To catch a (potential) criminal
In the movie Minority Report, a panel of psychics peers into the future to predict who will commit a crime. Today, using machine learning technology, courts, police departments, and parole officers are attempting to do the same.
Recommending sentences and placement
Increasingly, law enforcement agencies and courts are using computer algorithms to assess the risk that criminals will re-offend.
This information is used to sentence defendants in court, to choose where to place inmates in prison, which streets should be more heavily policed, and who should be released on parole.
There are several different risk calculators available. Some fully disclose the kinds of data they use to assess risk, while others companies, such as Northpointe, which makes risk assessment software called Compas, won’t reveal how their products work. We know that the calculators likely include data such as arrest records, the type of crime committed, and demographic information, which could include age and where a person lives.
Encoding bias and prejudice into another system
While some claim that risk assessment will help alleviate bias in the judicial system, including racial or gender prejudice, and the whims and moods of judges and law enforcement officials, critics feel that these programs actually encode these biases into computerized systems.
For example, a website called ProPublica used Compas to study criminal activity in a Florida county for one year. They found that, amongst people that Compas clocked as “high risk,” whites were twice as likely as blacks to actually commit a crime.
In other words, a lot of black people are being labeled as high risk, even though they aren’t committing crimes. Meanwhile, it was much more common for white people to be labeled as low risk, and then commit a crime anyway.
Because of the controversies surrounding commercially produced risk assessors like Compas, the state of Pennsylvania has created a special commission to come up with its own risk assessment algorithm. They haven’t made much progress, because every variable they’ve considered has been met with a deadlocked debate.
Skewing the numbers or keeping it fair
Even when risk assessors don’t explicitly input racial information, the data is tainted by decades of racial disparity. Given the racial segregation of housing in most cities, using data from home addresses is basically the same thing as revealing someone’s race. Arrest records are going to be skewed as well, since racial bias has led to aggressive policing in predominantly black neighborhoods.
Sonja Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan law school, points out that because risk assessors use “every mark of poverty…as a risk factor,” these algorithms will inherently discriminate against the poor.
In response to Pennsylvania’s struggle to come up with a fair algorithm, she says, “if the variables aren’t appropriate, you shouldn’t be using them.”
In other words, you can’t use data from an unfair system to create a fair algorithm. Perhaps all of this machine learning would be put to better use trying to solve the problems, like poverty and racial injustice that lead to crime in the first place.
How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization
(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?
Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.
Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.
Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.” Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.
There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.
What we want to do:
- Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
- Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
- Distribute the work equitably.
Here is a simple example:
Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.
Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.
For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.
Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.
Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.
Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.
You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs. According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.
*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
5 secrets to a more productive morning, free of distractions
(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?
Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?
5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity
In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.
Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.
Here are a few timely suggestions:
- Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions
Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:
- Turn off alarm
- Scroll through social media on the phone
- Get out of bed
- Eat breakfast
- Take shower
- Brush teeth
- Walk dog
- Watch news
- Browse favorite websites
- Get in car
- Starbucks drive-thru
- Arrive at office
- Small talk with coworkers
- Sit down at the desk
If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.
Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.
- Reduce Distractions
Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.
- Set Measurable Goals and Action items
It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.“There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.
- Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions but make sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.Vagus nerve stimulation gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.
- Optimize Your Workspace
Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.
Make Productivity a Priority
Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.
Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.
Is the tech industry layoff bloodbath coming or is it already here?
We have large online communities for job seekers, and we can affirm that the layoffs are on the way, but there is a silver lining for all involved…
If you were on Twitter at the end of last week, you probably saw a dribble of conversations about layoffs in tech coming, and today, the volume was turned up to 10 on social media. Several founders have said they’re cutting parts of teams and are nixing contractors. We’re about to be in a recession, y’all, and we can ALL feel it coming.
While this has been happening all of this calendar year, a pending recession is kicking the stock market in the teeth (especially in tech), and combined with a slowdown in fundraising, fuel has been added to what was simply kindling, and layoffs are already rapidly escalating.
The next 6-8 weeks is going to be a bloodbath. I'm hearing rumors about a ton of companies preparing to lay off 20-40% of their team https://t.co/R6Ufq6zjXs
— JD Ross (@justindross) May 5, 2022
JD isn’t the only one hearing it, my inbox has slowly been lighting up on this topic. In response, Joshua Baer noted that it’s a great time to scoop up talent. Love or hate him, he’s right.
Good time to add great talent to your team if you are still hiring! https://t.co/NPzwcp09x2
— Joshua Baer ?? (@JoshuaBaer) May 5, 2022
There is a lot of data on tech layoffs, for example, Layoffs.FYI has been tracking meaningfully since COVID began, pulling info from public reports. We expect they’ll be busy for the next few months.
While VC funding in 2021 was at a global high, so far, 2022 has shown a significant slowdown, according to CrunchBase. Many believe valuations are tumified, a bear market is believed to be upon us, and tech firms are struggling to increase profitability, all combining to a bubble about to burst.
As Baer noted, the silver lining is for anyone looking to hire. It’s bad news for anyone about to get a pink slip, but it’s also empowering to know that candidates are still in the driver’s seat in this market and negotiations are still in their favor.
We at AG have communities dedicated completely to job seekers and employers, and have created neutral ground on which they can meet, and they do by the thousands (Austin Digital Jobs and Remote Digital Jobs).
We’re not seeing the “bloodbath” of folks with pink slips in hand yet, BUT today, a dozen mid- to senior- level technologists reached out to me personally that got laid off Monday morning.
With our finger firmly on the tech employment pulse, we agree with the assessment that layoffs are coming.
More on this topic: “Why are tech layoffs coming after such great Q1 earnings?!”
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