What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues

Good long read on the lack of quality control and standards:

The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy” is a medical handbook that recommends the right amount of the right drug for treating ailments from bacterial pneumonia to infected wounds. Lives depend on it.

It is not the sort of book a doctor should puzzle over, wondering, “Is that a ‘1’ or a ‘7’ in the recommended dosage?” But that is exactly the possibility that has haunted the guide’s publisher, Antimicrobial Therapy, for the past two years as it confronted a flood of counterfeits — many of which were poorly printed and hard to read — in Amazon’s vast bookstore.

“This threatens a bunch of patients — and our whole business,” said Scott Kelly, the publisher’s vice president.

Mr. Kelly’s problems arise directly from Amazon’s domination of the book business. The company sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.

What Dropping 17,000 Wallets Around The Globe Can Teach Us About Honesty

Interesting:

So picture this: You’re a receptionist at, say, a hotel. Someone walks in and says they found a lost wallet but they’re in a hurry. They hand it to you. What would you do?

And would that answer be different if it was empty or full of cash?

Those are questions researchers have been exploring; Thursday, they published their findings in the journal Science.

The experiment started small, with a research assistant in Finland turning in a few wallets with different amounts of money. He would walk up to the counter of a big public place, like a bank or a post office.

“Acting as a tourist, he mentioned that he found the wallet outside around the corner, and then he asked the employees to take care of it,” says Alain Cohn from the University of Michigan, the study’s lead author.

The researchers assumed that putting money in the wallet would make people less likely to return it, because the payoff would be bigger. A poll of 279 “top-performing academic economists” agreed.

But researchers saw the opposite.

“People were more likely to return a wallet when it contained a higher amount of money,” Cohn says. “At first we almost couldn’t believe it and told him to triple the amount of money in the wallet. But yet again we found the same puzzling finding.”

The researchers decided to do the experiment on a much larger scale. They put together a team that dropped off more than 17,000 “lost” wallets in 40 countries over the course of more than two years.

All the wallets were about the same — a small clear case holding a few business cards, a grocery list in the local language, and a key. Some contained no money and some held the equivalent of about $13. Research assistants turned them in at the kinds of places people would typically bring a wallet they found on the ground — police stations, hotels, post offices and theaters.

Such a large operation came with a few headaches, Cohn says. One of the researchers was detained in Kenya for suspicious behavior. And researchers worried that a backpack full of wallets might raise eyebrows when crossing borders.

It’s also worth noting that for logistical reasons, most of the wallets were not literally returned to the researchers. After people reported a wallet to its supposed owner over email, they were told that the owner had left town and didn’t need the wallet anymore.

As results rolled in from around the world, the researchers kept finding the same result. In 38 out of 40 countries, people were more likely to report receiving wallets with money than those without. And in the other two, the decrease in reporting rates for the wallets with money were not statistically significant.

What if the wallets contained far more money? The researchers did a “big money” test in the U.S., the U.K. and Poland. In that phase of the experiment, the staff dropped wallets containing nearly $100, instead of $13.

Cohn says the results there were even more dramatic. “The highest reporting rate was found in the condition where the wallet included $100,” he says. Forty-six percent of wallets with no money were reported, compared with 61% of those with about $13 and 72% of those with nearly $100.

What’s behind all this honesty? The researchers suggest two explanations.

First, just basic altruism — the person who reports receiving a lost wallet might care about the feelings of the stranger who lost it.

There’s some evidence for that. The same team ran a test where some wallets contained only a key — a thing valuable only to the person who lost it. Those wallets were about 10% more likely to be reported than those with no key.

Caring about strangers doesn’t explain everything, though. The researchers think their findings also have a lot to do with how people see themselves — and most people don’t want to see themselves as a thief. Cohn says they polled people who said that if there’s cash in the wallet, it just feels more like stealing.

And, he says, “the more money wallet contains, the more people say that it would feel like stealing if they do not return the wallet.”

Duke University economist Dan Ariely, who studies dishonesty, says this shows material benefits do not necessarily drive people’s decisions about whether to be honest.

The study “shows in a very natural, experimental way our decisions about dishonesty are not about a rational cost-benefit analysis but about what we feel comfortable with from a social norm perspective and how much we can rationalize our decisions,” Ariely says.

The rates at which people tried to return the wallets varied a lot by country, even though the presence of money in the wallet almost always increased the chances. In Denmark, for example, researchers saw more than 80% of wallets with money reported. Peru saw a little over 10%.

The researchers think wealth could be a factor, but there’s a lot more research needed to explain the differences. “Now the problem is that we don’t really know whether wealth affects honesty or it’s the other way around” — whether honesty contributes to a country’s relative wealth, says Cohn.

Countries with higher rates of primary education were also more likely to see high rates of lost wallets being reported.

“What this suggests is that what you learn in school is not just math and reading but also social skills, or just more generally how you treat each other,” Cohn adds.

The study’s results could help policymakers and businesses that want to figure out what motivates people to act for the good of others, rather than for their own enrichment.

“What our study suggests is that there might be a potential to promote honest behavior, first, by making the harm that your behavior can impose on other people more salient,” Cohn says.

Cohn says the results also suggest that to promote honest behavior, businesses or policymakers should make it more difficult for people to deceive themselves that they’re being honest when they are actually doing the opposite. For example, by having people sign a statement promising truthfulness before they report their car mileage, rather than after.

And sometimes, honesty does pay. Almost all of the people who reported a lost wallet got to keep the cash.

Source: What Dropping 17,000 Wallets Around The Globe Can Teach Us About Honesty

Countries Are Ranked On Everything From Health To Happiness. What’s The Point?

Valid point. I prefer the actual data to an index that inherently is less transparent, given that the detailed methodology generally is not read widely, and the focus is invariably, and simplistically, on the rankings:

It’s a brand new ranking.

Called the Sustainable Development Goals Gender Index, it gives 129 countries a score for progress on achieving gender equality by 2030.

Here’s the quick summary: Things are “good” in much of Europe and North America.

And “very poor” in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

In fact, that’s the way it looks in many international rankings, which tackle everything from the worst places to be a child to the most corrupt countries to world happiness.

And there are a lot of rankings. Alexander Cooley, a professor of political science at Barnard College and the author of Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance, used to keep track but stopped counting.

“It’s so hard to keep up. I’ve just sort of given up,” he says. In 2015, he counted 95 different indexes, with over two-thirds launched after 2001.

“Countries can get index fatigue, not know where to prioritize, become complacent and refuse to pay attention to them,” notes Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, an international lawyer based in East Africa.

And you do have to wonder: What’s the value of creating so many indexes to measure human and economic development when they usually come to the same predictable conclusions?

Why we love to rank

It’s easy to understand why groups like to rank. “Rankings appeal to our notion of who’s on top, who’s below. And they generate competition,” says Cooley.

Even though the top and bottom countries are often markedly similar, international groups believe that there are benefits to the sorting and ordering.

For starters, a ranking can “name and shame” countries into trying to do better, says Cooley.

Consider the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, which measures how easy it is for a company to set up shop in a given country. It looks at everything from construction permits to access to electricity. It’s not a ranking that the general public has likely heard of. But it’s a big deal in the world of economic development.

In fact, it’s so influential that Vladimir Putin in 2012 vowed publicly to move Russia up from 120th place in the Doing Business index to 50th by 2015.

Russia did not quite succeed (it landed in 62nd place that year). But the index has spurred real-life policy change.

From June 2017 to May 2018, for example, the World Bank found that 128 governments “introduced a record 314 reforms” to benefit small- and medium- business entrepreneurs, enable job creation and spur private investment.

Another index that has moved countries to action is the African Development Bank’s Africa Visa Openness Index. It shows which African countries are making improvements that support free movement of people across the continent.

“Since this index has been in place, several countries, including Ghana and Ethiopia, now allow Africans to get visas on arrival at a border post,” says lawyer Musiitwa.

The researchers with Equal Measures 2030, the new gender index, hope their new index can also inspire change: positive steps for laws and policies that benefit girls and women.

Sarah Hendriks, director of gender equality at the Gates Foundation (a funder of this blog and NPR), worked on the index. She says the goal was to “put data in the hand of gender advocates” so they can inform their government ministers “where their country is doing well, where they are falling behind and how the country is performing in meeting [women’s] needs.”

To ensure that the index reflects the priorities of those advocates, the researchers teamed up with local organizations in countries like El Salvador, India, Indonesia and Tanzania, and drew from surveys from nearly 600 policymakers and gender advocates.

And that’s the way things should go, says Dapo Oyewole, an Aspen New Voices fellow working within the Nigerian government. He says that rankings are only useful if there’s local buy-in. “The rankings are only relevant if there’s a local champion willing to drive the local changes — and an appetite from the government itself,” says Oyewole.

The rankings game

Of course, there is a potential risk when countries try to move up. They can game the rankings.

Cooley cites an example in a 2015 piece for Foreign Affairs. In 2006, Georgia was in 112th place in the World Bank’s Doing Business index. The country put together a working group to “rapidly pass laws and promulgate administrative rules” to shoot the country to 37th place in 2007.

“The evidence suggests that the change was more cosmetic than structural,” Cooley wrote of Georgia’s rise up the index. He found that the country’s ranking had not improved on “comparable” indexes, nor did Georgia produce “a sustained increase in foreign investment.”

In response to this criticism, World Bank spokesperson Chisako Fukuda told NPR: “To improve their scores, substantive legislative changes need to be made, which require a strong commitment by governments to improve their business environment.”

Squishy data

Other rankings come in for criticism of another type: They’re just kind of vague.

Consider Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which attempts to rank the world’s countries by how corrupt their public sectors are.

“A fuzzy concept like corruption isn’t amenable to unpacking,” says Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and the author of Results Not Receipts: Counting The Right Things In Corruption.

A long-standing criticism from the international community is that the index relies on the perception of corruption to create its rankings.

The rankings are based on questionnaires with “experts and business leaders,” according to the group. They’re asked about a wide range of factors, from evidence of bribery to protections for whistleblowers.

That vagueness can make it difficult for local anti-corruption advocates and nonprofits to figure out what they need to do to fight the scourge in their countries: “Should I try to make the police less corrupt or should I join a government partnership to reduce corruption?” says Kenny.

When NPR asked Transparency International if it has seen any direct links to reform, spokesperson Ferenc Gaál responded: “It is difficult to draw clear causal links between the Index and concrete impact in the form of improvements of the corruption situation in any one country’s public sector.”

The group, however, has seen its index make an impression. Advocates against corruption in Nigeria, for example, have cited the country’s poor ranking (144th place out of 180 in 2018) in op-eds calling for government reform.

Same old stories — but some surprises

As for the fact that many rankings look the same at the top and bottom, one reason has to do with money. Many indexes are correlated with GDP per capita, a measure of a country’s prosperity, says Kenny. That includes the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, which measures the economic productivity of a country’s young people; and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index, which ranks the world by its level of democracy, including economic freedom.

And countries that have more money can spend more money on health, education and infrastructure.

Musiitwa says it “annoys” her when countries in Africa get poor ratings. It can have a negative effect on a country’s financial opportunities, she says.

“I know that when investors are looking to do business in Africa, they look at indexes,” she says, citing the Doing Business index and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. “The rankings provide some kind of guide to show that a country is well-placed to receive an investment, to figure out how stable the environment is.”

But what is more frustrating, she says, is “when these countries and others that have been good performers slide back.”

Perhaps the true value of the rankings, says Kenny, lies in the outliers: The surprising stories of countries that “demonstrate that there’s space to do better.”

Rwanda, for example, is often at the bottom of economic rankings. But in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report in 2018, which ranked countries by how equal its men and women are, the country was in the top 10.

Even for wealthy countries, there are lessons to be learned about what they need to address.

Consider the U.S. in Equal Measures 2030’s new gender equality index.

Although the U.S. is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, when it comes to creating fair policies for women and girls, the country is nowhere near the top. The U.S. comes in at 28th place, in between Bulgaria and Greece.

Source: Countries Are Ranked On Everything From Health To Happiness. What’s The Point?

Nancy Pelosi and Fakebook’s Dirty Tricks: This latest doctored video proves that Facebook as we knew it is over.

Hard to disagree:

So, Fakebook it is.

This week, unlike YouTube, Facebook decided to keep up a video deliberately and maliciously doctored to make it appear as if Speaker Nancy Pelosi was drunk or perhaps crazy. She was not. She was instead the victim of an obvious dirty trick by a dubious outfit with a Facebook page called Politics WatchDog.

The social media giant deemed the video a hoax and demoted its distribution, but the half-measure clearly didn’t work. The video ran wild across the system.

Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism executive, Monika Bickert, drew the short straw and had to try to come up with a cogent justification for why Facebook was helping spew ugly political propaganda.

“We think it’s important for people to make their own informed choice for what to believe,” she said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “Our job is to make sure we are getting them accurate information.”

This is ridiculous. The only thing the incident shows is how expert Facebook has become at blurring the lines between simple mistakes and deliberate deception, thereby abrogating its responsibility as the key distributor of news on the planet.

Would a broadcast network air this? Never. Would a newspaper publish it? Not without serious repercussions. Would a marketing campaign like this ever pass muster? False advertising.

No other media could get away with spreading anything like this because they lack the immunity protection that Facebook and other tech companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 was intended to spur innovation and encourage start-ups. Now it’s a shield to protect behemoths from any sensible rules.

Mr. Cooper must be less accustomed than some of us to the way Silicon Valley tortures the concept of free speech until it screams for mercy, because Ms. Bickert’s answer left him looking incredulous.

By conflating censorship with the responsible maintenance of its platforms, and by providing “rules” that are really just capricious decisions by a small coterie of the rich and powerful, Facebook and others have created a free-for-all with no consistent philosophy.

The Chewbacca mom video is sure fun, and so are New York Times articles, because classy journalism looks good on the platform. But the toxic stew of propaganda and fake news that is allowed to pour into the public river without filters? Also A-O.K., in the clearly underdeveloped mind of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has been — try as he might with great earnestness — guiding his ship into dangerous waters.

Don’t believe me? Listen to what came out of his mouth during a podcast interview with me less than a year ago, a comment that in hindsight makes his non-action against the Pelosi video look completely inevitable. We had been talking about the vile Alex Jones, whom Mr. Zuckerberg had declined to remove from Facebook despite his having violated many of its policies. (This month Facebook finally did bar him from the platform). For some reason, presumably to make a greater point, he shifted the conversation to the Holocaust. It was a mistake, to say the least.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

I was shocked, but I wanted to hear more, so I said briefly: “In the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.”

Did he ever: “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.’’

Here was the internal dialogue in my head when he uttered this senseless jumble of words: What? What? What? Mr. Zuckerberg’s own pile of dumb mistakes were the same thing as anti-Semitic lies? The same as the calculatedly demented rantings of Mr. Jones? The same as the wily manipulations of Russia’s Internet Research Agency?

It was at that moment that I knew that Facebook was lost. And it’s been wandering ever since from one ethical quandary to the next. From the outside, the company can seem lazy and cynical, out to make money at the expense of just about anything or anyone, including Speaker Pelosi or an informed national electorate. It feels political too, as if its executives are making calculations based on nothing but what will keep the company free from trouble in these deeply partisan times.

And yet Facebook does remove content, such as posts it determines are a threat to public safety or from fake accounts.

Ms. Bickert, whom I have interviewed too and who certainly has made an effort to tame the platform, gamely tried to make this point to Mr. Cooper. “We aren’t in the news business. We’re in the social media business,” she said plaintively, as if that distinction could erase a thousand crimes taking place on the platform every day.

Not making these hard choices won’t work: The many indignities of being a Facebook user are making the platform a worse and worse place to be. So far, that has yet to infect the business itself, which is making money and continues to grow. But without a steadier hand at the wheel, Facebook cannot outrun a simple fact: It’s still Fakebook, and we already know how that story will end. Badly.

It’s not just you: The world is becoming an angrier place

Some interesting polling differences:

Many of us experience the world from inside bubbles that tend to get rather heated when they’re exposed to the outside world – or to social media.

Twitter users, for instance, may wake up to @russianbot3526′s insults in the morning and go to bed after reading a blog post confirming their view that the world is going downhill.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, French President Macron’s warning that Europe is returning to the 1930s could at any given moment be competing for attention with stories on the perhaps “world’s worst famine in 100 years,” a colony of 40,000 innocent penguins facing extinction in Antarctica and, well, Pamela Anderson storming out of a fundraiser, in protest against the world’s focus on Notre Dame instead of other pressing issues that are threatening humanity.

Or maybe you are just reading about how your neighbours are preparing for the apocalypse (or Brexit) by stockpiling cans of tuna.

Sometimes, when the “happy mood” playlist you put on abruptly ends, that poses the question: Is it just me, or is the world around me really getting angrier?

Rest assured: It’s not just you.

Last year, 22 percent of respondents across 142 countries polled by Gallup globally said they felt angry, which was two percentage points higher than in 2017 and set a new record since the first such survey was conducted in 2006.

Globally, 39 percent of respondents said they faced “a lot of worry” – up one percentage point – and 31 percent even stated they “experienced a lot of physical pain.” Stress levels, however, slightly dropped from 37 percent two years ago to 35 percent last year, which is why the world stayed at its record-high level on the “World Negative Experience Index,” instead of getting even worse. The index is based on five measured negative emotions: anger, worry, sadness, stress and physical pain, with Chad being at the very bottom of the list and Taiwan having the least negative sentiments.

As it is almost always the case with global polls, there are some limitations of this survey, including different perceptions of emotions that may be due to cultural differences. Especially in developed nations, respondents may rate their situation to be bad, even though they would be considered lucky elsewhere.

Estonia, for instance, had some of the world’s lowest negative experiences, whereas fellow Baltic nation Lithuania ranked at the very top of negative experiences, next to Yemen and Afghanistan. Lithuania is part of the European Union and has been in the headlines for its “remarkable recovery” after the financial crisis, rather than the devastating wars plaguing Afghanistan or Yemen. Those figures suggest that anger, sadness and worries are defined very differently around the world.

When the U.N. examined the Gallup polls for 2013, 2014 and 2015 about three years ago, they found that – regardless of those definitions – there were six key indicators that explained why some countries were happier than others. Per capita domestic product certainly played a role, but wealth was in some cases trumped by other factors, such as healthy years of life expectancy, freedom, trust in business and government, but also by things that are hard to measure and thus often ignored by politicians: generosity, for instance, and having someone who has your back in times of crisis.

That latter aspect – social support – was in fact among the three most important criteria, besides income and healthy life expectancy.

The fact that happiness and positive experiences aren’t only tied to financial rewards has convinced some Western governments, including New Zealand, to launch programs to boost social support and well-being as part of government budgets.

Those initiatives still lag far behind the seemingly effortless happiness of parts of Latin America, according to the latest Gallup poll, where financial resources might be scarce -but so are negative sentiments, on average.

“Latin Americans may not always rate their lives the best (like the Nordic countries), but they laugh, smile and experience enjoyment like no one else in the world,” wrote Jon Clifton, global managing partner at Gallup.

Of course, you wouldn’t think so by scrolling your news feed and reading the comments beneath stories on the “migrant caravan,” the “unique kind of financial crisis” that’ll haunt Brazil or Peru’s “health emergency.”

Source: It’s not just you: The world is becoming an angrier place

If There Is a Free-Speech ‘Crisis’ on Campus, PEN America Says, Lawmakers Are Making It Worse

Good balanced commentary:

Free speech is being tested on college campuses by rising numbers of hate crimes and deepening racial tensions, according to a report released today by PEN America, a human-rights association of writers and editors. But the Trump administration’s warnings of a “crisis” overstate the problem, it says, and risk further polarizing colleges.

The 100-page report, “Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America,” finds that threats to speech are coming from both the right and the left. Lawmakers at state and federal levels are, in many cases, making the problem worse by raising “politicized and one-sided alarms over the state of free speech” on campuses, it says.

The association examined 100 speech-related controversies that have broken out in recent years. Often, the authors found, the battles reflected tensions between free speech and the goals of equality and inclusion.

The campus confrontations grabbed the biggest headlines in 2017, “but the intermittent earthquakes of the past few years have been replaced by a near constant — if less sensational — rumble” as colleges work to fend crises off before they erupt, the report says.

Its release comes less than two weeks after President Trump’s executive order threatening to cut off federal research money to colleges that fail to uphold free speech.

Over the weekend, a lawyer with the Department of Justice, speaking at a Harvard Law School symposium, doubled down on that threat.

Jesse Panuccio, principal deputy associate attorney general, warned of a “free-speech crisis” on college campuses, citing specific examples of speech codes, free-speech zones, and “heckler’s vetoes” that he considers First Amendment violations.

“The very core of university life — open debate among scholars and students — is under attack,” he concluded.

The Trump administration has filed statements of interest in five free-speech-related lawsuits, against the University of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles Pierce College, Georgia Gwinnett College, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa. Panuccio warned that more challenges would be coming.

Efforts to legislate free-speech protection represent to many an unwelcome intrusion into colleges’ affairs. But campuses aren’t the only places where these battles are being waged.

“Far from taking place in isolation behind ivy-covered walls, today’s campus free-speech controversies are inextricable from the social and political upheaval of this historical moment,” PEN America’s chief executive officer, Suzanne Nossel, said in a statement accompanying the report.

“While we have never thought that there was a crisis per se when it comes to campus speech, there are legitimate concerns about ideas and viewpoints that have become hard to voice amid a climate of intense ideological rancor,” she wrote. “While President Trump has spotlighted threats to speech emanating from the left, our analysis reveals that intolerance of opposing views cuts across the political spectrum.”

The national debate over free speech on campus has become, in the Trump era, “a deeply partisan feud, with each side trying to catch the other in transgressive acts that can be amplified to rile up the faithful,” the report says.

One such skirmish broke out last week, when safety concerns prompted Beloit College to cancel a lecture by Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, a private security company whose employees were implicated in the 2007 deaths of Iraqi civilians.

The event, hosted by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group, was called off after protesters pounded on drums and piled chairs onto the stage where Prince was to speak.

Prince, who is the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, suggested to the Beloit Daily News that a lawsuit may be coming. “It’s sad the president and the administration of this college lacked the moral courage to enforce free speech and to defend free speech,” he said. “Fortunately, President Trump will defend free speech, and I think the college will be hearing from the court soon on this, because enough is enough.”

Beloit released a statement saying that it had acted out of concern for student safety, and that the protesters’ actions jeopardized the college’s commitment to open dialogue. “Tonight’s events fell unacceptably short of this core principle, and we condemn the behavior of those who disrupted the event,” it said. “The college will begin an investigation immediately.”

The college also posted an explanation of why it had allowed Prince to speak but then canceled the lecture.

Nossel said it was unfortunate that Beloit couldn’t find a way to allow Prince to talk by changing the venue or finding some other nonviolent way to keep protesters from interfering. “While students were absolutely within their rights to object to Prince and his message, they should have done so without impairing his free-speech rights and those of those who chose to listen to him,” she wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

Free Speech as ‘the Bedrock’

PEN America expressed worry about a tendency among some students to view free-speech protections as a cover for bigotry. Given the natural outrage some feel when a white supremacist or someone they consider a war criminal is allowed to speak on campus, the group says, it is important to ensure that students appreciate the importance of free speech “as the bedrock of an open, democratic, and equitable society.”

Leading up to the report’s release, the researchers invited groups of students, faculty members, administrators, and others for face-to-face discussions on four campuses that have been flashpoints for free-speech controversies: the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Virginia, Middlebury College, and the University of Maryland at College Park.

Among the key conclusions they came away with:

Colleges are seeing more incidents of hateful expression and intimidation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that the number of hate groups nationwide grew from 917 in 2016 to 1,020 in 2018, the report notes. College administrators are struggling to respond in ways that balance the goals of free speech and inclusion.

Faculty members are the targets of outrage campaigns from both left and right, causing serious threats to academic freedom.

The Justice Department is raising politicized alarms over the state of free speech. Similar one-sided attacks are happening at the state level as lawmakers seek to legislate free-speech protections.

Even Trump has acknowledged that statements by officials of his own administration about a free-speech crisis are “overblown.”

Professional provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have faded from the scene, but they’ve left an impact on the campuses they visited. Along with more-robust security measures, colleges have had to overhaul how they communicate with students before, during, and after a free-speech controversy.

The PEN America report includes updated guidelines for students, faculty members, and administrators on how to navigate campus controversies in ways that protect free speech while making diverse students feel welcome and supported.

When someone has been offended by a racist remark or sign, the immediate aftermath might not be the best time for a lecture about free speech, the group says. Administrators should condemn hate speech and reach out to those who are hurt by it. They should also make sure that the rights of both speakers and protesters are protected.

The report mentions a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River to link two sides of the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. Every fall, students paint the panels of the pedestrian walkway to showcase their clubs. When College Republicans in 2016 wrote “Build the Wall,” the message was soon graffitied over by “Stop White Supremacy.” Protests erupted over what should be allowed as free speech or condemned as hate speech.

“The controversy over one bridge is instructive,” the report says, “because it highlights how campuses have become a proxy for national political and social conflicts writ large in which speech has taken on great significance, and in which neither side is willing to cede an inch — or a mural — to the other.”

Source: https://www.chronicle.com/article/If-There-Is-a-Free-Speech/246031?cid=wcontentlist_hp_latest

In These Divided Times, Is Civility Under Siege?

Good discussion of civility, both its strengths and weaknesses, and how historically calls for greater civility have been used to reinforce the status quo (right to vote for women, civil rights movement).

But more respectful civil discussion and debate, with less name calling, labelling, insults etc, along with social media restraint, is needed more than ever.

And like an earlier posted article on the limits of good faith (The Utility and Futility of Good Faith in Campus Speech Controversies), there are some persons or groups whose positions and attitudes are anything but civil:

It’s a time of deepening political divisions in the United States, with people on opposite ends of the political spectrum not only disagreeing but many really disliking the other side. That dislike has been growing for decades.

In the midst of all that division and dislike, there are growing calls for civility. One poll shows that a majority of Americans say incivility is a major problem. And anNPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll says that the country’s civility crisis is deepening and that a majority of Americans fear it will lead to violence.

But what does civility actually mean? It’s sometimes defined as simply being polite. It comes from the Latin root civilis, meaning “befitting a citizen.” It’s a term that’s a comfort to some and repressive to others. And while, yes, it can refer to politeness, it’s much more than that.

“Civility is the baseline of respect that we owe one another in public life,” says Keith Bybee, the author of How Civility Works. “And when people talk about a crisis in civility, they usually are reporting their sense that there is not a shared understanding of what that baseline of respect ought to be.”

Right now that social contract — a common agreement on what appropriate public behavior looks like and who deserves respect — feels broken. No one can agree on the facts, let alone on how to argue or what to argue about. With a president who uses terms like “loser,” “dumb as a rock” and “fat pig” to describe his critics and “animals” to describe undocumented immigrants, it feels like the tone for nasty behavior that’s seeping into everyday life is being set in Washington.

Some blame the Democrats, others the media — and many blame President Trump.

For some, this deep sense of division and dislike spells out danger. What’s at stake?

“The success of the country,” says Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “When we don’t trust each other, that means it’s very difficult for politicians to compromise. It’s very difficult to find win-win solutions or positive-sum games. And so there are so many problems that we could solve,” but we don’t.

“We become credulous, we become easily manipulated by our foreign enemies and our democracy becomes what? A beacon to the world as to what not to do,” he says.

The arrival of social media didn’t help, Haidt says. He sees it as an accelerant to spew outrage and anger faster and further into the world. It’s a tool that has empowered the powerless to topple dictators, but it’s also one that is used to manipulate, deceive and, well, be horrible to people online anonymously.

But the United States has survived even more divided times in the past — from the country’s founding to the Civil War, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

Not only did the country endure, but sometimes the outcome of all the so-called incivility was a rewriting of that social contract to make it more inclusive of people who were discounted and dismissed in the past.

At the time, those sit-ins were dismissed, he says, as an “affront to racial etiquette.” In the late 1800s and early 1900s, women seeking the right to vote were uncivil. Rosa Parks? Uncivil. AIDS activists with ACT UP protesting in dramatic and disruptive ways? Uncivil. Black Lives Matter? Uncivil.

“Civility has been about making sure that the status quo, the hierarchy of the status quo at the moment, which means racial inequality, gender inequality, class inequality, stays permanent,” says Lynn Itagaki, an associate professor at the University of Missouri who writes on what she calls civil racism. She defines it as maintaining civility at the expense of racial equality.

It’s a fraught term, she says. It carries the echoes of that historical and bigoted definition of the civilized versus the savage.

Maybe this moment feels like a crisis, Itagaki says, but when people call for a restoration of civility, who gets to define it? Who gets to rewrite the social contract?

Right now hate crimes and hate groups are on the rise. The Southern Poverty Law Center blames the president for stirring fears about a country that is becoming less white and for sparking an immigration debate with racial overtones.

The calls for civility can feel like an effort to stifle people’s outrage over injustice or hate, because civility can be a tool to build or a weapon to silence.

“To what purpose is civility going to be used? Is it going to be more inclusive?” Itagaki asks. “Is it going to mean that you’re bringing more people’s voices into the political debates, or are you using civility as a way to go back to the old hierarchies and the status quo since the founding of the American republic, where you only had white male propertied free landowners who were able to vote?”

So for some, now is a time to take a step back and be civil to each other. For others, it’s imperative to be uncivil in a way that has led to social justice in the past.

Source: In These Divided Times, Is Civility Under Siege?

The Utility and Futility of Good Faith in Campus Speech Controversies

Good lengthy discussion by Jonathan Friedman (son of a friend of mine), covering both the potential and limits of good faith in engaging different perspectives in campus debates and discussion. While written for that context, it clearly applies more universally to political and other discussions:

Can dialogue grounded in good faith help deescalate some conflicts?

Campuses have become increasingly polarized in recent years, with the individuals and groups that populate them drawing firmer lines around their allies and enemies. Hardly a week seems to pass without a new conflict, controversy, or lawsuit. Groups from all points on the political spectrum have played some role in precipitating this state of affairs. Some right-leaning groups have waged a war on faculty members for expressing views critical of the Trump administration, while others have demanded that all speakers be welcomed to campus, even those who come to promote hate and provoke controversy. Some left-leaning groups, meanwhile, have become disaffected with the notion of free speech, concerned more with creating an inclusive environment than with protecting the expression of noxious ideas. Others have participated in protests—some silent, some violent—to try to shut down or disrupt talks by those whose ideas they find repugnant.

In the midst of a rise in hate crimes, racially motivated violence, and targeted efforts on campus to indoctrinate students into white supremacist ideology, the need to combat polarization and radicalization is more pressing than it has been in a generation. Abroad, tactics such as  facilitating person-to-person interactions and emphasizing common humanity have proven effective at deescalating social conflicts and have been used in efforts to combat terrorism, facilitate postconflict reconciliation, and support democracy. Now, various groups are trying to apply these lessons to college campuses, looking to dialogue as a way to move beyond our current polarization.

If these efforts are to be successful, the notion of “good faith” will be an essential precept. In diplomatic circles, good faith means believing that those with whom one is negotiating do not have duplicitous or malevolent motives. In school, in law, in business, and in relationships, the concept of good faith—believing that others are acting with good intentions and relaying information honestly—is essential for trust. Notions of civil society and liberal democracy rely on good faith too, as we expect elected leaders and various authorities to act ethically and earnestly. As legal scholar Frederick M. Lawrence has recently urged in a posting on the American Council on Education’s blog, good faith must be part of any effort at civil dialogue, as individuals should try to “assume the best in each other” and “not suspect the motives of those with whom we disagree.

But can good faith really save higher education from the throes of recent controversy around free speech and inclusion? Has good faith been lacking in debates concerning outside speakers, campus protests, safe spaces, and trigger warnings? Alternatively, what are the limits of good faith—the situations in which it might be counterproductive or even detrimental?

The Utility of Good Faith

Consider a familiar dynamic. An outside speaker invited to speak at a public university has made controversial comments in the past. Tensions run high as the group that invited the speaker hews to a robust defense of free speech, while those who are concerned about the speaker’s views express dismay at the harm the talk could cause. Campus leaders are in a bind. Much as they might agree with the concerned students, they have an obligation to support free speech. So, they can either grant the organizers permission to hold the event—despite expectations of protest—or seek an alternative reason for cancellation or postponement. No outcome of this situation will satisfy all of the parties involved.

Can good faith help mollify this situation? Let’s imagine that such an outlook was adopted by all involved. First, those objecting to the speaker would have to grant the person license to speak. Second, those who invited the speaker would have to view protesters as citizens exercising their democratic right to counterspeech. Third, administrators would support both sides, assuming they are both acting with the best intentions.

This is a rosy portrait, to be sure. But the point here is that there can be utility in suspending final judgment until a speaker—and those involved in counterspeech activities—have actually had the chance to express their views. This is a tried and true principle in diplomatic negotiations, which require the parties involved to suspend ill will and suspicion in the interest of finding middle ground. It does not mean that those instincts or feelings will dissipate but that they can—and should—be put on a back burner temporarily in the interest of allowing dialogue to move forward.

A good-faith outlook will not come easily to campus constituents involved in today’s free-speech disputes or to the wider circle of journalists, politicians, and commentators who routinely weigh in on these matters. The polarized nature of our digital lives—exemplified by the proliferation of echo chambers on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit—makes facilitating a common culture of good faith all the more challenging. But promoting good faith concerning controversial speakers on campus might help deescalate some of these conflicts.

Good faith could be productive in other instances, too. A good-faith approach to trigger warnings, for example, would consider the fact that professors often adopt them out of courteousness rather than to shield students from ideas that might offend. This is why trigger warnings are best left to the discretion of the professor. A good-faith approach to safe spaces would likewise recognize that students may have valid reasons for seeking out a community and an environment where they will not be harangued, but that it is unreasonable to expect that all spaces on a campus might be regulated and purged of all possible offenses.

Were there more good faith to go around, perhaps these would not have become such hot-button issues and those holding opposing views would not seem so misguided to one another. The same is true of numerous challenges surrounding outrage over language. Just as an effort a generation ago focused on rooting out the use of gay as a stand-in for something negative, today’s linguistic fervor has centered on purging the casual use of colloquialisms that have associations with mental illnesses, disabilities, and colonialism, as well as those lingering terms that have origins as ethnic slurs or racist insults or have sexist connotations. The challenge is that language is second nature, and many do not mean to offend in their everyday speech. For example, the professor who references the new frontiers of space exploration, or the student who reports being blindsided by a recent test, are both using terms that some have perceived as offensive. In today’s call-out culture, the use of such terms can be treated as infractions worthy of public shaming.

A good-faith interpretation can deescalate such incidents. Rather than assuming bad intent, campus constituents could be encouraged to exercise what might be called due patience and dispassionately explain the underlying meanings of the terms in question. In that millisecond between uttered speech and perceived offense, a good-faith outlook might promote cool-headedness and facilitate dialogue in which no parties ultimately feel accused or marginalized. The outcome could be greater conscientiousness by all parties, rather than greater frustration and outrage.

Of course, the impact of speech matters, but as PEN America chief executive officer Suzanne Nossel has argued, it is possible to reject the notion that individuals should, in all circumstances, be held strictly liable for their choices of words and the myriad ways in which they might be interpreted. A good-faith approach instead allows us to set the baseline expectation of others a little lower, asking that they be courteous and willing to listen rather than in the vanguard of every social cause or attuned to the latest linguistic shifts and taboos. Higher education institutions have long been known as sites of intergenerational tensions, and expecting everyone to be alert to fast-moving cultural shifts is a sure recipe for conflict. This does not necessarily require abandoning social change; it means adopting more diplomatic tactics.

Good faith might also lessen the fury against professors attacked for making controversial comments. Particularly in cases where faculty members have come under fire for posts on social media, their words have often been viewed in the worst possible light: statements have been taken out of context and interpreted literally rather than figuratively, and purported offenders have found little leeway to explain how their posts were meant to be ironic, hyperbolic, sarcastic, or satirical. Appeals to good faith may be unlikely to sway those bent on promoting negative scrutiny of higher education, but they could be useful in the vast public network of individuals who consume news about such controversies.

In these ways, good faith, due patience, and courteous listening all have much utility to recent debates and controversies surrounding free speech and inclusion in higher education. However, these frameworks are not without challenges and flaws, and they cannot be invoked in all situations.

The Futility of Good Faith

Despite clear cases in which a good-faith outlook would be helpful, the concept does have real limits. The first is that it must be reciprocated: the approach simply will not work if one side is exercising good faith but perceives the other as failing to match it. Campuses are traditionally marked by numerous conflicts—between students and faculty or faculty and administrators, or across disciplines, ideologies, or generations—but there are almost always opportunities to bridge these conflicts. The hope of reciprocal good faith can be the linchpin to get parties to the table.

Take recent debates over whether today’s generation of college students are too “coddled” and have little tolerance for those whose opinions they prejudge to be disagreeable. Conversations about this issue, if heated, will go in circles the minute either side shows disdain for the other. If terms like snowflakes and social justice warriors are lobbed, good faith will become unsustainable. This is in fact precisely how familiar debates about these issues have often proceeded, with each side distrusting that a show of good faith will be properly reciprocated and abandoning any efforts to find middle ground.

A second challenge is that the well of good faith can run dry. This is particularly relevant to various campaigns for racial justice, inclusivity, and equity that have convulsed campuses in recent years. Consider recent efforts by colleges and universities to reckon with their historic ties to slavery or the Confederacy. Early discussion of this issue might begin with reciprocal good faith between administrators and those who experience revulsion or marginalization every time they walk past certain statues or symbols on campus. If, over time, campus leaders fail to respond to those complaints, the offended parties will exhaust their appetite for negotiation. This was seen most recently at the University of North Carolina, where frustrations with the university’s response to complaints led to the toppling of the Silent Sam statue. As Jennifer Calfas documented in an article for Time, protests against the statue actually began during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and in 2017 the Democratic governor told university administrators that they could authorize its removal. But between inaction and perceived insensitivity, any good faith in the administration seems to have evaporated. Harassment, violence, or property damage should never be condoned; but this event illustrates how the window for good-faith dialogue can narrow over time.

Other circumstances will likely preclude the adoption of a good-faith approach at the outset. This is particularly so when historically marginalized populations that are the targets of racial epithets, denigrating slurs, or other offensive caricatures face demands to act with “civility.” For example, people of color might be asked to be patient with or courteous toward those who promote racism and deny their basic dignity as equal humans. It hardly seems reasonable to ask a transgender student to take a good-faith approach to the Trump administration’s memorandum on adopting a legally binding definition that would restrict gender to the biological sex assigned at birth. And it seems equally unreasonable to ask a Latina student to take a good-faith approach when her roommate builds a makeshift wall in the middle of their dorm room in the wake of a national debate about Latin American immigration laced with xenophobia and racism. In these circumstances, those who have been targeted have a right to be angry and uninterested in dialogue.

As polarization has heightened, the most troubling challenge stems from the fact that the battle lines have been drawn, and the actions and words of one’s opponents often preclude any possibility of dialogue, understanding, or empathy. Consider the platform adopted by the California College Republicans in 2018, which contained surprising invective against other student groups and campus actors. Among the claims of the platform was the proclamation that “ethnic, women’s, and sexually deviant ‘community centers’ and ‘theme dormitories’ that engender ethnic nationalism, racial animus and encourage degenerate behavior go against everything we believe as conservatives.” Invoking such denigrating language is a sure way to close off opportunities for dialogue. As Amy Binder, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, the group’s use of terms “like  ‘degenerate and murderous,’ ‘fascist-minded,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘mental illness masquerading as transgenderism,’ and so on may win them points on conservative media platforms…but will certainly not help their cause on college campuses.” The same challenge is evident in some provocations from groups on the Left, such as the inclusion in a “disorientation guide” at Vassar College of an admonition to “Slap a Zionist.” Even if meant in jest, that language can preclude any good faith in future engagements with its authors—just as labeling others’ behavior as “degenerate” is likely to preclude earnest dialogue rather than encourage it.

There is also a gaping chasm between honest debate and purposeful lies and slander. Cries of “fake news,” for example, which run contrary to facts that are readily accessible and widely acknowledged, do not merit a good-faith response. Nor do threats of violence or actions or speech with obvious racist intent demand fair engagement. In such instances, good faith will likely prove futile, for the actions of one side have escalated conflict to a point where such a response can no longer be reasonably maintained.

Temples of Good Faith

Sociologists have called universities “temples” of contemporary Western society, institutions that have attained a kind of sacred status. What they value, and how they uphold those values, matters a great deal to society writ large. But by design, they are also hardwired for conflict, commingling disciplines with different epistemologies; supporting diverse missions of research, teaching, and service; and bringing together individuals from different generations with varying ethnic, national, and racial backgrounds, religious beliefs, socioeconomic resources, cultural values, political leanings, and gender identities. To nurture a campus climate in which individuals from all these backgrounds are welcomed, in which inclusivity is realized as an institutional priority, and in which protections for free speech are robust, good faith will be a necessary virtue.

In this environment, disagreement, skepticism, and debate are all healthy. Not everyone will agree with every idea, policy, and term in circulation, but a diversity of viewpoints can be harnessed to foster critical thought and advance the academic mission. A good-faith approach can help soften potential conflicts, by fostering productive dialogue, underpinned by notions like due patience, courteous listening, curiosity, reflectiveness, openness to criticism, and leading with a charitable interpretation of others’ speech and actions. All of these are notions that faculty and staff could invest more time, energy, and resources in promoting. For if these strategies are not taught to the rising generation, we can hardly expect them to take root and flourish more widely.

Good faith is thus an important corollary to higher education’s fundamental missions of teaching, research, and service, and investing in it may pay particular dividends in our current moment of polarization and radicalization. Indeed, in other moments, this is exactly what good faith has accomplished, allowing intellectuals with fiercely opposing ideas to share a debate stage or warring rivals to broker peace. Given the legacies of racial discrimination and privilege that have intermingled and endured in higher education, good faith is bound to prove futile, inappropriate, and unsustainable in some circumstances. But if campuses could encourage their constituents to set a higher bar for outrage at their opponents—if they could aspire to be temples of good faith–then new opportunities for dialogue and understanding might appear, and new vistas for reconciling the recent tensions between free speech, diversity, and inclusion might materialize.

Source: https://www.aaup.org/article/utility-and-futility-good-faith-campus-speech-controversies#.XGXV9OhKiUk 

The robot revolution will be worse for men

Interesting long read and analysis:

Demographics will determine who gets hit worst by automation. Policy will help curb the damage.

The robots will someday take our jobs. But not all our jobs, and we don’t really know how many. Nor do we understand which jobs will be eliminated and which will be transitioned into what some say will be better, less tedious work.

What we do know is that automation and artificial intelligence will affect Americans unevenly, according to data from McKinsey and the 2016 US Census that was analyzed by the Brookings think tank.

Young people — especially those in rural areas or who are underrepresented minorities — will have a greater likelihood of having their jobs replaced by automation. Meanwhile, older, more educated white people living in big cities are more likely to maintain their coveted positions, either because their jobs are irreplaceable or because they’re needed in new jobs alongside our robot overlords.

The Brookings study also warns that automation will exacerbate existing social inequalities along certain geographic and demographic lines, because it will likely eliminate many lower- and middle-skill jobs considered stepping stones to more advanced careers. These jobs losses will be in concentrated in rural areas, particularly the swath of America between the coasts.

However, at least in the case of gender, it’s the men, for once, who will be getting the short end of the stick. Jobs traditionally held by men have a higher “average automation potential” than those held by women, meaning that a greater share of those tasks could be automated with current technology, according to Brookings. That’s because the occupations men are more likely to hold tend to be more manual and more easily replaced by machines and artificial intelligence.

Of course, the real point here is that people of all stripes face employment disruption as new technologies are able to do many of our tasks faster, more efficiently, and more precisely than mere mortals. The implications of this unemployment upheaval are far-reaching and raise many questions: How will people transition to the jobs of the future? What will those jobs be? Is it possible to mitigate the polarizing effects automation will have on our already-stratified society of haves and have-nots?

A recent McKinsey report estimated that by 2030, up to one-third of work activities could be displaced by automation, meaning a large portion of the populace will have to make changes in how they work and support themselves.

“This anger we see among many people across our country feeling like they’re being left behind from the American dream, this report highlights that many of these same people are in the crosshairs of the impact of automation,” said Alastair Fitzpayne, executive director of the Future of Work Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

“Without policy intervention, the problems we see in our economy in terms of wage stagnation, labor participation, alarming levels of growth in low-wage jobs — those problems are likely to get worse, not better,” Fitzpayne told Recode. “Tech has a history that isn’t only negative if you look over the last 150 years. It can improve economic growth, it can create new jobs, it can boost people’s incomes, but you have to make sure the mechanisms are in place for that growth to be inclusive.”

Before we look at potential solutions, here are six charts that break down which groups are going to be affected most by the oncoming automation — and which have a better chance of surviving the robot apocalypse:

Occupation

The type of job you have largely affects your likelihood of being replaced by a machine. Jobs that require precision and repetition — food prep and manufacturing, for example — can be automated much more easily. Jobs that require creativity and critical thinking, like analysts and teachers, can’t as easily be recreated by machines. You can drill down further into which jobs fall under each job type here.

Education

People’s level of education greatly affects the types of work they are eligible for, so education and occupation are closely linked. Less education will more likely land a person in a more automatable job, while more education means more job options.

Age

Younger people are less likely to have attained higher degrees than older people; they’re also more likely to be in entry-level jobs that don’t require as much variation or decision-making as they might have later in life. Therefore, young people are more likely to be employed in occupations that are at risk of automation.

Race

The robot revolution will also increase racial inequality, as underrepresented minorities are more likely to hold jobs with tasks that could be automated — like food service, office administration, and agriculture.

Gender

Men, who have always been more likely to have better jobs and pay than women, also might be the first to have their jobs usurped. That’s because men tend to over-index in production, transportation, and construction jobs — all occupational groups that have tasks with above-average automation exposure. Women, meanwhile, are overrepresented in occupations related to human interaction, like health care and education — jobs that largely require human labor. Women are also now more likely to attain higher education degrees than men, meaning their jobs could be somewhat safer from being usurped by automation.

Location

Heartland states and rural areas — places that have large shares of employment in routine-intensive occupations like those found in the manufacturing, transportation, and extraction industries — contain a disproportionate share of occupations whose tasks are highly automatable. Small metro areas are also highly susceptible to job automation, though places with universities tend to be an exception. Cities — especially ones that are tech-focused and contain a highly educated populace, like New York; San Jose, California; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina — have the lowest automation potential of all.

See how your county could fare on the map below — the darker purple colors represent higher potential for automation:

Note that in none of the charts above are the percentages of tasks that could be automated very small — in most cases, the Brookings study estimates, at least 20 percent of any given demographic will see changes to their tasks due to automation. Of course, none of this means the end of work for any one group, but rather a transition in the way we work that won’t be felt equally.

“The fact that some of the groups struggling most now are among the groups that may face most challenges is a sobering thought,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

In the worst-case scenario, automation will cause unemployment in the US to soar and exacerbate existing social divides. Depending on the estimate, anywhere from 3 million to 80 million people in the US could lose their jobs, so the implications could be dire.

“The Mad Max thing is possible, maybe not here but the impact on developing countries could be a lot worse as there was less stability to begin with,” said Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots and Architects of Intelligence. “Ultimately, it depends on the choices we make, what we do, how we can adapt.”

Fortunately, there are a number of potential solutions. The Brookings study and others lay out ways to mitigate job loss, and maybe even make the jobs of the future better and more attainable. The hardest part will be getting the government and private sector to agree on and pay for them. The Brookings policy recommendations include:

  • Create a universal adjustment benefit to laid-off workers. This involves offering career counseling, education, and training in new, relevant skills, and giving displaced workers financial support while they work on getting a new job. But as we know from the first manufacturing revolution, it’s difficult if not impossible to get government and corporations on board with aiding and reeducating displaced low-skilled workers. Indeed, many cities across the Rust Belt have yet to recover from the automation of car and steel plants in the last century. Government universal adjustment programs, which vary in cost based on their size and scope, provide a template but have had their own failings. Some suggest a carbon taxcould be a way to create billions of dollars in revenue for universal benefits or even universal basic income. Additionally, taxing income as opposed to labor — which could become scarcer with automation — provides other ways to fund universal benefits.
  • Maintain a full-employment economy. A focus on creating new jobs through subsidized employment programs will help create jobs for all who want them. Being employed will cushion some of the blow associated with transitioning jobs. Progressive Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal, which would create jobs geared toward lessening the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels, could be one way of getting to full employment. Brookings also recommends a federal monetary policy that prioritizes full employment over fighting inflation — a feasible action, but one that would require a meaningful change to the fed’s longstanding priorities.
  • Introduce portable benefits programs. This would give workers access to traditional employment benefits like health care, regardless of if or where they’re employed. If people are taken care of in the meantime, some of the stress of transitioning to new jobs would be lessened. These benefits also allow the possibility of part-time jobs or gig work — something that has lately become more of a necessity for many Americans. Currently, half of Americans get their health care through their jobs, and doctors and politicians have historically fought against government-run systems. The concept of portable benefits has recently been popular among freelance unions as well as among contract workers employed in gig economy jobs like Uber.
  • Pay special attention to communities that are hardest-hit. As we know from the charts above, some parts of America will have it way worse than others. But there are already a number of programs in place that provide regional protection for at-risk communities that could be expanded upon to deal with disruption from automation. The Department of Defense already does this on a smaller scale, with programs to help communities adjust after base closures or other program cancellations. Automation aid efforts would provide a variety of support, including grants and project management, as well as funding to convert facilities into new uses. Additionally, “Opportunity Zones” in the tax code — popular among the tech set — give companies tax breaks for investing in low-income areas. These investments in turn create jobs and stimulate spending in areas where it’s most needed.
  • Increased investment in AI, automation, and related technology. This may seem counterintuitive, seeing as automation is causing many of these problems in the first place, but Brookings believes that embracing this new tech — not erecting barriers to the inevitable — will generate the economic productivity needed to increase both standards of living and jobs outside of those that will be automated. “We are not vilifying these technologies; we are calling attention to positive side effects,” Brookings’s Muro said. “These technologies will be integral in boosting American productivity, which is dragging.”

None of these solutions, of course, is a silver bullet, but in conjunction, they could help mitigate some of the pain Americans will face from increased automation — if we act soon. Additionally, many of these ideas currently seem rather progressive, so they could be difficult to implement in a Republican-led government.

“I’m a long-run optimist. I think we will work it out. We have to — we have no choice,” Ford told Recode, emphasizing that humanity also stands to gain huge benefits from using AI and robotics to solve our biggest problems, like climate change and disease.

“The short term, though, could be tough — I worry about our ability to react in that time frame,” Ford said, especial given the current political climate. “But there comes a point when the cost of not adapting exceeds the cost of change.”

Source: The robot revolution will be worse for men

Stars of ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Scramble to Save Their Cash Cows

Of note:

Members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web are taking a financial beating and scrambling for funds because their followers are reluctant to continue pledging money on Patreon after the crowdfunding platform jettisoned another right-wing provocateur over hate speech.

Fans of the internet’s contrarian wing don’t want Patreon taking a cut of the money they send to their heroes for premium content and have stopped making pledges.

The boycott may be hurting Patreon’s bottom line, but it’s also hurting personalities like right-wing author Jordan Peterson, comedian Dave Rubin, and other big names—who have resorted to begging their acolytes to keep the cash coming or are looking for another way to raise money.

Peterson, for his part, in a video posted online Sunday, begged his fans to be “reasonably patient” and keep up the monthly payments they send him through the crowdfunding site.

“It’s not so good for me on the financial front,” said Peterson, who lost nearly 10 percent of his Patreon supporters over the past week.

“My business side is going: that’s not great,” Rubin added in the same video.

Peterson, Rubin, and other pillars of the Intellectual Dark Web, an amorphous group of conservative internet political personalities defined by their willingness to buck political correctness and tweak liberals, have seen their Patreon payments battered this month by a controversy starring one of their movement’s own members.

Now Intellectual Dark Webbers like Rubin and Peterson are faced with a tough choice.

They can follow their fans and leave Patreon, abandoning the platforms that earns them each hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in exchange for another crowdfunding platform that could be shut down at any moment. Or they can stay, and risk being branded as sellouts to their free speech-obsessed fanbases.

The Intellectual Dark Web’s Patreon gravy train is under threat over Patreon’s treatment of Carl Benjamin, a pugnacious right-wing personality who poses as ancient Mesopotamian ruler “Sargon of Akkad” online. On Dec. 7, Patreon banned Benjamin, who was making more than $12,000 a month on the platform.

Patreon kicked Benjamin off for “racist and homophobic slurs,” an apparent reference to a February rant in which Benjamin called his foes on the extreme right “niggers” and “faggots.”

Peterson, Benjamin, and Rubin, as well as Patreon’s press office, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Benjamin’s supporters on the right have mostly ignored his hate speech, framing him instead as just the latest right-wing figure to be kicked off a tech platform over his politics.

Despite his use of racial and homophobic slurs, Benjamin’s friends in the Intellectual Dark Web have cast him as a martyr to free speech. Peterson, who has been lauded in mainstream outlets like the New York Times, called Benjamin “a brave guy” and said he was “extremely upset” by the ban.

On Sunday night, “new atheist” author and Intellectual Dark Web figure Sam Harris, who had one of Patreon’s highest-earning accounts until Monday, said that he was quitting the fundraising platform over recent Patreon bans.

“These recent expulsions seem more readily explained by political bias,” Harris said in a statement.

Benjamin’s ouster left fans of the Intellectual Dark Web urging other personalities like Rubin and Peterson to quit Patreon, too. But their options are limited.

SubscribeStar, an upstart Russian crowdfunding site, initially offered to take in right-wing figures who were kicked off Patreon. But payments giant PayPal closedSuscribeStar’s account over the weekend, making it nearly impossible for the site to process credit card transactions.

That puts SubscribeStar in the same spot as other crowdfunding sites that have courted the extreme right, only to be banned from the major financial tech platforms. Over the weekend, SubscribeStar stopped accepting new members.

Other personalities are attempting to raise money through membership programs of their own. Some have urged their fans to just send them money directly through PayPal, while Harris has directed his thousands of Patreon subscribers to sign up to pay for his content through his own website.

Peterson, an idiosyncratic Canadian professor and bestselling author who subsists on an all-beef diet, isn’t about to go broke if he loses the Patreon money. Neither is Rubin, who has other income streams, including YouTube ads for his online talk show.

Still, Peterson and Rubin have a plan to save their fan payments: launching a Patreon-style website of their own. On Sunday, Peterson and Rubin urged their Patreon backers to hang tight as they work on the new site.

“We have not been sleeping on this front, man,” Peterson said in a video. “People are trying to figure out what to do so this stops happening.”

But Rubin and Peterson don’t have a launch date for their Patreon clone, and it’s not clear how many of their fans would follow them to a new, untested website. And they’ll have to contend with the biggest issue of all: keeping publicity-conscious payment processors like PayPal happy, while not alienating their hard-right fans.

Source: Stars of ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Scramble to Save Their Cash Cows