The Employer Surveillance State

Excerpt from this article:

The proliferation of surveillance is due, at least in part, to the rising sophistication and declining cost of spy technology: Employers monitor workers because they can.

Perhaps the most common argument for surveillance—one often deployed by firms that make employee-monitoring products—is that it can make workers more productive. Purveyors of monitoring software claim they can help managers reduce the number of wasted hours and ensure that employees make better use of their time.

Worse yet, some studies suggest that workers who sense they are monitored have lower self-esteem and are actually less productive. In fact, Anteby told me, those of us who do “cheat” on the job often do so in retaliation for the very lack of trust surveillance implies: For example, some TSA employees he observed wasted countless hours finding clever ways to evade the surveillance camera’s roving eye.

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The man who was fired by a machine

Ibrahim Diallo

Excerpt from this article:

“It wasn’t the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it.”

So began a sequence of events that saw Ibrahim Diallo fired from his job, not by his manager but by a machine.

He has detailed his story in a blogpost which he hopes will serve as a warning to firms about relying too much on automation.

Escape to another world

Excerpt from this article:

As video games get better and job prospects worse, more young men are dropping out of the job market to spend their time in an alternate reality. Ryan Avent suspects this is the beginning of something big

…Over the last 15 years there has been a steady and disconcerting leak of young people away from the labour force in America. Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.

What these individuals are not doing is clear enough, says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying the phenomenon. They are not leaving home; in 2015 more than 50% lived with a parent or close relative. Neither are they getting married. What they are doing, Hurst reckons, is playing video games. As the hours young men spent in work dropped in the 2000s, hours spent in leisure activities rose nearly one-for-one. Of the rise in leisure time, 75% was accounted for by video games. It looks as though some small but meaningful share of the young-adult population is delaying employment or cutting back hours in order to spend more time with their video game of choice.

As Robots Replace Old Jobs, New Jobs Should Be Invented

Excerpt from this article by Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion:

Machines have been replacing humans since the first one was invented many thousands of years ago — and on the very next day it probably created new jobs when three people were needed to fix it. Humans are adaptable. We’re creative. We use machines to make new things, solve new problems and create whole industries that we can’t yet imagine. Doomsaying is easy and natural. We can see what’s being lost, but we don’t see the new things until they arrive.

How the Gig Economy Profits off Desperation

Excerpt from this article:

While the gig economy promises to free workers from the traditional, drab 9-to-5 work environment, the reality is quite different. Many contractors employed in gig economy–type jobs lack health care and retirement benefits, are at the mercy of their employers’ scheduling needs, and — despite being promised so much freedom — find themselves little more than glorified service workers.

…Most workers in the gig economy have no minimum wage, no unemployment benefits, no paid sick days, no pensions, and even no maximum or minimum working hours. They live at the whim of the platform(s) they’ve chosen to affiliate themselves with.

…The gig economy has created an employment model that robs workers of the rights they’ve earned over more than a century of fighting. It uses automation not to make a better world for everyone, but to put the risks of doing business on the backs of workers without providing them fair compensation. Though it doesn’t abhor inequality, its business model is well suited to take advantage of the growing divide.

Doug Henwood perfectly encapsulates the worldview of the gig economy when he writes that it “sees us all as micro-entrepreneurs fending for ourselves in a hostile world.”