Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The new invisible workforce

“We are living through the tech-enabled unraveling of full-time employment itself,” says anthropologist Mary L. Gray.

Anne says: That opening statement from this TED Talk caught my attention immediately. We’ve been bombarded with articles about working remotely, working from home during the pandemic, how to use video conferencing, on and on – but boldly claiming this is the end of full-time employment itself? Wow – I hadn’t considered that perspective. Gig workers in knowledge and service industries are not new – many people have been choosing to control their employment in this fashion, some have been forced to – but after listening to Mary L. Gray, I’m challenging my own assumptions about the structure of work.

In only 30 minutes, we’re taken on a journey through a research-based story, and although US-based labour laws are not the same as Australia, it isn’t difficult to tease out the nuances and apply them into the Australian or indeed global contexts. Gray proposes the need for a new social contract, new labour policies and laws that support workers who may be working for no single employer, from project to project, competing with full-time employees. What are the challenges? No sick leave, no parental leave, no overarching employment benefits, no career development (unless you choose to self-educate), while employers expect these “ghost workers”, as Gray calls them, to be job-ready.

What would a new social contract look like? Some kind of ecosystem, perhaps co-operatives (a return to medieval-style guilds?) where groups of workers self-organise and support each other? Or is it companies that should also be required to contribute funds to support these workers?

And then, as I was considering the impact across workforces and structures, company cultures and resources, an article from Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, crossed my radar. Here’s the issue, being played out with Uber drivers – and all the criticisms about Uber’s treatments of their drivers. But don’t expect a standard defensive response from Khosrowshabi, these are his thoughts on exactly what Gray is proposing.

This is powerful future thinking that we should all be taking some time to reflect upon now as we hurtle towards creating the future of work, either post-pandemic, or accepting that we’re going to be dealing with pandemic-enforced remote work for quite some time. This is the right moment in time to reshape our social contracts with work, our attitudes to full-time work, our company structures and to provide for new ways of working. Can we afford not to review, as a society, the conditions and new ways of working?


These dogs are trained to sniff out the coronavirus. Most have a 100% success rate

Whoopi says: Australia has finally caught on! I mentioned about a month ago some dogs being trained to be COVID-19 sniffer dogs – well, we’ve got a team in Australia joining the growing gang of sniffers! And their success rate? 100% correct!!

This article goes into how they’re training the dogs using sweat from infected people – it doesn’t take too long for already trained sniffers, only 6-8 weeks. For newbies, 3-6 months. Pretty impressive when you think how long doctors take to do their training!!

The other encouraging aspect of the study is that the dogs are not contracting the disease as they sniff, and the study has figured out a safe way to manage access to the sample without the dogs coming into direct contact, which of course reduces the risk of being able to transmit it to our handlers.

Personally, I can see the sniffer dog squad at airports being far more sustainable than rapid tests that produce errors. If they can ensure that the dogs are not missing any cases – false negatives, or false positives – then let’s get the paw brigade out there!!


Longread: The death of a smart city

Jakkii says: this is a fantastic, in-depth look at the role of activists and one tech billionaire (Jim Balsillie, who for those unfamiliar was the former CEO of RIM (aka the company that made BlackBerry), and the guy who keeps trying to buy NHL teams and getting rejected) managed to defeat Alphabet, parent company of Google, and their plans for a ‘smart city’ within Toronto, developed through their subsidiary Sidewalk Labs.

Amongst many issues, one of the biggest concerns was the effective creation of a ‘surveillance state’ within the precinct, concerns certainly not without merit given the ever increasing surveillance and use of facial recognition technologies in many cities around the world that weren’t built from the ground-up to be “smart”. The balance between the right to exist in private and the drive to give police access to technologies to “make their jobs easier” has long since shifted in favour of the police, though it’s not only because of government – we also live our lives much more publicly now through social media and the internet.

The choice to share aspects of our lives online should not, however, subvert the need for public education about surveillance tech, deep discussions on the ethics of surveillance tech, and the way to balance surveillance tech with our right to liberty, and our right to privacy. When it comes to government and police, it should not be assumed that we forfeit our right to exist privately in public just because we step outside our front door. Importantly, we should not have governments at any level – including you, councils – implementing surveillance tech without public debate and discussion, research and ethics reviews and, as citizens, a real understanding of what it means now and what it could mean in the future. And, as the citizens of Toronto have made plain, we should most certainly be cautious about allowing private companies to implement what is effectively surveillance tech in a ‘smart city’, no matter how well they’ve sold their plans to the local government of the day.

Medium estimates this to be a 24 minute read, so grab your coffee (or your beer) and settle in for a ride as the piece takes you through the events and activism involved in finally ending the Sidewalk Labs project at Quayside. The pandemic is the official reason for the end of the project, but, to borrow a quote from the piece, “Covid was the excuse, but their leaving was inevitable”.


Around the house

Jakkii says: How’s your pandemic experience going? Hopefully, you’re coping pretty well, washing your hands and staying home – and wearing your mask when you’re not. Here’s some non-work-related stuff you might like to read to this week while you’re hanging out at home:

Friday Funnies

Busy work days from r/aww

Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

“The demise of a global online communication platform such as Facebook could have catastrophic social and economic consequences for innumerable communities that rely on the platform on a daily basis,” Öhman and Aggarwal write, “as well as the users whose personal data Facebook collects and stores.”

Social Media Friday Five

Unlike Reels, which Instagram makes people seek out to enjoy, TikTok just surfaces content. Eugene Wei, a former product officer at Amazon and Hulu, observed that Instagram is now “a Frankenstein of feeds and formats and functions spread across a somewhat confused constellation of apps.”

Corona Business Insights Podcast

How the pandemic is changing the movie industry and cinemas: from delayed releases to extended releases, and from cleaning to streaming an uncertain future looms.

As COVID-19 sets out to change the world forever, join Sandra Peter and Kai Riemer as they think about what’s to come in the future of business.


How the movie industry is fighting lockdown

Films only have to be in theatres for three weekends now before going to digital platforms

Event Cinemas will now let you hire a private cinema for $500

Movie lockdown in Australia, cinemas reopen at 25% capacity

Film screening venues will not sell snacks and beverages

Cinemas in Europe and Asia in reopening, although most across Africa, the US and South America remain shut

According to data from the U.K.’s Gower Street Analytics nearly half of the world’s cinemas are now back in operation

The death of indie cinema might be imminent

No popcorn, staggered seating, mandatory masks and movie reruns in China

China opens up to local productions

What the movie industry is worth

Mulan, Trolls and Tenet releases during the pandemic

Tenet release date speculation

Tenet could still break labor day box office record

Mike Seymour on the future of the film industry and streaming platforms

Our previous conversations about digital humans at Vivid Ideas 2018 and Vivid Ideas 2019


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