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Work Futures - Getting Ahead Of Myself

Writing tomorrow’s Daily today.

Work Futures

October 4 · Issue #1005 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Writing tomorrow’s Daily today.

Beacon NY - 2018-10-04 — I’ve shifted my workflow a bit, and now I am posting the Work Futures Daily a day ahead. This eliminates the occasional snafu when afternoon calls derail my newslettering.
Also, a note about older newsletter issues. I am working to move all the old newsletter issues posted at Substackand even earlier tools over to here, at on Tumblr. I am dating them as they were published, so you can access them using the Tumblr archives feature or the Tumblr tag:
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Long Takes
Over a million Americans rely for income on gig work found through apps and websites | Erin Winick reviews data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the JPMorgon Chase Institute that indicate 1% and 1.6% of US households rely on work platforms to find gig economy jobs, respectively.
It seems to me these numbers are too low. As Winick states,
But some initial difficulties that the surveyors faced in getting accurate data from the survey show that clearer studies still need to be performed. As Shelly Steward of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative told MIT Technology Review: “As the economy changes, we need consistent measures over time, along with new ways of thinking about and measuring work, in order to fully understand the experiences of workers and the challenges they face.”
And better aggregation of data. Uber has over 750,000 drivers in the US, and that’s just one company. With US population at 325 million, that would be 2% or more of the working population all by itself.
How to Program Your Job | Brian Merchant | investigates IT workers that automate their own work, asking the question,
When workers automate their own duties, who should reap the benefits?
Self-automation is now a thing, raising ethical – and legal – dilemmas. Is it legitimate to be paid for working a certain number of hours, theoretically performing various tasks, when in fact you have written code that actually performs the work?
If you are a freelancer, hired to accomplish some outcome, perhaps there is no dilemma, since your productivity is your own look out, and a client can’t really tell you how to perform your work. However, if you are a full-time employee, and you allocate company time to self-automation you’re into a grey zone.
I recall the Verizon programmer that outsourced his job to freelancers in China, and was fired for it. Considering he had great performance reviews, and was only paying the programmers $50,000 to perform his $100,000 job, maybe they should have made him head of IT, and outsource all the programming.
This is perhaps an additional argument for platforming work. By that I mean operating a company on a set of protocols, especially the principle that workers can negotiate their own fees for service on a project by project, task by task basis, rather than on a flat-rate salary basis. In that case, the IT worker, claims processor, or social media marketer that self-automates or outsources all or some of the task or project work they take on is just being smart, not cheating.
As usual, the question of who should benefit from this sort of bottom-up automation is political, with a small ‘p’. Should the worker hacking the tedious, soulsucking makework get the benefit of a lighter workload and more free time? Or should the company and shareholders benefit, by reassigning the self-automator additional work to match the time the worker has ‘saved’? This boils down to 'Who owns the savings?’.
Consider that the IT self-automators that Merchant writes about generally want to remain anonymous speaks to that question: their bosses would likely want those savings, and would consider self-automation as theft.
Short Takes
How ‘dark pool’ operator Liquidnet is using AI to help traders make better decisions | Liquidnet work with fund managers who want to buy and sell large chunks of stock without reveling transaction size of identity (‘darkpools’). The company now has offered a tool called Discovery that uses AI and machine learning to analyze markey data for fund managers.
Introducing My tasks | Fleep has released My Tasks as part of the company’s Fleep for Business tier. Now business users can see tasked assigned to them in a new 'My Task’ section in their accounts. I’ve always liked Fleep’s integration of tasks with their chats ('conversation’) and with 'My Tasks’ they have filled a gap I noted back in 2016.
Upwork Updates Potential Pricing for IPO | Freelance work platform Upwork filed an S-1 for its IPO. The company hopes to raise about $200 million. Upwork described its financial situation:
For the six months ended June 30, 2017 and 2018, our total revenue was $95.5 million and $121.9 million, respectively, representing a period-over-period growth rate of 28%. For the twelve months ended June 30, 2018, our total revenue was $228.9 million. In 2016 and 2017, our marketplace revenue was $138.5 million and $178.0 million, respectively, representing an annual growth rate of 29%.
In the 12 months ended June 2018, the platform enabled $1.56 billion of GSV across 2.0 million projects between roughly 375,000 freelancers and 475,000 clients in over 180 countries.
American Trust in Self-Driving Cars Slips, AAA Says | Stephan Edelstein analyzes a recent report from AAA that shows American’s distrust of autonomous cars has risen to 73% saying they would be afraid to ride one.
Cushy office perks are a trap | Simone Stolzoff talks to various folks about avoiding the total work trap of catered dinners, and onsite gyms.

Quote of the Day
Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
Neil Postman, cited by Simone Stolzoff in Cushy office perks are a trap
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Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508