The Shift From Low-Wage Worker to Robot Worker

It’s become commonplace for computers to replace American workers — think about those on an assembly line and in toll booths — but two University of Oxford professors have come to a surprising conclusion: Waitresses, fast-food workers and others earning at or near the minimum wage should also be on alert.

President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could make it worthwhile for employers to adopt emerging technologies to do the work of their low-wage workers. But can a robot really do a janitor’s job? Can software fully replace a fast-food worker? Economists have long considered these low-skilled, non-routine jobs as less vulnerable to technological replacement, but until now, quantitative estimates of a job’s vulnerability have been missing from the debate.

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Fleet of drones to patrol Australia’s borders

snowbirds2Australia has announced plans for a fleet of giant high-tech unmanned drones to help patrol the nation’s borders, monitoring energy infrastructure and attempts to enter the country illegally.  Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which can remain airborne for 33 hours, would be based in the southern city of Adelaide.

A report in February said seven of the US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion, but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalised.  ”These aircraft will patrol Australia’s vast ocean approaches, and work closely with other existing and future Australian Defence Force assets to secure our ocean resources, including energy resources off northern Australia, and help to protect our borders,” he said.  ”They will provide the Australian Defence Force with unprecedented maritime surveillance capabilities, operating at altitudes up to 55,000 feet (16,800 metres) over extremely long ranges while remaining airborne for up to 33 hours.”

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Facebook buying 11,000 drones to connect Africa

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Facebook is in negotiations to buy a drone manufacturer with the aim of using its high-altitude autonomous aircraft to beam internet connections to isolated communities in Africa, according to reports.  The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, which aims to connect the large parts of the world which remain offline.  Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet, according to Facebook. Other founding members include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

 

Now TechCrunch reports that Facebook intends to buy the maker of advanced solar-powered drones which can remain in the air for up to five years at a time, in the hope that they can be modified to provide internet connectivity for those on the ground.  Titan Aerospace’s drones fly so high – up to 65,000 feet – that they can effectively operate as satellites with far lower operating costs, which the company calls “atmospheric parking”. The Solara 50 and 60 models can carry up to 100kg of equipment.

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The effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it

INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were.

For those, including this newspaper, who believe that technological progress has made the world a better place, such churn is a natural part of rising prosperity. Although innovation kills some jobs, it creates new and better ones, as a more productive society becomes richer and its wealthier inhabitants demand more goods and services. A hundred years ago one in three American workers was employed on a farm. Today less than 2% of them produce far more food. The millions freed from the land were not consigned to joblessness, but found better-paid work as the economy grew more sophisticated. Today the pool of secretaries has shrunk, but there are ever more computer programmers and web designers.

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The escorts who want to rebrand male prostitution as a business

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Most people think of male prostitution as dangerous, degrading and exploitative work. But there are some who are attempting to reinvent it as a profession free of stigma by using all the tools of modern business, writes Mobeen Azhar.  ”The aim is to be the best escort in the world.” Josh Brandon’s conviction is punctuated by a strong Welsh valleys accent. The twentysomething moved to London four years ago with dreams of modelling and celebrity.  But soon after his arrival he began working as an escort. Now he has a price list which includes hourly rates and a discount for block booking. He issues loyalty cards so customers who pay for nine “appointments” get their tenth free.  ”I have a very professional booking system and I offer complete discretion,” he says. “My business model serves my clients and it serves me.”

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‘We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education’

Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.  Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.  Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.

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A Romanian Scientist Claims to Have Developed Artificial Blood

Science, in all its grand ambition and contemporary sophistication, doesn’t quite have what it takes yet to replicate anything like blood. It not only delivers oxygen and essential nutrients, but also serves a host of other functions crucial for our survival, such as fighting infections, healing injuries and regulating hormones.  So far, researchers have concentrated the bulk of their efforts on the more modest goal of creating something that can at least effectively carry out the vital role of transporting oxygen throughout the body.  This kind of “artificial blood” would be a useful substitute for critical circumstances such as medical emergencies, when the body can’t do this on its own. It could also be designed to be sterile, unlike real blood, which can be infected and infect others during a transfusion. And while donated blood requires refrigeration, a synthetic version could be made to last longer and be readily available for various life-or-death situations, even on the battlefield.

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Exclusive: ‘Jaw-dropping’ breakthrough hailed as landmark in fight against hereditary diseases as Crispr technique heralds genetic revolution

A breakthrough in genetics – described as “jaw-dropping” by one Nobel scientist – has created intense excitement among DNA experts around the world who believe the discovery will transform their ability to edit the genomes of all living organisms, including humans.  The development has been hailed as a milestone in medical science because it promises to revolutionise the study and treatment of a range of diseases, from cancer and incurable viruses to inherited genetic disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia and Down syndrome.  For the first time, scientists are able to engineer any part of the human genome with extreme precision using a revolutionary new technique called Crispr, which has been likened to editing the individual letters on any chosen page of an encyclopedia without creating spelling mistakes.

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Confessions of a Drone Warrior

He was an experiment, really. One of the first recruits for a new kind of warfare in which men and machines merge. He flew multiple missions, but he never left his computer. He hunted top terrorists, saved lives, but always from afar. He stalked and killed countless people, but could not always tell you precisely what he was hitting. Meet the 21st-century American killing machine. who’s still utterly, terrifyingly human.  From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan. The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives.

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Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?

Japanese man and woman lean away from each otherAi Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-storey home on a Tokyo back street. Her first name means “love” in Japanese, and is a keepsake from her earlier days as a professional dominatrix. Back then, about 15 years ago, she was Queen Ai, or Queen Love, and she did “all the usual things” like tying people up and dripping hot wax on their nipples. Her work today, she says, is far more challenging. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan‘s media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome”.  Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060. Aoyama believes the country is experiencing “a flight from human intimacy” – and it’s partly the government’s fault.

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Pew study finds online dating growing in popularity, negative experiences ‘relatively’ common

NEW YORK —Online dating is shedding its stigma as a refuge for the desperate, but people who use sites such as Match.com and eHarmony are still in the minority.  Thirty-eight percent of Americans who are “single and looking” say they’ve used an online dating site or mobile dating app, according to a new study.  The report published Monday from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project suggests that attitudes toward online dating “have progressed in a clearly positive direction.” In fact, 59 percent of Internet users agree that online dating is a good way to meet people. That’s up from 44 percent in 2005.  As Americans shop, socialize and entertain themselves online, a growing number are turning to the Internet to find dates. Some 11 percent of people who started a long-term relationship in the past decade say they met their partner online. Even so, only 10 percent of Americans say they’ve tried online dating.

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China employs two million microblog monitors state media say

The Beijing News says the monitors, described as internet opinion analysts, are on state and commercial payrolls.  China’s hundreds of millions of web users increasingly use microblogs to criticise the state or vent anger.  Recent research suggested Chinese censors actively target social media.  The report by the Beijing News said that these monitors were not required to delete postings.  They are “strictly to gather and analyse public opinions on microblog sites and compile reports for decision-makers”, it said. It also added details about how some of these monitors work.

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I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages, Regardless of State

WASHINGTON — All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.  The federal rules change is one of many stemming from the landmark Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.  “Imagine a pair of women who marry in Albany and then move to Alabama,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote at the time of the decision. “May they file a joint federal income tax return? Does the answer turn on where they were married or where they live?”

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Jobs, Robots, Capitalism, Inequality, And You

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe the “widening gap between rich and poor” is temporary. Maybe the steady growth in the proportion of jobs that are part-time and/or low-paid will soon reverse.  Or maybe the idea that all the homeless need are old laptops and a few JavaScript textbooks is not unlike the claim that new technologies automatically create new jobs for everyone. Maybe, unless something drastic changes, most people are totally screwed.  This has not been a great decade for the average American. The recession ended in 2009, but median household income remains 6.1% below what it was in December 2007…while the income of the top 10% rose. Meanwhile, productivity growth has been exceedingly sluggish on both sides of the Atlantic. The Economist explains, and theorizes:

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19 Shocking Examples Of How Political Correctness Is Destroying America

If you say the “wrong thing” in America today, you could be penalized, fired or even taken to court.  Political correctness is running rampant, and it is absolutely destroying this nation.  In his novel 1984, George Orwell imagined a future world where speech was greatly restricted.  He called that the language that the totalitarian state in his novel created “Newspeak”, and it bears a striking resemblance to the political correctness that we see in America right now.  According to Wikipedia, Newspeak is “a reduced language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit free thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as ‘thoughtcrime.’”  Yes, people are not usually being hauled off to prison for what they are saying just yet, but we are heading down that path.

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New Company Allows Organizations To Hire Fake Protesters

So, no one supports your cause? No problem. You can hire supporters- even protesters. A company started last October by 22-year-old Adam Swart provides just this service.  In a telephone interview I spoke with Swart about his new found success. “I came up with the idea on a visit to Estonia,” says Swart. At the airport, Swart says he saw a man who was being swarmed by a crowd of excited onlookers. He tells me, “I thought- Why can’t I have that kind of attention?” And so, Swart’s company, Crowds on Demand, was born.  Swart says that business is doing extremely well. According to their website, their office is located in a swanky downtown LA office suite. He says his biggest client so far was a $10k contract, but he would not disclose the client. Not bad for a 22-year-old kid. “We do most of our business through word of mouth. We are able to provide our customers with top-notch service, so they spread the word to other potential clients,” says Swart.

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93% of the Public Wants GMO Labeling—Monsanto and the Big Agribusiness Giants Plan to Spend Millions in Propaganda to Change Our Minds

Monsanto and Big Food are taking the battle for consumers’ hearts and minds to the next level. And it’s no coincidence that they’re pulling out the big guns just as the Washington State I-522 campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products is gaining steam.  Can industry front groups and slick public relations firms convince us that the products they’re peddling are not only safe, but good for us? Will the millions they spend on websites and advertorials pay off?  We’re guessing not, given the latest New York Times poll stating that 93 percent of Americans want labels on foods containing GMOs.

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NSA Collects ‘Word for Word’ Every Domestic Communication, Says Former Analyst

JUDY WOODRUFF:   And we pick up on the continuing fallout from the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Last night, we debated the role of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence court, which approves the government’s requests to gather intelligence information on Americans.  Tonight, we have a conversation with three former NSA officials, a former inspector general and two NSA veterans who blew the whistle on what they say were abuses and mismanagement at the secret government intelligence agency.  William Binney worked at the NSA for over three decades as a mathematician, where he designed systems for collecting and analyzing large amounts of data. He retired in 2001. And Russell Tice had a two-decade career with the NSA where he focused on collection and analysis.

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Something very wrong in the UK

Mention the UK and most of us imagine fish and chips or a decent pint rather than the Orwellian levels of online censorship about to be imposed on Brits at the end of 2013.  A new law will require ISPs block objectionable online content by default. Although there is an option to opt-out, anyone wanting the filter removed will need to contact their ISP to ask that it be switched off.  Censorship proponents argue that the filter isn’t a bad thing – keeping ones family safe from dodgy online content can only be a good thing right? The filter can also be turned off – even if that does mean an embarrassing call to your ISP.

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