Thursday, February 23rd, 2017


The Gig is Up

Reminder: I'm on a travel schedule this week. Nextdraft is off Friday and back Monday.

As it becomes increasingly clear that artificial intelligence and other technologies are going to be history's most aggressive job killers, more people (in Silicon Valley and elsewhere) are re-examining the possibility that a universal basic income could provide a solution. But as NYT Mag's Annie Lowrey reports, "No experiment has been truly complete, studying what happens when you give a whole community money for an extended period of time -- when nobody has to worry where his or her next meal is coming from or fear the loss of a job or the birth of a child." But now, in a few villages in Kenya, a non-profit is looking to run the biggest such experiment yet. And it's already underway. "Just like that, with peals of ululation and children breaking into dance in front of the strangers, the whole village was lifted out of extreme poverty." Can test cases in some of the least automated places in the world provide clues to our survival in places where AI is already taking over? This is the future of not working.

+ The Outline: AI and automation are about to implode blue collar jobs. (And AI doesn't care about trade agreements or what silly, little humans try to do when it comes to securing borders.)

+ "When you talk about God and religion, in the end it's all a question of authority. What is the highest source of authority that you turn to when you have a problem in your life? A thousand years ago you'd turn to the church. Today, we expect algorithms to provide us with the answer—who to date, where to live, how to deal with an economic problem. So more and more authority is shifting to these corporations." From Wired: Sorry, Y'All -- Humanity's Nearing an Upgrade to Irrelevance.

+ Last week, Mark Zuckerberg shared his thoughts on how Facebook can improve the world. This week, the always excellent Ben Thompson responds with a piece called Manifestos and Monopolies: "Is there anyone who believes that a private company run by an unaccountable all-powerful person that tracks your every move for the purpose of selling advertising is the best possible form said global governance should take?"


Gaming the System

"Automation is obviating more and more jobs. In the years to come, we'll need new forms of employment. Let's crystal-ball this: Will there be a new way for the working class of the future to earn a paycheck? Sure. Playing videogames." From Clive Thompson: Face It, Meatsack: Pro Gamer Will Be the Only Job Left.

+ You know that idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something? Well, America is gonna have a lot of videogame experts. "More than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week, 34 million play on average 22 hours each week, 5 million hit 40 hours, and the average young American will now spend as many hours (roughly 10,000) playing by the time he or she turns 21 as that person spent in middle- and high-school classrooms combined." Games are distracting us. They're filling hours when we might be studying or working. And it turns out they might be doing something else: Making us happier. From NY Mag: Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games?


The Bad One(s)

Here's President Trump on his administration's efforts to ramp up deportations: "We're getting really bad dudes out of this country. And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation." A few hours later, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that the deportations would not be a military operation.

+ WaPo: How today's visa restrictions might impact tomorrow's America.

+ An InFocus photo essay: Ten Days Along the Border.


Piss Poor Decision

"The move by the Justice and Education departments reverses guidance the Obama administration publicized in May 2016, which said a federal law known as Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities." Trump just rescinded the Obama rule on transgender students' bathroom use. So in addition to protecting us from refugees running for their lives, we're now being protected from the dangerous threat presented by transgender students. We're better than this. Leave them kids alone.

+ Jackie Evancho, the 16 year-old singer who sang the national anthem at Donald Trump's inauguration has a transgender sister and hopes to meet with Trump to enlighten him on the issue.

+ Vox: "While bathroom access is very important to trans people, the guidance was about much more -- rooted in a discussion about the scope of federal civil rights laws and whether they should and do protect LGBTQ people."

+ Several states have already vowed to continue protecting transgender rights. Of course, federal guidance is mostly aimed a the states that won't...

+ Speaking of leaving things in the hands of the states... "South Dakota legislators are weighing whether to let teachers decide how much skepticism to work into lessons on contentious scientific topics such as evolution and climate change."


Shooting Stars

"Post-traumatic stress is the right phrase. These kids are living in a war zone -- the rate of death is higher than for our soldiers. They are children who've never been able to get out of survival mode." In a multipart series in the Chicago Sun Times, Rick Telander chronicles life for kids on a basketball team at ground zero of the city's endless cycle of violence. A Season Under the Gun.


The Six (Hundred) Million Dollar Man

"I became fascinated not so much by the boy in the video, but rather by the apparatus around him — the adults putting their time and money into Bryson Morris and making the assumption that, soon, he would have enough fans to justify the effort. They were either delusional or knew something that everyone else didn't." Sam Rosen in The Ringer: Building the Next Bieber.


Uber Unfiltered

The NYT's Mike Isaac takes a deeper look inside Uber's aggressive, unrestrained workplace culture: "One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat." Aside from the workplace culture, two things are interesting about this story. First it all grew out of one blog post, which, at the very least, will force changes at one of tech's biggest companies. (The Internet, it turns out, is good for something.) And second, we haven't seen too many people raise their hands and say the portrayal of life at Uber is inaccurate.


Home Alone

Rumana Ahmed: I Was a Muslim in Trump's White House. "I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens. I lasted eight days."


La La Land of the Lost

Here are two pretty safe predictions about this weekend's Oscar telecast. First, there will be more tweets about politics than movies. And second, the Best Picture trophy will go to a movie you probably haven't seen.


Bottom of the News

"The longest personality study of all time, published in Psychology and Aging and recently highlighted by the British Psychological Society, suggests that over the course of a lifetime, just as your physical appearance changes and your cells are constantly replaced, your personality is also transformed beyond recognition." It turns out you're a completely different person at 14 and 77. (My friends and family are counting down the days until I turn 77...)

+ NYT: Men who exercise strenuously may have a lower libido. (It's like I always say: I'm a lover not a jogger.)

+ Steph Curry's secrets to success: brain training, float tanks and strobe goggles. (I still give most of the credit to Riley.)