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Automation Is Coming For You Too

By Dave Gershgorn // Quartz // February 23, 2017

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We all think we’re less likely to be affected by misfortune than other people. This is such a phenomena that psychologists have a name for it: Unrealistic comparative optimism. Whether it’s saving a few bucks by not paying for the rental car insurance or putting off that visit to the doctor, humans do this all the time.

So it’s no surprise that when it comes to thinking about being replaced by robots, people behave no differently. When asked in an online survey by LivePerson, 65 percent of 2,000 respondents agreed that their job was safe from automation, but that people in other industries needed to be worried. By most reports, including the White House’s own study in 2016, this is unrealistic comparative optimism.

But there is a small minority that’s bucking human psychology: the same survey found 35 percent of those in the transportation industry are already beginning to learn new skills for fear of being replaced by machines.

Why Some Apps Use Fake Progress Bars

By Kaveh Waddell // The Atlantic // February 21, 2017

Supphachai Salaeman/Shutterstock.com

In a fit of productivity, I did my taxes early this year. They were a bit more complex than usual, so I set aside some time to click through TurboTax and make sure I got everything right. Throughout the process, the online tax-preparation program repeatedly reassured me it had helped me identify every possible tax deduction I qualify for, and made sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Attractively animated progress bars filled up while I waited for TurboTax to double- and triple-check my returns.

But as I watched one particularly slick animation, which showed a virtual tax form lighting up line by line—yellow or green—I wondered if what I was seeing actually reflected the progress of a real task being tackled in the background. Did it really take that long to “look over every detail” of my returns, which is what the page said it was doing? Hadn’t TurboTax been checking my work as we went?

I sat down with my colleague Andrew McGill to figure out what was going on in the background. We combed through the source code powering TurboTax’s website, and soon confirmed my suspicion: The animation was fixed. It didn’t...

Silicon Valley’s Gender Gap Is the Result of Computer-Game Marketing 20 Years Ago

By TL Andrews // Quartz // February 16, 2017

ImYanis/Shutterstock.com

It’s no secret there is a pronounced gender gap in technology fields. In 2014, 70 percent of the employees at the top tech companies in Silicon Valley, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, were male. In technical roles, this phenomenon is even more pronounced; for example, only 10 percent of the technical workforce at Twitter is female.

But things haven’t always been this way. The numbers of enrollments among men and women in computer science were on their way toward parity in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1984, 37 percent of computer science graduates were women, but those numbers began to drop dramatically in the middle of the decade.

By 2016, that number had been whittled down to 18 percent. This dip in the 1980s has created a chasm that the past 30 years hasn’t been able to overcome—and the dude-centric computer marketing campaigns of that time may be to blame.

Programming is fast becoming the most lucrative skill you can have in the modern world. According to a recent study conducted by Glassdoor, 11 of the 25 best-paying jobs are technology related, with an average earning potential of between $106,000 and $130,000...

Employers Are Creepily Analyzing Your Emails and Slack Chats to See if You’re Happy

By Oliver Staley // Quartz // February 15, 2017

Balefire/Shutterstock.com

Big Brother isn’t just watching. He’s hanging out on Slack, too.

Most office workers know, on some level, that their work emails and messages aren’t private. They may not realize, however, the extent to which their communications are being analyzed and parsed for signs about employee happiness and satisfaction.

AIR, a Tokyo-based software company, is marketing software that scans conversations on workplace communication tool Slack to gauge team morale. Their product, called Vibe, looks for keywords and emoji, then sorts a team’s mood into five emotions: happiness, irritation, disapproval, disappointment, and stress. There’s even a bot that will notify managers of real-time changes in team morale.

Sentiment analysis, as it’s called, has been around for almost a decade, but its main commercial application has been scanning social media for clues about consumers behavior. IBM markets its AlchemyLanguage software, for example, as a tool marketers can use to sift through social media and produce reports on how products are received.

Those tools are now being directed at employee communications as corporations increasingly fret about each worker’s “engagement”—a nebulous measure of commitment and motivation—as they look to drive down costs, reduce staffing (paywall...

Programming While Black Will Cost You $10,000 in Salary

By Michael J. Coren // Quartz // February 9, 2017

Victoria_Fox/Shutterstock.com

Racial discrimination may be alive and well in the technology industry.

The online hiring platform Hired released its 2017 State of Salaries report today (Feb. 9). The San Francisco-based company has a database of 280,000 interview requests and job offers for 45,000 engineers and technologists on its platform. Hired lets candidates post their preferred salaries so that companies can interview them and extend offers. Because of that, the company says, it has unique insights into salary expectations and actual offers.

Hired found striking differences among racial groups.

First, African-Americans were 49% more likely to get job offers compared to the average white candidate. Latinos and Asians, on the other hand, were 26% and 45% less likely, respectively, than white candidates were to receive offers.

Yet when it came to salaries, blacks were at a greater disadvantage. At first, the data looks promising. On average, blacks were offered $2,000 more than the salary preference stated on their profile. The reverse relationship held true for other racial groups, especially whites, who received about $1,600 less than their preference on average.

But the primary reason appears to be that blacks’ salary expectations are far lower than peers in different...

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