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Google’s ambitious plans to change every device on the planet

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google has been quietly, patiently waiting to launch their next big thing in technology and it has the potential to take over every device on the planet, if it catches on.

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Google on a whole nutha level

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai has plans to take Google to the next level. In an effort to stay ahead of the technology pack, running against Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and other competitors, Google is looking to the future to maintain their position.

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Pinchai sees the future of technology with endless possibilities, but for now they want to focus their development in one critical area: AI (Artificial Intelligence). While Forbes covered Pinchai’s career and plans to innovate Google’s vision even further, I feel it’s important to summarize their main points so we can get to the heart of the matter: the race of AI technology.

Why AI technology?

Miguel Helft at Forbes writes, “computing is already moving to multiple screens and in some instances-such as Amazon’s surprise hit Echo smart speaker- no screens. Interactions with devices and apps are quickly becoming two-way conversations, sometimes employing smart ‘bots’ promoted by Microsoft, Facebook, and others (remember we covered Yahoo’s launch of bots on Kik?).”

The desire to interact more with technology and less face-to-face with another human being is becoming glaringly obvious. The desire for advanced AI technology is already here; now, it’s merely a race to see who can launch the biggest, best, most engaging piece of AI technology quickest.

If others are already developing AI, what’s Google thinking?

Again, I turn to the Forbes article by Helft, “artificial intelligence has been in Google’s wheelhouse for years. [They] invested in fundamental building blocks such as voice recognition, language understading, and machine translation long before most of their rivals.”

And after years of preparation, Pichai says, the company is ready to bring all that work together in compelling products that will keep the company ahead of the competition.

Pinchai told Forbes, “we have this vision of a shift from mobile-first to an AI-first world over many years.”

At the annual Google I/O conference, Pinchai revealed the first prototype to fully use Google’s AI efforts: a smart speaker called Google Home. Sound familiar? This device seems to be a direct answer to Amazon’s Echo. Google Home isn’t the only product set to launch, however. They also plan to launch a messaging app called Allo. This is likely a direct response to WhatsApp, Kik, and other popular messaging platforms. Gmail is widely popular (with over 1 billion users), but what it lacks is a messenger to appeal to the younger crowed. Google may be hoping Allo is the answer for what this particular platform is lacking. Allo and Google Home will both be powered by  a “Google assistant” (a bit like Siri), but in their eyes, more engaging.

The Google assistant will offer users a way to interact with Google itself. You can play music, reply to messages, order flowers, ask Google to take notes for you and more. It will be there, in every aspect of your life, to help you get things done. Pinchai states, “You are trying to go about your day, and in an ambient way, things are there to help you.” Getting the assistant just right, however, is going to take a bit of time, and Amazon has already launched Echo; thus, Google’s energetic desire to press forward.

How does Google plan to push past Amazon and other competitors?

Four years ago, Google formed a break-away company appropriately called Google Brain to develop much of the intelligence that will push Google into the AI running. This team, according to Forbes, will conduct research and experiment with AI programming techniques like deep learning and neutral networks. Google had this technology is their arsenal before, but were unable to fully test it due to the massive amounts of computing power required. One of their recent improvements, Google Photos, was released about a year ago and used a bit of AI technology they’d been developing.

Google Photos has the ability to recognize and search images and then automatically organize them. The same method that worked for these photos, Google found, could be applied to voice recognition, translation, and other similar tasks. Also, this same technology used for Google Photos, is able to power StreetView’s ability to distinguish and “read” signs, as well as, Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops using aerial photography to determine whether or not a roof can support solar panels. According to Forbes, “it’s also enabling a small experimental team to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy” by looking at retina scans.

Pinchai is convinced a few smart features like Photos along with the Chrome browser will help them gain a following; and with the launch of Allo (available late this summer), will help them gain an even greater following. Smart Reply will be integrated and automatically suggest three different prewritten answers to a message based on its content. According to Forbes, “Google developed Smart Reply in less than a year and first tested it in Inbox, a mobile e-mail app. It allows users on the go to select one of the answers and reply with a single tap.”  With Allo, Google took this one step further, “blending Smart Reply with image recognition, so it can suggest responses to photos via message.”  This will help users reply faster, spending less time typing an answer. In Allo, the Google assistant might also pop up in the middle of a conversation, depending on the subject matter, to help you book a restaurant, or plan a trip. Much like Siri does if you mention a time or date within your conversation.

The takeaway

Pinchai is conviced Google is further along than their competitors, citing AlphaGo. AlphaGo is a computer program that plays the board game Go. It’s the first computer Go program to beat a professional human player. The same algorithms used to create AlphaGo, could be developed further and applied to more practical problems according to Pinchai. He stated, “When you look at machine learning and AI, there are things you can do now, some in two to three years and some that are deeper and will take more time to do.”  Many technology enthusiasts, like Harvard professor Yoffie, believe Google is well-positioned to lead the transition to an AI-powered world if they continue to  make the same types of “good” decisions.

I think Google certainly has the research, assets, and  determination to get things done in terms of AI, but it seems like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, already have a head start on them as they’ve already launches their products. What do you think? Is Google poised to dominate the AI-world, or will someone else push ahead and get things done?

#googleAI

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business News

Is insecurity the root of overworking in today’s workforce?

(CAREER) Why are professionals who “made it” in their field still chronically overworked? Why are people still glorifying a lack of sleep in the name of the hustle?!

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startup optimize to key metric

So you got that job you wanted after prepping for months, and everything seems cool and good… but you’re working way more hours than scheduled. Skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late, and picking up any project that comes your way. You’re overworked.

Getting the job was supposed to be a mark of success in itself, but now, work is your life and everyone is wondering how you can be working so much if you’re already successful.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Laura Empson delves into what drives employees to overwork themselves. Empson is a professor of Management of Professional Service firms at the University of London, and has spend the last 25 years researching business practices.

Her recently published book Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas, focuses on business organizational theory and behavior, based on 500 interviews with senior professionals in the world’s largest organizations.

Over the course of her research, Empson encountered numerous reports of people in white-collar positions pushing themselves to work exhausting hours. Decades ago, those with white-collar jobs in law firms, accountancy firms, and management consultancies worked towards senior management positions to gain partnership.

Once partnership was reached, all the hard work paid off in the form of autonomy and flexibility with scheduling and projects. Now, even entry-level employees are working overextended hours.

An HR director interviewed by Empson noted, “The rest of the firm sees the senior people working these hours and emulates them.” There’s a drive to mirror upper management, even at the cost of health.

Empson’s research indicates insecurity is the root of this behavior. Insecurity about when work is really done, how management will perceive employees, and what counts as hard work. Intangible knowledge work provokes insecurity since there’s rarely ever a way to tell when this work is complete.

Colleagues turn into competitors, and suddenly working outside of your regular hours becomes seen as normal if you want to keep up with the competition. You want to stand out from the crowd, so staying late a few days a week starts to feel normal.

This can turn into a slippery slope, and when being overworked feels like the norm, you may not notice taking on even more extra hours and responsibilities to feel like you’re contributing efficiently to the company.

During her research, Empson found that some recruiters admitted to hiring “insecure overachievers” for their firms.

Insecure overachievers are incredibly ambitious and motivated, but driven by feelings of inadequacy. Financial insecurity and disproportionately tying self-worth to productivity are just a few contributing factors to their self-doubt.

As a result, these kind of people are amazingly self-disciplined, and likely to pursue elite positions with professional organizations. Fear of being exposed as inadequate drives insecure employees to work long hours to prove themselves

Even upper level management is subject to this same insecurity.

Organizational pressures can make even the most established leader overwork themselves.

Empson notes, “Working hard can be rewarding and exhilarating. But consider how you are living. Recognize when you are driving yourself and your staff too hard, and learn how to help yourself and your colleagues to step back from the brink.“

Analyze your organization’s conscious and unconscious messaging about achievement, and make sure you’re setting and enforcing realistic expectations for your team.

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Business News

How employers should react to the new age discrimination court ruling

(BUSINESS NEWS) A court case that could likely land in the Supreme Court is one that all employers should react to and prepare for.

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age discrimination

In January, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that then 58-year-old Dale Kleber did not get protection against age discrimination from CareFusion as a job applicant.

For employers, there are some important takeaways. Namely, that Kleber v CareFusion does not give employers open season to only hire young workers.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees against age discrimination. There are also protections against disparate treatment under ADEA.

Basically, employers cannot intentionally discriminate against aged applicants. When posting a job, that means you should never advertise for someone under the age of 40 when posting job descriptions.

While Federal law may not apply to older applicants, the Texas Labor Code,  for example prohibits discrimination against people over 40 years of age. Employers should be very aware of inequity throughout the hiring process, whether you’re looking at internal or external candidates. You do not want to be a test case for age discrimination.

How can you avoid violating ADEA and other applicable laws?

First, you should work with your legal counsel and HR department to make sure you are following the law. If you are accused of age discrimination, you should talk to your lawyer before responding. It’s a serious complaint that you shouldn’t try to answer on your own.

Next, go through your job postings to make them age-neutral unless there is a reason for hiring someone under the age of 40. The legal term for this is Bona Fide Occupational Definition. The qualifications can’t be arbitrary. There must be industry standards that determine a definable group of employees cannot perform the job safely.  

Words in applications matter. Don’t ask for GPA or SAT scores. Avoid things like “digital native,” “high-energy,” or “overqualified.” These terms indicate that you’re looking for someone young.  

You should also update application forms that request birthdays or graduation dates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, you should structure interviews around skill sets, not personal information.

Train those responsible for hiring about the current laws in your state.

Make your managers aware of bias, both conscious and unconscious. It’s not age discrimination that runs afoul of the law, and you must be prepared to confront any situation where it occurs.

Talk about age bias and discrimination in your workplace. Don’t assume that older workers aren’t tech savvy or that they don’t want to keep their skills current. Instead of putting generations against each other, have a multigeneration workplace.

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Cities are fighting back against the motorized scooter companies

(BUSINESS NEWS) The scooter wars are on, and major cities are filled with them – residents and government are finally fighting back.

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bird scooters

When the scooter-pocalypse began, it seemed to come out of nowhere. One day, the most annoying thing in downtown traffic was maybe a pedicab, and then the next: a swarm of zippy electric razor scooters.

This sudden arrival was by design: companies like Lime and Uber’s JUMP simply just began offering their services. There was no negotiation with the city, no opportunity even for residents to say whether or not the scooter pick-up stations could be located in front of their houses—just a sudden horde of scooters (for the record, this do-it-first and then ask permission approach was replicated in all major cities across the United States).

Was this illegal? Nope. There was nothing on the law books about the rental scooter technology so there was technically nothing wrong with the companies just assuming that they could do what they wanted. (Some scooterists have since come to think the same thing, committing crimes and breaking rules.)

Now, enough time has passed for cities to have the opportunity to fight back, as a new year of legislative sessions has begun. San Francisco is one such community, which determined that only permitted companies could operate within the city limits—and, surprise, many of the don’t-ask-permission companies were not given these permits.

Lime, blocked from operating, filed a suit against the city saying that they had been discriminated against based on their … rude … arrival.

A judge has since ruled that there was no bias in the city’s review of the permit applications that were later not awarded to Lime.

As the legislation and the lawsuits play out over the next year, it will be interesting to see if the scooter company’s attitudes toward the cities they operate in change.

If, as they have said all along, they desire to be the next major innovation in urban infrastructure, then they need to be prepared to work with and grow alongside the communities that they inhabit.

It would be a wise move, then, to partner with local governments to ensure that both organizations are working in the best interest of the populations that they serve. 

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