San Diego’s minimum wage experiment accelerating adoption of automation

San Diego raised its minimum wage very rapidly. Data suggests that while the wage hike benefits those with minimum wage jobs, it is also rapidly eliminating low wage jobs all together. Read the entire (and long) story for the details.

This blog has long noted that while automation is going to happen regardless, rapid minimum wage hikes accelerate the adoption of automated systems, eliminating jobs more rapidly:

And California’s decision to speed Darwinian selection also encourages automation. McDonald’s is rolling out ordering kiosks, Starbucks is testing robotic baristas, and hamburger-making machines are nearing production.

One local restaurant owner told me that all his future locations will allow customers to buy and pour their own beers.

A 50-handle system costs $1,800 per handle. That’s well above $1,000 per handle for the bartender-based system, but it pays off in a year by eliminating one or two workers per shift. Presumably someday robots will listen to our problems, too.

Rising productivity is good for the bulk of consumers, because fewer workers equate to lower bills.

Source: Is San Diego’s new minimum wage already hurting its poor? – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Eliminating jobs through automation is not necessarily a bad thing. ATM machines, self service gas, self service check outs are all examples of recent semi-automated services that we take for granted. Throughout history, many jobs have gone away – elevator operators and telephone “manual switch” operators all went away.

If automation frees up labor to be put to more productive uses, this is a good outcome. However, there will be some who are not able to transition to higher value added work and may be come unemployable.

How to move a self hosted #WordPress blog to WordPress.com

I migrated my coldstreams.com blog to coldstreams.wordpress.com and the old web site automatically redirects to the new URL.

In theory, this process is simple – but getting it done right was complicated.

The hard part was getting the redirection to work for all cases. If you just want to redirect coldstreams.com to coldstreams.wordpress.com – that is easy!

But that redirects all references to coldstreams.com to the new URL.

  • What do you do if you still want to access other directories on your old web site like coldstreams.com/thesis or coldstreams.com/public?
  • If you have links on other pages that point to the old self hosted blog like coldstreams.com/?p=11074 you want those to still point to coldstreams.com and not the new URL. How do you do that?

The solution was to edit the .htaccess file on the Apache web server and implement a set of RewriteRules to translate some URLs but not others. Sounds simple but I am not a RewriteRules guru (never even looked at them before!) There is a lot of bad documentation available online plus forum Q&A that is wrong or insufficient. Getting the RewriteRules to work for me took hours of plowing through bad documentation plus trial and error.

Here I explain what I did. I  hope it is helpful for your WordPress migrations!

Step 1 – Migrate your content

After you set up your account at WordPress.com, migrate your content from your self hosted WordPress blog. Log in to your Dashboard (wp-admin) control panel and find Tools | Export and under Choose what to export, select All content and then Download Export File (to your computer).

Step 2 – Import content to new WordPress.com blog

Log in to your WordPress.com account, click on My Sites if needed, to see the options listed down the left side. Select Settings and then on the tab at the top, select Import. Click Start Import on the WordPress import item to import your content from a WordPress export file. You’ll specify the file you downloaded from your own web site.

ImportProcess

WordPress.com suggests it may take 15 minutes to import your site. In my case, it took about 3 1/2 hours! During the import process, WordPress.com fetches all of your referenced media files (like images) and copies those to WordPress.com.

Step 3 – Adjust any direct http references

Continue reading

The new Coldstreams Internet of Things Blog is now live

The old website coldstreams.com should auto redirect to this new web site at https://coldstreams.wordpress.com

If you subscribed by email to Coldstreams.com, you MUST re-subscribe here on the new web site by clicking on the Email Follow button in the right column!

If you read this blog via Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter, you do not need to do anything differently.

If you read this blog via RSS news feed, the old news feed should automatically redirect to the new RSS news feed on this web host. While this should work fine, it would be a good idea to eventually change your RSS news source to the RSS Posts link, shown in the right column of this web page!

Please let us know via a comment if you encounter any problems.

Update – it worked for a while, then I discovered very late that it was not working in IE, and after more work, found that the working version had been cached in Firefox and Opera and was not really working there either. Now at 1:30 AM in the morning I hope this is not working correctly.

Google spies on you, recording your voice when you are not expecting it to

CCTV surveillance monitoring

Android devices have an “Ok, Google” voice activation feature. This enables voice input of search and other functions on your Android device.

Google also records a copy of the audio when it does this. Google also occasionally records incidental audio having nothing to do with a search. It certainly has for me.

You can manually delete the records, one by one, which is very time consuming. You need to go to this Google page and log in, and then click on Manage Activity and go through Google’s cloud-based storage of your conversations in the past.

Google also records your location as you travel about, and even identifies what businesses or properties you have entered. Google’s Chrome logs every web site and page you visit in to the Google cloud.

In the past couple of weeks, Microsoft has come under fire for its Windows 10 keystroke logger, that when enabled, records you keystrokes and sends those to Microsoft. That means account names, passwords, personal search requests (even if using Tor) and so forth. You can disable their keystroke spying logger by going to Settings | Privacy and switch off the item labeled “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future”.

Whenever someone else wants your personal data, you need to ask:

  • who has access to this data?
  • how will this data be stored securely?
  • how long will this data be stored?
  • how will the data being disposed of when it is no longer being stored?

If you do not know the answer to those questions, then you must be leery of donating your personal data to others. This also applies to non-computer world. When you are asked to fill out a paper form with lots of personal data, say to make a credit purchase, you should ask them how they will use the data, keep it secure, and how will they dispose of it?

Similarly, Microsoft’s docs.com web site for publishing and sharing your files makes all files public, by default. The result is that the docs.com search function readily unearths a lot of private data files that users probably do not even realize are posted online. These include school transcripts, medical records, passwords, credit card and other account data, banking statements and more.

THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE INTERNET IS TO SPY ON EVERYONE.

 

 

Social media, confirmation bias and its use in marketing #FakeNews #Propaganda #SocialMedia

(I originally posted this on May 24, 2014, about 2 1/2 years before “fake news” became a popular meme. Since then, social media has become a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda, fake news, and worse. I run an entire blog on the topic of social media propaganda at Occupy Propaganda – the title being a spoof on a whole bunch of “Occupy” titled propaganda and fake news web sites on Facebook.)

Confirmation bias occurs when we tend to give weight to information that supports our beliefs and to ignore or discard information that opposes our beliefs.

There are several studies finding social media reinforces confirmation bias. All the studies I found address this in the context of politics and liberal or conservative bias.  However, the issue is much more widespread than political topics.

For example, many people share stories about contemporary topics – without bothering to check if the story is accurate or is provided with full or appropriate context. In some cases, bogus news reports become viral as they are quickly shared. “Untruths” are spread wide but corrections rarely follow.

Worse,

“When it comes to new information, people are heavily influenced by the first information that they’re exposed to. Combating an existing bias is much harder than influencing people on a subject that they have never been exposed to. Sometimes it is more important to be first”

Thus posting something that is unchecked, and possibly wrong, has great influence on others.

First, we tend to share things with friends, who are friends, in part, because they already share similar views.

Second, when a “friend” posts something that is wrong, who wants to tell a “friend” they are wrong and risk losing a “friend”? We may think social media encourages self correction of those items that are wrong, but there is a bias against causing hurt to friends. Many such posts are based on an “appeal to authority” by quoting an “expert” (who often suffers from confirmation bias).  Arguments based on “appeal to authority” are the weakest of arguments but provide a quick way to shut down skeptical responses: “How dare you question X!

I have noted that many items shared on social media typically rest on the “appeal to authority” because the method is very effective:

“…it was found that high-status individuals create a stronger likelihood of a subject agreeing with an obviously false conclusion, despite the subject normally being able to clearly see that the answer was incorrect.”

The result is that social media is a highly effective platform for spreading false information, intentionally or unntentionally. Here is a classic example: a widely shared list of celebrities with high IQs, allegedly provided by Mensa, giving it the appeal to authority – except it was a hoax.

In the case of intentionally spreading false or incomplete information, social media becomes an idealized platform for propaganda. Falsity is not confined to celebrity rumors but includes alleged scientific facts and statements about government policy.

The Pew Research Center did a survey regarding social media and confirmation bias within the realm of political thinking where confirmation bias, they found, is very much alive and well. They found that the more extreme the views (very conservative or very liberal), the more “they agree with their friends’ comments most of the time or always” suggesting (but not stated in the report) that the more strongly held the views, the more likely you have built a “friends” group of matching beliefs who exchange information further reinforcing their confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias within social media is a powerful force for sales and marketing activities and there are at least two ways it can be used.

One, and the positive one, is to “develop a reputation for accuracy” and to “cite your sources”. The goal is to be a trusted source of accurate information.

The other approach is to use confirmation bias for manipulating your audience into taking actions. That’s the sleazy option which is commonly used in political activities and emotional marketing appeals.  It is used, though, because it works. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, discusses how decision making is often based on emotional responses, not on hard data. People have evolved to use emotional responses as a rapid heuristic to quickly arrive at decisions, versus the tedious and time consuming use of hard data. A side effect is that we can be easily fooled into making decisions based on emotions and confirmation bias – even if the information is wrong.

If you want to manipulate others, create or pass along stories attributable to “experts”. Few will question the “wisdom” imparted, whether right or wrong!

The upshot of this is that social media has degenerated into a platform for propaganda. Propaganda is a method of influencing entire populations towards a specific outcome. As written at Wikipedia,

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. Propaganda can be used as a form of ideological or commercial warfare

The root of propaganda is the same as the root of propagate – or the spreading of something.  As described above, social media is the ideal platform for the use of propaganda to achieve desired outcomes. Here, the vector is our “friends”, who we may not wish to challenge. In fact, a perilous group think sets in: we pass things along without checking them ourselves. Besides, as noted above, who wants to cause a rift and point out their friends are wrong for passing the item along?

A consequence seems to be less thinking and an increase in gullibility. We pass along anything. We do not question. Skeptical questioning is discouraged. We became dumber as we accumulate “knowledge” of things that are not true or are misinterpreted and misquoted out of context.

Our best response might be to recognize and ignore posts based on appeals to authority, and to consider how we use social media ourselves and to be willing to dig deeper into the details. Details matter. A lot. But who has time to fact check every item posted on Facebook? No one, so the process continues and we become dumber, day by day. And as we become dumber, we become easier to manipulate … and the cycle goes on and on.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” 
― Daniel J. BoorstinThe Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

Source for the quote is here.

 

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McDonald’s testing mobile app ordering for its restaurants #Iot #Automation

McDonald’s has started testing mobile order-and-pay after acknowledging the ordering process in its restaurants can be “stressful.”

Source: McDonald’s tests mobile ordering before national rollout | KATU

Six months ago, I saw a self service order kiosk in a McDonald’s in Utah (the image accompanying this story is my photo of that). Mobile app self ordering is another way to speed up the customer experience – and potentially reduce labor costs as automation is now cheaper than labor for many applications.

Tech’s other problem – arrogance

In Silicon Valley:

“Suddenly the mind-set became that if you’re a young kid who’s arrogant and disrespectful and doesn’t have the right social skills, that’s the mark of a good entrepreneur.”

Source: Uber CEO’s admission he needs to ‘grow up’ highlights perils of being a young leader – MarketWatch

There’s been much news coverage over sexism, and less coverage about age-ism, in the tech sector. This article highlights another problem – the culture of arrogance and the tolerance of immature behaviors as long as results are delivered. Or, as one Yale psychiatry professor suggested years ago, about one-third of executives exhibit psychopathic behaviors that would not normally be tolerated in the general population – but we tolerate them in executives who deliver results.