words, the low-paid routine jobs just aren’t paying enough, and that’s an incentive for employers to replace people with machines."



"Though inequality in itself could have major problems. One browser engineer at Mozilla argued, “I predict large societal upheavals as the gap between highly skilled (and highly paid) workers and a high proportion of partially or totally unemployed people continues to widen.”

It’s an open question about whether the robot-job apocalypse will be good or bad. Pew surveyed more than 1,000 experts. You can read the full report here."
economics  automation  inequality  labor  work  2014  halvarian  society  universalbasicincome  ubi 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma — The Message — Medium
"In fact, automation usually follows this path: first, the job is broken down into pieces, and “lower-end” pieces are first outsourced to cheaper labor (China in the 20th century or rural laborers that fled to cities in 19th century), then automated and replaced with machines, then integrated into even more powerful machines.

And this automation always moves up the value chain. First, the machine does the arithmetic, but the human is still solving the integrals. Then Matlab comes for the integrals. Next, machines are doing mathematical proofs, and so up it goes the value chain, often until it hits a regulatory block, hence Silicon Valley’s constant desire to undermine regulation and licensing. Doctors are somewhat safe, for example, because of licensing requirements, but technology can find a way around that, too: witness the boom in cheaper radiologists located in India, reading US-based patients x-rays and MRIs; and “homework tutors” that tutor US-based kids remotely from China.

For example, it was nurses who used to take blood pressure. Then it became nurse’s assistants or physician’s assistant—much lower-paid jobs that require less training. Then came machines that perform a reasonable job taking your blood pressure, and the job became even less skilled. More and more, you only see your doctor for a few minutes so that her highly-paid time is dedicated to only that which she can do—is licensed to do—, and everything else is either automated or done by someone paid much less.

This arrangement has advantages but it is not without trade-offs. Your doctor will miss anything that requires a broader eye and reflection, because she’s spending very little time with you, and the information she has about you in front of her is low bandwidth—whatever the physician’s assistant checked on a chart. She may or may not notice your slightly pale skin if it’s not noted on the chart. Most of the time, that’s okay. Sometimes, though, patients spend months and years in this “low-bandwidth” medical care environment while nobody puts two-and-two-and-three-and-that-pale-skin and wait-didn’t-you-have-a-family-history-of-kidney-disease together.

Occasionally, loss of holistic awareness due to division of labor between humans and machines ends up in disasters."



"It’s those face-to-face professions, ones in which being in contact with another human being are important, that are growing in numbers—almost every other profession is shrinking, numerically.

No there won’t be a shortage of engineers and programmers either—engineers and programmers, better than anyone, should know that machine intelligence is coming for them fairly soon, and will move up the value chain pretty quickly. Also, much of this “shortage”, too, is about controlling workers and not paying them—note how Silicon Valley colluded to not pay its engineers too much, even as the companies in question had hoarded billions in cash. In a true shortage under market conditions, companies would pay more to that which was scarce. Instead, wages are stagnant in almost all professions, including technical ones.

Many of these jobs BLS says will grow, however, are only there for the grace-of-the-generation that still wants to see a cashiers while checking out—and besides, they are low-paid jobs. Automation plus natural language processing by machines is going to obliterate through those jobs in the next decade or two. (Is anyone ready for the even worse labor crisis that will ensue?) Machines will take your order at the fast-food joint, they will check out your groceries without having to scan them, it will become even harder to get a human on the customer service line.

What’s left as jobs is those transactions in which the presence of the human is something more than a smiling face that takes your order and enters into another machine—the cashier and the travel agent that has now been replaced by us, in the “self-serve” economy.

What’s left is deep emotional labor: taking care of each other.

And emotional labor is already greatly devalued: notice how most of it is so little paid: health-aides and pre-school teachers are among the lowest paid jobs even though the the work is difficult and requires significant skill and emotional labor. It’s also crucial work: economists estimate a good kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year, when measured as adult outcomes of those children she teaches well. (And yes, devalued emotional labor is mostly a female job around the world—and the gendered nature of this reality is a whole other post).

And the argument, now is that we should turn care over to machines as well, because, there is a “shortage of humans”.

What are seven billion people supposed to do? Scour Task Rabbit hoping that the few percent who will have money to purchase services have some desires that still require a human?

Turning emotional labor to machines isn't just economically destructive; it’s the very description of inhuman.

In my view, warehousing elderly and children—especially children with disabilities—in rooms with machines that keep them busy, when large numbers of humans beings around the world are desperate for jobs that pay a living wage is worse than the Dickensian nightmares of mechanical industrialization, it’s worse than the cold, alienated workplaces depicted by Kafka."



"So where to go? Here’s where not to go. Expecting all care work to be unpaid and done voluntarily (almost solely by women) is not the path forward.

I don’t mourn if Deep Blue beats Kasparov. Chess is a fine game, but it’s a pretty rigid game, invented by us as a game exactly because it doesn't play to our strengths—that’s why it’s a challenge and a game worth playing. If we were naturally good at it, there’d be no point to it as a game. I don’t mourn not having to dig ditches—though abandoning our flesh as if it were irrelevant is turning out not to be a good idea. Many of us hop on exercise machines that go nowhere to counter our coerced sedentary lifestyle, a development surely bemusing to our ditch-digging ancestors.

But surely we should mourn if we put our elderly and our children in “care” of metal objects animated by software because we, the richest society globally the world has ever seen, with so much abundance of wealth that there are persistent asset bubbles—indicating piles of wealth looking for something anything to invest in—as well as hundreds of millions, if not billions, of under and unemployed people around the world looking for a way to make a living in a meaningful way, cannot bring together the political will to remain human through taking care of each other, and making a decent living doing so."
automation  capitalism  economics  jobs  work  labor  2014  relationships  zeyneptufekci  edtech  care  caring  purpose  dehumanization  humanism  humans  society  childcare  aging  elderly  industrialization  emotionallabor  shrequest1  softskills 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Nightmare on Connected Home Street | Gadget Lab | WIRED
"I wake up at four to some old-timey dubstep spewing from my pillows. The lights are flashing. My alarm clock is blasting Skrillex or Deadmau5 or something, I don’t know. I never listened to dubstep, and in fact the entire genre is on my banned list. You see, my house has a virus again.

Technically it’s malware. But there’s no patch yet, and pretty much everyone’s got it. Homes up and down the block are lit up, even at this early hour. Thankfully this one is fairly benign. It sets off the alarm with music I blacklisted decades ago on Pandora. It takes a picture of me as I get out of the shower every morning and uploads it to Facebook. No big deal.

I don’t sleep well anyway, and already had my Dropcam Total Home Immersion account hacked, so I’m basically embarrassment-proof. And anyway, who doesn’t have nudes online? Now, Wat3ryWorm, that was nasty. That was the one with the 0-day that set off everyone’s sprinkler systems on Christmas morning back in ’22. It did billions of dollars in damage.

Going back to sleep would be impossible at this point, so I drag myself into the kitchen to make coffee. I know this sounds weird, but I actually brew coffee with a real kettle. The automatic coffee machine is offline. I had to pull its plug because it was DDOSing a gaming server in Singapore. Basically, my home is a botnet. The whole situation makes me regret the operating system I installed years ago, but there’s not much I can do. I’m pretty much stuck with it.



I sit down with my coffee and fire up the short throw projector embedded in the kitchen table. The news is depressing, so I flip through a Redfin search I started last night in bed. There are these houses up in Humboldt County that are listed in the inundation zone, so they were never required to upgrade. That was a cartography error; even if sea levels go up another 20 feet they would still be above the water line. They’re rustic, and don’t even have high energy automobile docks. But the idea of getting off the grid really appeals to me, even if it’s just a fantasy.

The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning."
automation  iot  mathonan  2014  speculativefiction  smarthomes  malware  technology  caution  internetofthings 
july 2014 by robertogreco
cantino/huginn · GitHub
"Huginn is a system for building agents that perform automated tasks for you online. They can read the web, watch for events, and take actions on your behalf. Huginn's Agents create and consume events, propagating them along a directed event flow graph. Think of it as Yahoo! Pipes plus IFTTT on your own server. You always know who has your data. You do."
automation  ruby  ifttt  github  yahoopipes  onlinetoolkit 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Alex Payne — Dear Marc Andreessen
"If we’re gonna throw around Marxist terminology, though, can we at least keep Karl’s ideas intact? Workers prosper when they own the means of production. The factory owner gets rich. The line worker, not so much.

Owning a smartphone is not the equivalent of owning a factory. I paid for my iPhone in full, but Apple owns the software that runs on it, the patents on the hardware inside it, and the exclusive right to the marketplace of applications for it. If I want to participate in their marketplace, Apple can arbitrarily reject my application, extract whatever cut of my sales they see fit, and change the terms whenever they like. Same story with their scant competitors.

It seemed like a lot of people were going to get rich in the “app economy”. Outside of Apple and Google, it turns out, not so much. For every WhatsApp there are thousands of failures.

The real money in tech is in platforms, network effects, scale. Sell pickaxes and jeans to the miners, right? Only today it’s Amazon selling the pickaxes. The startup with its servers on EC2 is about as likely to find gold as a ’49er panhandler. Before the startup goes out of business, Amazon gets paid.

Investors, shrinking in number but growing in wealth and political influence, own the means of digital production. Everyone else is doing shift work and hoping they still have jobs tomorrow.

You spent a lot of paragraphs on back-of-the-napkin economics describing the coming Awesome Robot Future, addressing the hypotheticals. What you left out was the essential question: who owns the robots?"



"Sure, technology that enhances productivity can make products and services cheaper. Emerging technologies can also create demand for things that are inherently expensive – cutting-edge medical procedures and treatments, for example – driving up costs in entire economic sectors.

Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn’t going to make it happen. Though technological progress has sped up over recent decades of capitalist expansion, most people on the planet are in need of a safety net today. The market hasn’t been there to catch them. Why is this different in Awesome Robot Future? Did I miss one of Asimov’s Laws that says androids are always programmed to be more socially-minded than neoliberals?

I appreciate that smart, ambitious people like you are thinking about a future of universal prosperity. You borrow terminology from finance in saying that you’re “way long human creativity”. While I’m creeped out by the commodification of our species’s ingenuity, I appreciate the sentiment. If our industry stops painting anyone who questions our business models as Luddites and finds creative ways to build products and services that sustainably address real needs, maybe we can hold on to the receding myth of triumphal disruption. Hopefully we can agree that there are many more meaningful quality of life improvements technology has yet to deliver on before we can start brainstorming the “luxury goods markets” of the future.

Meanwhile, we don’t need to wait until a hypercapitalist techno-utopia emerges to do right by our struggling neighbors. We could make the choice to pay for universal health care, higher education, and a basic income tomorrow. Instead, you’re kicking the can down the road and hoping the can will turn into a robot with a market solution."
automation  capitalism  economics  inequality  alexpayne  socialsafetynet  2014  marcandreessen  libertarianism  technosolutionism  californianideology  neoliberalism  miltonfriedman  technology  marxism 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Who Really Owns The Internet? - The Awl
"Can we solve the issues that you talk about without radically reorganizing the economy?

No. (Laughs) Which I think is why I’ve been so active. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with all these writers who are coming up who found each other through Occupy, and why all of us were willing to participate in that uprising despite all the problems and the occasional ridiculousness of it.

But the economy can be revolutionized or the economy can be reformed, and I don’t discount the latter option. That level of social change happens in unpredictable ways. It’s actually harder to think of a revolutionary event that has had a positive outcome, whereas there have been lots of reforms and lots of things that people have done on the edges that have had powerful consequences. Would I like to see an economic revolution? Definitely. But I think there are a lot of ways to insert a kind of friction into the system that can be beneficial.

This book is about economics, and the amazing, probably very American ability to not talk about economics—particularly with technology, which is supposed to be this magical realm, so pure and disruptive and unpredictable that it transcends economic conditions and constraints. The basic idea is that that’s not the case.

To a lot of people this is self-evident, but I was surprised at how outside the mainstream conversation that insight was. When money is brought up, there’s this incredible romanticism, like the Yochai Benkler quote about being motivated by things other than money. But we’re talking about platforms that go to Goldman Sachs to handle their IPOs. Money is here. Wake up!"



"When I defend institutions in this book, I knew I might provoke my more radical friends. The position that everything is corrupt—journalism is corrupt, educational institutions are corrupt, publishers are corrupt—sounds great. And on some level it’s true. They’ve disappointed us. But we need more and better—more robust, more accountable—institutions. So I tried to move out of the position of just criticizing those arrangements and enumerating all their flaws and all the ways they’ve failed us. What happens when we’ve burned all these institutions to the ground and it’s just us and Google?"



"Do you have advice for what people—people like me—who write or produce other work for the Internet can do about this situation?

I’m encouraged by all these little magazines that have started in the last few years. Building institutions, even if they’re small, is a very powerful thing, so that we’re less isolated. When you’re isolated, you’re forced into the logic of building our own brand. If you build something together, you’re more able to focus on endeavors that don’t immediately feed into that. That’s what an institution can buy you—the space to focus on other things.

What would help creators more than anything else in this country are things that would help other workers: Real public health care, real social provisions. Artists are people like everybody else; we need the same things as our barista.

I quote John Lennon: "You think you’re so clever and classless and free. One thing we need is an end to artist exceptionalism. When we can see our connection to other precarious people in the economy, that’s when interesting things could happen. When we justify our position with our own specialness…"
2014  astrataylor  internet  economics  occupywallstreet  ows  ip  intellectualproperty  universalbasicincome  marxism  miyatokumitsu  precarity  davidburrgerrard  interviews  small  institutions  scale  art  artists  markets  capitalism  automation  utopia  andrewblum  vancepackard  plannedobsolescence  libertarianism  edwardsnowden  freedom  socialmedia  libraries  advertising  benkunkel  publicbroadcasting  quotas  propaganda  technology  web  online  jessemyerson  utopianism  labor  work  artlabor  strickdebt  ubi 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Should We Automate Education? | EdTech Magazine
"In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, a historical account of the influence that “scientific management” (also known as “Taylorism,” after its developer, Frederick Taylor) had on American schools in the early 20th century — that is, the push to run schools more like factories, where the productivity of workers was measured, controlled and refined.

Callahan’s main argument was that the pressures on the education system to adopt Taylorism resulted neither in more refined ways to teach nor in better ways to learn, but rather, in an emphasis on cost cutting. Efficiency, he argued, “amounted to an analysis of the budget. … Decisions on what should be taught were not made on educational, but on financial grounds.”

Fifty years later, we remain obsessed with creating a more “efficient” educational system (although ironically, we object to schools based on that very “factory model”). Indeed, this might be one of the major promises that educational technologies make: to deliver a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more efficient way to manage schooling.

Deciding What We Want From Education

Adaptive learning — computer-based instruction and assessment that allows each student to move at her or his pace — is perhaps the latest in a series of technologies that promise more ­efficient education. The efficiency here comes, in part, from the focus on the individual — personalization — instead of on an entire classroom of students.

But it’s worth noting that adaptive learning isn’t new. “Intelligent tutoring systems” have been under development for decades now. The term “intelligent tutoring” was coined in the 1980s; research into computer-assisted instruction dates to the 1960s; and programmed instruction predates the computer altogether, with Sidney Pressey’s and B. F. Skinner’s “teaching machines” of the 1920s and 1950s, respectively.

“Education must become more efficient,” Skinner insisted. “To this end, curricula must be revised and simplified, and textbooks and classroom techniques improved.”

Rarely do we ask what exactly “efficiency” in education or ed tech ­entails. Does it mean a reduction in ­errors? Faster learning? Reshaping the curriculum based on market demands? Does it mean cutting labor costs — larger classroom sizes, perhaps, or teachers replaced by machines?

We also often fail to ask why efficiency would be something we would value in education at all. Schools shouldn’t be factories. Students aren’t algorithms.

What happens if we prioritize efficiency in education? By doing so, are we simply upgrading the factory model of schooling with newer technologies? What happens to spontaneity and messiness? What happens to contemplation and curiosity?

There’s danger, I’d argue, in relying on teaching machines — on a push for more automation in education. We forget that we’re teaching humans."
audreywatters  automation  education  edtech  learning  children  humanism  humans  efficiency  2014  1962  raymondcallahan  management  taylorism  factoryschools  schools  industrialeducation  schooling  adaptivelearning  bfskinner  sidneypressey  computers  computing  technology  curiosity  messiness  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling 
april 2014 by robertogreco
BruceS — Predicting 2014
"From 1964, in the New York Times: August 16, 1964, "Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014" by Isaac Asimov"

"The situation will have been made the more serious by the advances of automation. The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction. Part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process. It is not only the techniques of teaching that will advance, however, but also the subject matter that will change. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran” (from “formula translation”).

Even so, mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.

Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!"
2014  isaacasimov  leisurearts  artleisure  automation  work  labor  universalbasicincome  predictions  boredom  society  ubi 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Venus of Google - Matthew Plummer-Fernandez
"The Venus of Google was ‘found’ via a Google search-by-image, googling a photograph taken of an object I had been handed over in a game of exquisite corpse. The Google search returned visually similar results, one of these being an image of a woman modelling a body-wrap garment. I then used a similar algorithmic image-comparison technique to drive the automated design of a 3D printable object. The 'Hill-Climbing' algorithm starts with a plain box shape and tries thousands of random transformations and comparisons between the shape and the image, eventually mutating towards a form resembling the found image in both shape and colour.

I’m interested in this early era of artificial intelligence, computer vision and algorithmic artefacts, exemplifying the paradox of technology being both advanced and primitive at the same time. The Long Tail Multiplier series investigates the potential use of algorithms to create virtually infinite cultural artefacts, inspired by the stories of these algorithmic books and t-shirts."
google  googleimagesearch  art  matthewplummer-fernandez  photography  algorithms  newaesthetic  3dprinting  automation 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking the word | booktwo.org
"If we struggle with online literatures, it is because we struggle to understand the network itself. Writing about the network requires a literacy in technology itself – but like the telephone before it, the Internet feels like a profoundly anti-literary plot device – at least until we develop new and better modes of expression to describe it, and it’s affect on our lives. Literature’s inability to describe meaningfully the technologically augmented contemporary world in which we find ourselves seems to mirror our own.



And so not only must our literatures reflect the ubiquity of the network, they must also account for its communality, and its computationality. Literatures produced by groups, by all of us, and literatures produced by the machines, and by us and the machines.

Fan fiction is the first native literary form of the network. It has existed for a long time, before the internet, but it finds its best home there, outwith the domains of copyright and fixed authorship rigorously enforced elsewhere.



Literary form and tradition is not all that remains to be hacked. The systems of production and distribution are more accessible to us, allowing for new hybrid forms, particularly in non-fiction and journalism, books which bleed out of the network in stages, gathered as firsthand reports on Twitter and BBM, coalescing into blogposts and essays, filtered by editors for online columns and opinion pieces, collected into temporary, unstable ebooks as time allows and slowly solidifying into paper books – which themselves might be revised many times, flipping back to digital, quoted and rewritten. This process, again, may not be entirely new, but it is newly visible, exposed by the network and thus more flexible, more amenable to irruption and reconfiguration.



Our attitude to technology, particularly in literary circles, has for far too long been exclusionary and oppositional, envisioning some kind of battle between the “natural” world of human expression and the “unnatural” chattering of the machines. There have been excellent attempts to breach this divide, in the imaginings of science fiction; the coruscating; spam-filled prose of Stewart Home; Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Uncreative Writing”; the spasming code of Kenji Siratori; and many more. But the true literatures of the network will emerge when we abandon notions of the single-authored work, when we abandon authority entirely, when we write in machine argots and programmatic codes, when we listen to the bots and collaborate with them, when we truly begin to understand, and describe, the technologically-saturated culture we are already living in."

[Also published here: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16298/1/hackyourfuture-hack-the-word ]
jamesbridle  internet  literature  machines  technology  publishing  2013  networkedliterature  networkedfictions  writing  reading  kenjisiratori  kennethgoldsmith  uncreativewriting  authority  coding  fanfiction  process  journalism  books  twitter  online  web  literacy  googlepoertics  timeshaiku  machinewriting  wikipedia  bots  machinelanguage  automation  ebooks  form 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Ten Responses to the Technological Unemployment Problem | THE DECLINE OF SCARCITY
"On the internet and in the media there has been growing discussion of technological unemployment. People are increasingly concerned that automation will displace more and more workers—that in fact there might be no turning back at this point. We may be reaching the end of work as we know it.

What happens if vast numbers of people can no longer make money by selling their labor? How should society respond? What follows is a list of possible responses to technological unemployment. This list may not be complete. If I have missed anything, or misrepresented anyone’s views please say so in the comments below. Also these responses are not meant to be mutually exclusive; many of them can overlap with each other quite nicely."
futurism  politics  economics  snarkmarketseminar  2013  scarcity  abundance  universalbasicincome  technology  unemployment  employement  labor  artleisure  decentralization  capitalism  automation  socialism  incentives  motivation  wealthdistribution  wealth  wealthredistribution  policy  education  innovation  libertarianism  machines  leisurearts  ubi 
june 2013 by robertogreco
SYNDICATED COLUMN: You're Not Underemployed. You're Underpaid. | Ted Rall's Rallblog
"The solution is clear: to guarantee everyone, whether or not he or she holds a job, a minimum salary sufficient to cover housing, transportation, education, medical care and, yes, discretionary income. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in an 18th century mindset. We’re nowhere close to detaching money from work. The Right wants to get rid of the minimum wage. On the Left, advocates for a Universal Living Wage nevertheless stipulate that a decent income should go to those who work a 40-hour week.

Ford proposes a Basic Income Guarantee based on performance of non-work activities; volunteering at a soup kitchen would be considered compensable work. But even this “radical” proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Whatever comes next, revolutionary overthrow or reform of the existing system, Americans are going to have to accept a reality that will be hard for a nation of strivers to take: we’re going to have to start paying people to sit at home."
universallivingwage  gamechanging  workweek  shiftlessness  ai  tedrall  2012  automation  economics  work  via:leisurearts  leisurearts  productivity  basicincomeguarantee  labor  martinford  post-productiveeconomy  universalbasicincome  artleisure  ubi 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Toward Independence – Indiecade 2012 | Molleindustria
"There is a practical way to conceptualize the immensity & absurdity of this continuum. I borrow it from the Utopian & Anarchist thought.

Utopia is by definition unattainable but it provides a direction.

Utopia is a tiny flickering mirage at the horizon.

By the time you reach it Utopia already moved forward…yet an utopian idea is fundamental because it provides a direction.

It encourages you to a constant tactical engagement with the status quo. It pushes you to continuously break away from the forces & entities that make us miserable & are screwing up the world.

This is how I like to think about independence in gaming and in culture.

Not a status but a tension and a direction to pursue.

And the corollary is that we should not be here at these indie festivals to celebrate our little club, to exchange tricks on how to milk the indie brand for profit.

No: we should be here to conspire about how we can be *more* autonomous. About how we can move another steptoward independence."
freedom  independent  indie  corporations  post-fordism  alienation  creativework  automation  capital  autonomy  fordism  history  paolopedercini  cv  improvement  purpose  values  utopian  utopianism  utopianthinking  indiegames  anarchism  control  power  economics  videogames  molleindustria  2012  direction  vision  utopia  capitalism  labor  creativelabor  creativity  making  gamedesign  games  purity  vectors 
december 2012 by robertogreco
The best general advice on earth « the jsomers.net blog
"These are excerpts (emphasis mine) from William James’s 1890 classic, Principles of Psychology, Chapter IV, “Habit”:

1. The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. It is to fund and capitalize our acquisitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the fund.

2. … The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.



4. No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one have not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.

5. … be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it."
wisdom  advice  asceticism  education  focus  automatism  automation  efficiency  1890  williamjames  via:maxfenton 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Scan/flip/spread | Soulellis
"How we author, design and publish language-based communications is undergoing a radical shape-shift. The acceleration of the book (as commodity, technological device, art object) has entered a new stage of evolution in our trajectory towards constant presence and the post-human, and reading—the eye-brain processing of written culture—has much to lose, and gain, in the transformation.

What legacy of the book do we wish to bequeath to the future?

What is the futurestory of the book?

Several attributes of reading that are about to be lost, perhaps only temporarily (patina, olfactory, nostalgic), have opened up deep space for others (gestural, social, access, speed). And even more are on the way, as we prepare for the near-future absorption of the screen into the body (Google Glasses)…

…I propose a series of printed book experiments on the occasion of MutaMorphosis: Tribute to Uncertainty. These are actions of resistance—strategies for countering our growing need to read in haste. Three concepts will direct us to a poetic, if analog, investigation of book/time and the fast/slow speed of reading: scan, flip and spread. Working with found texts, public domain works, bot-generated ephemera and other digital artifacts, a printed book or short series of books that encourages and/or discourages slow reading will be produced as a limited print-on-demand edition for the MutaMorphosis conference (via Espresso Book Machine or other inexpensive digital-to-paper solution). The books will be distributed to all conference participants for discussion (panel, artist’s presentation or otherwise, TBD).

Scan/Flip/Spread puts forward the idea of the fast(er) book (print-on-demand) and braises it with the slow read. The investigation will explore the interface of the printed book—page-to-language ratio, typographic depth and density, page-turn-time, frame, weight, read rhythm, chance, flip speed and other formal aspects of the page; as well as content—questions of narrative, sense, curation and image/word play. Our goal, as a group, will be to create a space to embrace and counter the technologies of automation that are transforming language, visual culture, the page and reading—through the printed book object."
paulvirilio  design  longform  automation  dromosphere  printondemand  mutamorphosis  uncertainty  spread  flip  scan  future  ebooks  bookfuturism  googleglass  speed  access  socialreading  gestures  nostalgia  smell  patina  reading  publishing  books  2012  paulsoulellis  slowreading  slow  selfpublishing  self-publishing 
september 2012 by robertogreco
It's the 21st century – why are we working so much? | Owen Hatherley | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
"American industrial theorists, strangely enough, seemed to share the socialists' view. The designer, engineer and polymath Buckminster Fuller declared that the "industrial equation", ie the fact technology enables mankind to do "more with less", would soon eliminate the very notion of labour altogether. In 1963, he wrote: "[W]ithin a century, the word 'worker' will have no current meaning. It will be something you will have to look up in an early 20th-century dictionary". If that became true over the past 10 years, it was only in the "we are all middle class now" sense of New Labour – not in the sense of actually eliminating menial work, or the divide between workers and owners.

Surveys have long shown that most workers think their jobs are pointless, and looking at the heavily contested vacancies at the average jobcentre – call centre staff, filing clerks and above all the various tasks of the service industry – it's hard to disagree…"
idleness  automation  2012  owenhatherly  buckminsterfuller  technology  socialism  labor  work  leisure 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Large study shows little difference between human and robot essay graders | Inside Higher Ed
"The differences, across a number of different brands of automated essay scoring software (AES) and essay types, were minute. “The results demonstrated that over all, automated essay scoring was capable of producing scores similar to human scores for extended-response writing items,” the Akron researchers write, “with equal performance for both source-based and traditional writing genre.”"
writing  research  via:lukeneff  grading  essays  automation  software 
april 2012 by robertogreco
David Graeber, On Bureaucratic Technologies & the Future as Dream-Time [at SVA]
"The twentieth century produced a very clear sense of what the future was to be, but we now seem unable to imagine any sort of redemptive future. Anthropologist and writer David Graeber asks, "How did this happen?" One reason is the replacement of what might be called poetic technologies with bureaucratic ones. Another is the terminal perturbations of capitalism, which is increasingly unable to envision any future at all. Presented by the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department."
occupywallstreet  ows  anarchism  davidgraeber  alvintoffler  timothyleary  futurism  situationist  capitalism  collapse  economics  anthropology  robots  robotfactories  future  labor  efficiency  sva  self-governance  paperwork  decentralization  scifi  sciencefiction  humanrights  corruption  politics  policy  organization  2012  startrek  automation  technology 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Uncreative Writing - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"W/ an unprecedented amount of available text, our problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate vast quantity that exists. How I make my way through this thicket of info—how I manage it, parse it, organize & distribute it—is what distinguishes my writing from yours.

…Marjorie Perloff has recently begun using the term "unoriginal genius" to describe this tendency emerging in literature. Her idea is that, because of changes brought on by technology & Internet, our notion of genius—a romantic, isolated figure—is outdated…updated notion of genius would have to center around one's mastery of information & its dissemination. Perloff…coined another term, "moving information," to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process…posits that today's writer resembles more a programmer than tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, & maintaining a writing machine."



"For the past several years, I've taught a class at the University of Pennsylvania called "Uncreative Writing." In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. Not surprisingly, they thrive. Suddenly what they've surreptitiously become expert at is brought out into the open and explored in a safe environment, reframed in terms of responsibility instead of recklessness.

We retype documents and transcribe audio clips. We make small changes to Wikipedia pages (changing an "a" to "an" or inserting an extra space between words). We hold classes in chat rooms, and entire semesters are spent exclusively in Second Life. Each semester, for their final paper, I have them purchase a term paper from an online paper mill and sign their name to it, surely the most forbidden action in all of academia. Students then must get up and present the paper to the class as if they wrote it themselves, defending it from attacks by the other students. What paper did they choose? Is it possible to defend something you didn't write? Something, perhaps, you don't agree with? Convince us.

All this, of course, is technology-driven. When the students arrive in class, they are told that they must have their laptops open and connected. And so we have a glimpse into the future. And after seeing what the spectacular results of this are, how completely engaged and democratic the classroom is, I am more convinced that I can never go back to a traditional classroom pedagogy. I learn more from the students than they can ever learn from me. The role of the professor now is part party host, part traffic cop, full-time enabler.

The secret: the suppression of self-expression is impossible. Even when we do something as seemingly "uncreative" as retyping a few pages, we express ourselves in a variety of ways. The act of choosing and reframing tells us as much about ourselves as our story about our mother's cancer operation. It's just that we've never been taught to value such choices."
technology  writing  creativity  research  literature  marjorieperloff  internet  information  genius  2011  plagiarism  digitalage  poetry  classideas  marcelduchamp  readymade  remix  remixing  remixculture  briongysin  art  1959  christianbök  machines  machinegeneratedliterature  automation  democracy  coding  computing  wikipedia  academia  gertrudestein  andywarhol  matthewbarney  walterbenjamin  jeffkoons  williamsburroughs  detournement  replication  namjunepaik  sollewitt  jackkerouac  corydoctorow  muddywaters  raymondqueneau  oulipo  identityciphering  intensiveprogramming  jonathanswift  johncage  kennethgoldsmith 
september 2011 by robertogreco
The Telepaper
"The Telepaper is a service that turns your Readability reading list into a newspaper, ready to be delivered straight to you.

It's a demonstration of both the Newspaper Club and Readability APIs.

To get started, you need to pair your Newspaper Club and Readability accounts with The Telepaper. If you don't have an account for either of them, you can sign up along the way — but it works best when you've got some unread articles in Readability."
telepaper  readability  newspapers  newspaperclub  automation 
july 2011 by robertogreco
rep.licants.org, a virtual prosthesis for the online introvert - we make money not art
"rep.licants.org allows people to install a bot on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. The bot will combine the activity the user is already having on other channels such as youtube or flickr with a set of keywords selected by the user to attempt and simulate that person's activity, feeding their account with more frequent updates, engaging in discussions with other users and adding new people to their list of contacts."
wmmna  bots  rep.licants.org  socialmedia  introverts  facebook  flickr  twitter  wikileaks  mobile  matthieucherubini  automation  ai  turing  2011 
june 2011 by robertogreco
ifttt
"ifttt puts the internet to work for you by creating tasks that fit this simple structure:

ifthisthenthat

Think of all the things you could do if you were able to define any task as: when something happens (this) then do something else (that).

The (this) part of a task is called a Trigger (). Some example triggers are "if I'm tagged in a photo on Facebook" or "if I tweet on twitter."

The (that) part of a task is called an action (). Some example actions are "then send me a text message" or "then create a status message on Facebook."

Triggers and Actions come from Channels. Channels are the unique services and devices you use everyday, activated specifically for you. Some example channels:"
ifttt  internet  web  social  management  tools  tasks  automation  twitter  facebook  del.icio.us  email  phones  weather  onlinetoolkit 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Useless Labor and Production of the Self < PopMatters
"We’re doing useless things and collecting the dole like the rest of our peers, so what makes us stand out?

Hence the field of consumption becomes the field of distinction and social recognition as well, and consuming becomes a sort of semiotic labor that absorbs more and more of our natural inclination to do something regarded as socially useful. (And Shop Class as Soulcraft-style retro crafts like carpentry and gardening and Etsy-ism start to register as consumerist hobbies, not “real” production.)  Social media supplies the factory and distribution center for this sort of work, as well as the scoreboard in the form of data about just how many people are paying attention to you. We produce content and links to try to “connect” to others, that is, have them regard us as socially necessary the way, say, in the 19th century the village blacksmith was vitally necessary when the horse you were traveling on pulled up lame…"
culture  consumerism  technology  society  automation  2011  hipsters  hipsterism  shopclassassoulcraft  meaning  self  identity  socialrecognition  etsy  production  make  making  diy  contentcreation  glvo  legitimacy  usefulness 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Aperture card - Wikipedia
"An aperture card is a type of punched card with a cut-out window into which a chip of microfilm is mounted. Such a card is used for archiving or for making multiple inexpensive copies of a document for ease of distribution. The card is typically punched with machine-readable metadata associated with the microfilm image, and printed across the top of the card for visual identification. The microfilm chip is most commonly 35mm in height, and contains an optically reduced image, usually of some type of reference document, such as an engineering drawing, that is the focus of the archiving process. Aperture cards have several advantages and disadvantages when compared to digital systems. Machinery exists to automatically store, retrieve, sort, duplicate, create, and digitize cards with a high level of automation. While many aperture cards still play an important role in archiving, their role is gradually being replaced by digital systems."
aperturecard  data  microfilm  punchcards  computers  metadata  storage  automation  history 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Unlink Your Feeds - A Manifesto.
"You need to unlink your feeds.

I understand why you did it. I’ve made the same mistake myself. But it’s hurting your friends, you, & the Internet. You need to stop.

You need to stop automatically dumping your feeds from one account into another.

I know it’s tempting. New service, not sure how you’ll keep up w/ ever demanding maw & there’s the “import your content” button, right there in sign-up process. A quick trip through a login screen or an OAuth link & there you are: All your stuff automatically aggregated…

No muss, no fuss, right?

This is an illusory solution. It’s a false idol. It’s contributing to noise pollution…It’s diminishing the quality of your output and of others’ experiences.

You need to unlink your feeds and put a tiny bit more effort into using each service for what it is.

More [links to each of these topics]:It’s hurting your friends.It’s hurting you.It’s hurting the Internet.There’s a better way."
twitter  manifesto  socialmedia  facebook  feeds  rss  del.icio.us  tumblr  timmaly  social  socialnetworking  linkpollution  automation  manifestos 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Smart Automatic Bookmarks - favbot
"Imagine never having to meticulously bookmark and label your favorite websites. Favbot saves and organizes your browsing history. It figures out the best labels to use for each web page. It understands what websites are important to you. It predicts what other websites you will be interested in. It puts you fully in control. It provides analytics to improve your productivity. Powerful machine-learning algorithms at work. Start using it now."
bookmarking  firefox  onlinetoolkit  favbot  del.icio.us  bookmarks  search  memory  tags  tagging  browsinghistory  automation 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The Do Lectures | Matt Webb
"Matt Webb is MD of the design studio BERG, which invents products and designs new media. Projects include Popular Science+ for the Apple iPad, solid metal phone prototypes for Nokia, a bendy map of Manhattan called Here & There, and an electronic puppet that brings you closer to your friends.

Matt speaks on design and technology, is co-author of Mind Hacks - cognitive psychology for a general audience - and if you were to sum up his design interests in one word, it would be “politeness.” He lives in London in a flat with a wonky floor."
mattwebb  design  designfiction  computing  ai  scifi  sciencefiction  berg  berglondon  future  futurism  retrofuture  space  speculativedesign  2010  dolectures  books  film  thinkingnebula  nebulas  history  automation  toys  productdesign  iphone  schooloscope  redlaser  mechanicalturk  magic  virtualpets  commoditization  robotics  anyshouse  twitter  internetofthings  ubicomp  anybots  faces  pareidolia  fractionalai  fractionalhorsepower  andyshouse  weliveinamazingtimes  spacetravel  spaceexploration  spimes  iot 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Modkit [I would love to have an invite for this.]
"Modkit is an in-browser graphical programming environment for little devices called embedded systems. Modkit can currently program Arduino and Arduino compatible hardware using simple graphical blocks similar to and heavily inspired by the Scratch programming environment developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab."
edg  arg  arduino  scratch  programming  coding  processing  physicalcomputing  automation  embedded  hardware  electronics  education  diy  toshare 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero
"I love you, Google Voice.
I’ve been getting obsessed with translation, automation, and summarization. Computers are smart and dumb, and that is what’s fantastic about them. So smart, so cold, so unskilled at so many of the things that the human brain handles effortlessly. It’s wonderful to watch technology grow as it tries to improve and be even more useful by doing the tasks that are essentially computation’s perceived Achilles’ heel."
googlevoice  frankchimero  botpoetry  bothumor  human  brain  translation  automation  summarization  computers  computing  humanskills  humansarestillunmatched 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Many Tricks · Name Mangler
"If you need to rename several files at once every now and then, this is the application you have always been looking for. Name Mangler is a batch file renamer that supports all common renaming tasks: Find and Replace (including support for regular expressions); Number Sequentially; Change Case; Set Extension; Add Prefix/Suffix; Remove/Insert Characters.
mac  osx  utilities  productivity  automation  renaming  batch  renamer  freeware  software 
december 2008 by robertogreco
Twitter / andy_house
"Inventor Andy Stanford-Clark has set up a twitter account for his house. This allows his home automation system to keep him updated about lighting, security, energy usage, etc. while he is away. Check out this great example of the potential for ambient i

[via: http://archinect.com/news/article.php?id=74475_0_24_0_C ]
automation  control  environment  information  ambient  spimes  housing  messaging  remote  twitter  sensors  architecture  power  monitoring  ubicomp  sustainability  transparency  green  energy  consumption 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Archinect : News : the talking house
"Inventor Andy Stanford-Clark has set up a twitter account for his house. This allows his home automation system to keep him updated about lighting, security, energy usage, etc. while he is away. Check out this great example of the potential for ambient i
twitter  architecture  homes  automation  ambient  web  online  internet  spimes 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Long Views » Blog Archive » World’s Largest Audio-Visual Archive
"means that archivists must re-copy or auto-refresh existing digital archives on ongoing basis – in parallel w/ creating archives from original formats. Until cost-effective, ultra-long-term digital storage is achieved, “re-archiving the archives” w
archiving  audio  video  film  audiovisual  kevinkelly  digitization  automation 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Botanicalls Twitter DIY
"answers the question: What's up with your plant? It offers a connection to your leafy pal via online Twitter status updates that reach you anywhere in the world. When your plant needs water, it will post to let you know, and send its thanks when you show
arduino  diy  electronics  hacking  gardening  plants  make  spimes  blogjects  howto  hacks  hardware  interface  software  webdev  twitter  projects  automation  webdesign 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Hasbro's Room Tech Clock is in kahoots with the Lamp: be afraid - Engadget
"Despite numerous technological advancements in home automation, it's never really seemed to catch on with the mainstream. Now it's time for the children -- our future -- to take things into their own hands"
wireless  alarms  alarmclocks  clocks  light  communication  ubicomp  everyware  automation 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Using work space-scheduling software to save energy | Green Tech blog - CNET News.com
"PeopleCube...will announce Carbon Footprint Tracker...The software will do things like turn off the heat or air conditioning in a room when people are not scheduled to use it, and turn it back on before people use it."
software  sustainability  automation  green  environment  energy 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Language Guesser
"Languid is a statistical language identifier. Give it at least 20 characters of UTF-8 encoded text and hope for the best."
language  languages  linguistics  foreign  translation  tools  identification  programming  webapps  words  comparison  automation  bookmarklet  maciejceglowski  maciejcegłowski 
january 2008 by robertogreco
For Children, a Scary World Out There (in There, Too) - New York Times
"increasingly over the past few years, parents have seen their children contend with another fear: automatic flush toilets."
fear  children  toilets  parenting  anxiety  society  automation 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Technology Review: Random-Access Warehouses
"Squat orange robots and a set of adaptive algorithms are making it possible to deliver online orders faster. The system, so far installed in two giant Staples warehouses, allows workers to fill two to three times as many orders as they could with convent
automation  robots  productivity  business 
november 2007 by robertogreco
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