When I was younger, when my siblings and I would come home from school, we were required to nourish our minds for an hour (study, homework, read, do math practice, whatever we were feeling that day) and then we were banished from the house until dinner.
We had to go outside and create our own fun. We rode bikes to friends houses, we went “fishing” in the creek, sometimes before we left the house we’d search the couch for loose change and go to our favorite corner store and share a bag of skittles.
Our neighborhood was a safe one — it was one of those ideal 90s neighborhoods where our house was seated on the end of a cul-de-sac so there was little traffic and there were enough kids on the street to field two kickball teams.
Each parent on the street was allowed to reprimand us and there were rarely any locked doors. As a 10 year old it felt like ultimate freedom. But, with that freedom came a very important lesson in strangers and what to do if we were ever approached by one.
I’m sure stranger danger is still a thing taught by parents and schools alike but we went from don’t talk to strangers online or get in strangers’ cars to getting online to request a stranger to drive us somewhere.
With the advancement of technology has come a readiness to bring strangers in (/near / to) our homes. The most invitations coming from those personal assistants many homes can’t seem to function without.
Alexa, Google Home, Bixby or whatever assistant you may use are all essentially strangers that you are willingly bringing into your home.
Just yesterday I had a conversation with a college kid that didn’t know that the microphone on those things are always on — as such is true with the Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps.
In a recent article from Rachel Botsman (BOTSman, hmmmm), she describes the experience her three year old had with an Alexa.
Over the course of the interactions, her daughter asks the bot a few silly questions, requests a few items to be bought, asks Alexa a few opinions, she ultimately sums up her daughter’s experience as saying, “Today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it is normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names.”
I’m not a mother and I’m definitely old enough to be extremely skeptical of machines (iRobot anyone?) but the effects smart bots will undoubtedly have on future generations have me genuinely concerned. Right now it seems as harmless as asking those assistants to order more toilet paper, or to check the weather or to see which movies are screening but what will it become in the future?
A MIT experiment cited in the Botsman article 27 children, aged between three and 10, interacted with Alexa, Google Home, Julie (a chatbot) and, finally, Cozmo (a robot in the form of a toy bulldozer), which are all AI devices/ toys.
The study concluded that almost 80 per cent of the children thought that Alexa would always tell the truth.
Let me repeat that — 80 PERCENT OF THE KIDS BELIEVE THAT THE AIS, CREATED BY COMPANIES WHO WANT TO SELL PRODUCTS, WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.
The study went on to conclude that some of the children believed they could teach the devices something useful, like how to make a paper plane, suggesting they felt a genuine, give-and-take relationship with the machines.
All of these conclusions beg the question, how can we teach kids (and some adults if we’re being honest) about security and privacy in regards to new technology? How do we teach kids about commercialism and that as innocent as they may seem, not every device was designed altruistically?
We are quickly approaching an age where the strangers we introduce our kids to aren’t the lurkers in the park with the missing dog or the candy in the van, but rather, a robot voice that can tell a joke and give you the weather and order +$70M worth of miscellaneous stuff.
So now, it’s on us. Children of our own or not, we have to start thinking about best practices when it comes to teaching children about the appropriate time to trust in a computer. If the 5 year olds with smart devices are any indicator, teaching kids to be stingy with their trust in AIs will be an uphill battle.
This story was first published here in October of 2017.
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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