Service jobs and Underemployment: waiting for noone

Thanks to Randy Sargent for sending along Computer Tablets Take over Part of Restaurant Server’s Job, an NPR story broadcast a few days ago, by Stacey Vanek Smith. The story dives into the use of Ziosk, an electronic food ordering and payment system at Uno’s in Framingham, and enters the uncomfortable and important territory of just what we yield when automation replaces yet another service job. We have quantitative behavioral analysis of the restaurant patrons, of the servers and of course a distancing of humans as technology takes yet another role away from human mediation. Will these ‘bots make some patrons happy? Sure- read the comments below the fold on the on-line transcript, if you have a strong constitution. But they will also again shift the calculus of employment, putting more future jobs under threat of large-scale automation and underemployment.

Trading Privacy and Accountability for Convenience

A short but bang-on article from Baratunde Thurston at Fast Company does a good job reminding us how we are always willing to trade away privacy and control for the sake of convenience, in his case by using common authentication from Facebook, Twitter, Google and others. His article points out how this behavior helps us until it becomes a disaster following identity theft. Thurston’s proposed solutions are technological and service-focused– let us revoke connections and permissions, for instance; but the bigger issue is that, as Thurston rightly points out, all these free conveniences are hardly free. We are the digital labors of the twenty-first century- unpaid and, instead, earning monetization opportunies for corporations everywhere by revealing our behavior in ever more specific and comprehensive ways.  When does this slippery slope trade end?