Controlling Our Cars, Controlling Our Work, Controlling Our Algorithms

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Photo: Lydia K

When Change Is Inevitable — and Unasked-For
 Almost everyone agrees that driverless cars are in our future, but there are plenty of people who don’t want ’em. In Billions Are Being Invested in a Robot That Americans Don’t Want, Bloomberg’s Keith Naughton talks to enthusiasts who love driving and customizing vehicles. Some of them will experience a financial loss, but most of them just seem disappointed that one of their favorite activities may be disappearing. One study says 3/4 of us don’t want to own an autonomous car. Maybe robots should stick to activities we don’t want to perform on ourselves, like surgery (Economist).

What Makes Us Happy at Work?
 It’s not money. It’s autonomy (Quartz). A study suggests that the three words people are most happy to hear from their superiors at work are “It’s your call.”

When Algorithms Reinforce Bias
 A recent Bloomberg report showed how Amazon’s same-day delivery service wasn’t serving predominantly African-American areas in cities like Boston and Chicago. The problem wasn’t overt racism; it was math. Or was it? There may have been legitimate business reasons to exclude certain zip codes, but those reasons were human biases built into an incurious algorithm. The Boston Globe’s Hiawatha Bray looks at the work of researchers who have discovered that biases can be baked into algorithms and it’s hard to shake them loose. Virtual prejudice is quite real.

Business Leads in North Carolina, But Here Come the Feds
 Government moves more slowly than business but it can be a fast follower. The U.S. Justice Department wrote to North Carolina’s governor and the head of its state university system (Slate) saying that the recently signed HB2 “bathroom law” violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The letter looks for an official response by Monday although some North Carolina leaders aren’t waiting that long (ABC). Will be interesting to see what business leaders say between now and Monday.

Tesla To Get Bigger Faster, Musk to Pull More All-Nighters
 Tesla was going to build 500,000 electric cars by 2020. Now it says it’ll have them out the door by 2018 (Reuters). The company’s quarterly announcement was mixed (lower losses from a year ago, higher losses from a quarter ago), with plenty of short-term concerns and long-term promises, and founder Elon Musk told investors “My desk is at the end of the production line. I have a sleeping bag in a room adjacent to the floor.”

Never Mind (Cryptocurrency Edition)
 Maybe he’s not Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto after all. Beware of people who apologize without saying what they’re apologizing for. Worry about them, too.

Photo: Lydia K

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