It is hard to read the White House report without thinking about the presidential election that happened six weeks before it was published. The election was decided by a few Midwest states in the heart of what has long been called the Rust Belt. And the key issue for many voters there was the economy—or, more precisely, the shortage of relatively well-paying jobs. In the rhetoric of the campaign, much of the blame for lost jobs went to globalization and the movement of manufacturing facilities overseas. “Make America great again” was, in some ways, a lament for the days when steel and other products were made domestically by a thriving middle class.
Automation of homes and home appliances is also thought to impact the environment, but the benefits of these features are also questioned. A study of energy consumption of automated homes in Finland showed that smart homes could reduce energy consumption by monitoring levels of consumption in different areas of the home and adjusting consumption to reduce energy leaks (such as automatically reducing consumption during the nighttime when activity is low). This study, along with others, indicated that the smart home’s ability to monitor and adjust consumption levels would reduce unnecessary energy usage. However, new research suggests that smart homes might not be as efficient as non-automated homes. A more recent study has indicated that, while monitoring and adjusting consumption levels does decrease unnecessary energy use, this process requires monitoring systems that also consume a significant amount of energy. This study suggested that the energy required to run these systems is so much so that it negates any benefits of the systems themselves, resulting in little to no ecological benefit.
Perhaps you saw a 2014 story in the New York Times about a man who had just changed jobs and applied to refinance his mortgage. Even though he’d had a steady government job for eight years and a steady teaching job for more than 20 years before that, he was turned down for the loan. The automated system that evaluated his application recognized that the projected payments were well within his income level, but it was smart enough to seize on a risk marker: His new career would involve a great deal more variation and uncertainty in earnings.
In 1932, Bertrand Russell wrote that “a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by the belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.” In 2018, that might mean self-automators’ reclaiming parts of their workday; tomorrow it could mean working to secure automated gains for the masses. “I worry quite a bit that there really isn’t enough work to go around for everyone to work full-time,” Todd Hilehoffer says. Gary, the early-’90s self-automator, asked me, “Why is earning money for stockholders more important than employee quality of life? The system shouldn’t be more important than the individuals who helped make that system relevant.”
To cut through all of it and figure out what's most relevant to you, imagine a typical day at home. Are there any devices you regularly turn on and off? Do you regularly adjust your home environment depending on what you're doing? Those regular habits and activities are typically the best candidates for automation. Figure out which ones are most important to you, and you'll have a much better idea of what to look for as you start shopping around.
A different take on the home security camera, the SkyBell HD is a video doorbell that lets you see and speak with whoever is outside. It may look like the original SkyBell Video Doorbell we reviewed back in 2015, but that's where the similarities end. This version delivers highly detailed video at 1080p with color night vision, and captures several of seconds of footage prior to a triggered event. It also integrates with numerous third-party smart home devices, and comes with free cloud storage for recorded video, a rarity in this category.
On the weekend before the opening gavel of what’s being dubbed the Harvard affirmative-action trial, a record-breaking 597 of my fellow members of the class of ’88 and I, along with alumni from other reunion classes, were seated in a large lecture hall, listening to the new president of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, address the issue of diversity in the admissions process. What he said—and I’m paraphrasing, because I didn’t record it—was that he could fill five whole incoming classes with valedictorians who’d received a perfect score on the SAT, but that’s not what Harvard is or will ever be. Harvard tries—and succeeds, to my mind—to fill its limited spots with a diversity not only of race and class but also of geography, politics, interests, intellectual fields of study, and worldviews.
A company that appears to be run by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist offered to pay women to make false claims against Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the midterm elections—and the special counsel’s office has asked the FBI to weigh in. “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the Mueller spokesman Peter Carr told me in an email on Tuesday.
Support includes the tools that testers use to move faster or extend their reach. Software to generate random names to use for input, or test data in general, falls into this category, as well as software to create screen captures and videos. This type of software exists to record all of the interactions that a tester has had with various fields, simulators for mobile devices, and developer environments that blend into the background and pop-up on command to record notes.
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See below for a list of popular unit testing frameworks and tools for major platforms and programming languages. These frameworks can be used by programmers to test specific functionality in libraries and applications. Unit tests can then be used to automatically test new versions and builds as part of an automated build system or deployment process.
Crowd testing communities are either managed or unmanaged. A managed community is one where the vendor manages interactions (e.g. bug verification) with the crowd. These communities minimize the effort required from your business and provide a much higher quality service, but they are also more expensive. Meanwhile, an unmanaged community is one where your business manages interactions with the crowd. These communities require more effort from your business, but they are also less expensive.
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Take the realm of elder care, in which robotics manufacturers see great potential for automation. This isn’t often treated as a nuanced or a particularly intellectual line of human work. We were struck, therefore, by a recent essay by the teacher, coach, and blogger Heather Plett. She wrote of her mother’s palliative care provider, “She was holding space for us,” and explained: “What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”
Energy management means getting the most out of your home for the lowest possible cost. Your smart home can learn your habits to optimize when you use certain appliances and when you turn on heating and air conditioning. Location-based triggers make efficiency as simple as syncing your phone or tablet with your home automation system. Shut off devices when you leave and have the AC ready when you return, without lifting a finger.
Home automation suffers from platform fragmentation and lack of technical standards a situation where the variety of home automation devices, in terms of both hardware variations and differences in the software running on them, makes the task of developing applications that work consistently between different inconsistent technology ecosystems hard. Customers may be hesitant to bet their IoT future on proprietary software or hardware devices that use proprietary protocols that may fade or become difficult to customize and interconnect.
We don’t want to create the impression that stepping aside is purely for artists. Senior lawyers, for example, are thoroughly versed in the law but are rarely their firms’ deep-dive experts on all its fine points. They devote much of their energy to winning new work (usually the chief reason they get promoted) and acting as wise counselors to their clients. With machines digesting legal documents and suggesting courses of action and arguments, senior lawyers will have more capacity to do the rest of their job well. The same is true for many other professionals, such as senior accountants, architects, investment bankers, and consultants.
This helps to make output more predictable, reduce mistakes, and make your team happier (whoever used to have to trawl through the most spreadsheets will suddenly feel a lot better about their job!). Since a machine can run constantly without rest, you could have it process large sets of data on autopilot, 24/7. That’s something you’re not going to get out of even the most dedicated employee.