Will big data algorithms soon control our lives?

By Stephan Manning.

Just a few decades ago it was unthinkable that a computer could ever be as smart as a human. But in 1996, the super-computer Deep Blue beat world champion Gary Kasparov in chess, and in early 2017 Google’s AlphaGo defeated the best human player in Go. In his fascinating new book Homo Deus, Yuval Harari argues that the combination of big data and self-improving algorithms will soon outsmart humans entirely and make human decision-making obsolete. Even today, it just takes 150 Facebook likes for psychometrics software such as Cambridge Analytica to know your needs, fears and hopes better than your parents do, and just over 300 likes for such software to know you better than you know yourself.  All based on analyzing your likes against Millions of other likes and profiles. No wonder the Trump campaign made effective use of that software last year to better target their voters. But this is just the beginning: Recently, researchers from Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, were able for the first time to directly link a human brain to the Internet – creating the first ever ‘Brainternet’. Based on increased connectivity, smart algorithms may soon be able to monitor and analyze all our biological functions, thoughts, interactions, and purchases, and know much better what we want and what makes us happy than we do. Harari argues that in the end humans may delegate all important decisions – choices of careers, partners and places to live – to algorithms that exceed our brain capacity manifold. So will big data algorithms eventually control our lives?

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Hire U.S. Labor and Bangalore CEOs to make America great again!

Guest Post by Anonymous Trump Fan.

Greetings, dear Americans! As our new President appears and promises to change this system and make America great again, it’s time we look at one of the things he could do to really make America great, and it’s in his specialty, business.

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Trump and Clinton want to bring back millions of outsourced jobs – here’s why they can’t

By Stephan Manning and Marcus M. Larsen.

One of the big themes in the current presidential race is how decades of free trade have dealt a heavy blow to the American worker as millions of jobs were shipped overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

That’s even turned some pro free-trade Republicans into protectionists. As a result, the candidates are promising to bring these jobs back to the U.S. – whether by lowering taxes (Donald Trump), improving skills (Hillary Clinton) or building infrastructure (Bernie Sanders).

But can all these manufacturing, service and knowledge-intensive jobs that were outsourced or offshored to China, India and other places really be “brought back,” as the candidates seem to believe?

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Will U.S. Tech Jobs Turn All-Indian? The H1B Visa Dilemma

By Stephan Manning.

Skilled immigration is one of the most controversial topics in the current presidential election race as political scientist Ron Hira points out in his latest Conversation article. At the core of this debate are H1B visas which allow U.S. employers to sponsor the temporary recruitment of skilled workers from abroad, particularly in so-called STEM* professions. Currently, U.S. law permits 85,000 H1B visas to be issued every year. In theory, this visa program allows for labor market flexibility in response to domestic skill shortages. In practice, H1B visas have increasingly been used to employ skilled foreign workers for lower costs, primarily from India. While H1B visas have certainly helped create tech positions at home rather than offshore, Thousands of U.S. employees have been replaced in the process and forced to train those taking their jobs. Facing this dilemma, presidential candidates across the political spectrum have struggled to find convincing solutions. I discuss what’s behind the dilemma; why the solutions of presidential candidates fall short in addressing it; and what is needed to make the H1B debate more fruitful in today’s global competitive environment.

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Deskilling 4.0? How Office Jobs Look Like in 2020

By Stephan Manning.

Not long ago, many in the U.S. and Western Europe feared the loss of white-collar jobs through offshoring and outsourcing. Now, experts predict the replacement of office jobs worldwide through smart technology. According to a study by World Economic Forum (WEF), which was prepared for the annual meeting in Davos last weekend, around five Million office jobs across major economies will be made redundant by 2020 through advanced technology. For the same reason, new tech start-ups will require less and less staff, according to WEF founder Klaus Schwab. Some call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the fusion of technologies, and use of artificial intelligence to process the internet and big data. To illustrate, twenty years ago, preparing for legal cases would require law firms to process masses of legal documents by their own staff. Ten years ago, some of that work would have been gradually outsourced to legal process outsourcing firms in India and other developing countries employing lower-cost skilled labor. Now, legal documents are increasingly analyzed by data processing software semi-automatically. Are we seeing a new wave of ‘deskilling’ – the devaluation of human labor through technology? While many jobs might be replaced entirely, affecting in particular the developing world, the WEF report suggests that also two Million new jobs will be created, especially for high-skilled software engineers. But that may not be the whole story. I discuss another type of ‘job’ that is likely to emerge – the semi-skilled ad-hoc office worker who cleans up the mess smart robots leave behind.

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Pen Sharing – The Invisible Global Sharing Economy That Works

By Stephan Manning.

Some time ago people celebrated Airbnb and Uber as new forms of sharing economies that might democratize and challenge existing principles of capitalism. But soon people got disappointed when they learned that Airbnb is reproducing inequality and is becoming just another hotel business, and that Uber drivers went on strike to fight against price cuts of the Uber Corporation, like in any other industry. In fact, disappointments about alternative economies within our capitalist system have a history. Oftentimes, these economies are very limited in scale, they do not sustain, they turn into profit-making businesses, or they turn out very difficult to organize. Famously, Paul Krugman once described the Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-Op as an example of a failed sharing economy: it went into recession because couples would rather bank time by babysitting than utilize the service to care for their children; thus there was insufficient demand for the available sitter supply. So are sharing economies just an ideal? Is there any sharing economy that has sustained over time? Well there is, but you might not be aware of it…

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Does the Sharing Economy Reproduce Inequality?

By Eliad Shmuel.

The magazine Fast Company recently published an article with the provocative title: “Can The Sharing Economy End Discrimination?” The author, David Mandell, is CEO of the office sharing marketplace PivotDesk and promoter of a new trend now everybody talks about: the sharing economy. Like David Mandell, many believe that millennials choose access over ownership, and that services such as Airbnb and Uber are democratizing the hospitality and private transportation business. This is because, rather than relying on corporate power, branding and expensive marketing, users determine themselves, through ratings, whether they like and thus recommend certain service providers or not. Likewise, providers, e.g. of Airbnb apartments, choose users based on their ratings. Ratings and reviews may vary, but on average, according to Mandell, they provide fair and objective feedback. Each participant of the sharing economy has thus equal chances of becoming popular among others – no matter what educational or social background, what race, religion, gender or sexual preference. But is that really so?

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