Big Data Meats HR (and Uktraine, Snowden stuff)

“When I brought this subject up with Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT’s Sloane School of Management, he told me that he believes people analytics will ultimately have a vastly larger impact on the economy than the algorithms that now trade on Wall Street or figure out which ads to show us.”

What has algorithmic trading done for us? Helped the big boys at the expense of small traders.

What have ad algorithms done for us? Created “the final solution to personal privacy.”

Here’s another one along that line. The article argues that using Big Data to turn employees into neatly graded slabs of meat will improve “fairness” and equality. Which is true. What the article doesn’t mention is the downside of this cost… Casinos tracking how often their employees smile, Bloomberg logging every employee keystroke, and sophisticated testing identifying the “perfect employee”.

The end result is equality and fairness, yes, but also roboticization. Enhancing the ability of management to create an organization that functions more perfectly like a machine, because only the most machine-like employees are picked for the job.

Remember, in his partly valid critiques of inhumane capitalism, Pope Francis also included an attack on individualism.

I would add that, by making it easier for those at the top to “punch some numbers” and get people doing their bidding, the mechanization of human decisions means those making the decisions need less humanity. Ever wonder how organizations get to a point where they commit mass murder?

Instead of trying to create large organizations — I suspect the inherent psychopathy of organizations results from their nature as Frankenstein’s monsters sewn together out of their members — better to use contractors paid for performance and responsible for adhering to certain interface standards. Everyone is responsible for themselves, and human nature in absence of controlling machinery keeps a check on abuses. Snowden being one data point in favor, the environmental and other issues associated with a free-for-all system points against.

(Industry actually used to work this way — with e.g sewing being done by workers at home, paid per piece they could produce. Then the workers were all moved into centralized shops and the term sweatshops was invented.)

This seems important: Ukraine is seeing massive rallies for building ties with the EU (implicitly against Russian influence), protesters even storming the Presidential Administration building briefly. Driven by memories of the Holodomor? In any case, an unusual solution — faced with riot police, the protesters fought back with a bulldozer. http://en.for-ua.com/analytics/2013/11/27/164012.html

Talking with Snowden: “Obviously, with Snowden, no communications can be electronic.” I’m kind of curious how things worked, then. DHL? Telepathic link? (the CIA and predecessors *did* throw oodles of cash at “new age” stuff) Coded seismic impulses? http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/finding-snowden

A Greenwald-skeptic makes some good points. The following are valid dangers that, if I were Greenwald & Poitras, I’d put some long and serious thought into avoiding:

“only 550 heavily redacted pages have been made available to the public from a trove exceeding 50,000 documents; most of us still have no clue about the scale of the surveillance problem or what we can do about it; resistance is confined mostly to professional civil liberties advocates; there is little indication that anything will change soon if ever; there seems to have been little disruption to overall system functioning though certainly some people in the NSA are nervous…”

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/12/theyre-watching-you-at-work/354681/

(too much to quote)

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