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Remember when people occupied Wall Street? Supposedly Silicon Valley is next

(BUSINESS NEWS) Based on quick and successful economic growth compared to the rest of the country, strategists are predicting the occupy movement will eventually wind up in Silicon Valley.

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Trouble on the horizon

A new Bank of America report has some very worrying news for the tech industry. Titled “Occupy Silicon Valley,” the report is a sort of socio-economic risk analysis study that warns of troubles ahead.

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Except, the troubles will not come from foreign hackers, or an encroaching federal government, but from Main Street America.

Occupy Silicon Valley

The report highlights how the hugely profitable tech industry’s sheer wealth juxtaposes uneasily with the sluggish growth of rest of the economy. Huge salaries, unthinkable bonuses and a very wide income starkly contrast with teachers, police officers, and young tech engineers.

Backlash to this growing inequality, now largely directed at politicians in DC and investment bankers in Wall Street, will soon engulf the Valley billionaires and their tech minions, the study warns.

Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist with Bank of America, put the issue in perspective by noting that the market values of tech giants already surpass the gross domestic product of large cities. “Google is bigger than Chicago[‘s GDP], Amazon is bigger than Washington[‘s GDP],” he wrote.

American companies also far outstrip the value of its competitors internationally.

For example, just Google and Apple put together is worth more than the combined market value of Japanese and Eurozone financial companies.

eurozone
via BofAML Global Investment Strategy

The future is only going to get brighter

In fact, by all accounts we are on the verge of a revolution in AI that would unleash more automation—from self-driven cars to Wall Street betting bots to auto-coding. Seismic shifts will disrupt jobs on a massive scale, and even high skilled laborers are at risk of losing means of employment. Wealth would further flow to the hands of a few.

The stock market reflects this bright future: NASDAQ Internet Index is up 25.6 percent this year versus about 7 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

The report predicts that this scenario would “ultimately lead to populist calls for redistribution of the increasingly concentrated wealth of Silicon Valley as the gap between tech capital and human capital grows ever wider.”

Here and there

For now, the protests have been scattered and momentary flairs—the Google-bus blockades, protests against Uber’s presence in Oakland, and so on.

There has also been populist backlash against the tech industry for its lack of accountability.

Many see this as the struggle between the new, modern America versus the old, backward America. Silicon Valley vs. Ohio Valley. However, that scenario will change soon. For worse, much worse.

An already highly area of tension between the long-term residents and new tech wave is over the issue of rent control. Voters in Mountain View (Google’s headquarters) and Richmond approved rent- and eviction-control measures in November. Santa Rosa will vote in June. San Jose’s City Council voted last month to implement eviction controls, and Pacifica’s council approved a temporary rent- and eviction-control ordinance that will take effect Wednesday.

Rent control may necessitate higher taxes, which would mean policy responses inimical to the tech interests: “When the government is short of revenue, they will look at places that have a lot of revenue. We know where a lot of that is right now,” the report notes.

Round two

The disconnect between an S&P 500 led by technology and the global economy “is ultimately unsustainable,” warns the report. Occupy Silicon Valley may not be far away.

Whether the protests lead to useful policy prescriptions is an entirely different question.

#SiliconValley

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bryan See

    June 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    I think these protests will be made by Donald Trump supporters, the chunk of Americans that has been whipped into frenzy by Brexit, Trump’s appeal to reduced circumstances and a ripple effect made by a clear signal sent by the absurd episodes on Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission and Russavia from 2012 to 2015. They will surely use violence at anyone who’s making science and tech progress, in addition to holding placards saying messages ranging from “computers complicated the world very greatly” to “digital is no good” to simply “that’s it for science and tech” (which means “it’s over for [and the end of] science and tech”). Their clear targets are Silicon Valley, as discussed in this article, and other places like it, be it General Dynamics, the contractor responsible for the Navy EMALS system which drew the angers of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    These neo-Luddites, or modern-day Luddites will surely band together to express their anger and unleash their violence, helping to save Putin; it is only a matter of time before this anti-tech/anti-science backlash goes global. It is interesting to note that Putin has no idea about Silicon Valley, but its destruction, through Occupy Silicon Valley, could benefit him because not only he’s a technophobe, just like Trump, he wanted to rule the world with money as predicted by right-wing and reactionary and xenophobic Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga, who predicted about Russia and Putin himself that when the permafrost thaws and floods come, nothing will survive on Earth but Russia.

    “Everything will melt away like ice yet the glories of Vladimir, the glory of Russia, are the only things that will remain. Russia will not only survive, it will dominate the world.”

    Also, during her meeting with writer Valentin Sidorov, Vanga said: “All will thaw, as if ice, only one remain untouched – Vladimir’s glory, glory of Russia. Too much it is brought in a victim. Nobody can stop Russia. All will be removed by her from the way and not only will be kept, but also becomes the lord of the world.”

    Right-wing religious fanatic Edgar Cayce had a similar message related by rabid racist Vanga and he mentioned the possibility of third world war resulting in troubles related to Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Libya.

    “In Russia there comes the hope of the world, not as that sometimes termed of the communistic, or Bolshevik, no; but freedom, freedom! That each man will live for his fellow man! The principle has been born. It will take years for it to be crystallised, but out of Russia comes again the hope of the world.”
    (Edgar Cayce, 1944, No. 3976-29)

    Cayce said that these events could be averted if humanity changed its behavior – but in the 70 years since his prediction, mankind has not changed at all. Thus, World War III is on the way, and it may signal the end of life on earth.

    Cayce foresaw the third world war even before the end of the second world war. He spoke of strife arising near the Davis Straits, and in Libya, and in Egypt, in Ankara, and in Syria; through the straits around those areas above Australia, in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.

    Horacio Villegas foresaw such conflict. He reportedly told the Daily Star: “The main message that people need to know to be prepared is that between May 13th and October 13, 2017, this war will occur and be over with much devastation, shock and death!”

    All of these, coupled with anti-research and anti-science budget cuts, and propaganda from Trump and Putin, as well as a third World War, will likely stop humankind from achieving milestones, like landing an astronaut on Mars. Therefore, the phrase “Everything will melt away like ice” is something that is warned about by many, including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, filmmaker Michael Moore and Wikipedia user BatteryIncluded.

    In 2014, asked in an interview whether he would visit Mars in his lifetime, Musk said “I hope so, if I don’t get assassinated by like, some Russian assassin, which is not out of the question. They’ve done that before!”

    In his GQ interview in the following year, he noted there is a window of opportunity when the technology necessary to send astronauts to Mars becomes available; however, it could rapidly be shut down because of religious extremism, anti-technology movements or the eruption of a third World War.

    He commented, “I don’t think we can discount the possibility of a third World War. You know, in 1912 they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over. And then you had World War I followed by World War II followed by the Cold War. So I think we need to acknowledge that there’s certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that’s happened before. Let’s say nuclear weapons are used. I mean, there could be a very powerful social movement that’s anti-technology. There’s also growth in religious extremism. Like, I mean, does ISIS grow…?”

    Musk sees the colonization of Mars as a moral duty to ensure the survival of mankind the same way a USB drive is meant to preserve data in case a computer crashes. A Martian colony could guarantee humanity survives in the event of a debacle that destroys life on Earth. “You back up your hard drive. Maybe we should back up life, too?” he asked.

    Michael Moore condemned, “Trump just committed a crime against humanity. This admitted predator has now expanded his predatory acts to the entire planet. USA to Earth: F— YOU. America First! Earth Last! My name is Michael Moore. I am an American. And I live in a Rogue State.”

    He also stated, “Historians in the near future (because that may be the only future we have) will mark today, March 28, 2017, as the day the extinction of human life on earth began, thanks 2 Donald Trump.”

    BatteryIncluded once said, “Now that Trump has been elected, it doesn’t much matter … human civilization on this planet is soon over.”

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Business News

How SmileDirectClub uses NDAs to silence bad reviews

(BUSINESS NEWS) SmileDirectClub wants to tell you, in the land of freedom of expression, how to talk about their service even if a dentist has to fix their mistakes.

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Bad reviews can hurt any business, which is why many companies will go out of their way to ensure a customer is pleased. A restaurant might offer to replace a bad meal free of charge, for instance. A business might send customers additional free products to make up for any mistakes. SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to handling bad reviews: non-disclosure agreements.

SmileDirectClub is an aligners company that positions itself as a cheaper alternative to braces. It’s also an online company. All of this work is done remotely, with customers getting their aligners mailed to them. So, cheap and convenient. What’s not to love?

Well, turns out there might be trouble in paradise. According to an article by the New York Times, “SmileDirectClub has been the subject of more than 1,670 Better Business Bureau complaints since 2014.” In comparison, Invisalign, SmileDirectClub’s competitors, has only had five complaints over the last twenty years.

Many report that SmileDirectClub’s aligners don’t work and some have even claimed the aligners made things worse. Yeah, that’s right. Some people paid for SmileDirectClub just to turn around and have to pay an actual orthodontist just to get back to normal.

So, naturally, SmileDirectClub is having some customers sign NDAs, which according to the New York Times includes the following: “[customer] will not make, publish, or communicate any statements or opinions that would disparage, create a negative impression of, or in any way be harmful to the business or business reputation of SDC or its affiliates or their respective employees, officers, directors, products, or services.”

Non-disclosure agreements are just one way that big companies will try to silence bad reviews. Another method is to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. GoPro attempted this method a few years ago. Companies can also claim that bad reviews are slander written in bad faith, which is a method many organizations have abused.

It’s possible for these sorts of lawsuits can backfire, but often, the time and money it takes for an average person to take on a big company aren’t worth it. People opt to simply take down their bad reviews instead.

For a country that values freedom of speech and a robust capitalist market, silencing critics (many of whom have legitimate things to say!) doesn’t seem in line with our beliefs. Not to mention, from a more practical standpoint, I’d sure like to know the potential risks or downsides of a product.

Especially when said product is supposed to replace dental work.

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Asking the wrong questions can ruin your job opportunity

(BUSINESS NEWS) An HR expert discusses the best (and worst) questions she’s experienced during candidate interviews. it’s best to learn from others mistakes.

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When talking to hiring managers outside of an interview setting, I always find myself asking about their horror stories as they’re usually good for a laugh (and a crash course in what not to do in an interview). A good friend of mine has worked in HR for the last decade and has sat in on her fair share of interviews, so naturally I asked her what some of her most notable experiences were with candidates – the good and the bad, in her own words…

“Let’s see, I think the worst questions I’ve ever had are typically related to benefits or vacation as it demonstrates that their priorities are not focused on the actual job they will be performing. I’ve had candidates ask how much vacation time they’ll receive during an initial phone screen (as their only question!). I’ve also had them ask about benefits and make comparisons to me over the phone about how our benefits compare to their current employer.

I once had a candidate ask me about the age demographics of our office, which was very uncomfortable and inappropriate! They were trying to determine if the attorneys at our law firm were older than the ones they were currently supporting. It was quite strange!

I also once had a candidate ask me about the work environment, which was fine, but they then launched into a story about how they are in a terrible environment and are planning on suing their company. While I understand that candidates may have faced challenges in their previous roles or worked for companies that had toxic working environments, it is important that you do not disparage them.

In all honesty, the worst is when they do not have any questions at all. In my opinion, it shows that they are not really invested in the position or have not put enough thought into their decision to change jobs. Moving to a new company is not a decision that should be made lightly and it’s important for me as an employer to make sure I am hiring employees who are genuinely interesting in the work they will be doing.

The best questions that I’ve been asked typically demonstrate that they’re interested in the position and have a strong understanding of the work they would be doing if they were hired. My personal favorite question that I’ve been asked is if there are any hesitations or concerns that I may have based on the information they’ve provided that they can address on the spot. To me, this demonstrates that they care about the impression that they’ve made. I’ve asked this question in interviews and been able to clarify information that I did not properly explain when answering a question. It was really important to me that I was able to correct the misinformation as it may have stopped me from moving forward in the process!

Also, questions that demonstrate their knowledge base about the role in which they’re applying for is always a good sign. I particularly like when candidates reference items that I’ve touched on and weave them into a question.

A few other good questions:
• Asking about what it takes to succeed in the position
• Asking about what areas or issues may need to be addressed when first joining the company
• Asking about challenges that may be faced if you were to be hired
• Asking the employer what they enjoy most about the company
• I am also self-centered, so I always like when candidates ask about my background and how my current company compares to previous employers that I’ve worked for. Bonus points if they’ve actually looked me up on LinkedIn and reference specifics :)”

Think about the best and worst experiences you’ve had during an interview – and talk to others about the same topic – and see how that can help you with future interviews.

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Business News

AdvoCare MLM was painted as a pyramid scheme! Well color me surprised

(BUSINESS NEWS) AdvoCare is the most recent case of an MLM being called out as a pyramid scheme by FTC, but there’s plenty more MLMs where that came from…

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AdvoCare business structure

It’s always a good day when an MLM (multi-level marketing business) actually suffers legal repercussions. Granted, these days don’t happen nearly as often as we’d like – MLM CEOs have historically had deep pockets and a far reach – which means it’s all the more reason to celebrate when one gets called out.

Today’s culprit is AdvoCare, a Texas-based “wellness” company. AdvoCare has been fined $150 million by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for operating a pyramid scheme. The company, as well as a few of its top influencers, have been misleading people when it comes to how much money they could earn. This is pretty typical behavior for MLMs in general, though many are careful to couch your potential earnings in vague terms.

For the record, the majority of users lost money, and most who managed to turn a profit made a maximum of just $250. I say ‘just’ because it’s hard to know how long someone would have had to work to not only break even, but manage to turn a profit. MLMs make big claims about earning money, but when you have to pour a hefty sum of cash into the products, it can take a while just to break even.

That’s why many MLMs, including AdvoCare, push contributors to recruit, rather than sell the product. And if you’re thinking that sounds like a pyramid scheme, you’re totally right. This method of putting recruiting first is part of the reason AdvoCare has gotten in trouble with the FTC.

In response, AdvoCare is moving away from multi-level marketing sales and pivoting to selling products directly to retail stores, which in turn sell to customers.

Now, with AdvoCare’s downfall, don’t be surprised if other MLMs insist that they’re different because they haven’t gotten in trouble with the FTC. In fact, plenty of MLMs are quick to tell you that they’re totally legal and totally not a pyramid scheme. Sure, Jan.

First of all, if there’s a big focus on recruiting, that’s obviously a big red flag. There are plenty of pyramid scheme MLMs out there that just haven’t gotten caught yet. But there are other sneaky ways an MLM will try to rip you off. For instance, some companies will insist you buy tons of product to keep your place, and that product can be very hard to unload. Not to mention, many of the products MLMs tout are subpar at best.

AdvoCare getting called out by the FTC is a great start, but MLMs seem kind of like hydras. Cut down one and two more seem to spring up in its place. So be vigilant, y’all. Just because an MLM hasn’t gotten caught yet doesn’t guarantee it won’t still scam you out of your hard earned cash.

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