P&G was criticized for the candy-esque appearance of Tide Pod packaging, which were a legitimate hazard for children and adults with dementia (and then became a bizarre challenge meme for teens). Now a new concept for a Tide detergent dispensing box is bringing out snarky comments about its parallels with boxed wine.
Machines for Moving:
Ford Motor Company acquired the app-enabled electric scooter company Spin. The automotive industry has a sketchy history when it comes to dealing with non-car transport options, so this event either portends stifling of non-car solutions, or a real embrace of a multi-modal future where cars are merely a piece of the larger puzzle.
Creating safe, self-driving car systems has proven more problematic than tech journalists were prophesying in past years, but autonomous vehicle companies are convinced that heaps and heaps of data will ultimately make the self-driving cars and trucks far safer than keeping humans behind the wheel. The irony is that the capturing, cleaning, and categorizing of that data requires human judgement. The BBC reports that among the labor steering the direction of data for autonomous vehicles, are hundreds of workers in Kenya, paid $9 a day by an outsourcing firm working with Silicon Valley startups. While those are (perhaps shockingly) not the lowest wages in the region, it's a reminder that the high profits of high-tech are made possible by masses of cheap, low-tech labor all over the world.
Politicians and voters in the U.S. love to talk up the value of manufacturing. There's a near alchemical belief in manufacturing's ability to create wealth: transforming basic materials into valuable goods with clever processing, bringing back jobs and growing the middle-class through good wages along the way. Unfortunately for less-skilled laborers, the current era of manufacturing innovation is based on building high throughput systems that also minimize the number of humans working the assembly line. At the same time, many manufacturers claim a dearth of workers capable of performing the higher skill programming and upkeep tasks of the sensor-laden, automated systems behind producing goods today. That mismatch of supply and demand is leading to some strange scenarios, like Wisconsin state government luring Foxconn manufacturing facilities (and jobs) in exchange for generous tax breaks, only for Foxconn to then decry a scarcity of skilled workers, and announce plans for importing staff from China rather than hire Wisconsin locals for those positions.
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic critiques the common practice of corporate welfare in the form of subsidies and tax breaks for corporate campuses. Whether trying to lure manufacturers like Foxconn and General Electric, or internet giants like Amazon, studies indicate that those efforts do little to increase net jobs, leaving the true winnings for the corporations.
It turns out that humans on social media often appear more bot-like in their behavior than actual bots do. Human users have erratic sleeping schedules, posting habits, thematically-obsessive content, and string together statements with unusual or incorrect syntax. By comparison, the milder, programmed deviations of bot behavior can seem downright natural.
Globe-trotting social media "influencers" with high follower counts and high fashion lifestyles are either too expensive, or too alienating for some brands to continue using for product placement. The latest trend in paid-to-post social media marketing is the use of "nano influencers," aka people with 1,000 or so followers.