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March 01, 2013

Corporations are basically evil robots

mini. Quiet Babylon | The Singularity Already Happened; We Got Corporations
The scenario imagined is one where there is a button that humans push if the AI gets an answer right and the AI wants to get a lot of button presses, and eventually it realizes that the best way to get button presses is to kill all the humans and institute a rapid fire button-pressing regime. (This, by the way, is the same instrumentalist train of logic that leads to sexbots.) You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.’ And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met. I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it. What if the private pursuit of profit was—for a long time—proximate to improving the lot of humans but not identical to it? What if capitalism has gone feral, and started making moves that are obviously insane, but also inevitable?

February 27, 2013

Yahoo's CEO is wrong: working from home is great for employees and management

Yahoo, working at home: Marissa Mayer has made a terrible mistake—working from home is great for employees and employers. - Slate Magazine
It was nearly a decade ago that I stopped going into the office every day. I worked at a competing Web magazine at the time, and my bosses didn’t really care how I worked, as long as I got stuff done. At first, like many people, I began working from home because I was lazy. By skipping my hourlong commute, I gave myself more time to sleep in and goof off. And without anyone watching over me, the goofing off was sure to be epic. But I quickly realized that, counter to my intentions, working at home made me more productive. Without office distractions—listening to other people’s phone calls, bantering with the receptionist, figuring out where and with whom to go to lunch—I could report and write much faster. Telecommuting also freed me from pointless office commitments. For instance, I could call in to meetings, mute my line, and then do more important things with my time. When I tell people that I work at home, they usually assume one of two things—that I’m un- or underemployed and just biding my time until I get a real job, or that I possess a monkish, single-minded devotion to work that they suggest is required for successful telecommuting. Neither is true. Instead, I’ve realized that, once you learn how to do it, working at home is superior in almost every way. It allows me to be better at my job and at my life—to be a more productive employee and a not-terrible husband and dad. Working at home isn’t for everyone. As a writer, I work according to what Y Combinator’s Paul Graham calls the “maker’s schedule.” My job requires long stretches of distraction-free time, and my output, on any particular day, is sensitive to my mood and environment. Working at home gives me the freedom to adjust these variables to maximum effect: Sometimes I find that I write better if I start a column after dinner, while other times I hit a wall during the middle of the day, take an hour off to get a snack and jump in the shower, and then come back to produce a magnificent column about pajamas.

February 26, 2013

Cable carrier sues Viacom over being forced to buy channels no one likes

Sick Of Being Forced To Pay For Channels No One Watches, Cablevision Sues Viacom – The Consumerist
mong the biggest bones of contention in the now-frequent carriage fee disputes between broadcasters and cable/satellite companies is broadcasters’ insistence that carriers buy an entire bundle of channels just to get the one or two networks people actually watch. Today, Cablevision declared “Enough!” and filed suit against Viacom. According to the suit, filed today in a federal court in New York City, if Cablevision wants to carry Viacom’s popular offerings — MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon — it’s it must also pay for more than a dozen smaller, niche networks like Palladia and MTV Hits. Regardless of whether subscribers ever watch these channels (and most of them don’t), the added cost for picking up all the channels in the bundle gets passed on to the customer in the form of higher rates. “The manner in which Viacom sells its programming is illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong,” reads a statement from Cablevision. “Viacom effectively forces Cablevision’s customers to pay for and receive little-watched channels in order to get the channels they actually want. Viacom’s abuse of its market power is not only illegal, but also prevents Cablevision from delivering the programming that its customers want and that competes with Viacom’s less popular channels.” Them’s fighting words.