This week, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle; in his analysis of the event, Charlie Stross notes that Arizona's laws treat corporations that kill people with considerably more forbearance than humans who do so, and proposes that in the near future, every self-driving car will be owned by a special-purpose corporation that insulates its owner from liability.
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Last September, I wrote about Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder's important, fascinating book-length investigation into the Americans who live on the road out of economic necessity, including the Camperforce, a precariat army of retirees who saved carefully all their working lives, only to be bankrupted in the 2008 financial crisis who travel from Amazon warehouse to Amazon warehouse, filling in as seasonal and temp workers on gruelling, 12-hour shifts that leave them in pain and with just enough money to make it to the next stop.
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Google often boasts about the 10,000 skilled raters who test its results, reporting weird kinks in the ranking algorithms and classifiers that the company uses for everything from search results to ad placement to automated photo recognition. Read the rest
Deliveroo is a "gig economy" company that hires people to cycle around big cities, delivering meals, while pretending that all their riders are actually "independent contractors" running their own businesses through which they subcontract to Deliveroo, thus dodging any need to pay benefits or comply with basic labor, health and safety rules. Read the rest
It's not a parody, apparently: "You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer. In doers we trust." As Nick Mamatas says, "Back in the 1990s, this ad would be the result of billboard liberation." Read the rest
This year-old photo of a woman seated at a wall of Iphones went viral on Chinese social media, where it was identified as a clickfarmer whose job is to repeatedly install apps on multiple phones in order to inflate their App Store ranks. Read the rest
The platform economy can have something for everyone. People needing goods or services get what they want, people who have the time and skills to provide the goods and services get paid, and people who built and invested in the platforms that connect customers with providers get a cut of the action. Win-win-win, right?
Well, sometimes. But if you take a higher altitude look at the growing landscape of algorithmic matchmaking services, you’ll see some troubling aspects. For example, traditional workers can usually converse with human bosses, but on a platform, workers are told what to do by algorithmic “managers” that consider humans to simply be part of a pool of inputs to be allocated in response to changes in network conditions. To make things worse, workers in the gig economy are isolated from one another, making it extremely difficult for them to develop a collective voice to negotiate with platform owners and designers about issues that affect their livelihood.
Without taking action, this lopsided relationship between platform workers and platform owners could get worse, becoming like a high tech version of the day laborers in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, standing at the gates of the Chicago slaughterhouses in hopes of being selected for a shift of low-paid labor.
That’s why Institute for the Future (IFTF) had an open call for interested people to come to its offices in Palo Alto, California on November 30 and December 1, 2016 to participate in a two-day Positive Platforms Design Jam. The event was part of IFTF’s Workable Futures Initiative, established as a call-to-action for “policymakers, platform developers, and civic and labor leaders to blueprint positive platforms for people who work—platforms that not only maximize profits for their owners but also provide dignified and sustainable livelihoods for those who work on them." About 75 people attended, including technologists, historians, policy experts, software developers, and social inventors. Read the rest
Juno is a "driver-friendly" rideshare service that competes with Uber by paying its drivers more and giving drivers the ability to pick up a fare, get them to install the Juno app, and give them a discount. Read the rest
"This was not easy money, it was the most soul-crushing task ever," says Rohan Danish, who spent a summer writing 3,000 fake reviews and 1,000 shill comments for an online lingerie company.
“500 reviews done by you have been cancelled because of similar wording,” the email said. “Please reframe them by going through the products once more and using your imagination to describe them in a different manner. Don’t use adjectives to praise the product but just tell us how you felt after using them – even if you haven’t. Or just use a thesaurus.”
Great! Forty-eight hours of my work had just been scrapped, I thought, but responded with a polite apology, seeking time to fix the reviews.
Rohan doesn't say which site the reviews were for, but he was paid a total of $60 for a summer's work. (This was in India.)
\FTC complaint filed against lingerie retailer Adore Me for deceptive marketing practices Read the rest
Together, we can shape a future that is more sustainable and equitable for everyone! If you are interested in joining together with creative technologists, social inventors, policy experts, and thought leaders for a two-day event in Palo Alto where we will tease out the thorny challenges of the evolving on-demand economy and prototype real solutions tell us here.
Institute for the Future’s Positive Platform Design Jam
November 30–December 1, 2016
Institute for the Future
Palo Alto, CA, USA
The IFTF Workable Futures Initiative is a call-to-action for policymakers, platform developers, corporate strategists, activists, and of course other workers of all kinds, to join us in blueprinting these positive platforms for the future of work. The time is now to grapple with the challenges ahead, develop sustainable solutions, and create a future of work that is workable for everyone. Read the rest
Vancouver-based engineer-turned-"entrepreneur" Valeriy Shershnyov published thousands of titles in the Kindle store, "books" of typo-riddled nonsense that he upranked with a system of bots that gamed Amazon's fraud-detection systems, allowing him to sell more than $3M worth of garbage to unsuspecting Amazon customers. Read the rest
"Gig economy" scooter drivers for London's Deliveroo service earn £7/hour plus £1/delivery, and that's nowhere near a living wage: but rather than giving their a pay rise (£9.40/hour, plus £1/delivery, plus petrol, plus tips), Deliveroo wants to cut them all to zero-hours contracts with no hourly wage and £3.75/delivery and they fired all the drivers who asked for a living wage, so naturally, drivers are crowdfunding a strike-fund to fight back. Read the rest
Pooper is an app for dog owners willing to pay to have other people pick up their dog's poop. Just snap a photo of your dog's poop, and a scooper (paid per scoop) will drive, walk, bus, or bike over and collect it for you. It's $15 a month for 2 scoops/day in a 15-mile radius. An unlimited plan is $35 a month. Read the rest