Automation Anxiety

Wilson Quarterly • Summer 2013

Thinking ahead. In an age when technology is chiseling away at the foundations of knowledge work, it's interesting to look back at the forecasts from a half century ago when the physical labor market was eroding. Social scientists and commentators fell into the "classic extrapolation trap, assuming that the trends they saw in front of them would continue indefinitely." Read on for insight into why predicting the future impact of technological innovation is so difficult.

This is a very nice survey of the history of thinking about the changing nature of work and forecasts of its future. I loved this quote from a 1955 book The Foreseeable Future (1955): "What is to happen to the really definitely stupid man," he wondered, "or even the man of barely average intelligence?" We wouldn’t likely talk that way today, instead we have Hanna Rosin writing about the end of men. (Michalko)

Thank You for Using the Internet! We Regret to Inform You That Your Free Trial Has Expired

BuzzFeed • 18 July 2013

A job well done. Pay day. Paid news content—once a pariah of online scorn—is gaining traction in the digital marketplace, with the Pew Research Center reporting that about a third of U.S. daily newspapers either have implemented or are planning digital paywalls. And consumers are coming around, with almost half the respondents in a recent poll reporting they would stick with their favorite news site even if they had to pay for it. Read on for more on this tipping point in the economic viability of digital content.

One half of consumers will pay the one third of news outlets that charge. I'm not sure that a few years ago anybody would have defined that as success in the online news content business. But even the Financial Times is wobbling a bit around its otherwise successful business model. (Michalko)

Who Owns Your Data When You're Dead?

The Economist • 18 July 2013

Post mortem. A few states are starting to tackle the issue of who can access your digital legacy after you die. Read on for an overview of how legislatures and data storage firms are evolving to address the "digital corpuses" of the dearly departed.

This is a real problem that can only be partially mitigated by attention to it now as this WSJ article recounts movingly. There are a lot of products intended to help cited in the comments. (Michalko)

Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems

Nautilus • Issue 003

More than a numbers game. Like many groups seeking to streamline operations, shipping firms rely on sophisticated algorithms that produce optimal routes—but that's only half the equation. The other half is the human drivers. After failed attempts to impose new regimens based on optimization software, UPS has found it's more productive to work with employees to find solutions together: "One of the hardest things to teach a math analytics group is the difference between a feasible solution and an implementable solution. Feasible just means it meets all the math constraints. But implementable is something the human can carry out."

What I think logistics is a fascinating foundation for some of the most robust service businesses of our age. This is a nice article that demonstrates what it means to think about your business from a logistics perspective and what it takes to implement in practice. The urban myth was that Fedex trucks only made right turns. In fact UPS actually implemented that practice. (Michalko)

Chocolate: The Scent That Could Save Struggling Bookstores

Pacific Standard • 18 July 2013

Sweet success. Retailers have experimented with different musical genres to boost sales of certain items; now a bookstore in Belgium is doing the same with aromas. The concept seems simplistic, but the results are worth checking out.

Oh please. (Michalko)

6 Alternative Dictionaries Your Bookshelf Needs

Mental_Floss • 19 July 2013

Lexical levity. Check out this collection of niche dictionaries. There's probably at least one you wish you could thumb through.

I've been a subscriber and fan of the Visual Thesaurus for a long time. Worth a look—you might enjoy their blog and "word" features even if you don't subscribe. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what works-based application provides access to thousands of cookbooks and other works about food and nutrition described in library records?

Get the answer.