According to Russian news source RIA Novosti, Edward Snowden's got a new job working as tech support for a large Russian website (according to AP) or possibly as a network administrator (according to CNN). Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, says he starts tomorrow.
Today's XKCD strip, Reassuring, wittily illustrates Kevin Kelly's Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, which start with "1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do" and heads toward "5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do."
Be sure you go to the original for the tooltip punchline.
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David Graeber, who wrote last year's incredible Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has an extraordinary essay up called "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," which explores the phenomenon of people in productive industries (nursing, teaching, etc) being relentlessly ground down on wages, job stability and working conditions; while all the big money aggregates to the finance industry and a layer of "bullshit jobs" like corporate attorneys, administrators, etc -- who do jobs that produce no tangible benefit.
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Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp, two sociologists (who also work on the excellent Sociological Images blog) have advice for this year's college grads that goes beyond "find your passion, follow your dreams" (something that actually doesn't work for most college grads, statistically). Instead, they offer research-grounded advice in how to lead a happy, full life:
2. Make Friends
Americans put far too much emphasis on finding Mr. or Ms. Right and getting married. We think this will bring us happiness. In fact, however, both psychological well-being and health are more strongly related to friendship. If you have good friends, you’ll be less likely to get the common cold, less likely to die from cancer, recover better from the loss of a spouse, and keep your mental acuity as you age. You’ll also feel more capable of facing life’s challenges, be less likely to feed depressed or commit suicide, and be happier in old age. Having happy friends increases your chance of being happy as much as an extra $145,500 a year does. So, make friends!
4. Don’t Take Your Ideas about Gender and Marriage Too Seriously
If you do get married, keep going with the flow. Relationship satisfaction, financial security, and happy kids are more strongly related to flexibility in the face of life’s challenges than any particular way of organizing families. The most functional families are ones that can bend. So partnering with someone who thinks that one partner should support their families and the other should take responsibility for the house and children is a recipe for disaster. So is being equally rigid about non-traditional divisions of labor. It’s okay to have ideas about how to organize your family – and, for the love of god, please talk about both your ideals and fallback positions on this – but your best bet for happiness is to be flexible.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Dennis Nobbe's Dynamic Medical Services, Inc, where employees were made to engage in bizarre Scientology rituals as a condition of employment. The EEOC says that this violated employees' freedom of religion, and they're suing Dr Nobbe to prove it. This is the downside of the Church of Scientology's dodge of getting itself certified as a "religion," a practice that otherwise grants it enormous privileges, including preferential tax-treatment. But once your woo-woo exercises are officially "religious rituals," then forcing someone to engage in them violates freedom of religion rules:
According to the EEOC's suit, the company required Norma Rodriguez, Maykel Ruz, Rommy Sanchez, Yanileydis Capote and other employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving. The company also instructed employees to attend courses at the Church of Scientology. Additionally, the company required Sanchez to undergo an "audit" by connecting herself to an "E-meter," which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo "purification" treatment at the Church of Scientology. According to the EEOC's suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the courses but were told it was a requirement of the job. In the cases of Rodriguez and Sanchez, when they refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and/or did not conform to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated.
Requiring employees to conform to religious practices and beliefs espoused by the employer, creating a hostile work environment, and failing to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
David S. Gallant had a part-time job working as a "numb meat puppet" for Canada Revenue Agency, answering phones and dealing with people who were often grumpy and thick. He vented his frustration by creating a little indiegame called "I Get This Call Every Day." He got fired.
In the game, the player listens to a conversation between a person talking to a government-style customer service representative. There is no specific mention of government but one of the graphics refers to “Last Tax Return” and some of the security questions asked of the caller are similar to what real CRA agents require.
The caller, who comes across as dense and snippy, wants to get his address changed and the player decides how the agent answers by clicking on screen choices.
“It’s easy (for the agent) to get fired in the game,” says Gallant.
And maybe in real life.
National Revenue Minister Gail Shea is not amused. Her communications director, Clarke Olsen, sent an email to the Star Tuesday stating, “The Minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable. The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action. The Minister has asked the CRA to investigate urgently to ensure no confidential taxpayer information was compromised.”
Tax department employee creates online game to vent his frustration with taxpayers [Valerie Hauch/Toronto Star]
Pret fires longstanding employee who attempted to unionise, asked for the London Living Wage for all employees
UK chain Pret a Manger has a cuddly reputation for being more than a mere fast-food joint, despite the capital it took on from McDonald's. But when a longstanding Pret employee called Andrej tried to organise a union in his shop with the reasonable goal of having all Pret employees paid the London Living Wage of £8.55, they fired him. It's just part of a dirty tricks campaign run by Pret against its 91% immigrant workforce when they have the audacity to organise. I'm done eating at Pret until they reinstate Andrej and promise to pay their staff the London Living Wage.
Derek Khanna, the Republican House staffer who wrote an eminently sensible paper on copyright reform that was retracted less than a day later has been fired. So much for the GOP's drive to attract savvy, net-centric young voters. After all, this is the party that put SOPA's daddy in charge of the House Tech and Science Committee.
But it's pretty terrible for Khanna -- what a shabby way of dealing with dissent within your ranks.
Gareth Cook tells the story of Thorkil Sonne, founder of a Danish social enterprise called Specialisterne ("the specialists"), which helps place people with autism in jobs that demand a degree of focus and detail-orientation that's impossible to find among the neurotypical. Specialisterne began because Sonne's son, Lars, has autism, and Sonne saw that he was eminently suited to many tasks, and that performing them made him happy and did useful work, too. Now Specialisterne is a web of social enterprises that does everything from training to placement, and Sonne is pondering a move to the USA.
To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees. Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.
Matthew Lasar's long Ars Technica feature, "Have we lost 41 percent of our musicians? Depends on how you (the RIAA) count" does an excellent job of digging into RIAA CEO Cary Sherman's claim that the number of working musicians in the USA has declined by 41 percent. After checking the RIAA's math, Lasar finds a gigantic discrepancy between the figures they cite and the conclusions they reach. But then Lasar delves further into the underlying sources, as well as government and industry stats, and finds that basically, the number of musicians working in America may have slightly declined, but is also projected to rise.
It is worth ending this cautionary tale with a review of the BLS's own occupational handbook projection for musician/singer employment in the near future. Note that the handbook cites a much higher employment figure for both trades in 2010 than mentioned in the above tables: about 176,200 musicians and singers. That's because it comes from the Bureau's National Employment Matrix, I was told, which adds additional data sources.
Employment for musicians and singers is expected to grow by ten percent over the decade—"about as fast as the average for all occupations," the government notes:
The number of people attending musical performances, such as orchestra, opera, and rock concerts, is expected to increase from 2010 to 2020. As a result, more musicians and singers will be needed to play at these performances.
There will be additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour. Singers will be needed to sing backup and to make recordings for commercials, films, and television.
Caitlin Doughty, host of AskAMortician has a message to the "little deathlings" out there who face social disapprobation due to their fascination with death and dying: it gets better. Life as a mortician, coroner, or affiliated professional is good and rewarding. PS: I just discovered AskAMortician and I am as happy as a pig in liquefying corpses!
Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil is a former finance-industry quantitative analyst who escaped her former career and has advice for other quants looking to do something better with their lives. She works in a startup now, and offers a fascinating study of the contrasts between finance culture and startup culture:
First, I want to say it’s frustrating how risk-averse the culture in finance is. I know, it’s strange to hear that, but compared to working in a start-up, I found the culture and people in finance to be way more risk-averse in the sense of personal risk, not in the sense of “putting other people’s money at risk”.
People in start-ups are optimistic about the future, ready for the big pay-out that may never come, whereas the people in finance are ready for the world to melt down and are trying to collect enough food before it happens. I don’t know which is more accurate but it’s definitely more fun to be around optimists. Young people get old quickly in finance.
Second the money is just crazy. People seriously get caught up in a world where they can’t see themselves accepting less than $400K per year. I don’t think they could wean themselves off the finance teat unless the milk dried up.