The Economy That Quantifies Everything – The New York Times

One of the promises of our digital life is that more data will help us make better choices. But in all aspects of being human he should also be aware of the financial and human costs of using a Fitbit.

There is a movement all around us to quantify and optimize more parts of our lives. Financial services companies calculate numbers to assess who is eligible for a mortgage. Companies like Apple and Amazon want to make people healthier by providing us and doctors with information about sleep, heart rate, and other aspects of the body. Some courts use software to set prison terms by assessing an individual’s likelihood of committing a crime in the future.

And more and more workplaces are quantifying how employees spend their time, as my colleagues Jodi Kantar and Arya Sundaram explained in an article published this week.

By closely monitoring what people do on their computers and how they interact with colleagues and clients, companies can measure the effectiveness of call center workers, financial professionals, and even employees. I’m doing it. hospice care pastorand dictate how they spend their time.

Data-dependent productivity techniques were popularized on the factory floor in the 20th century and later used by blue-collar professionals such as truck drivers and packing workers in Amazon’s warehouses. It extends to work as well.

You can see its charm. What’s the point of technology if it doesn’t inform our choices or remove human error from the equation?

As detailed in a New York Times study, in the workplace, people who prefer to quantify their work are more likely to recognize how much time they are wasting and value their efforts. It says it can be measured better. Hard workers may be attracted to the fact that technology (sometimes called “bossware” or “boss software”) quantifies lazy and hard working employees. Whether you’re a grocery cashier or a tech CEO, it can be elusive at work.

If sports like baseball and soccer are familiar with how they employ statistical decision-making to evaluate athletes and determine strategy, this is the desk jockey’s “moneyball.”

But Meredith Broussard, computer scientist and author of the book Lack of Artificial Intelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, believes that technology can free us from the clutter of human decision-making, or I am skeptical that it should be released.

Yes, computers sift through a set of financial records to identify potentially fraudulent credit card payments, analyze whether mortgage companies are disproportionately granting loans to white homeowners, and Using the information to modify the system is useful.

But data and people often need to work together.

Broussard said the illusion of technology that computers could judge workers or set fair prison sentences has existed for decades. But most aspects of life, including doing well at work, are not math equations.

“There is no point in using this kind of monitoring method,” says Broussard. “They are not enough for the way people actually work. People are not machines.”

Broussard gave examples of group activities that people do at school or at work. We know that some people put in more effort than others. It may feel unfair or annoying, but group work continues for a reason. People have different complementary skills that can make the sum greater than their individual contributions. Collaboration often makes work better and more enjoyable, but computer scores can’t always measure that.

She also said that innovation occurs when people challenge conventional ways, but that it is thwarted by systems programmed to lead everyone to the imagined ideal of maintaining the status quo. tend to believe that is wise others She said she wants to be monitored and evaluated with data, but hates when that happens to them.

I had Jodi write a report for months on whether software could one day better value people at work or guide them to more productive uses of their energy. I asked him what he had learned. According to her, most workers don’t believe they can quantify the full extent of what they do.

“In the future, someone may invent a ‘bossware,’ or management technique, that truly earns workers’ trust,” says Jodi. “But the productivity tracking technology covered in this article often provokes anger and resentment because it doesn’t align with the reality of doing great work.”

  • TikTok is hot right now. My colleague Tiffany Hsu wrote about her concern that TikTok has become a thriving place for falsehoods containing information related to important elections around the world.

    And in Washington, lawmakers and regulators have complained about a poor crackdown on TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps that could leak data to Beijing, says my colleague David McCabe. (I’ll talk more about TikTok in tomorrow’s newsletter.)

  • Government-approved non-prescription hearing aids: My colleague Christina Jewett reported that the Food and Drug Administration has paved the way for a new category of scrutinized hearing aids that people can buy for themselves, much like drugstore eyeglasses. I would like to know how the new consumer goods market develops. We also keep in mind that it took decades for commercially available eyeglasses to take on the shape they have today.

    From Ontech in 2021: Hearing aids on the market have the potential to present the best to governments and tech companies.

  • A golf cart shouldn’t be just for golf. Transport policy expert David Zipper writes to Slate that more communities should make room for golf carts. Works in the City of Peachtree, Georgia and has zipper details.

    For other transport technologies: My colleague Cade Metz explained that self-driving car services, including the planned expansion of Lyft services in Las Vegas, rarely drive their cars independently of human control.

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