A Study Finds Half of Jobs Are Vulnerable To Automation

The Economist reports of a new working paper by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that assesses the automatability of each task within a given job, based on a survey of skills in 2015. "Overall, the study finds that 14% of jobs across 32 countries are highly vulnerable, defined as having at least a 70% chance of automation," reports Economist. "A further 32% were slightly less imperiled, with a probability between 50% and 70%. At current employment rates, that puts 210 million jobs at risk across the 32 countries in the study." From the report: The pain will not be shared evenly. The study finds large variation across countries: jobs in Slovakia are twice as vulnerable as those in Norway. In general, workers in rich countries appear less at risk than those in middle-income ones. But wide gaps exist even between countries of similar wealth. Differences in organizational structure and industry mix both play a role, but the former matters more. In South Korea, for example, 30% of jobs are in manufacturing, compared with 22% in Canada. Nonetheless, on average, Korean jobs are harder to automate than Canadian ones are. This may be because Korean employers have found better ways to combine, in the same job, and without reducing productivity, both routine tasks and social and creative ones, which computers or robots cannot do. A gloomier explanation would be "survivor bias": the jobs that remain in Korea appear harder to automate only because Korean firms have already handed most of the easily automatable jobs to machines.

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Xbox One April Update Rolling Out With Low-Latency Mode, FreeSync, and 1440p Support; 120Hz Support Coming In May Update

Microsoft is rolling out a new Xbox One update that brings 1440p support for the Xbox One S and X, as well as support for AMD's FreeSync technology to allow compatible displays to sync refresh rates with Microsoft's consoles. A subsequent update in May will bring 120Hz-display refresh-rate support to the Xbox One. The Verge reports: FreeSync, like Nvidia's G-Sync, helps remove tearing or stuttering usually associated with gaming on monitors, as the feature syncs refresh rates to ensure games run smoothly. Alongside this stutter-free tech, Microsoft is also supporting automatic switching to a TV's game mode. Auto Low-Latency Mode, as Microsoft calls it, will be supported on new TVs, and will automatically switch a TV into game mode to take advantage of the latency reductions. The Xbox One will also support disabling game mode when you switch to another app like Netflix. Microsoft is also making some audio tweaks with the April update for the Xbox One. New system sounds take advantage of spatial sound to fully support surround sound systems when you navigate around. Gamers who listen to music while playing can also now balance game audio against background music right inside the Xbox Guide. Other features in this update include sharing game clips direct to Twitter, dark to light mode transitions based on sunrise / sunset, and improvements to Microsoft Edge to let you download or upload pictures, music, and videos.

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Looks like Google is changing Android’s gun emoji into a water gun

Back in 2016, Apple swapped out the graphic used for its gun emoji, replacing the realistically drawn handgun with a bright green water gun.

Just a few days ago, Twitter followed suit.

And now, it seems, so will Google . The gun emoji on Android will likely soon appear as a bright orange and yellow super soaker lookalike.

As first noted by Emojipedia, Google has just swapped the graphics in its open Noto Emoji library on GitHub. These are the Emoji that Android uses by default, so the same change will presumably start to roll out there before too long.

At this point, Google making this change seemed inevitable. It seemed likely to happen as soon Apple made the jump; once others started following suit (Twitter earlier this week, and Samsung with the release of the Galaxy S9) it became a certainty.

It’s a matter of clarity in communication. If a massive chunk of people (iOS users) can send a cartoony water toy in a message that another massive chunk of people (Android users) receive as a realistically drawn handgun, there’s room for all sorts of trouble and confusion. Apple wasn’t going to reverse course on this one — and now that others have made the change, Google would’ve been the odd one out.

Facebook shuffle brings a new head of US policy and chief privacy officer

Trying times in Menlo Park, it seems: Amid assaults from all quarters largely focused on privacy, Facebook is shifting some upper management around to better defend itself. Its head of policy in the U.S., Erin Egan, is returning to her chief privacy officer role, and a VP (and former FCC chairman) is taking her spot.

Kevin Martin, until very recently VP of mobile and global access policy, will be Facebook’s new head of policy. He was hired in 2015 for that job; he was at the FCC from 2001 to 2009, Chairman for the last four of those years. So whether you liked his policies or not, he clearly knows his way around a roll of red tape.

Erin Egan was chief privacy officer when Martin was hired, and at that time also took on the role of U.S. head of policy. “For the last couple years, Erin wore both hats at the company,” said Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone in a statement to TechCrunch.

“Kevin will become interim head of US Public Policy while Erin Egan focuses on her expanded duties as Chief Privacy Officer,” Stone said.

No doubt both roles have grown in importance and complexity over the last few years; one person performing both jobs doesn’t sound sustainable, and apparently it wasn’t.

Notably, Martin will now report to Joel Kaplan, with whom he worked previously during the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 and for years under the subsequent administration. Deep ties to Republican administrations and networks in Washington are probably more than a little valuable these days, especially to a company under fire from would-be regulators.

WhatsApp Raises Minimum Age In Europe To 16 Ahead of Data Law Change

WhatsApp is raising its minimum age from 13 to 16 in Europe to help it comply with new data privacy rules coming into force next month. The app will ask European users to confirm they are at least 16 years old when they are prompted to agree to new terms of service and a privacy policy provided by a new WhatsApp Ireland entity in the next few weeks. Reuters reports: Facebook, which has a separate data policy, is taking a different approach to teens aged between 13 and 15 in order to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. It is asking them to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform, otherwise they will not see a fully personalized version of the social media platform. But WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January according to Facebook, said in a blog post it was not asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union. WhatsApp's minimum age of use will remain 13 years in the rest of the world, in line with its parent.

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Three Identical Strangers, a dark documentary about identical triplets who were separated-at-birth

In 1980, two young men start the same community college and soon discover, after being mistaken for each other several times on campus, that they are twins. Their story gets crazier when they learn they have another brother, which makes them identical, separated-at-birth triplets. The trio becomes internationally famous. Then, as the documentary's trailer alludes, there is a dramatic twist, one that "unearths an unimaginable secret that has radical repercussions."

Word of warning: This is a strange-but-true story and there are spoilers aplenty out there on the internet. What I'm saying is, if you don't already know the story, don't go researching it now before seeing the film.

Three Identical Strangers premiered at Sundance and has a U.S. theatrical release date of June 29.

(Kottke)

Judge was supposed reside over a Pennsylvania couple’s wedding. She called ICE on them instead

If you want to erode the public's trust in the legal system, making a court house an unsafe place to be, even during what's supposed to be a joyful occasion, is a great place to start. Just ask Alexander Parker and Krisha Schmick: They went to a courthouse in Pennsylvania, intent on getting married. The pair had known one another since high school and it seemed like the right time. There was just one problem – Alexander's skin was brown and the judge he and his bride were to stand before was a raging bigot.

According to Newsweek, when Parker and Schmick stood before Judge Elizabeth Beckley in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, instead of presiding over their wedding ceremony, she called Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to check out Parker.

Parker, originally from Guatemala, was adopted by American parents and brought to the United States when he was eight months old – he is legally allowed to be in the country. He has the paperwork to prove it, too. But for some reason, maybe because, I dunno, HE WAS GETTING MARRIED, he forgot the official documents that proved his right to be in the country at home. All he had on him was a Guatemalan identification card. Court staff, believing for some reason that the document was a fake, contacted ICE to check Parker out.

On his wedding day, when he should have been exchanging vows, Parker was answering questions. Instead of having a ring slipped on his finger, he was forced to provide fingerprints. A honeymoon with his wife? Nah: ICE warned that if he could not prove that he was in the country legally, he'd be whisked away to a detention center.

As it turns out, ICE was able to verify that Parker was cool to be in the country. They apologized to him. Good enough! It gets better: once Judge Beckley was sure that Parker was allowed to be in the country, brown or not, she offered to continue with the wedding ceremony. Parker and Schmick, still traumatized by what had just happened to them, decided to accept: they'd had relatives come in from out of state to attend the wedding.

Now, you could argue that the judge was just doing her job: She didn't have any proof that Parker had the right to be in the country. As a representative of the state of Pennsylvania, she was obligated to do so.

Lemme tell you a story.

My partner and I just finished spending six months in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. We decided that, after a number of years together, we didn't just want to get married: we wanted to get Texas married. When we went to the county clerk's office to get our marriage certificate, we told the attending clerk that we were Canadian. He shrugged, congratulated us and told us to let them know which courthouse we were going to so that they could send over the required documents.

So, we did that.

When we went to the courthouse, she in her wedding dress and I in an embroidered black suit (remember: Texas married,) we met the Judge. He asked us where we were from. We told him we were from Canada. "Are you going back?" was his response. It wasn't a joke. It was definitely a serious question. Our answer, of course, was yes – we were returning to Canada at the end of March. There was no talk of not being allowed to get married there. No threat of being checked out by ICE or anyone else. Just our vows, happiness, and a great meal thereafter with a small group of family and friends.

There's no difference between the reasons that I, my wife, and the Parkers came to the courthouse. Alexander Parker and I have a lot in common: we were both born outside of the United States, looking to get married in an American court of law. I'd argue that Mr. Parker has more of a right to be in the United States than I do: He was adopted by Americans when he was a baby. I was just a long-term tourist.

But I'm white. So, no threats or fingerprinting for me.

Image: Allan Ajifo - https://www.flickr.com/photos/125992663@N02/14597585461/, CC BY 2.0, Link

Lone Canadian cop takes down alleged mass murderer without firing a shot

I was getting on a plane in Toronto yesterday when I heard the news that a van had been intentionally driven into a crowd of people. By the time I landed a few hours later in Calgary, word was that 10 people lost their lives in the attack. Just under 20 were wounded. I assumed that if he was found by the authorities, the alleged driver of the van would be toast. He or she would have no chance to be tried by a jury of peers; no option to stand before a judge. There'd be no justice, save what a bullet, by the driver's own hand or that of a police office, could afford.

This morning when I woke, I was amazed to see that this was not the case. A single Toronto Police Service constable managed to capture a suspect alive in the murder of those ten unfortunate souls. Despite the fact that the suspect menaced the officer, his demanded to be killed, and constantly reached for a firearm – which turned out not to have been there – the suspect ended up in handcuffs instead of a body bag.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation's got what little footage of the event there is, along with commentary on how a police service that was once known for its heavy-handed tactics identified its aggression as a problem and fought to change its ways. Through frequent deescalation courses, Toronto's Police Service is changing its officer's responses to violent situations, slowly, but with measurable success. Is their police force perfect? Hell no. But its trying to change in the name of better serving the people it is sworn to protect. That's better than nothing. It gives me hope that, no matter how much of a bigoted, bro-cultured mess that law enforcement in Canada and the United States may currently be, it can be changed for the better.

It may take us years or decades to do so, but footage like this makes me believe that we can get there.

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Electric buses were seen as a joke at an industry conference in Belgium seven years ago when the Chinese manufacturer BYD showed an early model. Suddenly, buses with battery-powered motors are a serious matter with the potential to revolutionize city transport -- and add to the forces reshaping the energy industry. With China leading the way, making the traditional smog-belching diesel behemoth run on electricity is starting to eat away at fossil fuel demand. The numbers are staggering. China had about 99 percent of the 385,000 electric buses on the roads worldwide in 2017, accounting for 17 percent of the country's entire fleet. Every five weeks, Chinese cities add 9,500 of the zero-emissions transporters -- the equivalent of London's entire working fleet, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance. All this is starting to make an observable reduction in fuel demand. And because they consume 30 times more fuel than average sized cars, their impact on energy use so far has become much greater than the than the passenger sedans produced companies from Tesla to Toyota. For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. This year, the volume of fuel buses take off the market may rise 37 percent to 279,000 barrels a day, about as much oil as Greece consumes, according to BNEF.

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