Trump tells tech CEOs that Washington needs to ‘catch up with the revolution’

At a meeting with top tech leaders Trump promised a transformation of outdated federal technology, which astonishingly still includes floppy disks

Donald Trump called for sweeping transformation of the federal governments technology during the first meeting of the American Technology Council, established by executive order last month.

Eighteen of Americas leading technology executives including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet convened at the White House Monday for the summit.

Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution, said Trump. America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect, and we are going to start our big edge again in technology such an important industry.

The tech leaders spent four hours meeting officials including vice-president Mike Pence, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross before meeting with the president. Ivanka Trump, the presidents daughter, was also present.

They discussed modernizing the governments technological infrastructure, cutting fraud and government costs and improving services for taxpayers. The White House believes these measures could save up to $1tn over 10 years.

Together we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before, said White House senior adviser and Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner, before the sessions started.

Kushner highlighted some astonishing examples of outdated federal IT infrastructure, including the fact that the defense department still uses 8-inch floppy disks on some of its legacy systems. He also mentioned that civilian agencies maintain more than 1.6m email addresses per month using on-premise servers at an average cost of $20-per-user per month. Switching to cloud-based email services could reduce these costs down to $3-per-user per month, he said.

Our goal here is simple: we are here to improve the day to day lives of the average citizen. Thats a core promise and we are keeping it, said Kushner.

We will foster a new set of start ups focused on gov-tech and be a global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens needs.

Ivanka Trump sits beside Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, at the roundtable in the state dining room of the White House. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The tech CEOs were also pushing their own agendas, according to Recode. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, called on the government to take advantage of the type of commercial technology that Amazon sells. Palantir CEO Alex Karp said that big data analysis, the kind Palantir offers, could help stop fraudulent federal spending. Apples Tim Cook wanted coding to be made a requirement in schools.

This was the first meeting of the American Technology Council since the president announced its creation in an executive order signed on 11 May.

Within the order, which builds on plans laid out by the Obama administration, Trump announced the creation of the council, whose mission is to coordinate the vision strategy and direction for the federal governments use of information technology and the delivery of services through information technology.

The council was given 90 days to come up with a plan to transition antiquated, fragmented systems across government to either one or more consolidated network architectures or shared IT services, including email, cloud and cybersecurity services.

Other members of the council include: Ajay Banga, the CEO of Mastercard; Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle; Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir; Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel; Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; and Peter Thiel.

The council is led by Chris Liddell, a top aide to Trump and the former chief financial officer of Microsoft.

Notably absent from the meeting was Facebook neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Sheryl Sandberg were able to attend due to scheduling conflicts. It was the only one out of the top-five most valuable companies in the US to not have a representative at the meeting.

The meeting comes at a time when a number of people in the tech world have chosen to distance themselves from Trump after he withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X, announced on Twitter: Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

June 1, 2017

Before that Ubers embattled CEO Travis Kalanick left Trumps business advisory council after the company faced criticism for working closely with the Trump administration and for its response to the White Houses travel ban affecting people from seven Muslim majority countries.

In January, the social media meme #DeleteUber exploded online after the ride-sharing company was accused of exploiting the travel ban for commercial gain. In protest at the travel ban the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called on its members to avoid JFK airport. However, Uber flouted the strike although removed surge pricing from journeys to and from the airport. It was far from Ubers most egregious undertakings, but enough to give arch rival Lyft a 7% boost in users.

Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC)

Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.

January 29, 2017

Uber apologized for the misunderstanding and Kalanick sent a memo to all of Ubers staff.

There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration, but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that, he said.

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Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

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Ransomware attack ‘like having a Tomahawk missile stolen’, says Microsoft boss

Brad Smith says Wannacry attack that locked up to 200,000 computers in 150 countries is a wake-up call amid fears more will be hit as week begins

The massive ransomware attack that caused damage across the globe over the weekend should be a wake-up call for governments, the president of Microsoft has said.

Security officials around the world are scrambling to find who was behind the attack which affected 200,000 computer users and closed factories, hospitals and schools by using malicious software that believed to have been stolen from the US National Security Agency.

Europol, the pan-European Union crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of ransomware victims was likely to grow across the private and public sectors as people returned to work on Monday.

But Brad Smith, Microsoft presidents and chief legal officer, said on Sunday that it was the latest example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments was such a problem.

Smith, whose companys older system software such as Windows XP was exploited by the ransomware, wrote in a blog post : The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call, Smith wrote. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.

An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

Cyber security experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry had slowed but that the respite might only be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work.

New versions of the worm are expected, they said, and the extent and economic cost of the damage from Fridays attack were unclear.

Its going to be big, but its too early to say how much its going to cost because we still dont know the magnitude of the attacks, said Mark Weatherford, an security executive whose previous jobs included a senior cyber post with the US Department of Homeland Security.

The investigations into the attack were in the early stages, and attribution for cyber attacks is notoriously difficult.

US President Donald Trump on Friday night ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to convene an emergency meeting to assess the threat posed by the global attack, a senior administration official told Reuters.

Senior US security officials held another meeting in the White House situation room on Saturday, and the FBI and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The NSA is widely believed to have developed the hacking tool that was leaked online in April and used as a catalyst for the ransomware attack.

The original attack lost momentum late on Friday after a security researcher inadvertently took control of a server connected to the outbreak, which crippled a feature that caused the malware to rapidly spread across infected networks.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organisations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too difficult to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.

Marin Ivezic, cyber security partner at PwC, said that some clients had been working around the clock since the story broke to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups.

Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks, a rare and powerful feature that caused infections to surge on Friday.

Code for exploiting that bug, which is known as Eternal Blue, was released on the internet in March by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers. The group said it was stolen from a repository of NSA hacking tools. The agency has not responded to requests for comment.

Hong Kong-based Ivezic said that the ransomware was forcing some more mature clients affected by the worm to abandon their usual cautious testing of patches to do unscheduled downtime and urgent patching, which is causing some inconvenience.

He declined to identify clients that had been affected.

The head of the European Union police agency said on Sunday the cyber assault hit 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries and that number would grow when people return to work on Monday.

At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat. The numbers are going up, I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn (on) their machines on Monday morning, Europol director Rob Wainwright told Britains ITV.

Monday was expected to be a busy day, especially in Asia which may not have seen the worst of the impact yet, as companies and organisations turned on their computers.

Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow morning when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing emails or other as yet unconfirmed ways the worm may propagate, said Christian Karam, a Singapore-based security researcher.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story

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Apples Watch can detect an abnormal heart rhythm with 97% accuracy, UCSF study says

According to a study conducted through heartbeat measurement app Cardiogram and the University of California, San Francisco, the Apple Watch is 97 percent accurate in detecting the most common abnormal heart rhythm when paired with an AI-based algorithm.

The study involved 6,158 participants recruited through the Cardiogram app on Apple Watch. Most of the participants in the UCSF Health eHeart study had normal EKG readings. However, 200 of them had been diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat). Engineers thentrained a deep neural network to identify these abnormal heart rhythms from Apple Watch heart rate data.

Cardiogram began the study with UCSF in 2016 to discover whether the Apple Watch could detect an oncoming stroke.About a quarter of strokes are caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, according to Cardiogram co-founder and data scientist for UCSFs eHeart study Brandon Ballinger.

Cardiogram tested the deep neural network it had built against 51 in-hospital cardioversions (a procedure that restores the hearts normal rhythm) and says it achieved a 97 percent accuracy in the neural networks ability to find irregular heart activity.

So far this is just a study built on a preliminary algorithm but it holds promise in trying to identify and prevent stroke in the future. Atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm, causes 1 in 4 strokes. Ballinger says two-thirds of those types of strokes are preventable with relatively inexpensive drugs.

And more people, including older populations most prone to stroke risk, are starting to use wearable technology such as Fitbit or the Apple Watch, which can double as heart monitors. Including algorithms trained to identify heart problems could help save lives in some of these more at-risk populations.

It should be noted mobile EKG readers have also made great strides in the past few years. The Mayo Clinic teamed up on a study involving AI and AliveCors version of an EKGreader, which sticks onto the back of a smartphone and uses the Kardia app to determine abnormal heart rhythm, and determined it was as good as other EKG devices used in the doctors office. The Mayo Clinic felt so strongly about this study it invested in AliveCors latest $30 million round.

In the meantime, Cardiogram and UCSF will continue its eHealth study and plan to further validate its deep neural network against multiple gold standards, incorporating the results into the Cardiogram app itself, and investigating the ability to detect health conditions beyond atrial fibrillation, according to Cardiogram.

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Facebook shares dip from high as investors fret over costs, future profit

The worlds biggest online social network is searching for new advertising features to supplement main revenue streams that it expects to cool off this year

Facebook reported surging quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday, helped by its fast-growing mobile ad business. But its shares dipped from a record high in after-hours trading as investors showed some nervousness about future earnings.

The worlds biggest online social network, which is nearing the five-year anniversary of its initial public offering, is searching for new types of advertising features to supplement its main revenue streams that it expects to cool off this year.

Facebooks shares fell 2.4% in after-hours trading to $148.12. They had closed at an all-time high of $153.60 on Tuesday.

Chief financial officer David Wehner said on a conference call after the companys earnings announcement that ad revenue growth was expected to come down significantly over the rest of 2017, repeating prior company warnings that it was hitting a limit in ad load, or the number of ads it can squeeze onto users pages before upsetting them.

Wehner gave similar warnings about ad load in November and in February, although a slowdown has not materialized.

New products, such as ads that play in the middle of videos or appear on Facebooks Messenger app, could fuel growth, but Wehner and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday those plans were still in early stages.

At the same time, the company said expenses would continue at a high level, growing 40% to 50% this year over 2016 levels and putting a squeeze on future profits.

As we look into 2017 and beyond, there are going to be a number of initiatives we believe are valuable to the community and to the company in the long term that are going to be net negative on our operating margin, Wehner said.

Facebooks spending contributed to the drop in share price after hours, said Josh Olson, an Edward Jones analyst.

Investors were hoping for some indication that we would see some relief as the year progressed, and we still could. I think that expense guidance range, left unchanged, is probably what is weighing on shares, Olson said.

Facebook said quarterly profit in the first three months of 2017 rose 76.6% year-over year to $3.06bn and total revenue went up 49% to $8.03bn.

The company is expected to generate $31.94bn in mobile ad revenue globally in 2017, up 42.1% from a year earlier, according to research firm eMarketer.

That would give Facebook a 22.6% share of the worldwide mobile ad market, with archrival Google of Alphabet projected to be the leader with a 35.1% share, according to eMarketer.

Facebook continued its march toward the 2 billion user threshold, saying it had some 1.94 billion people using its service monthly as of 31 March. That was up 17% from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected monthly active users of 1.91 billion, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

Net income attributable to Facebook shareholders rose to $3.06bn, or $1.04 per share, in the first quarter from $1.73bn, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Mobile ad revenue accounted for about 85% of the companys total advertising revenue of $7.86bn in the first quarter ended 31 March, compared with about 82% a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected total ad revenue of $7.68bn, according to FactSet.

Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg said the company would add 3,000 people over the next year to monitor and remove murders, suicides and other inappropriate material from its network, which have become a threat to Facebooks valuable public image.

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Jack Dorsey just spent $9.5M buying more Twitter stock

Jack Dorsey is at it again after purchasing $7 million in Twitter stock back in February, the Twitter CEO bought another $9.5 million today.After making his purchase, Dorsey posted the news on Facebook Twitter, sparking a one percent gain in the companys share price in after-hours trading.

Sourced from Google Finance.

According to an SEC filing, Dorsey purchased574,002 shares of Twitter stock at roughly $16.62. That price is either a steal, if you compare it to Twitters peak share price of almost $70or a pretty bad deal if youre looking at last weeks share price that was $2 lower. Either way, the CEO is expressing confidence in his company that just posted its first decent earnings report in a while.

Earlier this week, Twitter reported to investors that it brought in $548 million in revenue in Q1 2017, beating investor expectations of $511.9 million. That sent Twitter stock on an upward trajectory, benefitting shareholders. But despite all the good news, Dorsey hasnt actually made much fromhis purchase of over 400,000 shares back in February.

With both purchases combined,Dorsey has now grabbed up over1 million additional shares of Twitter stock this year alone. In contrast, he has been dumping stock from his side-hustle Square. The share price for Square stock has been on the rise.The money from Dorseys sale of Square stock has previously gone to fund his ownStart Small Foundation.

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Sense360 raises $7 million to track customers in fast food restaurants

Physical tracking in shops has been a global trend since at least 2013.Using a cell phones location data and video monitoring, retailers have beentracking customers movements through stores in an effort to regain some of the ground lost to the online retail experience.

At least, thats the argument from stores. And now fast food restaurants are picking up the rallying cry.

On the back of nearly 20,000 fast food locations usingits customer-tracking technologies in stores, the Los Angeles-based startupSense360has raised $7 million in its first round of financing.

The mobile-sensing technologies that are at the heart of Sense360s technology track location and survey data from customers to sell to fast food stores customer feedback (both voluntary and involuntary) on whats working and whats not working at locationsaround the country.

Investors in the round included Firstmark, Qualcomm Ventures and Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures.

The company also established an advisory board with heavy hitters from fast food restaurants, like Joel Aach, a former vice president at Darden Restaurants (the company behind The Olive Garden restaurant chain and others); and Huw Griffiths, the global chief product officer at the marketing firm Universal McCann.

Sense360 isnt the only company thats looking at customer behavior. BirdEyeraised $25 million in Februaryto not onlyanalyze customer behavior and feedback but also to provide a sort of relationship managementthat the company said can help convert negative sentiment into positive experiences.

Both companies are building on the foundation laid by other startups, likeShopperTrak,Retail Next,NomiandPrism Skylabs.

Aware of the pushback that has shuttered a number of location-tracking services in higher-end retail outlets, Sense360 chief executive Eli Portnoy takes pains to highlight the care with which Sense360 approaches customer data.

We only work with apps that have a legitimate reason to collect location data and all participating apps must get user consent to acquire and share the location data, Portnoy wrote to me in an email. We also do not collect personally identifiable information. In fact, we intentionally obscure sensitive data like wifi access points so that we cannot access that information, ensuring added privacy.

Portnoy said that the company never shares individual data with third parties, and that all reporting is provided in an aggregated format.

That means Sense360 isnt sharing data, just access to the dashboard that allows restaurants to view the data thats been collected.

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Can podcasting save the world?

As writers resort to attention-getting headlines to maintain readership its clear that the educated, mobile, and bored reader is now turning into a listener. While written news continues to flood us from every conceivable angle there is one small, quiet voice still speaking to us from our earbuds: the podcaster speaking truth to power, bullshitting about movies, or spinning long narrative threads about dead men and their gold.

First, lets all agree that podcasting is getting big. Once the domain of amateur mumblers who spoke at length about laptop specs or chemtrails, podcasting has become big business and listeners are paying attention. I posit that podcasting has become the default method for consuming longform journalism and commentary and that should give writers and journalists pause.

Some numbers: In the past six years podcast listenership has risen 13% from 23% to 36% of Americans aged 12 and up. The number of podcasts hosted on Libsyn rose from 12,000 in 2012 to 28,000 in 2016. WNYC raised $15 million to create a new podcast division. A new podcast, one that details the life and times of an eccentric Southern clockmaker, achieved blockbuster status, grabbing 1.8 million subscribers since launch.

Again, these numbers pale in comparison to the budgets of cable TV and Internet. This website alone has 8 million followers on Twitter and does 1.8 million pageviews in a few hours. The written word, however, becomes far less interesting in places where education is valued but the time and concentration necessary to consume longform writing is lacking. A sysadmin I know listens to hundreds of podcasts on his daily walks to and from work. Countless long-distance commuters plug in a podcast for the trip from Circleville to Columbus or Bucks County to Manhattan. Podcasting is the new talk radio and it skews, at least in the categories we can measure, toward the public radio listener.

Spoken word has long been in a doldrum but that is changing. While talk radio appeals to sports fans and baby boomers it never appealed to the long form reader. Podcasts, however, have begun the slow process of replacing the written word. Some of the best non-fiction out there is appearing on shows like This American Life and Serial and its clear that on-demand audio, like on-demand video before it, is the next big thing.

Now back to my hyperbolic title can podcasting truly save the world? First, we have to assume that the world wants long form writing on the Internet. I think this is true. We love stories and consuming those stories in audio format is a true treat. It lets us consume long form content without the associated costs of reading, costs that, while minimal, still require time and attention.

Second, we have to assume that podcasts are getting better. The numbers bear this out. While most of Libsyns podcasts, Im assuming, arent on par with in-depth analyses like Radiolab or Serial we can assume that at least a few of those podcasts Hardcore History and A History of the World in 100 Objects spring to mind have multiple thousands of downloads and are designed for the careful, curious listener.

Therefore we are getting amazing content for free via podcasting and any time that happens someone gets hurt. When blogs started producing acceptably readable facsimiles of newspaper reports they supplanted newspapers. Once websites and forums could review products better than computer magazines the magazines died. Podcasting will change the world by bringing us back to literary non-fiction and encourage contemplative, not consumptive, models of media.

If I were in the betting game Id say that podcasts will rise in popularity as television and radio wane. News, commentary, and histories work quite well in the podcasting medium. You can easily grab a daily news rundown and listen to it at your leisure just as you can easily download the best of the podcasting world for slow, careful consideration. Whereas television and radio are considered finite resources by the folks who maintain them there can be a podcast for every mind. Why listen to Howard Stern for hours when you can listen to three podcasts that are equally raunchy and, presumably, get more out of the process?

We have no time to read. We do have time to listen to podcasts. Again, if I were in the betting game I would wager that podcasts are only going to get more popular and if I were getting into media Id learn how to make and sell them. Its rare that something blossoms so wildly right under our noses. It would help us to pay attention.

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Journalism faces a crisis worldwide we might be entering a new dark age | Margaret Simons

Almost anyone can use the worldwide web to be a media outlet, so how will we differentiate between truth, myth and lies?

Australias two largest legacy media organisations recently announced big cuts to their journalistic staff. Many editorial positions, perhaps up to 120, will disappear at Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and News Corporation announced the sacking of most of its photographers and editorial production staff.

Both announcements were accompanied by corporate spin voicing a continuing commitment to quality journalism. Nobody in the know believes it. This is the latest local lurch in a crisis that is engulfing journalism worldwide.

Now, partly thanks to Donald Trump, many more people are turning their mind to the future of news, including fake news and its opposite.

How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?

Almost too late, there is a new concern for the virtues of the traditional newsroom, and what good journalists do. That is, find things out, verify the facts and publish them in outlets which, despite famous stuff-ups, can generally be relied upon to provide the best available version of the truth.

As this weeks announcements make clear, the newsrooms that have traditionally provided most original journalism are radically shrinking.

News media for most of the last century appeared to be one relatively simple business. Gather an audience by providing content, including news. Sell the attention of the audience to advertisers.

The internet and its applications have brought that business undone. As any householder can attest, the audience no longer assembles in the same concentrations. The family no longer gathers around the news on television. Most homes have multiple screens and news is absorbed as it happens.

Appointment television is nearly dead, at least for those under 50.

At the same time, technology has torn apart the two businesses advertising and news that used to be bound together by the physical artefact of the newspaper. Once, those who wanted to find a house, a job or a car had to buy a newspaper to read the classifieds. Now, it is cheaper and more efficient to advertise and search online, without needing to pay a single journalist.

Publishers and broadcasters have moved online, but the advertising model fails. Ads on websites earn a fraction of the amount that used to be charged for the equivalent in a newspaper or during a program break.

All this is last centurys news but over the past five years the landscape has shifted again because of the dominance of Google (which also owns YouTube) and Facebook. These social media engines have quickly become the worlds most powerful publishers. Besides them, Murdoch looks puny. Yet Google and Facebook dont employ journalists. They serve advertisements and news to the audience members on the basis of what they know about their interests.

For advertisers, its all gravy. Why pay for a display ad in a newspaper when you can have your material delivered direct to the social media feeds of people who you know are likely to be interested in buying your product?

It is now estimated that of every dollar spent on advertising in the western world, 90 cents ends up in the pockets of Google and Facebook.

Today, just about anyone with an internet connection and a social media account has the capacity to publish news and views to the world. This is new in human history.

The last great innovation in communications technology, the printing press, helped bring about the enlightenment of the 1500s and 1600s.

The optimists among us thought the worldwide web and its applications might lead to a new enlightenment but as has become increasingly clear, the reverse is also possible. We might be entering a new dark age.

Fake news isnt new. The place of Barack Obamas birth was about as verifiable as a fact gets with the primary document, his birth certificate, published online. But the mere publication of a fact did not stop a large proportion of US citizens from believing the myth that he was born overseas.

It is very hard to say how many Australian journalists have left the profession over the last 10 years.

This is partly because the nature of journalistic work has changed. Many now work aggregating or producing digital content, never leaving their desks.

Institutions such as universities and NGOs are now producing journalistic content, published online, but the people employed to do this task rarely show up in the figures compiled by unions and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, because their employers are not classified as media organisations.

Nevertheless, the big newsrooms have shrunk beyond recognition. This weeks announcements were the latest in a 15-year trend. In 2013, industry commentators estimated that more than 3000 Australian journalists had lost their jobs in the previous five years. Since then, there have been further deep cuts, and last weeks announcements were merely the latest. In the US, it is estimated that 15 per cent of journalistic jobs disappeared between 2005 and 2009, and the cuts havent paused since then.

At the same time, and offsetting this, there are new participants in the Australian media. We now have online local versions of the British Daily Mail, the youth-oriented news and entertainment outlet Buzzfeed, the New York Times, (which has just launched) and the Huffington Post, which operates in partnership with Fairfax. Not least, there is this outlet an Australian edition of the Guardian.

There are also many small, specialist outlets that exist because the economics of online publishing beat the cost of buying broadcasting licences or printing on bits of dead tree, trucking the papers around the nation and throwing them over the fences.

For the same reasons, almost any large organisation can, if it chooses, use the worldwide web to be a media outlet though whether the output classes as journalism or public relations is another matter.

Most of the new entrants to the business employ only a few local journalists. The reputable ones struggle to perform miracles each hour with hardly any reporters.

So what does the future hold?

I think it is clear we will have many more smaller newsrooms in the future including new entrants, non-media organisations touting their wares and the wasted remains of the old businesses.

Some of these newsrooms will operate on the slippery slopes that lie between news, advocacy and advertising.

Some of them will be the fake news factories, devoted to earning an income from spreading clickable, outrageous lies.

If it were only the decline of businesses, we would not need to worry so much. It is rare in history for those who have profited from one technology to go on to dominate the next. Cobb and Co ran the stagecoaches, but not the steam trains.

The Fairfax Media building in Sydney. Big newsrooms everhywhere have shrunk beyond recognition. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

But it is more serious than the decline of private businesses.

The future is far from clear, but here are some things we can expect to see delivered more quickly than we might think.

First, social media companies will begin to invest in quality content, because otherwise they will lose their audiences.

This is not merely wishful thinking. In China, WeChat, owned by Tencent Corporation, is the dominant social media engine and has functionality that makes Facebook and Twitter look old-fashioned. If you want to know whats coming next in social media, look to China.

As I found on a recent research trip to China, WeChat is investing a lot of money in original journalism. Many of the most interesting journalists in China including some who have been jailed in the past for their work are now earning better salaries than those available on party media outlets by freelancing for Tencent, which actively supports and encourages them in multiple ways.

Its counterintuitive, given Chinas record on freedom of speech, but then the country is changing so fast and is so complex that preconceptions can only be challenged. China might have begun by copying the social media activity of the west, but it has long since outstripped it.

Not that the future dominance of Tencent-like operations is entirely reassuring. WeChat is also a cashless payment system, earning money from transactions. It knows absolutely everything about its users, to a much greater extent than Facebook and Google. It surpasses all previous means of citizen surveillance.

Second, governments will have to take some responsibility for news and information. In Europe and Canada, they are experimenting with methods of helping bolster journalism.

Meanwhile, international research confirms that countries blessed with a strong tradition of publicly funded media are more cohesive, better informed and less polarised. Our own ABC is one of the main reasons we can hope that the trajectory of our democracy will be better than that of the United States.

Lastly, there are citizens. The experience of the last decade tells us that citizen-journalism cannot replace the work done by properly resourced and trained professionals, but it will be a permanent part of the news ecology.

For the foreseeable future, we will be only a few minutes and clicks away from a citizen leaking information, publishing a bare account of a news event or providing a subversive point of view.

In fact, being a responsible consumer, funder and purveyor of news and information is now best understood as one of the many duties of good citizenship. If we can hold firm to that notion, we will come through the crisis.

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Speed-reading apps: can you really read a novel in your lunch hour?

Apps such as Spreeder and Spritz are bringing speed reading back into fashion. But what gets lost in this race for the last page?

This article contains 1,993 words. If you were to read it to the end, without being distracted by your email or your dog or your children or the contents of the fridge or the bills you have to pay, it would take you, on average, a little over six minutes. But what if you were able to imbibe all of its (undoubted) nuance and richness in half of that time? Or a quarter? What if you could glance at the text and know everything it said just by running your eyes down the page?

The idea of speed reading was invented by an American schoolteacher named Evelyn Wood, whose search for a way to improve the lives of troubled teenagers in Salt Lake County, Utah, by teaching them to read effortlessly, led her to the belief that she herself could read at the rate of 2,700 words a minute, 10 times faster than the average educated reader. And further, that the techniques that allowed her to do so could be taught and sold.

With Doug, her husband, Wood opened her Reading Dynamics institutes across the US and beyond in the 1950s and 60s, and her methods became a self-help craze. The way in which we read, she professed, in the managerial spirit of the moment, was inefficient in terms of time and motion. We had to stop subvocalising saying words out loud in our heads as our eyes moved across the page as well as learning to outlaw the pauses and detours that led to us reread phrases when our minds drifted or our understanding snagged. Print should be consumed in blocks rather than words and sentences. To achieve this, Wood promoted a technique of running a finger down the middle of a page to activate peripheral vision. By the end of a course in Reading Dynamics, breathless students were reading Orwells Animal Farm at the rate of 1,400 words a minute, and telling tales of revolution.

President Kennedy, who believed himself to be a gifted speed reader (and who colleagues observed reading the New York Times and the Washington Post each morning in 10 minutes flat, scanning and turning the pages), sent a dozen of his staff tothe Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Institute in Washington. Presidents Nixon and Carter, under mountains of briefings, followed suit. The science of Woods method was never remotely proven, however, and by the time of her death in 1995, her ideas had fallen out of fashion.

Recently, the attractions of speed reading have been revived and promoted, for a couple of reasons. The first is the persuasive perception that we are living in times of information overload, that we are daily presented with more words than we can possibly cope with, and that new tactics are called for to enable us to make sense of it all. The second factor is the belief that since text can now be presented more dynamically on screens we are not restricted by the rigidity of printed sentences on a page: surely there is a better way?

These twin perceptions have led to a wave of businesses and apps that once again aim to revolutionise your reading speed (at the cost of $4.99, or whatever, a month). For the past couple of weeks Ive been experimenting with a few of the best known, mostly on my smartphone. The apps generally use a technology called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), in which individual words, or blocks of two or three words, appear one after the other in the centre of your screen. The rate at which they do so can be set to 300 or 500 or 1,000 words a minute, enabling you to feed in text and books to be read faster and faster.

Two of the more popular platforms offer a slightly different approach. The Spreeder app allows you to choose the number of words you see at each moment, and to vary the rate at which these words come at you. I found that I could just about take in three-word chunks of Animal Farm for sense at 800wpm, but that in doing so I not only had a slight feeling of panic in trying to keep up, I lost any sense of the rhythm of language, and with it any of the tone of what was being said.

Spritz technology, meanwhile, developed by a company in Boston, is based on the idea that much of the time wasted in reading is spent in the fractions of seconds as the eyes focus moves between words and across the page. Spritz which drives the app ReadMe! offers successive individual words in which one letter, just before the midpoint of each word, is highlighted in red, keeping your focus on that precise point on the screen (the Optimum Recognition Point). With this technology I found I could just about read simple passages for sense at 700wpm, an ability I imagine would become more natural, if not necessarily more comfortable, the longer you practised it.

Both of the apps and there are dozens of others to choose from come with tutorials and exercises to help you master the system. In most cases you start, as Evelyn Wood used to, with an assessment of your current (bad) reading habits. Its the nature of my job as a journalist to often assimilate a lot of information under time pressure, so I like to think no doubt along with pretty much everyone else that I have developed quite fast comprehension skills. An app called Acceleread was mildly impressed with my ability to read a passage about deep sea creatures and then answer a series of questions about it.

The assessment began positively enough: 385wpm Fantastic! You already demonstrate some advanced techniques such as reading words in groups rather than individually. But the assessment had caveats: You may still find that you often say words silently and get easily distracted. (Youre not kidding.) Your program will focus on reducing subvocalisation, strengthening your eye muscles and increasing your capacity to absorb more information at once. You should see rapid and dramatic results

Before embarking on this body-building course for my eyes and brain, I read through some of the quite complex science of reading (generally at no more than 200wpm, and with plenty of distractions). There have been many studies of the claims made by speed reading courses, going back to the early promises of Evelyn Wood. As well as arguing that it was possible to utilise peripheral vision, she claimed that our eyes were lazy, unless yoked into rigorous training. The studies most definitively a large-scale research project, So Much to Read, So Little Time: How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help?, led by scientists at the University of California, San Diego and published last year concluded that in general such training is neither biologically nor psychologically possible.

The mechanics of reading have only recently been fully understood. They depend on a brief fixation of the focal point of the eye, which lasts about 0.25 of a second on each word. The transition of that focus to the next word is allowed by saccades fine, ballistic eye movements, which last for about 0.1 of a second. The eye then either keeps moving forward or momentarily and subconsciously flicks back to confirm the sense of what has been read so far. All the experiments suggested that short-circuiting any part of this process led to a loss of comprehension and retention. The genius of normal reading is that it can minutely vary those fractions of seconds depending on how much of the sense of what is being read has been grasped. In a dense sentence, with sub-clauses and unfamiliar language, fixations and saccades are adjusted accordingly, so there is no break in reading flow. In easier passages the eye dances along swiftly. About 30% of the time it automatically shrinks the saccade over a familiar run of words, skipping past those it can predict.

How does this understanding bear on the apps such as Spreeder and Spritz? The acceleration they promise tends to depend on three issues: sub-vocalisation, looping backwards, and the time lag between words. The So Little Time study examined each of these in turn. When scientists tried to get people to eliminate sounding words subliminally in their heads by having them constantly hum while reading, for example comprehension dropped precipitously. The evidence suggested that when people saw words, they instantaneously accessed the sounds of those words to help understand them. The two processes worked seamlessly; speed dislocated them.

The problem with the second promise is perhaps more obvious you dont have to use the apps on fast speed for very long to realise that without the ability to go back and reread a phrase or a sentence, you can quickly lose the thread of what is being said. (Some of the apps have recognised this and added a rewind button.) The issue with the third claim has to do with rhythm. While it is true that you dont receive any fresh information in the spaces between words, the research suggests that the millisecond pauses are crucial for cognition: they are our brains tiny spaces for reflection.

In the fast lane: the speed-reading innovator Tim Ferris. Photograph: Amy E Price/Getty Images for SXSW

One of the things the studies dont dwell too much on is the nature of what is being read. I cant imagine ever wanting to read a novel at more than the normal 300wpm (by comparison, a speaking voice is roughly 150wpm and even cattle auctioneers can only rattle at 250wpm), but the virtue of reading short articles or emails on RSVP at double that speed seems more plausible. Chances are, however, that most of us already use various intuitive skimming techniques to extract information from such documents when time is short.

You dont really need studies to prove (though they do) that the more familiar we are with a subject, the more likely we are to be able to extract important information from it at pace. It is for this reason that JFK was able to read the New York Times so quickly presumably he knew most of the stories first hand, anyhow, and was just letting his eye flick across headlines and first sentences for a sense of argument. Most of us do something like this with material with which we are familiar although we are all probably less adept at it than we imagine.

Ronald Carver, a professor of education and psychology at the University of Missouri, proved in a landmark study of brainiacsin 1985 that, even for very practised speed readers, attempting to read above 600 words a minute meant that comprehension of any text fell below 75%, and went down dramatically as the reading speed increased beyond that. There is some evidence to show that we can, however, develop the ability to fillet a book quite quickly if we use adaptive techniques. In another study of the various techniques of skimming, two researchers at the University of Bath showed that skimmers who were most successful at extracting and retaining meaning were able to focus on critical sections of an argument and to jump forward as soon as the rate at which they are gaining new information drops below a threshold. They were particularly alive to bullshit or repetition.

Much of the buzz of our so-called digital overload comes from those latter growth industries. It has been argued that the subconscious mind can process 20,000,000 bits of information per second; but of those, the conscious mind holds on to only about 40 bits at any moment. Rather than trying to read more quickly we might be better advised to read more selectively. A lot of our lives can be scanned and scrolled and skipped, but reading remains a more immersive kind of act, dependent on detail. As Woody Allen observed: I took a course in speed reading and was able to read War and Peace in 20 minutes. Its about Russia.

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Crunch Report | YouTube now blocking ads on low-view channels

Todays Stories

  1. YouTube will now block ads on channels with under 10,000 views
  2. Amazon pulls and other Quidsi apps from the app store
  3. Will Spotify go public without an IPO?


Written by: Tito Hamze, John Mannes
Hosted by: Tito Hamze
Edited by:Chris Gates
Filmed & Teleprompter:Joe Zolnoski


  • I dont know what to wear on Crunch Report (Its a hard decision and I suck at dressing myself). If you are a startup andwant to me to wear something mail me an XL T-shirt and Ill wear it in an episode. Im not going to mention the company on the shirt in the episode but it will be there. No offensive stuff, its totally at my discretion if I wear it.Mail it to me. Thanks ❤ Ok, bye.

TechCrunch C/O Tito Hamze
410 Townsend street
Suite 100
San Francisco Ca. 94107

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Italy court bans Uber over unfair competition for taxis

Court in Rome upholds taxi unions complaint and gives company 10 days to end use of apps in country but ruling is subject to appeal

An Italian court on Friday banned the Uber app, saying it contributed to traditional taxis facing unfair competition, local media reported.

In a ruling that is subject to appeal, a court in Rome upheld a complaint filed by taxi unions and gave Uber ten days to end the use of its various phone applications on Italian territory, along with the promotion and advertising of them.

If Uber does not comply it could face a fine of 10,000 euros ($10,600) for each day it remains in defiance of the court.

Uber said in a statement: We are shocked by the Italians court decision and will appeal. Thousands of professional, licensed drivers use the Uber app to make money and provide reliable transportation at the push of a button for Italians.

The courts ruling follows a decision by a court in Milan two years ago to ban the companys UberPop application, which was deemed under Italian law to encourage the provision of taxi services by unlicensed drivers. That ruling was upheld in a subsequent court case in Turin.

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Innovation in AI could see governments introduce human quotas, study says

Report predicts rise in robotics will usher in industrial revolution 4.0 altering working practices and legal frameworks

Innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics could force governments to legislate for quotas of human workers, upend traditional working practices and pose novel dilemmas for insuring driverless cars, according to a report by the International Bar Association.

The survey, which suggests that a third of graduate level jobs around the world may eventually be replaced by machines or software, warns that legal frameworks regulating employment and safety are becoming rapidly outdated.

The competitive advantage of poorer, emerging economies based on cheaper workforces will soon be eroded as robot production lines and intelligent computer systems undercut the cost of human endeavour, the study suggests.

While a German car worker costs more than 40 (34) an hour, a robot costs between only 5 and 8 per hour. A production robot is thus cheaper than a worker in China, the report notes. Nor does a robot become ill, have children or go on strike and [it] is not entitled to annual leave.

The 120-page report, which focuses on the legal implications of rapid technological change, has been produced by a specialist team of employment lawyers from the International Bar Association, which acts as a global forum for the legal profession.

The report covers both changes already transforming work and the future consequences of what it terms industrial revolution 4.0. The three preceding revolutions are listed as: industrialisation, electrification and digitalisation. Industry 4.0 involves the integration of the physical and software in production and the service sector. Amazon, Uber, Facebook, smart factories and 3D printing, its says, are among current pioneers.

The reports lead author, Gerlind Wisskirchen an employment lawyer in Cologne who is vice-chair of the IBAs global employment institute, said: What is new about the present revolution is the alacrity with which change is occurring, and the broadness of impact being brought about by AI and robotics.

Jobs at all levels in society presently undertaken by humans are at risk of being reassigned to robots or AI, and the legislation once in place to protect the rights of human workers may be no longer fit for purpose, in some cases … New labour and employment legislation is urgently needed to keep pace with increased automation.

Peering into the future, the authors suggest that governments will have to decide what jobs should be performed exclusively by humans for example, caring for babies. The state could introduce a kind of human quota in any sector, and decide whether it intends to introduce a made by humans label or tax the use of machines, the report says.

Increased mechanical autonomy will cause problems of how to define legal responsibility for accidents involving new technology such as driverless cars. Will it be the owner, the passengers, or manufacturers who pay the insurance?

The liability issues may become an insurmountable obstacle to the introduction of fully automated driving, the study warns. Driverless forklifts are already being used in factories. Over the past 30 years there have been 33 employee deaths caused by robots in the US, it notes.

Limits, it says, will have to be imposed on some aspects of machine autonomy. The study adopts the military principle, endorsed by the Ministry of Defence, that there must always be a human in the loop to prevent the development and deployment of entirely autonomous drones that could be programmed to select their own targets.

A no-go area in the science of AI is research into intelligent weapon systems that open fire without a human decision having been made, the report states. The consequences of malfunctions of such machines are immense, so it is all the more desirable that not only the US, but also the United Nations discusses a ban on autonomous weapon systems.

The term artificial intelligence (AI) was first coined by the American computer scientist John McCarthy in 1955. He believed that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. Software developers are still attempting to achieve his goal.

The gap between economic reality in the self-employed gig economy and existing legal frameworks is already growing, the lawyers note. The new information economy is likely to result in more monopolies and a greater income gap between rich and poor because many people will end up unemployed, whereas highly qualified, creative and ambitious professionals will increase their wealth.

Among the professions deemed most likely to disappear are accountants, court clerks and desk officers at fiscal authorities.

Even some lawyers risk becoming unemployed. An intelligent algorithm went through the European Court of Human Rights decisions and found patterns in the text, the report records. Having learned from these cases, the algorithm was able to predict the outcome of other cases with 79% accuracy … According to a study conducted by [the auditing firm] Deloitte, 100,000 jobs in the English legal sector will be automated in the next 20 years.

The pioneering nation in respect of robot density in the industrial sector is South Korea, which has 437 robots for every 10,000 employees in the processing industry, while Japan has 323 and Germany 282.

Robots may soon invade our home and leisure environments. In the Henn-na Hotel in Sasebo, Japan, actroids robots with a human likeness are deployed, the report says. In addition to receiving and serving the guests, they are responsible for cleaning the rooms, carrying the luggage and, since 2016, preparing the food.

The robots are able to respond to the needs of the guests in three languages. The hotels plan is to replace up to 90% of the employees by using robots in hotel operations with a few human employees monitoring CCTV cameras to see whether they need to intervene if problems arise.

The traditional workplace is disintegrating, with more part time employees, distance working, and the blurring of professional and private time, the report observes. It is being replaced by the latte macchiato workplace where employees or freelance workers in the cafe around the corner, working from their laptops.

The workplace may eventually only serve the purpose of maintaining social network between colleagues.

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Teenagers think Google is cool, study by Google finds

The company funded Its Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool, which found that it was more cool than Vice, Nike and Facebook

Todays teenagers think Google and Google brands are cool, research funded by Google has found.

Google published Its Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool, a magazine compiling the results of its research into Generation Z, characterised as those aged from 13 to 17.

The Google-funded research found Generation Z relied on brands to shape their world, and that Google was the third-most cool. Cool was defined by the researchers as unique, impressive, interesting, amazing, or awesome.

YouTube, which Google owns, came out at number one ahead of Netflix. Googles web browser Chrome placed tenth, in front of Nike.

Heraclitus (@DreamboatSlim)

This is good. Google has conducted a piece of research which concludes that teens consider a web browser cooler than Nike

April 3, 2017

1,100 teenagers aged 13-17 were asked to rank 122 brands by coolness and awareness.

YouTube, Google and Netflix ranked highly by both.

Luke Bailey (@imbadatlife)

Also, fan of the fact about 40 teens looked someone straight in the eye and said, “Google? Never heard of it.”

April 3, 2017

According to the surveyed teens, McDonalds, Yahoo and Facebook Messenger were high-profile but not cool.

Doritos and Oreo were cool.

Vice was not cool.

Overall, the least cool brands were TMZ, the Wall Street Journal, Sprint and Yahoo. Respondents were least aware of Uniqlo, Patagonia and Supreme.

Mike Bird (@Birdyword)

Of hundreds of brands Google asked teens about, they ranked the WSJ least cool. Well kids, the bond market doesn’t think you’re cool either

April 3, 2017

But those surveyed for the Google study were united in their appreciation of Google, with Millennials describing it as serious and functional and Generation Z finding it more fun and functional.

A 17-year-old woman in suburban Florida was quoted as saying that Google was not only a powerful search engine, but great at everything it does, from email to documents.

Teens love learning and knowing was researchers conclusion.

The study stated that 42.2% of Generation Z respondents used its social network Google Plus, putting it ahead of Twitter (35.4%) and Pinterest (26.6%) and only a little over 10% behind Facebook.

But the finding betrays the fact that a Google Plus account comes part and parcel with use of its other services such as Gmail. An independent study in 2015 suggested fewer than 1% of Googles 2.2bn users were active on Google Plus.

Responding to the research on social media, many expressed scepticism as to its validity.

This study is a great piece of native advertising for Google services, tweeted one technology commentator.

Many write-ups of the report referenced Steve Buscemis appearance on 30 Rock, now a popular meme: How do you do, fellow kids?

Maya Kosoff (@mekosoff)

“how do you do, fellow kids?” – google

April 3, 2017

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The robot debate is over: the jobs are gone and they aren’t coming back

New report shows automation is already causing losses, depressing wages and likely to have lasting, devastating effect

In 2013, the Oxford Martin School released a report that looked at the automation of work, assessing the likelihood that robots and other technologies would replace humans. It concluded that of the 702 job categories examined, 47% were susceptible to automation within the next 20 years. The report completely upended our ideas about the future of work.

Now, a new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in the United States is set to be an even bigger wake-up call. Written by economists Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and Pascual Restrepo (Boston University), it not only adds support to the Oxford Martin conclusions, it actually suggests the jobs are already lost and unlikely to come back.

It contends that in the US between 1990 and 2007, the addition of each robot into manufacturing industries resulted in the loss, on average, of 6.2 human jobs. It also suggests automation depressed wages by between a quarter and a half of one per cent. Using this approach, the report says, we estimate large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones.

There is another important insight: these jobs losses and lower wages are likely to have a lasting and devastating effect. Author Daron Acemoglu told the New York Times that, even if overall employment and wages recover, there will be losers in the process, and its going to take a very long time for these communities to recover. The market economy is not going to create the jobs by itself for these workers who are bearing the brunt of the change.

These are game-changing findings, so let me put them into context of the overall debate.

There has been a rather unproductive back-and-forth over whether or not robots are going to take our jobs. This dead end approach was something I warned about in my book Why The Future Is Workless when I wrote, Lets not go down the same route we have with climate change and mindlessly divide ourselves into camps of sceptics and advocates. Lets instead bypass the ultimately futile argument about whether or not robots will take our jobs (they will) and make the imaginative leap, together, into a workless future that can liberate us all.

Much of the argument has rested on the claim that technology ultimately creates as many jobs as it destroys (an approach that author Calum Chace calls the reverse Luddite fallacy).

Probably the most influential proponent of this argument is MIT economist David Autor. His important paper, Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?, although careful to allow for the fact that past behaviour is not always a great predictor of future outcomes, nonetheless notes that journalists and even expert commentators tend to overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities between automation and labor that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for labor.

As recently as last week, Australian economic commentator, Ross Gittins, ran a similar line in a strongly worded piece decrying so-called futurologists for scaring everyone about job losses. He wrote, improving the productivity of a nations labour increases its real income. When that income is spent, jobs are created somewhere in the economy. Technological advance doesnt destroy jobs, it displaces them from one part of the economy to another.

This claim, of course, was always as much a guess about the future of work as anything offered by dreaded futurologists, but the point is, the NBER report makes it even more tenuous than it was. In fact, Acemoglu and Restrepo specifically argue there is little evidence of new jobs being created, saying the results indicate a very limited set of offsetting employment increases in other industries and occupations.

What lends the NBER report added authority is it doesnt rely on modelling to predict what robots are likely to do to jobs in the future, but on hard data to look at what robots are already doing to jobs in the present. The results are so startling that even the authors were surprised, having previously taken a much more sceptical line.

So where does this leave us? Well, we need to keep things in perspective. The future of work is a hugely complex issue, social and political as much as technological, and one new report, however important, hardly settles the matter. Nonetheless, Acemoglu and Restrepos findings do give us a new baseline for our discussions.

In so doing, they will likely reanimate calls for a universal basic income, because if there really are fewer jobs, we are going to need new ways of distributing wealth.

The report also challenges the neoliberal tenet that unregulated markets are a surefire way to full employment, and it can reasonably be taken to imply a large role for governments in managing the change that is coming. Additionally, it undermines the persistent claim that technology will create enough jobs in the future because this is what happened in the past.

Most importantly, the results suggest politicians and others who carelessly promise jobs and growth need to stop waffling and start taking seriously the fact that the future of work is going to be a very different beast to the past and present of work. We are likely to face not just different sorts of work, but far fewer jobs.

How we respond to this reality will be a huge test for our democracies, and this report is an important contribution to the ongoing debate.

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