The week@work – guaranteed basic income, college grad stats, internet trends and the world’s longest tunnel opens

This week@work the Swiss electorate rejected a ballot measure to provide a guaranteed basic income for citizens, the college graduate unemployment rate is 2.4%, with history majors matching mid-career salaries of business school grads, Mary Meeker projected her 2016 internet trends and 2,600 workers completed 17 years of work to open the world’s longest tunnel under the Alps.

On Saturday Swiss voters rejected a proposed plan to provide an unconditional monthly income of 2,500 francs by a margin of 77% to 23%.

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Philip Oltermann surveyed the growing economic trends toward guaranteed basic income, ‘State handout for all? Europe set to pilot universal basic incomes’.

“Universal basic income has a rare appeal across the political spectrum. For those on the left, it promises to eliminate poverty and liberate people stuck in dead-end workfare jobs. Small-state libertarians believe it could slash bureaucracy and create a leaner, more self-sufficient welfare system.

In an increasingly digital economy, it would also provide a necessary injection of cash so people can afford to buy the apps and gadgets produced by the new robot workforce.

Crucially, it is also an idea that seems to resonate across the wider public. A recent poll by Dalia Research found that 68% of people across all 28 EU member states said they would definitely or probably vote for a universal basic income initiative. Finland and the Netherlands have pilot projects in the pipeline.”

The New Yorker contributor, Mark Gimein summarized recent discussions on the topic, comparing U.S. views to European counterparts.

“…when they look further into the future, Americans talk about a national minimum income in the context of a jobless future, an employment apocalypse in which workers compete for fewer and fewer good jobs. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, sees a national guaranteed income as the most likely endgame in an economy with “more and more people getting pushed out of the middle class into the personal service sector of the economy getting lower and lower wages.” When the Swiss talk about basic income, they’re talking about a utopian vision. When Americans like Reich talk about it, it’s a last bulwark against national impoverishment.”

‘The Upshot’ analyzed the May unemployment numbers and drew a positive spin on disappointing results. “A better gauge of the underlying rate of jobs growth is to take an average over the past three months. By that measure, the labor market is creating around 116,000 jobs per month. This is a notable slowdown from jobs growth in the 150,000-250,000 range over most of the past five years. But it’s a slowdown and not a sudden stop.”

Here’s the good news for college grads. In a separate post, the folks @UpshotNYT posed this question: “What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-30-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college?”  Most folks guessed high. The actual rate is 2.4%, without a four-year college degree it’s 7%.

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While we’re on the topic of debunking ‘value of college myths’, let’s turn to a story about the much maligned history majors. (Full disclosure, I was one)

Writing in the LA Times, James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association lamented the decline enrollment in undergraduate history programs and countered with new research that suggests undergrads might want to reconsider their choice of major.

“Over the long run, …graduates in history and other humanities disciplines do well financially…after 15 years, those philosophy majors have more lucrative careers than college graduates with business degrees. History majors’ mid-career salaries are on par with those holding business bachelor’s degrees. Notably these salary findings exclude those who went on to attain a law or other graduate degree.

The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.”

On Wednesday The New York Times announced ‘the Internet is over’. They are changing their style rule to join the rest of the world to lowercase the word ‘internet’.

The same day, venture capitalist Mary Meeker presented her 2016 internet trends report. Inc. contributor, Jessica Stillman cited five ‘take-aways’ from the deck of 200 slides.

“Internet growth is slowing dramatically. Advertisers aren’t spending enough on mobile. Privacy concerns are “a ticking time bomb.”Search is about to be revolutionized…and so are messaging apps.”

Moving from technology trends to engineering marvels, BBC News reported on the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, culminating 17 years of work by 26,000 workers.

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“Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland’s symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

Nearly seven decades later, after redesigns, political disagreements and the long, slow work of drilling beneath the Gotthard massif, as it’s called, Gruner’s dream is complete.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel — a record-setting 35.4 miles long, and farther below ground than any other tunnel — was inaugurated Wednesday. The occasion was marked with a celebration that promoted “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability…”

Now the completed tunnel, delivered on time and within budget, will create a mainline rail connection between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Genoa in Italy.

When full services begin in December, the journey time for travellers between Zurich and Milan will be reduced by an hour to two hours and 40 minutes.

About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel each day in a journey taking as little as 17 minutes.”

The Saturday Read – a selection of the best articles of 2015 from Jon Ronson, Oliver Sacks, Kathryn Schulz and Nikil Saval

This week the recommendations for ‘The Saturday Read’ come from journalists who wrote some of the most popular long form articles of the year. Instead of a book, which might seem daunting in the midst of holiday shopping and celebrating, sample the writings of these four storytellers who tackled a range of topics including internet shaming, death, earthquakes and the origins of the white collar worker.

On Wednesday, ‘The Upshot’ covered ‘The Stories That Held You The Longest in 2015’. “We measured the favorite Times articles of 2015 in a new way — by the total combined time readers have spent looking at them. It’s a mix of ambitious investigative projects, big breaking news, features and service journalism.”

Number two on the list first appeared in the February 12, 2015 New York Times Magazine. Written by Jon Ronson, ‘How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life’ tells the story of the world of public ‘internet shaming’ through the experience of its victims.

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“In the early days of Twitter, I was a keen shamer. When newspaper columnists made racist or homophobic statements, I joined the pile-on. Sometimes I led it…

Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.”

Number ten on the list was an Op-Ed piece by neurologist and writer, Oliver Sachs, ‘My Own Life’, on learning he had terminal cancer.

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“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).”

A New Yorker article received a lot of attention when it first appeared in July. ‘The Really Big One’ was researched and written by contributor, Kathryn Schulz.

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“Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.”

Longreads.com selected their ‘Best of 2015’ which included an excerpt from the book, ‘Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace’. The fifth most popular article was ‘I Would Prefer Not To: The Origins of the White Collar Worker’, written by Nikil Saval.

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“When does the office begin? It’s a question without an easy answer. One can associate the origins with the beginning of paperwork itself—until recently, the most common mental association with office work (think of the derogatory phrase “paper pusher”). In other words, since the invention of writing and the corresponding ability to keep records in a systematic manner, there have always been places that resemble offices: monasteries, libraries, scholars’ studies. Banking furnished an especially large amount of paperwork; the Uffizi, an incomparable gallery of Renaissance art in Florence, was also one of the first office buildings—the bookkeeping offices of the Medici family’s groundbreaking financial operations. Clerks, too, have existed for ages, many of them unclinching themselves from their desks to become quite famous: from Samuel Pepys, the British government diarist who reported on the gossipy world of seventeenth-century England, to Alexander Hamilton, who had cut his teeth as a merchants’ clerk before he became the first secretary of the Treasury of the United States; Benjamin Franklin, paragon of pecuniary restraint and bourgeois self-abnegation, started out as a dry goods clerk in 1727. Perhaps some of the tediousness of Franklin’s own writing was honed in the conditions of his first job: since clerks have had the opportunity to keep diaries, they have bemoaned the sheer boredom of their tasks—the endless copying, the awkward postures, the meaninglessness of their work. When not doing writing for the job, clerks have cultivated the habit of writing about the job—or literally around it…”