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Submission + - Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?

Paul Fernhout writes: MIT economist David H Autor has written an article entitled "Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation". His article is a good read to understand the best of emerging mainstream economics thinking on technology and employment.

I feel his article leaves out some fundamental political aspects of the situation like I brought together in "Beyond a Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics"). His article of course assumes consumer demand is infinite (despite Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggesting people more to more low-cost self-actualization activities over time). It assumes that the business benefits of employing a human will always outweigh the costs for many jobs (despite strikes, lawsuits, quality, illness, turnover). It assumes humans will always have special advantages over AIs and robots. It ignores whether some aspects of the economy (like long pipelines to become a professor) are really needed or are just protectionism. It ignores the social impact of rich/poor divides on working conditions and the operation of a capitalist economy itself. It ignores the value to the worker of the intrinsic nature of the work (i.e. some people may just be less happy in service jobs compared to agriculture or manufacturing). It ignores deeper issues of rethinking work as play (like Bob Black wrote about). It also ignores (incidentally, in relation to humans vs. robots) that "comparative advantage" only applies theoretically when you have "full employment". The article jumps between proving some points with numbers and then making other points as "strong hunches" or by quoting suggestions about technological unemployment from fifty years ago (quoting Herbert Simon). His prescription is of course mostly just more "education" — which is nice job security for a professor. :-) But, within those sorts of limits, it's an excellent article which makes many good points, especially about the dynamics of economic networks as different parts of them are automated. The article has many interesting facts and figures. His points on how jobs are a mix of tasks which different near-term prospects for automation is excellent. And his point about human jobs changing as people work together with automation is well made. So, his article provides a good base for further study and/or rebuttal of the mainstream position. His article could be a good starting point for anyone writing an economic simulation, to see what really happens to economic networks based on distributing the right to consume based on perceived contribution to production as such networks undergo severe stress from automation.

Submission + - Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum (

sciencehabit writes: The origin of life on Earth is a set of paradoxes. In order for life to have gotten started, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along blueprints for making proteins, the workhorse molecules of life. But modern cells can’t copy DNA and RNA without the help of proteins themselves. To make matters more vexing, none of these molecules can do their jobs without fatty lipids, which provide the membranes that cells need to hold their contents inside. And in yet another chicken-and-egg complication, protein-based enzymes (encoded by genetic molecules) are needed to synthesize lipids.

Now, researchers say they may have solved these paradoxes. Chemists report today that a pair of simple compounds, which would have been abundant on early Earth, can give rise to a network of simple reactions that produce the three major classes of biomolecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—needed for the earliest form of life to get its start. Although the new work does not prove that this is how life started, it may eventually help explain one of the deepest mysteries in modern science.

Comment Re:News for nerds? (Score 1) 734

Why is this here? How is any of this related to what Slashdot is supposed to be about? I'm usually pretty lax about what's posted on Slashdot, but this question should be posted on a forum somewhere else, not on a news site for "nerds".

"Nerds" working in tech and science have the entire world as potential workplace and many change their host nation during their lives. Voluntary or because they have to. Highly specialized skilled workers often need to move to where the jobs are.

Thus, very relevant post. I myself am a Swedish citizen working in Germany.

Comment No significant difference (Score 1) 246

Is the difference in the outcome for black and white women statistically significant?

No. The proper way of testing this is by using Fisher's exact test. Quite simple in one line of R:

fisher.test(matrix(c(36, 11, 38, 16), nrow=2))

Running this shows we obtain such a difference (77% vs. 70%) with about 50% probability just due to chance, given the sample size. The output of the R command above is:

data: matrix(c(36, 11, 38, 16), nrow = 2)
p-value = 0.5081
alternative hypothesis: true odds ratio is not equal to 1
95 percent confidence interval:
  0.5175229 3.7540626
sample estimates:
odds ratio

Submission + - Why are we made of matter?

StartsWithABang writes: The Universe began with equal amounts of matter and antimatter after the Big Bang, and yet when we look out at today's Universe, we find that, even on the largest scales, it's made of at least 99.999%+ matter and not antimatter. The problem of how we went from a matter-antimatter-symmetric Universe to the matter-dominated one we have today is known as baryogenesis, and is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics. Where are we on the quest to understand it as of April, 2014? A wonderful and comprehensive recap is here.

Submission + - Who's on WhatsApp?

theodp writes: In announcing its $16B acquisition of WhatsApp, Facebook confessed it had very little data on WhatsApp's estimated 450 million users. Asked about the user data, Facebook CFO David Ebersman said, "WhatsApp has good penetration across all demographics but you are not asked your age when you sign up." Wall Street analysts concerned by Ebersman's answer won't be comforted by GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper's (non-scientific) poll of UW students, which suggested that WhatsApp may not exactly be BMOC (Big Messenger on Campus). "I don’t use it at all," replied one UW junior. "I've heard of it but I have so many other things I do online that it would just be another time-consuming thing. I use Facebook or texting to talk to people." WhatsApp did fare better in a survey of Soper's Facebook network, where responders said they used WhatsApp mostly for communicating internationally and in groups. So, are you or someone you know using WhatsApp, and what's the motivation for doing so?

Submission + - Windows 8 Metro isn't for power users - and that's a good thing (

nk497 writes: A UX designer working at Microsoft has taken to Reddit to explain why Windows 8's Metro screen isn't designed for power users — but is still good news for them. Jacob Miller, posting as "pwnies", said Metro is the "antithesis of a power user", and designed for "your computer illiterate little sister", not for content creators or power users. By splitting Windows into Metro and the desktop, Microsoft has created space for casual users as well as power users.

"Before Windows 8 and Metro came along, power users and casual users — the content creators and the content consumers — had to share the same space," he added. "It was like a rented tuxedo coat — something that somewhat fit a wide variety of people." As an example, he cited multiple desktops, a feature frequently requested by power users that confuses average consumers, so hasn't been implemented. "It's not that the desktop was too difficult for casual users, it's that by tailoring the desktop for casual users and power users, we had our hands tied by what we could provide for the power users," he continued. "By separating the two workflows, we can make the desktop more advanced than what the casual users are comfortable with, to the benefit of the power users."

Comment Re:After 5 years' Linux usage, I'm switching to Ma (Score 1) 378

A couple of things power users enjoy in OSX:

- Services
- The automator
- AppleScript
- Using these to design workflows involving different applications

If you are creative and willing to learn a bit, you are getting pretty damn enabled in OSX by these extremely well thought through tool sets.

And I actually even like the Finder. Miller Columns mode together with a persistent info window, and of course activated services linked to my custimized scripts, is working fantastic.

Comment no predictions (Score 2) 258

As someone who knows a little bit of mathematical modeling and statistics, I have to point out that they did not predict the percentages, since they already were known! The correct term would be retrodict.

Comment PowerPC version broken (Score 3, Informative) 299

I upgraded to 2.0.0 on my old PowerPC G4 iMac, which I like to use as a movie player "for the design". Warning for that! No sound, red stripes all over the frame... The upside is that it's really easy to downgrade, just move the old app bundle back from the trash can to the applications folder.

GNU is Not Unix

The Battle Between Purists and Pragmatists 213

Glyn Moody has a thoughtful piece taking a long look at the never-ending battle between pragmatists and purists in free and open software. "While debates rage around whether Mono is good or bad for free software, and about 'fauxpen source' and 'Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists,' people are overlooking the fact that these are just the latest in a series of such arguments about whether the end justifies the means. There was the same discussion when KDE was launched using the Qt toolkit, which was proprietary at the time, and when GNOME was set up as a completely free alternative. But could it be that this battle between the 'purists' and the 'pragmatists' is actually good for free software — a sign that people care passionately about this stuff — and a major reason for its success?"

Comment Re:It depends... (Score 1) 300

Wrong... parent is far to quick to judge. Indeed, the sample size is to small to calculate reliable quantitative estimates of the differences. Nevertheless, one may use non-parametric tests to check for whether there is a *qualitative* difference between the groups, and this is really what's claimed here.

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