When it comes to machine bias, the struggle is real…

Everytime I read something about how algorithms (or robots) are not bias, I always think about examples like this one. The tweet speaks for itself and marks a legitimate concern. I hope the powers that be take note and get it right. If you want more of my thoughts on this, listen to this episode of my podcast.

Who owns your face?

From traffic cameras reading your license plate, to security cameras on your phone to the unblinking eye of cameras in public places, facial recognition is everywhere. Did you know that the average adult will be caught on camera (at least) a dozen times a day and if you live in a city then, you are caught on camera 50+ times a day. More than 50% of Americans are in a database available to law enforcement and more than 25% of all police departments in the USA have used that database to solve a crime. All of that makes me wonder, who owns the rights to my face? I ponder that and the prevalence of facial recognition in American society. Tune in for a very insightful episode.

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

From traffic cameras reading your license plate, to security cameras on your phone to the unblinking eye of cameras in public places, facial recognition is everywhere. Did you know that the average adult will be caught on camera (at least) a dozen times a day and if you live in a city then, you are caught on camera (at least 50 times) a day. More than 50% of Americans are in a database available to law enforcement and more than 25% of all police departments in the USA have used that database to solve a crime. All of that makes me wonder, who owns the rights to my face? I ponder that and the prevalence of facial recognition in American society, after this special message from our sponsor.

Hey, DO YOU NEED A PUBLIC SPEAKER FOR YOUR NEXT MEETING OR EVENT? If so, email me. You can catch me via email. I speak a lot about the future of work and my latest speech – “Big Brother in the Office” is one sure to raise eyebrows. Here’s some of what you can expect.   

Description: 15 minutes ago, the world changed. Social Media has caused (or greatly contributed to) a mental health epidemic. As a result, companies had to hire smart in order to protect their interests. So, what are they turning to? Advance technologies that monitor the emotional fitness of their workers, AI scanning the faces of candidates for truth, microchipping employees and other means. These methods may improve overall efficiency and the bottom line of the enterprise but, at what cost? When does the collection and tracking of employee data go too far? How much privacy should an interviewee or employee expect to have? And most importantly, how will these practices affect the future world of work?

In this presentation you will learn:

        • Just how far technology has progressed and what you can expect to see in the near-future.
        • The pros and cons of leveraging cutting edge technologies (i.e. Biometrics)  in the workplace.
        • The societal impact of present-day surveillance techniques in recruitment practices and the world of work.

If you like the type of futuristic topics I discuss here on my podcast then, you will love the information I share in my presentation – “Big Brother in the Office.” Email me now and let’s talk about it. Operators are standing by.

Using your face to unlock your phone has been around since 2011, as it was available on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS and Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone. Nowadays, phones like iPhone X, Galaxy Note 9 and LG G7 use biometric information to unlock your device, like your unique eye and facial pattern. Many people find it more convenient or just cool to use face unlocking versus their fingerprint. And phones like the iPhone X and Oppo Find X have done away with the fingerprint reader altogether, relying solely on face unlocking using infrared light to map your face.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, its in your car too. Listen to these quotes from AutoNews.com.

In a car-sharing economy, how does a vehicle recognize which motorist is in the driver’s seat? Judging by Chrysler’s Portal electric minivan concept, the answer may be facial recognition. The Portal, which debuted this month at the CES technology expo here, featured a camera behind the steering wheel that scans the motorist’s face. After the initial scan, the vehicle would maintain a profile that includes the motorist’s favorite radio stations, seat position, address book, calendar, etc. Panasonic Automotive developed the system with Sensory Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif., company that supplies facial- and voice-recognition software for mobile phones, tablets and laptops. “The technology has been proven out in millions of Android phones,” said Don Turner, Panasonic Automotive’s associate director of advanced engineering. “Fiat Chrysler is evaluating it, and we are showing pieces of this solution to other automakers.”

An automaker could also install other cameras in the cabin to recognize and store profiles of passengers. A noise cancellation system could create an aural cocoon around each passenger, who could listen to his or her preferred music. Turner says the facial-recognition software is robust enough to recognize motorists even if they change their look by growing a beard, getting a new haircut or wearing glasses.

Other suppliers are tinkering with biometrics, too. Gentex Corp. is developing a camera mounted in the rearview mirror that would analyze images of the motorist’s irises.  “…identification using irises is more accurate than using fingerprints, Gentex CFO Steve Downing said..”

And here’s another fun fact, Byton, a Chinese high-tech startup that aims to compete with Tesla in the electric-car market, has an SUV that unlocks the door when its facial recognition software recognizes the driver. It will also automatically adjust the seats, mirrors, and climate control to their personal preferences.

Facial recognition is on our phones.

Facial recognition is in our cars.

And facial recognition is in our homes.

Listen to these two quotes, from the website – Gearbrain.

Facial recognition has been in the smart home for several years already, with the Netatmo Welcome indoor security camera offering the technology since 2015. The camera alerts you to every new face it sees, which you can then identify as family members or housemates. Once the system knows that information, the camera will then only alert you when it spots a stranger.

Facial recognition is also a feature of security cameras from Arlo, and Nest, including the Nest Hello, a video doorbell which not only tells you someone is at the door, but who it is before you answer. In these cases, facial recognition is used to inform you about what or whom your smart home has seen, rather than have the house operate when it recognizes you, the owner.

Google is starting to experiment with this via its Nest division with its new Nest Hub Max, a 10-inch touchscreen and smart speaker used to control the smart home. With a camera, the smart display recognizes your face and offers up personal information, similar to how the regular Home Hub does after recognizing your voice. Importantly, the Nest Hub Max does this without you asking. If it spots your face from across the room, the Max displays information specific to you. No speaking required.


Bill Hensley of Nortek Security & Control, which produces the Elan, said at the product’s launch: “We are integrating advanced video analytics and face recognition with our smart home control technologies…the smart home is becoming increasingly intuitive and personalized.”

The Elan touch panel is designed to recognize you as you approach, then display a custom menu of options and control various smart home devices. For example, it could be programed to adjust the lighting and thermostat to your preferred setting, lower the window blinds, and turn on your favorite music playlist when you walk through the door.

Such a system undoubtedly takes the smart home forward, edging it closer to the almost inevitable point where most of our connected devices react intuitively to our presence and our needs, instead of waiting to be told what to do each and every day. We believe the future of the smart home is one which adjusts automatically, with very little input from the user themselves; facial recognition is one of the many steps we expect the industry will take to reach that goal.

Facial recognition in our phones, our cars and even our homes.

If you’ve been to the airport, you’ve seen facial recognition at work there, scanning you before you get on a plane. And if you’ve been to certain restaurants, like the California eatery – CaliBurger, then you may have noticed how they have connected facial recognition to its loyalty program. Basically, customers  agree to share their personal data with the brand, and afterwards, the software, installed in ordering kiosks, recognizes registered members as they approach, activates their loyalty accounts and, based on previous purchases, can display their favorite meals (and maybe suggest seconds).

Now all of these ways that companies are using facial recognition makes it very convenient for their customers. It also raises privacy concerns. I’ll discuss some of those concerns, after this.

{Sponsor message – SupaPass.app}

The facial recognition app – Clearview AI has received a lot of buzz lately. Essentially, this app scraped the public photos of Facebook (and other social media sites) in order to make a massive face database. Perhaps you’ve heard of it already? If not, listen to this news report from CBS News in Los Angeles.

For me personally, I find all of this facial recognition… concerning. On one hand, I can applaud some of the ways law enforcement is using the technology. Here are just a few examples

So, as I said, I can applaud some of the ways law enforcement has used facial recognition. But on the other hand, I have a lot of questions. I will ask them here openly with the hope that a lawyer or some security expert will reply back with some answers.

  • Where is my face in the matrix (which is what I call this invisible system of databases keeping track of my face, your face, everybody’s face)?
  • Can I be alerted when my face is entered into a database? I want to be able to check its accuracy.
  • If my face pops up in connection to a criminal investigation, and it turns out that its not me, will my invisible record be erased? I ask because I would not want to be subject to extra scrutiny in case the same mistake happens in the future. Facial recognition does not have the best record when it comes to people of color.
  • And one last question because, I’ve seen this in spy movies so many times, what stops someone from creating a mask that looks like me, thereby giving them access to my phone, my car and even my home?

That’s the kind of thing that can really ruin your day.


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Do we need a law to mandate work-life balance?

Do we need a law to mandate work-life balance? In this episode, I discuss the “Right to Disconnect” bill being debated in New York City. Essentially, it says workers should not be required to answer emails or respond to work-related texts after official business hours. I also share insights from similar laws and business processes from around the world. Is this the future of work for the United States? If so, how will reducing work hours affect the bottom line? Tune in for a very interesting episode!



Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Finding a work-life balance, no pun intended, is a work in progress. And in a world where your work can follow you anywhere, finding this balance is becoming increasingly more difficult. Compared to the 38 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US comes in at number 30 for work-life balance. A couple of the reasons it is so low is because 11.4 percent of Americans work 50 or more hours per week, while they spend 11.4 hours for leisure and personal care daily. That’s a quote from Small Business Trends which coincides with some data from RescueTime, which is a software solution that helps you find work life balance by blocking distracting sites and giving you in-depth reports on exactly how you spend your time on digital devices. Here are a few of their statistics:

  • 28% of workers start their day before 8:30 AM (and 5% start before 7 AM)
  • 40% of people use their computers after 10 PM
  • 26% of work is done outside of normal working hours
  • 1% of our day is spent multitasking with communication tools

A lot of companies talk about work-life balance but based on the statistics I cited, maybe there should be a law mandating work-life balance. Actually, there is a bill being proposed in congress right now that may do that very thing. If it becomes law, how will that affect the future of work? I debate it after this special message.

According to Wikipedia, “The right to disconnect is a proposed human right regarding the ability of people to disconnect from work and primarily not to engage in work-related electronic communications such as e-mails or messages during non-work hours.” In March 2018, a “right to disconnect bill” was introduced before the New York City Council and is still under consideration at this point. If it were to pass, it would be “the first workers’ rights law of its kind in the United States — and would force many New York City employers to reevaluate their policies and culture.” Here’s a news clip talking about it. {Play the first 45 seconds}

I link to the bill in the show notes, available on JimStroud.com. But here are some interesting details within the fine print.

  • Employers can’t require employees to “access work-related electronic communications” outside of normal work hours; so when it comes to emails, text messages, or Skype or any type of electronic communications, the boss can send what they want but again, the worker is not required to respond.
  • No retaliation: Employers can’t punish employees for exercising their right to disconnect.
  • Should an employer require an employee to answer an email after hours (or some other electronic communication) they would face a fine of $250.
  • If an employer disciplines an employee—but doesn’t fire the employee—for failing to access off-hours work-related emails or texts, the employee would receive any lost wages and benefits plus $500 and other “equitable relief as appropriate” (in the case of an unlawful termination, that penalty would rise to $2,500).
  • Employers would also be subject to civil penalties payable to the city of New York if they violate the right to disconnect — up to $500 for the first instance and, for subsequent violations that occur within two years of any previous violation, up to $750 for the second and up to $1000 for each additional violation.

I imagine most of the people listening would be in favor of this type of law whereas others, would be curious as to how this affects the bottom line. Well, if hours were reduced, work productivity would likely increase. Case in point, Microsoft Japan generated a lot of buzz recently with one of their experiments. Check out this quote from ThomasNet.

“Japan has long been renowned for its intense work culture that places punishingly high expectations on employees. Extreme levels of work-related stress and exhaustion, which in some cases resulted in suicides, strokes, and heart failure, became so widespread that in the late 1970s a new word, karōshi, was invented – literally translating to “death by overwork.”

This makes it especially interesting that Microsoft recently trialed a four-day workweek in Japan. The summer project, part of Microsoft’s Work-Life Choice Challenge, saw its Japanese offices closing each Friday in August, the implementation of a 30-minute meeting limit, and employees being encouraged to reduce time spent replying to emails.

The experiment aimed to improve work-life balance, boost workplace creativity, and encourage flexible working. Resulting in a 40% productivity boost compared with August 2018, it was considered a huge success; Microsoft has plans to repeat the project in Japan this winter.”

Other countries have been experimenting with “right to disconnect” bills, in one way or another; even making it a law in some instances. I’ll share some examples after this.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D), who introduced the “right to disconnect” bill, based it off a similar workers’ rights law in France, which applies to companies with more than 50 employees. To quote from their law, “…the employee is under no obligation either to accept working at home or to bring there his files and working tools”. In 2004 the Supreme Court affirmed this decision and ruled that “the fact that [the employee] was not reachable on his cell phone outside working hours cannot be considered as misconduct.” And FYI, France has had a 35-hour work week since 2000.

Here are a few more examples

In the Philippines, House Bill 4721 was introduced to the Seventeenth Congress of the House of Representatives of the Philippines in January 2017. The long title of the proposed Act is “An act granting employees the right to disconnect from work-related electronic communications after work hours.”

In Italy, Senate Act #2233-B has become law and inside of it is this quote, “The agreement also identifies the worker’s rest periods as well as the technical and organizational measures necessary to ensure that the worker is disconnected from the technological equipment.”

And while Germany does not have any laws related to right to disconnect, German companies have a have a history of implementing policies along these lines.

  • Volkswagen implemented a policy in 2011 stating that it would stop email servers from sending emails to the mobile phones of employees between 6pm and 7am.
  • In 2013 Germany’s employment ministry banned its managers from contacting staff after hours as part of a wider agreement on remote working. It was done in order to protect the mental health of workers.
  • In 2014, automobile company Daimler introduced a software called “Mail on Holiday” that its employees could use to automatically delete incoming emails while they were on vacation.

Okay, in consideration of this trend, I predict that the gig economy will continue to boom. Why not? If companies are going to reduce work hours as a cultural initiative or to be compliant to a law, productivity levels must be maintained. And although I believe productivity would increase as workers embrace more flex time, I must wonder if it will be enough to meet overall company demand. If not, gig workers will be more needed than ever to pick up the slack. Take recruiting for example, how many more HR freelance jobs would post the day after a “right to disconnect” bill becomes law? For that matter, are you familiar with HR Lancers? If not, check it out, as soon as working hours decrease, expect more websites like it.



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Will increasing workplace automation trigger decreasing salaries?

If automation can eliminate certain tasks for a certain worker by X percent then, should that worker have his compensation reduced accordingly? I debate the issue in this episode.

This podcast is based on an article I wrote and published previously. All the resources and quotes cited in the podcast can be found therein.

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Just Say No To a Robot Tax!

Just say no to a robot tax! It may sound good in terms of protecting the American workers but, its more trouble than what its worth. I explain why in this episode.

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Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Last year, Oxford Economics published research entitled – How Robots Change The World” and among its findings was this quote…

“The rise of robots has already had a profound effect on industrial employment around the world: today, approximately one of every three new manufacturing robots is being installed in China, the world’s great workshop. Our econometric modelling finds that on average each newly installed robot displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers. By 2030, we estimate that as many as 20 million additional manufacturing jobs worldwide could be displaced due to robotization.”

Although, I think, any jobs displaced with robots and automation will usher in new and different work in its place, there are some who see this inevitable transition into a robot future as a threat. And there are some people who see the rise of the robots as an opportunity to raise more money for the government. After a quick word from my sponsors, I will be discussing the pros and cons of a robot tax; an idea that seems to be picking up steam.

The idea of taxing robots has been gaining some momentum as a way of slowing down the spread of automation as a way of protecting American workers. It was an idea that Bill Gates conceptualized and promoted in 2017. Here’s a clip of him explaining his thought.

Those who support the idea of a Robot Tax include New York City mayor – Bill DeBlasio who talked about a robot tax when he ran for President, calling for companies to pay 5 years of payroll taxes for every job automated. Other proponents of the robot tax, more or less, offer these arguments:

  • Business Insider says, “Such a tax could also conceivably create another source of federal revenue in an economy governed by more machines and fewer workers — reducing the possible disruption to the funding structures of Social Security and Medicare, which rely on payroll taxes paid by every worker and to help people find or train for new jobs.”
  • The website Emerj says, “it would slow down the deployment of automation to give society more time to adjust to the possible employment displacement.” In other words, a robot tax would slow down companies adopting automation en masse thus, giving people time to learn a new skill which would make them more marketable in the future. A by-product of that, of course, is that people will keep their existing jobs longer.

Pretty much when I researched this topic, those were the most common arguments for a robot tax. More money for government programs (like Social Security) and it would slow down the automation of jobs long enough for American workers to learn a new skill.  More often than not though, I heard dissenting viewpoints. One of them being from Andrew Yang, a  Democratic candidate for president who centered his campaign around the perils of automation. For example, listen to this clip where he’s discussing some of his campaign experiences. [01:15 – 02:00] Be that as it may, Andrew Yang was not a fan of the robot tax, in a tweet he said this

“A robot tax is an appealing idea but very difficult to administer. Is an IPad at a CVS a robot? How about software that eliminates a call center worker?”

I think Andrew Yang made a valid point against the idea of a robot tax. I found several others. I’ll share just a few of them after this.

Around the time that Bill Gates began promoting his robot tax idea, CNBC interviewed Oren Etzioni from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” and together they weighed in on Bill Gates’ “robot tax” proposal as an effort to slow down the spread of automation. Here’s a clip.

A few things to think about, as you digest all of this:

  • With technology everywhere, how do you define what a robot is? How can you determine that a certain software has displaced workers?
  • How do you enforce a robot tax, should it become law? Send IRS agents to analyze all of the software your company uses?
  • Wouldn’t taxing robots slow down innovation and decrease productivity? I mean, why would companies bother to experiment with efficiency if it ultimately means more taxes to pay?
  • And wouldn’t this increase prices for the consumer?

A lot of questions, for sure, and they may seem unanswerable. However, I think we will know the answers very soon. To date, South Korea is the only country in the world with a robot tax. They implemented it in August 2017 so, still early days on how that’s working for them. But if there are any manufacturing companies in South Korea listening, please consider opening up a plant over here where its cheaper because, we don’t have a robot tax.