Issue #25: Good work can prevent anti-democratic attitudes
Work has the power to create hope and optimism
It seems like a no-brainer: When people are happy and prosperous, they will be satisfied with the public institutions and their environment. After all, “making it” proves that there are still chances to rise. The reverse seems intuitively clear: People who feel left behind professionally might blame others and could develop a negative attitude. I’ve witnessed both extremes in my friend circle. It concerned me how a downward spiral would open up once people felt despair due to unemployment. There is new research that proves me right to worry. Work has an immediate impact on democratic views and how people perceive humanity and media. I believe that creating fair and open work environments will be one of the biggest challenges in the era of digital transformation — but it’s painfully necessary, as you will read in this issue.
Headlines you shouldn’t miss
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW China’s burned-out tech workers are fighting back against long hours: In October, four tech workers started a public database to call out the 996 work practice in China — working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week. The database went viral and gained over a million views within the first week. Soon after the launch, the database was deleted — likely by public authorities. Yet, tech workers believe that this was just the beginning and there could be a momentum to end the work practice.
THE VERGE Alphabet is putting its prototype robots to work cleaning up around Google’s offices: Google’s parent company Alphabet has announced that a fleet of robots will arrive at the campuses in the Bay Area where they are supposed to clean the offices. The Everyday Robots Project tries to find real-life applications for robots which can mainly perform repetitive tasks in a fixed surrounding. Therefore, leaving the lab robots into “the wild” might give the researchers essential insights into how robots deal with novel environments and situations.
WALL STREET JOURNAL When Humanlike Chatbots Work for Consumers—and When They Don’t: Researchers at the University of Oxford have tested the effect of humanlike chatbots on consumers. It turns out that realistic chatbots can increase satisfaction in consumers who are neutral, happy, or even sad. However, chatbots are likely to make angry customers even angrier and risk losing less satisfied clients.
ZDNET Self-driving robots key to future of our food: Fieldin, one of the world’s largest smart farming companies, has acquired autonomous driving company Midnight Robotics. Both companies believe that autonomous smart farming will become the standard in the sector as the Internet of Things (IoT) and precision farming have been picking up pace in recent years.
FAST COMPANY The Great Resignation rages on: CEOs are fed up with their jobs, too: Recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles has found out that in the first half of the year, not only burned out workers in tech or the healthcare sector quit their jobs at higher rates but as well CEOs. For leaders, transforming towards a digital work environment has been exhausting and more stressful.
FORBES The Rise Of The Robot Boss: Robots are likely to enter a wide array of business fields in the near future. However, they won’t replace human workers altogether but work side by side with them. Humans will have to adapt to their new role as “robot bosses” and direct and maintain these new colleagues.
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Wrap-up of the week: Work and democratic attitudes correlate
📖 Scientific research indicates that there is a correlation between labor conditions and democratic attitudes. A study by the German Hans Böckler Foundation, which is historically close to the German trade unions, and insights by Julian Jacobs (London School of Economics) hint towards the same direction: The digital transformation has an impact on political values.
🏛️ The German scholars of the Böckler Foundation found out at 10 percent of the employed and 20 percent of the unemployed people share anti-democratic values. What is striking: Good work conditions, autonomy, appreciation, and fair salaries seem to increase the chances to be in favor of democracy. If workers have a perspective, they feel happier. At the same time, workers who had negative experiences with digital technologies or felt left behind are more prone to anti-democratic sentiments.
🦾 Julian Jacobs sees similar patterns: He found out that political attitudes are correlated to work. To be more precise: Workers whose jobs are more susceptible to automation tend to feel more skepticism towards media, despair, and democratic erosion. The groups in occupations with the highest automation potential share the most pessimistic view towards humanity, economics, politics, and media.
👨🏭 The evidence shows that work has a strongly integrative character — it helps people navigate their lives and find hope. Political and business leaders must react to the challenges related to the digital transformation: As new jobs are emerging and automation is advancing, more workers are likely to cultivate anti-democratic values. While governments can help workers by making education and training accessible and affordable, businesses can contribute to social cohesion by creating work environments where employees feel respected.
Number of the week: AI is likely to create 97 million jobs worldwide
According to recent research by the World Economic Forum, artificial intelligence could create 97 million jobs by 2025. While certain tasks that require a copy/paste-approach could be automated, new job opportunities are already growing. Economists believe that 85 million jobs could be replaced by automation, leaving global markets with a surplus of 12 million jobs.
The demand for data scientists and robot engineers has grown in recent years. Experts believe that humans will have to upskill to take full advantage of the potential AI job revolution.
Opinion: “Apps like Uber and Lyft exploit their workers. We can't ignore it any longer.”
Writer Ja'han Jones spoke to Cherry Work, a Lyft driver and activist, after watching the documentary “THE GIG IS UP,” which slams the labor conditions of the most popular delivery services. Murphy describes her experiences with the industry as being exploitative and hostile. Workers who started to work at delivery services due to the supposed flexibility found themselves entrapped in inflexible working conditions with low income. Additionally, the lack of health and car insurance is making gig work for delivery drivers incredibly risky. As Lyft and Uber don’t cover the costs of potential accidents, workers need to pay for all of the expenses that come with the frequent use of a vehicle.
By the way…
The startup deskbird interviewed me last week. We spoke about politics, new work, remote work, corporate culture, and change. Feel free to read the article on their blog: deskbird blog - How do Politics and the New Work World fit together? An interview with Alice Greschkow