Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones? by John Nichols — YES! Magazine

Automation can and should eliminate drudgery, freeing people to work fewer hours for fairer compensation and to devote themselves to social advancement. To do this, however, citizens must assert themselves by demanding not just political but economic democracy. We must replace fantastical talk about “the future of work” with the honest understanding that there will be less work. We must shape a humane future in which corporate monopoly and inequality give way to a sharing society where technological progress benefits everyone.

via Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones? by John Nichols — YES! Magazine

Technological Unemployment has been a major concern of mine for at least a decade.  I think we’re starting to see it come into it’s own with Uber actually rolling out driverless cars in Cleveland. While these cars have human backups, I’m convinced this is just a transitional phase to get people comfortable with the idea of driverless cars.

If were are going to have an economy that works for all, I think we’re going to need the hard conversations that this Yes! article is calling for.

 

Dragged into the 21st Century: Mobile Deposit

I’ve read about making deposits with your smartphone for a few years now. With my last credit union app update — several months ago I think — I gained the ability to do mobile deposit. But I still resisted. It just seemed weird that I could take photos of my checks to the bank. Something just didn’t feel right.

Then I went through a two week stretch of really, really intending to make to the bank to make a few deposits. But I keep forgetting to go after work. By last Friday I was ready to give it a try. While I could find the mobile deposit agreement, I couldn’t find the function itself, but an e-mail to the credit union cleared that up. During my lunch on Monday I got out my two checks, endorsed them and fired up my banking app. I went to “mobile deposit” and it was really straightforward. All I had to do was:

  • Type in the amount of the check.
  • Take a picture of the front of the check with the signature to the right.
  • Take a picture of the back of the check with my endorsement to the right. There was even a shaded spot where my endorsement was supposed to fit.
  • Hit the submit button.

I got e-mails telling me the checks were received and then more e-mails letting me know the checks had been successfully added to my account. After a specified waiting time I don’t have in front of me, I should destroy the physical checks.

The whole process made me feel bad about being so resistant. I’m definitely going to use this method from now on. Though if my credit union was still next door to me, I might still take checks over.

Day 4: Scratch Week 2 and Using My Geometry

CyclopsSunCS002x

Sometimes we labor hard for a modest result. Such was my experience with Week 2 of the Programming With Scratch. I found week 1’s music based project empowering. Week 2’s Drawing with a Computer was considerably harder to get through. I feel like I understand the basic principle well enough – Put a pen on the screen, move, turn, rinse lather, repeat and you have a picture. I also did very well on the homework and quiz questions for the most part. But actually programming a sun and mountains picture was a struggle. It took me time and Google searching to figure out how to change the pen color. Then my mountains were staircases, off the stage entirely or vertical. I kept at it in part because the project required us to use repeat loops in our program.

Although I’m not particular proud of this project except for the fact I completed it, I did get the hang of drawing shapes like squares, triangles and so forth in the homework. Maybe I would have been better off with an abstract design that incorporated these shapes instead of trying to draw a nature scene.

One nice thing about this unit is that my knowledge of junior high geometry came in very handy. Knowing that all the angles in a closed figure MUST equal 360 degrees in Euclidean geometry came in handy in deciding how many times a pen must turn and by how many degrees. And if you get the degrees backwards, you’ll wind up with stars instead of polygons.

Week 3 is variables, something that I think I know reasonably well from other programming efforts. We’ll see how I do.

References:

CS 002x Programming in Scratch (Harvey Mudd College)

Daniel’s Cyclops Sun Project

Day 1: So many interests / Adventures in Scratch Week 1

The “Day 1” on this post means that it is another reset of my plan to write. every. day.

Part of my problem is that a lot of things interest me. While I don’t have much of a problem maintaining focus on projects at work, in my personal life I’m sort of an intellectual raven, dashing to and fro to the shiny and tasty things. Chasing after one interest has often meant other interests languishing. Case in point. I do want to write every day, either non-fiction or fiction. I’m also interested enough in computer programming, web resources and their potential uses in libraries that I enrolled in a new edX course from Harvey Mudd College – Programming in Scratch, CS 2002x.

What this combination has meant is that I’m either working through lessons and programming OR I’m writing. This results in breaks in my “write ever day” streaks, or ensures I don’t don’t work on programming. But I think I have a way to let them work together. On programming days I’ll be writing about my experiences in CS 2002x.

I’ve finished Week 1 and have this quirky little music program to show for it. In the course of making this program I learned a number of things:

  • Scratch has a musical toolbox. I missed that detail the last time I dealt with Scratch last year.
  • I relearned the frequency of some musical notes.
  • It’s possible to translate the music patterns in some songs into computer repeat loops.
  • If you want to transcribe (?) a tune into Scratch, you don’t have to read music. You can go to a site like Letter Note Player and see an arrangement by letter instead of standard musical notation.
  • I learned a little bit about time, so I could have two channels of sound playing at about the same time.

So far I’m very appreciative of the format of the course. Since I did know some programming in Scratch and other languages coming in, I can’t be sure of its effectiveness in helping someone with no programming at all, but it seems helpful. There is a mix of very short instructional videos, practice assignments and encouragement to play with blocks until you understand what they do. There are many opportunities to make educated guesses about what blocks of code ought to do.

I like that the course started with a music project because it gave me a dose of immediate gratification. We’ll see how to build on this in week two.

Net Neutrality: Why You Should Care and What You Can Do

You may have heard that the DC Circuit of Appeals rejected Net Neutrality, mostly on the basis that the FCC does not classify Internet Service Providers as common carriers. This may sound esoteric and uninteresting but this is a BIG DEAL. As ALA President Barbara Stripling explains in a post on Wired:

By striking down the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Open Internet Order this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just gave commercial companies the authority to block internet traffic, give preferential treatment to specific internet services, and steer internet users away from online content based on their own commercial interests. Since the internet is now the primary mechanism for delivering content and applications to the general public, it’s more important than ever that commercial ISPs not have that kind of power to control or otherwise manipulate such communications.

What does this mean for schools? Stripling explains:

 We must ensure the same quality access to online educational content as to entertainment and other commercial offerings. But without net neutrality, we are in danger of prioritizing Mickey Mouse and Jennifer Lawrence over William Shakespeare and Teddy Roosevelt. This may maximize profits for large content providers, but it minimizes education for all.

Stripling goes on to explain the role of libraries in content generation. In Alaska that would include Alaska’s Digital Archives and UAF’s Project Jukebox. Projects such as these might not be viable to keep on the net if libraries have to pay extra fees to ensure that these resources can be downloaded quickly enough for people to use.

I encourage you to read the entire article. It is short, but powerful and can be used to explain to anyone why Net Neutrality matters and why it supports a vibrant economy and educational space.

After the article I hope you will take one (OR MORE!) of three actions:

Sign the White House petition demanding a return to Net Neutrality. This can be legally done if the FCC classifies Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers.

Contact the FCC directly and let them know you want to see ISPs regulated as common carriers.  (When you make a comment, select 09-191 Preserving the Open Internet)

Write our Members of Congress and ask them to speak to the FCC. Here are the contact pages for our (Alaska) delegation:

If you do take action, please also share this blog entry with your friends and readers so they can take action too.

Will you help Wikipedia?

We interrupt our Chile travelogue for the following important Public Service Announcement:

I donated to Wikipedia and got an e-mail they wanted me to email to a few friends. I thought I’d send it through my social media channels instead:

Your donation covers not only your own costs of using Wikipedia, but also the costs of other Wikipedia readers.

Like the retired farmer in upstate New York who’s using Wikipedia to study the science of sludge, and the student in Kuala Lumpur who’s researching organic chemistry. The British mechanic who, after he broke his back in an accident, used Wikipedia to retrain himself as a web developer. The civil servant in Finland who set up an offline version of Wikipedia for a small school in Ghana. And the father in Mexico City who takes his little daughters to the museum on weekends, and uses Wikipedia to help them understand everything they’re seeing there.

Wikipedia’s job is to bring the sum total of all human knowledge to everyone around the world in their own language. That’s a pretty audacious mission, but with 30 million articles and 287 languages, I’d say that thanks to you and people like you, we are getting there.

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the half-a-billion other Wikipedia readers around the world: thank you. The fact that you are helping to pay the costs of running Wikipedia means it can stay ad-free and independent of bias, focused solely on helping its readers. Exactly as it should be.

You may have noticed that for the first time this year we’ve tweaked our fundraising so that most people will only see the banners a handful of times, instead of for weeks. That’s deliberate: we don’t want people to get irritated by too many appeals. But it does mean that fewer people will figure out we’re a non-profit, and that we want their help. So if you’re willing, I’d appreciate if you’d help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to a few of your friends.

And I’d love if you’d try joining us in helping to write Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s written entirely by volunteers — tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world, exactly like us. If you see a typo or a small mistake on Wikipedia, please fix it. If you know anything worth adding, please add it. Some people find it remarkably satisfying, and maybe you will too.

Thank you again. I very much appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you: we will use your money carefully and well.

Thanks,
Sue

Sue Gardner
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation
donate.wikimedia.org

Many employers will match employee contributions which doubles your donation: please check with your company to see if they have a corporate matching gift program. You can follow us on Twitter, identi.ca or Google+, like us on Facebook and read our blog. Here is the Wikimedia Foundation annual report for 2011-12, the Wikimedia Foundation annual plan for 2013-2014 and the Wikimedia Foundation’s five-year strategic plan. You can also now buy Wikipedia merchandise at shop.wikimedia.org.

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While Wikipedia isn’t perfect and shouldn’t always be relied on as a single source, I think it makes a great starting point. Nearly every article I’ve seen has good bibliographies that can be used for further exploration. I also think it is a major pop-culture repository and this is a good thing.

Even if you can only afford $5, that will help Wikipedia in its mission.

Technology: Making Wrong Things The Right Thing to Do

Warning – This is NOT a post on ethics. Apologies if you were expecting one. If you don’t mind a then and now technology post, read on.

Today I witnessed something that took me back to the late 1990s. I told someone to click something on the screen and he reached out his hand and touched the line that I indicated. We don’t have touch screens at my library so I introduced him to the mouse. Today, in most libraries, trying to touch the screen is useless and some librarians will this happens.

Flashback to 1998 when the library I worked at had some of the earlier web browsers. We’d routinely get called over to the two dialup (yes, dialup) patron internet workstations for someone to tell us the browser was broken. When we looked it turned out the patron had typed a search into the address bar. We would let them know that the address bar was only for URLs. Then we’d ask them to type http://www.yahoo.com or maybe that newfangled http://www.google.com into the address bar. When the search engine came up, we’d have them type their search into the search box in the middle of the screen. While we were at it, we’d reiterate that the address box was NOT for searching.

These days, people still type their searches into the address bars of browsers. But now they get search results. Several years back the browser makers decided it was better to design their software to reflect how people actually used it and we all benefited.

Back to the present. Once I got over my cringing at someone so inexperienced that they tried to click the screen of a public internet terminal with their finger, I remembered the business of typing searches into address bar. I also remembered that touch screens are becoming more common. Putting the two together I thought that 5-10 years from now perhaps most screens will be touch screens and tapping the screen to begin will be the most natural thing for patrons and library staff alike.