Tech is on the up and up
It feels almost redundant to say we live in an age of unprecedented technological growth. I mean just look at this stuff – a computer crafted an actual organism, a cell phone as a microscope, a robot that can run and be used by the military, a helium-filled 6TB hard drive, open-source industrial machines, and a syringe with tiny sponges that can seal a gunshot wound in seconds.
That’s just since 2010 – throughout the world, and not just the privileged world, tech has been in a state of exponential improvement for generations. Some people are pretty concerned about that.
But there are concerns
I don’t blame them. Neither does Dr. Guru Banavar, Chief Science Officer for Cognitive Computing at IBM who recently wrote on the subject. “The most urgent work is to recognize and minimize bias. Bias could be introduced into an AI system through the training data or the algorithms,” he notes.
He’s the head of cognitive computing at IBM, so he’s kind of got a dog in this hunt. Some other really smart people – Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, for example, three dudes to whom it often pays to listen – are saying the opposite.
OK, I don’t hear Microsoft office drones or Musk-branded actual drones coming to get me. But maybe they just blue-screened and need a reboot before they march down my street like Cybermen and arrest me for heresy, so let’s get serious.
Coal, steel, and concrete
Ironically, the answer to the question, “Will Skynet kill us all?” lies not in the eternal, shiny and chrome future, but in history. When I said tech has been exponentially improving for generations, it wasn’t hyperbole. It was math. Human life has changed more in the last 300 years than in the twenty thousand beforehand, when we figured out putting seeds in the ground makes them do stuff. The Industrial Revolution never really ended. The combination of Newton’s rigor and Watt’s engineering that remade the mostly agrarian world with coal and steel and concrete, is still remaking the world, still mostly with coal and steel and concrete.
Worse before it gets better
AI is going to be another big change. Industrial Revolution big? Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not an oracle. But I’m putting my money behind Dr. Banavar rather than the Three Wise Geeks, because this time we have an unprecedented advantage: 300 years of our ancestors screwing up. London had two million people in it before it had sewers. That led directly, and unsurprisingly, to the germ theory of disease, which in turn led to not dying of tooth decay. I am in favor of not dying of tooth decay.
The only reason AI is a thing is because the great pre-AI paradigm shift was an immeasurably vast increase in the availability of data. That means that this time, we have a chance of seeing the consequences coming. Thanks both to pro-AI scholars like Dr. Banavar and AI skeptics like Dr. Hawking, the implementation of AI could be something new: a conscious revolution.
After all, we were afraid of this change decades before it came.
Alan Turing, founding father of computer science took on the philosophical tangles of AI all of two years after the first stored-program computer was created, and Hubert Dreyfus – not to mention HAL and Superman – addressed the fears and failures of artificial intelligence when it was still a tall ask to get a computer in one room.
Or will we triumph?
When Thomas Newcomen set his piston bouncing, he had no idea he’d started the Industrial Revolution. He was just trying to dry out a mine. There wasn’t an angel on his shoulder whispering “Hey, before you turn on your engine, have you considered it might cause a cholera outbreak in London and the subsequent founding of epidemiology?”
We’ve got the angel, in the form of a wealth of opinions on what machine learning should and should not do. We’ve traced the lines of dominoes back from the triumphs and tragedies of world history. AI represents a chance at Revolution Mark 2, change guided from “go” by human interests.
Though who knows? Maybe I’m with the Cybermen.
Remote work or no work? Concerns about WFH vs. returning to office
(EDITORIAL) There is an ever-growing divide and concern between employers and employees regarding policies over work in office or from home.
When the pandemic started and work from home become the uncomfortable-at-first norm, no one knew exactly where the idea of remote work for office jobs was headed.
We know now, and the office just isn’t all it was cracked up to be.
From better views and healthier lifestyles to huge decreases in childcare costs, transportation, and wardrobe expenses, many workers say they’re not interested in going back, and some bosses aren’t happy. Other managers and owners aren’t giving their employees a choice. The remote exception is gone.
In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees to be prepared for a return to their campus in a hybrid model this week.
“We will begin the hybrid pilot in full on May 23, with people coming to the office three days a week — on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday — and working flexibly on Wednesday and Friday if you wish,” he said in a memo sent to staff in April.
Cook is not alone. Across corporate America, management is insisting employees return to the office.
Even President Biden chimed in during the State of the Union speech saying,
“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” Biden said. “People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office. We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.”
A Good Hire survey of 3500 American managers shows 75% of managers want a return to the office even though they said productivity did not decline during work from home. 51% believe their employees want the same thing. However, a Future Forum survey by slack found just 17% of employees want to return to the office daily and only 34% of employees want a hybrid model.
The reasons for the disconnect are plenty.
Mother.ly contributor Beau Brink shared in a column last July about the impact Work From Home has had on her employee resource group for people with disabilities, neurodiversity, and invisible illnesses.
“Even though 2020 had been hard, the upside was that we were managing our conditions better.”
Women bore much of the weight of moving work out of the office when the pandemic started.
Overall, women lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession caused by the pandemic—nearly 1 million more job losses than men.
When some who had lost their jobs found new work from home employment, they also found a new perk. A raise because they no longer had to pay high childcare costs.
Employees cite better health as a reason they want to continue working from home as well. COVID numbers ebb and flow, but it’s more than that, they say. They’re able to work out, eat a more nutritious diet, and set a more casual, less stressed schedule.
In her mother.ly column, Brink brings up the fact that the company she worked for actually did better in the transition to working from home. As the Good Hire survey showed, most companies saw the same success.
“Why any CEO would push for a move backward in the name of collaboration makes my head spin.”
The why’s are many. And indicative of a possible shift in how we view work.
If most work moves to remote permanently, are employees entitled to the same benefits they’ve seen in the past? Are they actually employees or contractors?
Those questions will have to be answered. We were on the path to having to answer them before the pandemic.
Remote work isn’t new. The pandemic just pushed it to the norm, but even before COVID, technology changes were opening remote opportunities for employees.
In the Good Hire survey managers who said productivity actually increased also showed a distrust of remote work in general.
Right now though, the survey says,
“As long as there is a talent and labor shortage, employers will still have to be flexible, and even in 100% back-to-the-office situations, workers will still be able to negotiate some remote working scenarios.”
For over two years forced remote meant comfy clothes and fresh air. Will that change? We’ll see.
Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for
(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.
It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.
Don’t be this employer
User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.
Don’t obfuscate wage information
Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.
3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)
(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.
It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.
The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.
Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.
Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).
Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.
Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.
Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.
So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.
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