Cognitive Science as a New People Science for the Future of Work


Brief by Frida Polli et al: “The notion of studying people in jobs as a science—in fields such as human resource management, people analytics, and industrial-organizational psychology—dates back to at least the early 20th century. In 1919, Yale psychologist Henry Charles Link wrote, “The application of science to the problem of employment is just beginning to receive serious attention,” at last providing an alternative to the “hire and fire” methods of 19th-century employers. A year later, prominent organizational theorists Ordway Teal and Henry C. Metcalf claimed, “The new focus in administration is to be the human element. The new center of attention and solicitude is the individual person, the worker.” The overall conclusion at the time was that various social and psychological factors governed differences in employee productivity and satisfaction….This Brief Proceeds in Five Sections:

● First, we review the limitations of traditional approaches to people science. In particular, we focus on four needs of the modern employer that are not satisfied by the status quo: job fit, soft skills, fairness, and flexibility.

● Second, we present the foundations of a new people science by explaining how advancements in fields like cognitive science and neuroscience can be used to understand the individual differences between humans.

● Third, we describe four best practices that should govern the application of the new people science theories to real-world employment contexts.

● Fourth, we present a case study of how one platform company has used the new people science to create hiring models for five high-growth roles.● Finally, we explain how the type of insights presented in Section IV can be made actionable in the context of retraining employees for the future of work….(More)”.

Rescuing Our Democracy by Rethinking New York Times Co. v. Sullivan


Paper by David Andrew Logan: “New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) is an iconic decision, foundational to modern First Amendment theory, and in a string of follow-on decisions the Court firmly grounded free speech theory and practice in the need to protect democratic discourse. To do this the Court provided broad and deep protections to the publishers of falsehoods. This article recognizes that New York Times and its progeny made sense in the “public square” of an earlier era, but the justices could never have foreseen the dramatic changes in technology and the media environment in the years since, nor predict that by making defamation cases virtually impossible to win they were harming, rather than helping self-government. In part because of New York Times, the First Amendment has been weaponized, frustrating a basic requirement of a healthy democracy: the development of a set of broadly agreed-upon facts. Instead, we are subject to waves of falsehoods that swamp the ability of citizens to effectively self-govern. As a result, and despite its iconic status, New York Times needs to be reexamined and retooled to better serve our democracy….(More)”

The pandemic has pushed citizen panels online


Article by Claudia Chwalisz: “…Until 2020, most assemblies took place in person. We know what they require to produce useful recommendations and gain public trust: time (usually many days over many months), access to broad and varied information, facilitated discussion, and transparency. Successful assemblies take on a pressing public issue, secure politicians’ commitment to respond, have mechanisms to ensure independence, and provide facilities such as stipends and childcare, so all can participate. The diversity of people in the room is what delivers the magic of collective intelligence.

However, the pandemic has forced new approaches. Online discussions might be in real time or asynchronous; facilitators and participants might be identifiable or anonymous. My team at the OECD is exploring how virtual deliberation works best. We have noticed a shift: from text-based interactions to video; from an emphasis on openness to one on representativeness; and from individual to group deliberation.

Some argue that online deliberation is less expensive than in-person processes, but the costs are similar when designed to be as democratic as possible. The new wave pays much more attention to inclusivity. For many online citizens’ assemblies this year (for example, in Belgium, Canada and parts of the United Kingdom), participants without equipment were given computers or smartphones, along with training and support to use them. A digital mediator is now essential for any plans to conduct online deliberation inclusively.

Experiments have also started to transcend national borders. Last October, the German Bertelsmann Stiftung, a private foundation for political reform, and the European Commission ran a Citizens’ Dialogue with 100 randomly selected citizens from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Lithuania. They spent three days discussing Europe’s democratic, digital and green future. The Global Citizens’ Assembly on Genome Editing will take place in 2021–22, as will the Global Citizens’ Assembly for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

However, virtual meetings do not replace in-person interactions. Practitioners adapting assemblies to the virtual world warn that online processes could push people into more linear and binary thinking through voting tools, rather than seeking a nuanced understanding of other people’s reasoning and values….(More)”.

Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism


Book by Mariana Mazzucato: “Even before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, capitalism was stuck. It had no answers to a host of problems, including disease, inequality, the digital divide and, perhaps most blatantly, the environmental crisis. Taking her inspiration from the ‘moonshot’ programmes which successfully co-ordinated public and private sectors on a massive scale, Mariana Mazzucato calls for the same level of boldness and experimentation to be applied to the biggest problems of our time. We must, she argues, rethink the capacities and role of government within the economy and society, and above all recover a sense of public purpose. Mission Economy, whose ideas are already being adopted around the world, offers a way out of our impasse to a more optimistic future….(More)”.

When FOIA Goes to Court: 20 Years of Freedom of Information Act Litigation by News Organizations and Reporters


Report by The FOIA Project: “The news media are powerful players in the world of government transparency and public accountability. One important tool for ensuring public accountability is through invoking transparency mandates provided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In 2020, news organizations and individual reporters filed 122 different FOIA suits[1] to compel disclosure of federal government records—more than any year on record according to federal court data back to 2001 analyzed by the FOIA Project

In fact, the media alone have filed a total of 386 FOIA cases during the four years of the Trump Administration, from 2017 through 2020. This is greater than the total of 311 FOIA media cases filed during the sixteen years of the Bush and Obama Administrations combined. Moreover, many of these FOIA cases were the very first FOIA cases filed by members of the news media. Almost as many new FOIA litigators filed their first case in court in the past four years—178 from 2017 to 2020—than the years 2001 to 2016, when 196 FOIA litigators filed their first case. Reporters made up the majority of these. During the past four years, more than four out of five of first-time litigators were individual reporters. The ranks of FOIA litigators thus expanded considerably during the Trump Administration, with more reporters challenging agencies in court for failing to provide records they are seeking, either alone or with their news organizations.

Using the FOIA Project’s unique dataset of FOIA cases filed in federal court, this report provides unprecedented and valuable insight into the rapid growth of media lawsuits designed to make the government more transparent and accountable to the public. The complete, updated list of news media cases, along with the names of organizations and reporters who filed these suits, is available on the News Media List at FOIAProject.org. Figure 1shows the total number of FOIA cases filed by the news each year. Counts are available in Appendix Table 1 at the end of this report….(More)”.

Figure 1. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Cases Filed by News Organizations and Reporters in Federal Court, 2001–2020.

10 Questions That Will Determine the Future of Work


Article by Jeffrey Brown and Stefaan Verhulst: “…But in many cases, policymakers face a blizzard of contradictory information and forecasts that can lead to confusion and inaction. Unable to make sense of the torrent of data being thrown their way, policymakers often end up being preoccupied by the answers presented — rather than reflecting on the questions that matter.

If we want to design “good” future-of-work policies, we must have an inclusive and wide-ranging discussion of what we are trying to solve before we attempt to develop and deploy solutions….

We have found that policymakers often fail to ask questions and are often uncertain about the variables that underpin a problem.

In addition, few of the interventions that have been deployed make the best use of data, an emerging but underused asset that is increasingly available as a result of the ongoing digital transformation. If civil society, think tanks and others fail to create the space for a sustainable future-of-work policy to germinate, “solutions” without clearly articulated problems will continue to dictate policy…

Our 100 Questions Initiative seeks to interrupt this cycle of preoccupation with answers by ensuring that policymakers are, first of all, armed with a methodology they can use to ask the right questions and from there, craft the right solutions.

We are now releasing the top 10 questions and are seeking the public’s assistance through voting and providing feedback on whether or not these are really the right questions we should be asking:

Preparing for the Future of Work

  1. How can we determine the value of skills relevant to the future-of work-marketplace, and how can we increase the value of human labor in the 21st century?
  2. What are the economic and social costs and benefits of modernizing worker-support systems and providing social protection for workers of all employment backgrounds, but particularly for women and those in part-time or informal work?
  3. How does the current use of AI affect diversity and equity in the labor force? How can AI be used to increase the participation of underrepresented groups (including women, Black people, Latinx people, and low-income communities)? What aspects/strategies have proved most effective in reducing AI biases?…(More) (See also: https://future-of-work.the100questions.org/)

Embracing Innovation in Government: Public Provider versus Big Brother


The fourth report in this series by the OECD: “…explores the powerful new technologies and opportunities that governments have at their disposal to let them better understand the needs of citizens. The research shows that governments must balance the tensions of using data harvesting and monitoring, and technologies that can identify individuals, to serve the public interest, with the inevitable concerns and legitimate fears about “big brother” and risks of infringing on freedoms and rights. Through the lens of navigating Public Provider versus Big Brother, innovation efforts fall into two key themes:

Theme 1: Data harvesting and monitoring

Governments have access to more detailed data than ever before, but such access involves risks and considerations which require serious reflection on the part of government.

Theme 2: Biometric technologies and facial recognition

A range of biometric tools offer opportunities to provide tailored services, as well as the unprecedented ability to identify and track individuals’ behaviours and movements….(More)”.

COVID-19 Tests Gone Rogue: Privacy, Efficacy, Mismanagement and Misunderstandings


Paper by Manuel Morales et al: “COVID-19 testing, the cornerstone for effective screening and identification of COVID-19 cases, remains paramount as an intervention tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 both at local and national levels. However, the speed at which the pandemic struck and the response was rolled out, the widespread impact on healthcare infrastructure, the lack of sufficient preparation within the public health system, and the complexity of the crisis led to utter confusion among test-takers. Invasion of privacy remains a crucial concern. The user experience of test takers remains low. User friction affects user behavior and discourages participation in testing programs. Test efficacy has been overstated. Test results are poorly understood resulting in inappropriate follow-up recommendations. Herein, we review the current landscape of COVID-19 testing, identify four key challenges, and discuss the consequences of the failure to address these challenges. The current infrastructure around testing and information propagation is highly privacy-invasive and does not leverage scalable digital components. In this work, we discuss challenges complicating the existing covid-19 testing ecosystem and highlight the need to improve the testing experience for the user and reduce privacy invasions. Digital tools will play a critical role in resolving these challenges….(More)”.

To Thrive, Our Democracy Needs Digital Public Infrastructure


Article by Eli Pariser and Danielle Allen: “The story of how the internet has become so broken is already familiar. More and more of our public life takes place on big tech platforms optimized for clicks, shares, and virality. The result is that we spend our online time largely in rule-less spaces that reward our worst impulses, trap us in bubbles of like-minded opinion, and leave us susceptible to harassment, lies and misinformation. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube each took first steps to rein in the worst behavior on their platforms in the heat of the election, but none have confronted how their spaces were structured to become ideal venues for outrage and incitement…

The first step in the process is realizing that the problems we’re experiencing in digital life — how to gather strangers together in public in ways that make it so people generally behave themselves — aren’t new. They’re problems that physical communities have wrestled with for centuries. In physical communities, businesses play a critical role — but so do public libraries, schools, parks and roads. These spaces are often the groundwork that private industry builds itself around: Schools teach and train the next generation of workers; new public parks and plazas often spur private real estate development; businesses transport goods on publicly funded roads; and so on. Public spaces and private industry work symbiotically, if sometimes imperfectly.

Beyond their instrumental value for prosperity, we need public spaces and institutions to weave and maintain our social fabric. In physical communities, parks and libraries aren’t just places for exercise or book-borrowing — they also create social connections, a sense of community identity, and a venue in which differences and inequalities can be surfaced and addressed. Public spaces provide access to essential resources for people who couldn’t otherwise access them — whether it’s an outdoor workout station, basketball court, or books in a library — but they are some of the few spaces in a community where we get a glimpse of each other’s lives and help us see ourselves as part of a pluralistic but cohesive society….

If mission, design and governance are important ingredients, the final component is what might be called digital essential workers — professionals like librarians whose job is to manage, steward, and care for the people in these spaces. This care work is one of the pillars of successful physical communities which has been abstracted away by the existing tech platforms. Scholar Joan Donovan has called for 10,000 librarians for the Internet, while Sarah R. Roberts has pointed out that doing curation at scale would be impossible within the current social media business model. At a time when our country is pulling apart and many Americans need work, it’s worth considering whether we need an AmeriCorps for digital space.

How might we pay for this? A two-year project one of us helped lead at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences issued a final report that recommended taxing what’s known as “targeted advertising” — the kind Google and Facebook rely on for their revenue — in order to support the democratic functions social platforms have had a hand in dismantling, like local journalism. The truth is that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have displaced and sucked the revenue out of an entire ecosystem of local journalistic enterprises and other institutions that served some of these public functions. Those three companies alone made nearly $33 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2020 alone — and that profit margin in part comes from not having to pay for the negative externalities they create or the public goods they erode. Using some of those funds to support public digital infrastructure seems eminently reasonable….(More)”.

Inside India’s booming dark data economy


Snigdha Poonam and Samarath Bansal at the Rest of the World: “…The black market for data, as it exists online in India, resembles those for wholesale vegetables or smuggled goods. Customers are encouraged to buy in bulk, and the variety of what’s on offer is mind-boggling: There are databases about parents, cable customers, pregnant women, pizza eaters, mutual funds investors, and almost any niche group one can imagine. A typical database consists of a spreadsheet with row after row of names and key details: Sheila Gupta, 35, lives in Kolkata, runs a travel agency, and owns a BMW; Irfaan Khan, 52, lives in Greater Noida, and has a son who just applied to engineering college. The databases are usually updated every three months (the older one is, the less it is worth), and if you buy several at the same time, you’ll get a discount. Business is always brisk, and transactions are conducted quickly. No one will ask you for your name, let alone inquire why you want the phone numbers of five million people who have applied for bank loans.

There isn’t a reliable estimate of the size of India’s data economy or of how much money it generates annually. Regarding the former, each broker we spoke to had a different guess: One said only about one or two hundred professionals make up the top tier, another that every big Indian city has at least a thousand people trading data. To find them, potential customers need only look for their ads on social media or run searches with industry keywords and hashtags — “data,” “leads,” “database” — combined with detailed information about the kind of data they want and the city they want it from.

Privacy experts believe that the data-brokering industry has existed since the early days of the internet’s arrival in India. “Databases have been bought and sold in India for at least 15 years now. I remember a case from way back in 2006 of leaked employee data from Naukri.com (one of India’s first online job portals) being sold on CDs,” says Nikhil Pahwa, the editor and publisher of MediaNama, which covers technology policy. By 2009, data brokers were running SMS-marketing companies that offered complementary services: procuring targeted data and sending text messages in bulk. Back then, there was simply less data, “and those who had it could sell it at whatever price,” says Himanshu Bhatt, a data broker who claims to be retired. That is no longer the case: “Today, everyone has every kind of data,” he said.

No broker we contacted would openly discuss their methods of hunting, harvesting, and selling data. But the day-to-day work generally consists of following the trails that people leave during their travels around the internet. Brokers trawl data storage websites armed with a digital fishing net. “I was shocked when I was surfing [cloud-hosted data sites] one day and came across Aadhaar cards,” Bhatt remarked, referring to India’s state-issued biometric ID cards. Images of them were available to download in bulk, alongside completed loan applications and salary sheets.

Again, the legal boundaries here are far from clear. Anybody who has ever filled out a form on a coupon website or requested a refund for a movie ticket has effectively entered their information into a database that can be sold without their consent by the company it belongs to. A neighborhood cell phone store can sell demographic information to a political party for hyperlocal campaigning, and a fintech company can stealthily transfer an individual’s details from an astrology app onto its own server, to gauge that person’s creditworthiness. When somebody shares employment history on LinkedIn or contact details on a public directory, brokers can use basic software such as web scrapers to extract that data.

But why bother hacking into a database when you can buy it outright? More often, “brokers will directly approach a bank employee and tell them, ‘I need the high-end database’,” Bhatt said. And as demand for information increases, so, too, does data vulnerability. A 2019 survey found that 69% of Indian companies haven’t set up reliable data security systems; 44% have experienced at least one breach already. “In the past 12 months, we have seen an increasing trend of Indians’ data [appearing] on the dark web,” says Beenu Arora, the CEO of the global cyberintelligence firm Cyble….(More)”.