- How the tendency to design for the "average" leads to all kinds of problems for the real, diverse world of people. Add to this the long history of data sets that omit whole populations due to racist or sexist practices and we're living in a world that doesn't suit many of us very well. There is a hope that new technologies will reduce the cost of customized solutions while enabling easy distribution to fractured markets to ease the pains of ill fitting solutions. While that has happened to some extent, whether it's an education or a suit, bespoke products still carry a cost premium over the mass produced versions designed to serve the average. It isn't clear yet whether the world of "big data" will lead to better outcomes for outliers or carve out new generalizations that are more focused but still harmful in their assumptions.
- The gig economy isn't working out so well for many on the front lines. A big survey from Deloitte finds that 67% of respondents would trade their independent contracting lifestyle for something more stable. Uber is perhaps the most (in)famous for depending on contractors, and by their own report in 2015they lose about 11% of drivers after one month, and around 50% at the one year mark - certainly not stats that suggest a contented labor pool. Deloitte found that the culture of a workplace was a significant factor in how satisfied independent contractors are, which may reveal why Uber fairs so poorly with retention: being summoned on the demands of someone else hardly feels like independence, and when a bad rating can get you kicked off of a platform, there's limited possibilities for true comradery in the customer-contractor relationship.
Machines for Moving:
- A very smart piece by Chenoe Hart on how the future of transportation could be a sort of end to transportation, less about self-driving cars and more about a constant mobility of spaces both domestic and commercial. She also describes how new modalities of travel (train, car, plane) necessitate new conceptual maps and interfaces to understand reality where space is abruptly compressed.
- How Google X is managing their moonshot projects after the restructuring of Alphabet. Translating the bold, sometimes sprawling efforts of their R&D to a new mission of commercial successes is bound to be a difficult task, and one that will take some time. In related news, Google announced they are ending Project Ara, their ambitious effort to create a modular smartphone.
- General Electric just made some big acquisitions for 3D printing metals, picking up Arcam and SLM Solutions Group. GE is perhaps the most prominent user of 3D printed metals, particularly for their aerospace divisions, and bringing that kind of heavy industry power totally in house will grant them some potentially significant strategic advantages.