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Wired

WFH or Work at the Office—More Tech Employees Can Now Choose

Facebook, which gave employees $2,000 stipends to kit out their home offices earlier this year, has also fashioned itself into a hybrid company. It expects that half of its employees will work remotely in the next five to 10 years—but office space is still critical for the other half. The company has even expanded its footprint: This fall, Facebook bid on REI’s brand-new, 400,000-square-foot corporate campus in Bellevue, near Seattle. REI, which laid off hundreds of corporate employees in the spring, decided it would sell the headquarters to go “remote-first.” In the hybrid model, companies seem to be selling a corporate vision of having it all. You can have the office, with the fancy ergonomic chairs, or you can have a stipend to buy one for your house. You can come here for your meetings and see teams in person, or you can take them at home with Zoom. You can even take a little from column A, a little from column B. Based on Gartner’s research, Penn says there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between satisfaction among people who are always remote and sometimes remote, but the option to choose where to work does seem to have an impact. Things like productivity and work-life balance generally improve when employees have the option to decide. Still, the promise of flexibility comes with some fine print. Consider workplace surveillance. “Back in April, less than half of organizations were tracking productivity,” says Penn. “As of August, that has jumped up…Continue readingWFH or Work at the Office—More Tech Employees Can Now Choose

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Mashable

How tech can help you thrive amid the pandemic winter blues

Winter is coming. And this year, your mental health may take a greater hit than normal given the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 is already contributing to skyrocketing stress levels. More than three quarters of respondents to an annual survey from the American Psychological Association said the pandemic was a major source of stress. Importantly, it’s unclear how and when this will end. After a brief dip, coronavirus cases are surging once again, a trend scientists worry could continue into winter. Colder temperatures, will force more of us indoors, likely ramping up cases.  Staying inside and keeping to ourselves more often, may drive us to screens for entertainment and distraction, says Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a psychologist who writes and speaks about technology’s effect on us. This could put a strain on us, because we know socialization is good for our mental health. “Our screens are such easy distractions that we’ve sold ourselves on [the notion] that they’re actually fulfilling, which sometimes they are, but not always,” says Dodgen-Magee.  Still, she acknowledges it’s unrealistic to completely cast aside our phones and computers, especially when more of us work from home and spend what seems like endless hours on Zoom, whether for school or work. What people really need is for the pandemic and economic crisis to abate or end, and that will only happen through leadership and policy. But the winter will test your resilience nonetheless, so it’s good to start preparing now. In fact, there are ways to use technology without eroding your…Continue readingHow tech can help you thrive amid the pandemic winter blues

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The Verge

How Riot used tech from The Mandalorian to build Worlds’ astonishing mixed reality stage

After a hard-fought win over Korean team Gen.G, all five members of Europe’s G2 Esports stood at the edge of a pool of clear, glistening water to take a bow and celebrate their victory. Two members then picked up their star teammate, Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther, and held him over the water, as if to throw him overboard. It’s a good thing they didn’t — despite how real the water may have looked to viewers, it was nothing but pixels. The annual League of Legends World Championship is currently underway in Shanghai, and like most major events, it has had to be re-envisioned in order to be possible in our new pandemic-dominated reality. Typically, the early stages of the tournament are something of a traveling road show, with different rounds taking place in different cities. In 2020, things had to change. With travel restrictions in place, and fans no longer able to attend matches, the team at League developer Riot tried something different. They built out a set made up of massive LED screens in a technology setup similar to what Disney used to create The Mandalorian’s sci-fi landscapes. It has been used to startling effect. Matches have looked like they’ve taken place in a cloudy, cyberpunk Shanghai skyline or amid a flooded landscape. What could have been a drab competition in the absence of fans has turned into perhaps the most impressive Worlds in recent memory. “There are any number of days where we come to the set and…Continue readingHow Riot used tech from The Mandalorian to build Worlds’ astonishing mixed reality stage

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VentureBeat

AI Weekly: Constructive ways to take power back from Big Tech

Facebook launched an independent oversight board and recommitted to privacy reforms this week, but after years of promises made and broken, nobody seems convinced that real change is afoot. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expected to decide whether to sue Facebook soon, sources told the New York Times, following a $5 billion fine last year. In other investigations, the Department of Justice filed suit against Google this week, accusing the Alphabet company of maintaining multiple monopolies through exclusive agreements, collection of personal data, and artificial intelligence. News also broke this week that Google’s AI will play a role in creating a virtual border wall. What you see in each instance is a powerful company insistent that it can regulate itself as government regulators appear to reach the opposite conclusion. If Big Tech’s machinations weren’t enough, this week there was also news of a Telegram bot that undresses women and girls; AI being used to add or change the emotion of people’s faces in photos; and Clearview AI, a company being investigated in multiple countries, allegedly planning to introduce features for police to more responsibly use its facial recognition services. Oh, right, and there’s a presidential election campaign happening. It’s all enough to make people reach the conclusion that they’re helpless. But that’s an illusion, one that Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan Markle, Algorithms of Oppression author Dr. Safiya Noble, and Center for Humane Technology director Tristan Harris attempted to dissect earlier this week in a talk hosted by Time. Dr. Noble…Continue readingAI Weekly: Constructive ways to take power back from Big Tech

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VentureBeat

AI researchers urge tech go beyond scale to address systemic social issues

For a long time, the definition of success for startups and Big Tech companies alike has been synonymous with three words: hockey stick growth. To scale is to be capable of speedy growth of users and revenue, but AI researchers say companies interested in purpose beyond profit need to consider approaches beyond rapid growth. That’s according to a paper published in recent days by Google senior research scientist Alex Hanna and independent researcher Tina Park. The paper argues that scale thinking is not just a way to how to grow a business, but a method that impacts all parts of a business, actively inhibits participation in tech and society, and “ forces particular types of participation to operate as extractive or exploitative labor.” “Whether people are aware of it or not, scale thinking is all-encompassing. It is not just an attribute of one’s product, service, or company, but frames how one thinks about the world (what constitutes it and how it can be observed and measured), its problems (what is a problem worth solving versus not), and the possible technological fixes for those problems,” the paper reads. The paper continues to say that companies rooted in scale thinking are unlikely to be as “effective at deep, systemic change as their purveyors imagine. Rather, solutions which resist scale thinking are necessary to undo the social structures which lie at the heart of social inequality.” An approach that rejects scale as essential runs counter to what is today central dogma for Big…Continue readingAI researchers urge tech go beyond scale to address systemic social issues

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Tech Radar

Game teases big tech discounts for Black Friday

This year’s month-long Black Friday is gearing up to be a big one and MassMart has revealed that tech won’t be left behind when it comes to deals.  MassMart, the owner of Game and Makro, has already confirmed that they won’t be having one weekend of deals but rather almost the whole month of November will be full of weekly deals and specials.  Game has confirmed that those on the lookout for deals on the most popular tech won’t be disappointed.  The most popular products This year Game has taken over from DionWired as the top retailer for tech products in the country. As such, it is where customer are expecting to get the best prices this year for Black Friday.  Game confirmed that they have negotiated their tech deals based on the most popular large tech appliances sold in previous years. These include laptops, TVs, electronics and gaming.  The exact deals are only going to be revealed at the beginning of the week that they’re on and will only run for that week without repeating any other time in the month.  Source linkContinue readingGame teases big tech discounts for Black Friday

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TechCrunch

Political strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs – TechCrunch

Bradley Tusk has become known in recent years for being involved in what’s about to get hot, from his early days advising Uber, to writing one of the first checks to the insurance startup Lemonade, to pushing forward the idea that we should be using the smart devices in our pockets to vote. Indeed, because he’s often at the vanguard, it wasn’t hugely surprising when Tusk, like a growing number of other investors, formed a $300 million SPAC or special acquisition company, one that he and a partner plan to use to target a business in the leisure, gaming, or hospitality industry, according to a regulatory filing. Because Tusk — a former political operative who ran the successful third mayoral campaign for Mike Bloomberg —  seems adept at seeing around corners, we called him up late last week to ask whether SPACs are here to stay, how a Biden administration might impact the startup investing landscape, and how worried (or not) big tech should be about this election. You can hear the full conversation here. Owing to length, we are featuring solely the part of our conversation that centered on SPACs. TC: Lemonade went public this summer and its shares, priced at $29, now trade at $70.  BT: They are down today last I checked. When you only check once in a blue moon, you’re like, ‘Hey, look at how great this is,’ whereas if, like me, you check me every day, you’re like, ‘It lost 4%, where’s my money?’…Continue readingPolitical strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs – TechCrunch

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Tech Radar

How tech has changed travel

The travel industry has changed significantly, from the rise of air travel overtaking luxury boats to travel agents becoming a central part of your travel experience: The industry has not stopped reinventing itself.  Technology has been one of the biggest contributors to the travel landscape and those of us lucky enough to be able to afford to travel can’t have missed how quickly this has happened.  Here are just some of the ways our tech revolution has changed the way we travel.  Booking everything online  For ages it is seemed like the only way to book your trip was through a travel agent either in person or over the phone. The rise of the World Wide Web has meant that this whole process has shifted entirely online.  However, since it has taken a while for the internet to reach the impressive speeds and workability we know and expect from it today, this move wasn’t just automatic from the moment we could dial-up.  In addition, it took a while before people became as comfortable as we are today with online payments, especially for purchases as expensive as plane tickets and accommodation.  Only once we could keep a stable connection and online payments did airlines, hotels and comparison sites pop-up allowing you to book and pay for your whole trip online.  Personalised experiences  Before the internet age, booking a trip and excursions meant either booking a tour, through a travel agent or when you arrived in the country. Your experience and helpful…Continue readingHow tech has changed travel

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VentureBeat

Japan to join the U.S. and Europe in regulating Big Tech over market abuses

(Reuters) – Japan will join forces with the United States and Europe to take on any market abuses by the four Big Tech companies, the new head of its antitrust watchdog said on Monday, a sign Tokyo will join global efforts to regulate digital platform operators. Kazuyuki Furuya, chair of Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC), also said Tokyo could open a probe into any merger or business tie-up involving fitness tracker maker Fitbit if the size of such deals are big enough. “If the size of any merger or business-tie up is big, we can launch an anti-monopoly investigation into the buyer’s process of acquiring a startup (like Fitbit),” he told Reuters. “We’re closely watching developments, including in Europe.” EU antitrust regulators in August launched an investigation into a $2.1 billion deal by Alphabet unit Google’s bid to buy Fitbit that aimed to take on Apple and Samsung in the wearable technology market. Japan is laying the groundwork to regulate platform operators. Among them are the big tech giants dubbed “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook) that face various antitrust probes in Western nations. Multi-national companies like GAFA have similar business practices across the globe, which makes global coordination crucial, Furuya said. “We’ll work closely with our U.S. and European counterparts and respond to any moves that hamper competition,” he said. “This is an area I will push through aggressively,” he said, adding that the FTC was ready to open probes if digital platformers abuse their dominant market positions against…Continue readingJapan to join the U.S. and Europe in regulating Big Tech over market abuses

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VentureBeat

ProBeat: Shame on tech companies that don’t give employees time off to vote

This week, thousands of Amazon employees petitioned for paid time off to vote. The petition asked Amazon “to provide the entire U.S. employee workforce with a paid day/shift off that can be used anytime between now and Election Day on November 3. This additional paid day/shift must be available to all employees every year.” Given the already ridiculous voting lines that the U.S. sees, further exacerbated by the pandemic this year, this seems like a reasonable request. But not for Amazon — the company denied the request, and a spokesperson stated employees “can request and be provided excused time off. The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.” Translation: Oh, is there a reason that this particular U.S. election is especially important? Take your petition and shove it. Our bottom line is more important. Amazon will keep doing the bare minimum required by the law. This is all par for the course. It’s like when Donald Trump “ruined the biggest layup in the history of debates” by refusing to condemn white supremacists. As the second largest employer in the U.S., Amazon should have taken this petition alley-oop and turned it into a slam dunk. But the story was so in-line with Amazon’s corporate behavior that it didn’t even hit Techmeme. Now, this column was going to be about panning Amazon for its atrocious stance. But a quick check while I was writing showed that the tech giant is not alone. While…Continue readingProBeat: Shame on tech companies that don’t give employees time off to vote