Monthly Archives

November 2018

Research Findings

Automation and the future of work: A view from inside a tech startup


November 13, 2018

Are smart machines coming for our jobs?

In the past, technological change has generally led to the displacement of workers from some jobs, but also to the creation of new work. For example, as automation reduced the number of workers needed to grow and harvest crops in the early 20th century, technological change resulted in employment gains in the manufacturing and service sectors.

Today, however, many worry that the historical link between technological innovation and job creation may be coming to an end.

Big data and artificial intelligence make it possible for computers to perform tasks that previously required complex human cognition. Software algorithms are already driving cars, diagnosing diseases, and writing news articles.

A credible case can be made that, thanks to the rapid development of AI, this wave of technological change will usher in an era of widespread unemployment.

Most contemporary inquiries into the future of work offer projections of employment trends at the level of industries or occupations. These studies are useful for helping us conceptualize broad shifts in labor markets, but they aren’t able to shed light on the complex and unpredictable ways in which human workers and software systems interact in real-world settings.

In a recent study, I argue that in-depth examinations of the organizations in which software algorithms are developed and implemented can help us generate new insights into the question of when software systems function autonomously, and when they rely on the assistance of complementary human workers.

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Research Findings

Captives in Cycles of Invisibility? Prisoners’ Work for the Private Sector

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November 9, 2018

Prison Barbed Wire Fence

This summer we have seen what could be considered one of the largest prison strikes in US history, where prisoners are undertaking nineteen days of peaceful protest.

Some of the demands that underpin these protests are the need for improved prison conditions and greater funding in rehabilitation. But at the heart of this protest is a demonstration against imposed prison labour and the disturbingly low wages that accompany such work. This approach to prison work, an approach where profit is becoming more prevalent and private organisations are becoming more and more involved in the prison system, is not isolated to the US.

The research discussed here is based on a study conducted in the UK and is particularly pertinent in helping us to understand the reasoning behind the strikes and the feelings and experiences of those prisoners protesting.
Employment has been singled out as an important factor in reducing reoffending.

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Research Findings

Learning to be Latino in college


November 6, 2018

Every fall, a new crop of students enrolls in colleges across the country. Some pack up their belongings, leaving home and moving into dorms on campuses, while others start daily commutes.

And just as students’ paths to college vary, so do the campuses at which they arrive.

Colleges vary across multiple dimensions: from organizational and political culture, to level of prestige, peer culture, party scene, athletic emphasis, and racial-ethnic climate.

In recent work, I ask how some of these differences shape the college experiences of Latino students and find impact on their identity formation, civic engagement and more.

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