Avoid these Evil Tech Companies

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Tech companies have transformed from the stereotypical scrappy startup to the stereotypical megacorporation hellbent on making money before all else. Google is a great example of this transition from a company doing good to a company getting in arguments with its employees about how evil they should be. Slate asked a bunch of smart people working in tech who think is the most evil and created the following list linked below. Why is this good? Well now we know which companies we should try to avoid.

The tech industry doesn’t intoxicate us like it did just a few years ago. Keeping up with its problems—and its fixes, and its fixes that cause new problems—is dizzying. Separating out the meaningful threats from the noise is hard. Is Facebook really the danger to democracy it looks like? Is Uber really worse than the system it replaced? Isn’t Amazon’s same-day delivery worth it? Which harms are real and which are hypothetical? Has the techlash gotten it right? And which of these companies is really the worst? Which ones might be, well, evil?

We don’t mean evil in the mustache-twirling, burn-the-world-from-a-secret-lair sense—well, we mostly don’t mean that—but rather in the way Googlers once swore to avoid mission drift, respect their users, and spurn short-term profiteering, even though the company now regularly faces scandals in which it has violated its users’ or workers’ trust. We mean ills that outweigh conveniences. We mean temptations and poison pills and unanticipated outcomes.

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No Better Time than now to Work from Home

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For many office workers there is little reason to go to the office thanks to the advances in technology (it seems the only reason to be in an actual office is to be watched by a manager). The environmental gains from telecommuting are obvious and the cost saving for workers and the employers are also obvious, so why isn’t telecommuting more popular? Companies are looking into their work-from-home practices due to the outbreak of the most recent coronavirus. One positive thing that might come out of the bad news of the flu is that we commuting will be easier for all of us.

The carbon benefits of working from home largely depend on how a person gets to work. If you’re like me and take a train to work, staying home doesn’t do all that much to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re among the 76 percent of Americans who drive to work alone, then staying home a couple days a week could dramatically reduce your individual carbon footprint while also reducing all the congestion and pollution that results from so many cars on the road.


In the ideal world, the positives would be enough to encourage employers to create flexible work policies. However, saving money is the real push, said Lister. Luckily for the planet, economics and the environment go hand in handthese days, so companies are also seeing the financial benefits of setting and meeting internal sustainability goals. These work-from-home measures may appeal to investors (and consumers!) that are interested in a company’s environmental and societal impact.

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GDPR Forces NYT to Serve Better Ads

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Online media companies were forced to rethink their advertiser policies last year because of the introduction of the GDPR. The New York Times decided to stop using ad services that tracked you across the web; exactly what the GDPR was designed to do. Most people claimed that because marketers can’t spy on you that media companies like the NYT will fail. The opposite has been proven true, revenues from advertising are up due to the fact that the NYT no longer uses these sketchy advertising services.

“The fact that we are no longer offering behavioral targeting options in Europe does not seem to be in the way of what advertisers want to do with us,” he said. “The desirability of a brand may be stronger than the targeting capabilities. We have not been impacted from a revenue standpoint, and, on the contrary, our digital advertising business continues to grow nicely.”


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Planning for a Zero-Growth Economy

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The economy is sometimes referred to as an entity outside of human control – it isn’t. We control the economy through policies and practices in each nation. The last half century focussed on growing the economy at the expense of all else from social care to the environment. We’ve seen massive growth in inequality alongside easier access to consumer growth. Given the state of the planet we know this won’t work for much longer. Accordingly, it’s time to rethink what we do to support economic growth and what kind of world we want to live in.

Meanwhile we could begin to boost quality of life simply by tracking it more explicitly: instead of focusing government policy on boosting GDP (the total dollar value of all goods and services produced domestically), why not aim to increase Gross National Happiness — as measured by a selected group of social indicators?
These are ways to make economic shrinkage palatable; but how would policymakers actually go about putting the brakes on growth?
One tactic would be to implement a shorter workweek. If people are working less, the economy will slow down — and meanwhile, everyone will have more time for family, rest, and cultural activities.
We could also de-financialize the economy, discouraging wasteful speculation with a financial transaction tax and a 100 percent reserve requirement for banks.

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People Who Trust News Sources More Likely to Identify Fake News

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

A recent survey to find out who is susceptible to “fake news” found that people who hate the media were more likely to misidentify misleading information. The research studied a few thousand individuals in the USA about their thoughts on news sources and their education. In an ironic twist those that believe in fake news couldn’t identify what was fake. The findings of the research found that higher education and older age both were factors in being able to find the fake headlines.

That divide — a positive or negative reaction to “news” — mapped onto a number of other elements the researchers surveyed.

For instance, people were given three at least somewhat plausible headlines and ledes that might appear in their local newspaper. Two were real; one was fake. Those with positive attitudes fared better in figuring out which was which. In Kansas City, 82 percent of the half-glass-full types figured out which was fake, versus only 69 percent of the half-glass-empties. (The fake headline? “New study: Nearly half the nation’s scientists now reject evolution.”)

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