Two high tech companies have been in the news these last weeks: Amazon for leadership practices that some of us thought long gone, and, on the other side of the spectrum, Netflix, which just announced unlimited parental leave for its employees.

The discussion about the impact of technology on our professional and private lives include a vast array of topics: whistleblowers and NSA scandals, work-life balance, company HR policies, social norms and practices, and many other topics.

Also, the discussion is typically divided into black – white, good – evil: Those seeing and talking mainly about the risks, and those emphasising the potential. That is not surprising, because, after all, it is about technology and that – as every tool or means – can be used for good or bad.

In the end it is about the trade-offs we are willing to make. Are we informed enough to be able to weigh pros and cons, to make informed choices? Do we even know what we are trading in when we use online tools and data services?

This digest presents a few articles that show some of the trade-offs and look at a few of the issues connected to technological change and the transformation it has brought about in our societies.

“Big Data Ethics” Sound Great, But They Won’t Stop The NSA—Or Facebook

by Matt Asay

The main message here is: We – you and me – are part of the problem and could also be part of the solution. We – as users of free services, especially as consumers – are providing data, that become open source (isn’t that is what the internet is all about?) – that can be analysed and can be used by corporates and also government agencies against our interests. Actually, we know the mechanisms. It is up to everyone to weigh the advantages of providing data and the risks that go with doing so: “In sum, it’s nice to wish for a new era of Big Data ethics, whereby corporations and governments respect our privacy, but it’s hard to square that vision with the consumer’s willingness to sell her data for a mess of free services“.

Read the article: “Big Data Ethics” Sound Great, But They Won’t Stop The NSA—Or Facebook by Matt Asay

The internet of things – who wins, who loses?

by Maria Farrel

No, it seems we don’t have a choice. Maria Farrel starts her story about the job implications of the internet of things with the employees of a Swedish company who had implanted chips into their wrists that activated the company photocopier. She paints a rather pessimistic picture about the “trade-off of… sacrificing privacy for convenience…“. And the price for the often praised “surveillance capitalism” will not be paid by the “well-educated geeks who can jump to the next start-up when they tire of the free coffee“ but by people like hotel cleaners, retail warehouse pickers and similar positions.

Read the article: The internet of things – who wins, who loses? by Maria Farrel

You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

by Tim Wu

You would think that technology leads to more productivity and the increase of productivity has the effect for all of us needing to work less.

Why is that not the case? Tim Wu outlines the different theories. They all have in common that we do it voluntarily – for different reasons, but it is a matter of our own choice and incentives. Wu adds a different explanation: it has to do with the nature of white color work. There is no ending, there are no intrinsic limits. The new work environment enforces this: “The fact that employees are now always reachable eliminates what was once a natural barrier of sorts….. With no limits, work becomes like a football game where the whistle is never blown“.

Read the article: You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much by Tim Wu

Amazon’s no outlier: The science behind broken work cultures

by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi

How do you create a great company culture without burning out your staff? What do we learn from the Amazon and the Netflix cases about work culture?

The authors differentiate three factors that boost performance (Play, Purpose, and Potential) and three that destroy performance (emotional pressure, economic pressure, inertia). By relying heavily on the positive motivators Amazon grew very successfully. Now it is time to focus on minimising the three destroyers – the flip side of the coin, if you will – to maintain sustainable growth and performance. This is the concept of “total motivation”.

Read the article: Amazon’s no outlier: The science behind broken work cultures by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi

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