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    Tom Grube was one of Siri’s original founders before Apple bought the technology in 2010. He was recently the head of Siri’s Advanced Development group at Apple before stepping down, reports The Information. According to sources close to Grube, he is retiring and plans to pursue other interests including photography and ocean conservation. Apple has also lost its head of search, Vipul Ved Prakash, who joined the company in 2013 after Apple acquired the search engine and analytics company Topsy. Their resignations come a week after Apple announced it had a new AI chief–John Giannandrea, Google’s former artificial intelligence research and search head.


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    “This is our E-tongue,” explains Parker Lee, lead scientist of Beyond Meat’s analytical lab.

    The young scientist stands by a sleek, two-foot compactor that squishes Beyond Meat’s burgers to test for chewiness, juiciness, and elasticity. A mechanical arm increases and decreases pressure to examine whether the mouthfeel replicates what you might experience at, say, an In-N-Out.

    With each lever, the plant-based non-meat patty oozes–then bursts with blood orange-colored juice. The question: Can they further delay the bursts? Or make the texture a bit softer, without expensing firmness?

    “We’re always trying to improve our products,” says Lee as he swaps in a fresh patty to meet its fate in the E-tongue.

    The chew is a subtle but key element in the eating experience of meat. Above, Beyond Meat uses an “e-mouth” to precisely measure the density of its products and resulting chew required to match beef. [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]
    I am getting an exclusive look at the updated Beyond Meat R&D lab in El Segundo, California. Here, dozens of scientists don white coats stitched with “The future of protein” logos. The 26,000-square foot facility features every machine, gadget, and gizmo dedicated to solving one question: How can we mimic meat? And more importantly, how do we make it look, feel, and taste like the real thing?

    Beyond Meat is no longer the small startup competing against the humble black bean burger. The plant-based meat substitute maker has sold 13 million burgers since its 2016 debut and just last week admitted it is having trouble meeting demand after multiple Whole Foods stores ran out. Besides the market chain, Beyond Meat sells at Amazon Fresh and 9,000 other grocery retailers–as well as 10,000 restaurants, hotels, and universities.

    Several cultural trends led to Beyond Meat’s success, but so has its commitment to tweaking its collection of ready-to-cook products. So, it makes sense the brand would need a space to reach its ultimate purpose–namely, to get even meatier.

    The entire El Segundo operation dedicates itself to flavor, aroma, appearance, and texture. Every day, a team of scientists essentially share one job: to discover how ingredients such as peas or fava beans can become an alternative to cows and other animals.

    “Everything here is an investment toward that goal of making it indistinguishable,” says founder and CEO Ethan Brown.

    In Beyond Meat’s analytical lab, scientists work to identify the signature aroma molecules of meat, and then source those same molecules from simple, non-GMO, plant-based ingredients. [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]

    The ‘meat’ machines

    Lee, a macromolecular scientist, previously made medical devices for cancer patients–today, he uses his scientific background to replace animal cartilage with garden produce. This is no way strikes him as strange. “It’s all science,” he says.

    The same goes for Jonny Gordon, Beyond Meat’s color lab scientist. A chemist with no prior food science experience, he now runs a research facility whose sole job is to improve the color of substitute meat.

    His lab coat splashed with beet stains, he plays with a variety of fruits and vegetables–blending them together in a more sci-fi version of a Vitamix. The contents are then powderized in what looks like a cotton candy machine. This despite the brand’s patties already exhibiting a very realistic pink. It even turns brown during the cooking process.

    Here in the color lab, Beyond Meat extracts juice from raw beets and transforms it into a concentrated powder colorant. [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]
    Later during my facility tour, Daniel Ryan, Beyond Meat’s director of chemistry, works with the “E-nose” aroma inspector. The machine isolates more than 1,000 molecules in animal and plant matter to factor which contribute to smell and taste. It doesn’t sample meat, rather the air that surrounds pieces of meat inside tiny vials.

    Ryan then tries to match it to molecules similar in the plant kingdom, everything from parsley to fennel. He handles tiny glass bottles marked with descriptions like “meaty,” “gamey,” “roasted,” and “fatty.” The goal? Recreate the exact sensory experience of a classic steakhouse. “It’s a continuous process,” says Ryan, adding, “a lifetime’s work.”

    One of the key differentiators of Beyond Meat is the texture and meaty chew of its products. This work begins at a microscopic level as the team analyzes the architecture of meat using sophisticated imaging equipment. [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]
    Brown credits the research team’s unique mishmash of backgrounds–biochemistry, biophysics, plant science, health care, tech, and chemistry–to the six-year-old company’s success. In fact, the founder didn’t particularly seek out food science development experts. Innovation, says Brown, is best served by scientific diversity.

    “We needed to invest in science technology to fundamentally understand meat–its composition and architecture and to rebuild it from plants,” says Brown. The old system wasn’t going to cut it: “We expect a bunch of chefs and food scientists to solve a massive global problem, which is supplying protein to seven billion people.”

    The Manhattan Beach Project

    With that came the need to expand its R&D, at which point Beyond Burgers took over an old airport hangar in El Segundo, 10 times the size of its previous lab space. It was dubbed “The Manhattan Beach Project” in reference to its location (it’s near SoCal’s Manhattan Beach) and the WWII atomic bomb research. (Brown is a “big fan” of Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer prize-winning book The Making of the Atomic Bomb.) In it, the company could expand its production footprint to scale up to an output of 5 million pounds of finished product per month.

    Brown sees the facility gathering a group of scientists, engineers, and researchers for a very clear goal: to save humanity from its destructive animal consumption. A study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that red meat production releases 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as common vegetables and grains.

    [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]
    Beyond Meat constantly tweaks its bestselling burger–the brand plans to soon release its third iteration. Brown wants newer versions each year because he thinks it can always be more meat-like–and may keep competitors at bay.

    But like Coca-Cola’s new-formula fiasco, are there drawbacks of changing a recipe that’s already amassed millions of fans? The El Segundo quarters feature a “sensory lab” for blind-tasting capabilities. The controlled environment blocks out smell, noise, basically anything that might distract an eater.

    Testers don’t necessarily hold the final call. When readying the latest version, results showed they preferred the original burger. Brown is pushing ahead regardless because “it’s better,” he says, “by any reasonable standards. I’m convinced something went wrong with the test.”

    Constant tweaking isn’t simple for a company that refuses to incorporate gluten or GMOs, which competitors like the Impossible Burger rely on. “We make our scientists’ lives very difficult,” concedes Brown.

    Beyond Meat refuses the controversial ingredients because it wants to position itself as a healthy food company, one that consumers can feel comfortable consuming three times a day. It promotes its healthier leanings first and foremost in its ad campaigns. Among its global ambassadors are athletes from the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and World Surf League. And recently, it hired Jeff Manning, the acclaimed architect of the iconic “Got Milk?” campaign.

    “Can we market it in a way that makes it cool to eat our products, versus an obligation,” says Brown.

    Not that it’s a hard sell: Consumer demand for transparency quickly transformed the food industry, with 75% of shoppers now examining products prior to purchase, according to a study by Label Insight. Overall, Americans increasingly look to incorporate wellness: Nielsen reports that 88% of consumers will pay more for healthier foods.

    Beyond Meat is keenly aware of that. When the brand was readying its sausage variety for market this past spring, it debated between three different versions, with the team tempted to go with the fattiest–and presumably tastiest–option. Ultimately, the healthier version was crowned the victor.

    Besides health concerns, Brown believes consumers are now also factoring how their food choices contribute to the industrial farming system and impact the environment.

    [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]
    “More and more consumers are beginning to understand the biggest choice they make in terms of impact on the climate is protein,” says Brown. A recent poll found that 43% of consumers more likely to try plant-based alternatives today than just five years ago.

    It takes an estimated 18,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. (Peas, in comparison, take 740 gallons. Factor in the time it takes for an animal to grow muscle, and plants seem like a far more efficient supply chain.

    Then there’s the economic argument: Brown is confident that in several years, plant-based alternatives will cost less than meat. A pack of Beyond Meat ranges from just above $5 on Amazon Fresh to $7.49 in grocery stores for two 4-ounce patties, which can be nearly double the price of beef per ounce in some markets. Its products will become more affordable as it masters processes and manufacturing, whereas beef and poultry is projected to get more expensive, according to the Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

    But Beyond Meat’s messaging doesn’t strive to make you feel guilty about your current diet choices; it’s more about making something so good and so tasty that, as Brown hopes, “they desire it.”

    The Beyond Meat sensory lab [Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]

    A plentiful plant-based future

    The Beyond Meat founder’s office is a minimalist, sparsely decorated space with photos of Ethan Brown’s family in one corner, a surfboard hanging in another. One element that caught my eye: the multiple framed press quotes doubting the meatless juggernaut.

    “Slightly better tofurkey,” reads one. “Companies like Beyond Meat will never be able to introduce pea protein powder into one end of a machine and extrude a convincing substitute for seared steak or roasted chicken from the other,” reads another.

    Beyond Meat certainly defied market expectations and early naysayers. It no longer competes solely in the meat alternative category. The global meat substitutes market is expected to reach $6.4 billion by 2023, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. Even KFC is experimenting with vegetarian fried “chicken.”

    The company, which has  raised $72 million in funding to date, has more work to do to overcome the Tofurkey-tainted stigma, Brown says. To that end, an ambitious range of products are  in the pipeline, from home cooked essentials to snacky favorites, as is more plant-based poultry, pork, and likely bacon substitutes. (The latter is a toughie since it’s hard to get the fat to lie just right.)

    Brown is adamant that his R&D team will crack the code of all your barbecue and restaurant favorites, no matter how daunting–including the Holy Grail: “The ambition is to go all the way up to steak.”


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    The company is said to have laid off roughly 70% of its 100-person U.S. workforce, reports Forbes. In addition, Ofo is reported to be shuttering its locations in multiple cities across the country–though its unknown just which cities will be affected. As of June, Ofo operated in 30 U.S. cities. In a statement, Off said:

    “As we continue to bring bikeshare to communities across the globe, ofo has begun to reevaluate markets that present obstacles to new, green transit solutions, and prioritize growth in viable markets that support alternative transportation and allow us to continue to serve our customers.”

    The downsizing comes as a big surprise to many, especially since Ofo had previously announced it had planned to expand to 100 U.S. cities by the end of the year.


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    Forty-nine years ago yesterday, man touched down on the moon for the first time. Two of the Apollo 11’s three-man crew, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landed on the surface of the moon while Michael Collins remained behind. We all know how history went, but what if things had turned out differently? What if Armstrong and Aldrin couldn’t get back to Collins and were left stranded on the moon? The White House had penned a speech titled “In event of moon disaster” should the worst have happened,reports CNBC. Thankfully, this speech was one Nixon never needed to give.

    IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:
    Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

    These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

    These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

    They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

    In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

    In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

    Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

    For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.


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    The Japanese and Chinese giants are teaming up to bring a ride-hailing service to Japan, reports Bloomberg. The new service will be called Didi Mobility Japan and will start trials this year in Osaka. Those trials will be followed by trials Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. Though ride-hailing services are booming in other parts of the world, they have been slow to catch on in Japan. That’s because it is illegal in Japan for private-car owners to use their own vehicle to pick up and deliver passengers. As a result, other ride-sharers like Uber are essentially taxi and car-dispatch services.

    The restriction on true ride-hailing services in Japan is something SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son called “stupid”: “In Japan, ride-hailing is prohibited by law. It’s incredible that our national government is denying the future that is inevitable. Is there a country that is as stupid as that?”

    SoftBank and Didi are hoping the Japanese government changes its tune–especially considering Japan’s 16 million foreign tourists are so used to ride-hailing services in other countries they travel to. Until that happens, SoftBank and Didi will operate Didi Mobility Japan as another car-dispatch service in the country but hope that the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo puts pressure on the government to allow true ride-hailing services in Japan.


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    Update, 7:25 a.m.:

    Epic Games tweeted that the servers are back online.

    Original Post:

    Servers for the popular Fortnite video game have been down since 4 a.m. ET this morning, as Epic Games conducts scheduled maintenance and rolls out new content at the same time, an unusual combination.

    Such disruptions usually only last a few hours, but as the game remained offline at 6:30 a.m., fans began sounding off on social media, with hundreds of new tweets pouring in per minute. Many wanted to know what was taking so long, while others expected to be compensated with free V-Bucks, the in-game currency.

    It’s unclear exactly when the game will return, but you can check Epic’s public status page for regular updates. Good luck!


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    Part of business–no matter what type you’re in–is bargaining and asking for what you want, deserve, and need. From going after opportunities to making a case for a raise–or requesting the ability to work from Bali–in a fierce, competitive landscape, standing up for yourself is an often undermined soft skill. If there’s a part of your current gig that you want to change, consider these negotiation tips from people who have been there, won that:

    How to negotiate a job that doesn’t yet exist

    It is always a bummer to find a company that captivates you with its mission but isn’t hiring. Instead of turning your attention to other pursuits and hoping an opening will will come up, why not pitch yourself? That’s exactly what Daniel Clark did when he discovered Brain.fm. The company didn’t have a budget for a developer, but he was convinced of the company’s potential, so he bargained to prove to them why his skills were needed. And the kicker? He did it for free: “I asked myself what was the ‘win-win’ I could find–what could I give up to eventually get what I want? I came to the conclusion the best way to do it was to give up my salary, and I did just that. I worked the first month for free and knew that if I showed what I could do they would keep me on, worst case, I lose a month salary,” he explained. Considering he’s now the CEO of the company, the risk was worth the wager.


    Related: How To Pitch A Role That Doesn’t Exist (Yet)


    Understandably not everyone can quit their current gig and lose out on a paycheck, but Clark says there is still a way to state your case and prove it. The first–and most important step–is to come prepared and open-minded. When you’re vying for a job opening that isn’t technically available, he says the worst case scenario is a “no”–so prove to them why you’re a “yes.” Negotiation simply is a process aimed at reaching an agreement between two parties. Usually it has to be successful for both people, and can’t be tipped in anyone’s favor.

    How to negotiate remote work

    As the freelancing population continues to increase, the requirement of an office space decreases. More solopreneurs are taking their gigs around the world, where only strong Wi-Fi is required to meet deadlines and maintain cash flow. Even so, it takes a shift in thinking for most managers. So when the director of administration and marketing at the Player Progression Academy (PPA), Annie Gavett, was offered the opportunity to globe-trot for a year, she had to figure out a way to make it work. Her former employer declined her request, but PPA was open, since Gavett was honest from the get-go about about her needs. After explaining the ins and outs of the program, sending them a proposal, a few phone calls and in-person interview, they agreed to let her work from anywhere. Though her contract initially featured a lower salary, after four months of hard work, she asked for–and received–a raise. These days, she has two employees who report to her, too.

    The key to her success? Gavett says it’s all about self-advocating. “Stand up for yourself. Verbalize your wants and needs. But also have the facts to support why you’re asking for X, Y, and Z. Ask for more than you want and need, and be willing to negotiate down from a higher base,” she adds.

    How to negotiate a leave of absence

    You’ve heard of folks who take sabbaticals after the loss of a loved one, a tumultuous divorce, or another emotional or physically tasking experience. But what if you just want to take a break? After years of working as an attorney at a large law firm in Manhattan, Stacey Trimmer managed to negotiate a 10-month leave of absence to see the world. After expressing her need to have freedom, she spoke with a partner who–to her surprise–was fully supportive of her idea. “After our discussion, I walked immediately to the associate personnel director’s office to explain my request and was able to say I already had this partner’s backing,” she continued. “She asked for details on when I wanted to leave and return, and the next day I had confirmation that the firm had approved.”


    Related: How To Convince Your Boss To Let You Take A Sabbatical


    If you’re bargaining for any period of “pause” from your job, Trimmer says it is important to demonstrate and prove your worth over time. That way, when you’re ready to ask for a short (or long) stint away from day-to-day responsibilities, they are willing to hold your position. “It wasn’t just luck that the firm allowed me to take the leave of absence. The reason was that I had produced excellent work for five years and built a lot of trust in several partners and senior associates that were willing to support me,” she added.

    How to negotiate your rate

    As a freelancer, you’re not only your own boss, but often your own accountant, client services executive, psychologist–and the list goes on. As new opportunities come across your inbox, you’re tasked with the sometimes grueling and tricky process of naming your rate. For Jonathan Rick, an entrepreneur and ghostwriter, earning what he is worth was less about negotiation and more about remaining steadfast. While considering taking on a digital-marketing project, he explained the value of the experience and expertise he would bring to the project, when they attempted to lower the rate. “I wasn’t defensive or curt, but I was respectfully firm this is the market rate for professional work,” he explained. “And as it turns out his reluctance wasn’t a negotiating ploy; he didn’t understand the scope of the services I was offering, and so after a few emails, I ended up getting my full fee.”

    For those in similar situations, Rick suggests shying away from using ultimatum-like language, even if that’s basically what you’re presenting. “Couch your words in a way that communicates firmness but respect, and resist the temptation to get chatty. Succinctness here is a virtue; often it’s best just to bottom line it and say, ‘This is my rate,’ ” he says. End of story.

    How to negotiate a deal with a potential partner

    Regardless of whether you’re a two-person show or a full-service company with dozens of offices, effectively working with current and potential partnerships is essential to the growth of your company. And frankly, your career prospects. President of Enterprise Strategic Partnerships Glenda McNeal at American Express has worked on some of the credit card company’s largest deals, including Hilton, Marriott, PayPal, and others. To ensure they are receiving as much as they’re giving, they often use a creative approach to these negotiations, outlining in specific ways the value they’re bringing to the table–either through co-branded products, tech integration or access to customers. “By taking an enterprise view of a potential or existing partnership, we can develop more holistic and deeper relationships that derive mutual value for years to come,” she explains.

    For smaller operations, McNeal recommends starting with the outcome and developing your strategy for execution from day one. “Engage your team early on to develop a game plan that is agile and takes into consideration compromise, concessions and trade-offs. Preparation and focus provide a shared vision for the team, clarity on the process and a clear roadmap to the end game,” she shared.

    How to negotiate with a difficult client

    There are great people to work with–and not so easy-peasy. No matter your industry, you’re bound to come across personalities that don’t mesh with your own, or whose ethics aren’t up to the standard you require. For beauty expert Sara Drury, being taken seriously as a hair and makeup artist is an uphill battle, especially when agreed-to terms are broken. Once, a client agreed to pay a certain amount and then tried to pay less when an invoice was due. Instead of typing up the angry email she wanted to pen, she decided to pick up the phone and cut to the chase, stat. “I wanted her to hear my voice and know that I wasn’t angry, but I wasn’t going to let that stand,” she explained. “We discussed the situation and, while I knew she wasn’t happy about it, eventually she agreed to pay me the full amount.”

    For those who are less comfortable with confrontation, this method can be intimidating, but Drury stresses the importances of leaning into it: “Regardless of the profession you are in, there will be times that you have to stand up for yourself,” she shares. “Believe it or not, you teach people how to treat you by the way you treat yourself. You can be kind while still standing your ground.”


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    This post originally appeared on The Conversation.

    Open plan offices have taken off because of a desire to increase interaction and collaboration among workers. But an innovative new study has found that employees in open plan offices spend 73% less time in face-to-face interactions. Email and messaging use shot up by over 67%.

    The study is the first to track the impacts of open plan offices using objective measures of communication. It used electronic badges and microphones to monitor interactions among employees and tracked changes in email use. The findings build on previous research, which has found, for instance, open plan work environments compromise employees’ ability to focus and concentrate on their work.

    [Source Image: tarras79/iStock]

    Why go open plan?

    Theoretically, there are good reasons to move to an open plan office. Our social environment plays a big role in our ability to be proactive and motivated. And success in modern workplaces is often driven by how well individuals interact with each other and with the organization.

    Research has shown that the time employees spend on “collaborative activities” has “ballooned by 50% or more” in the past two decades. Workplaces that facilitate more frequent and higher-quality contact with others have been shown to have improved communication and collaboration on tasksjob satisfaction, and social support. The design of the workplace significantly influences this, by supporting or detracting from interdependent work.

    Building a strong sense of community has been a key factor in the success of the coworking space provider WeWork. This has been largely achieved through the physical work environment–clean spaces, narrow hallways, communal kitchens, and the like.

    [Source Image: tarras79/iStock]

    Privacy and concentration are critical

    But despite the pursuit of collaboration in workplaces, the need for concentration and focused individual work is also increasing. And research shows that when employees can’t concentrate, they tend to communicate less. They may even become indifferent to their coworkers.

    Knowledge work requires employees to attend to specific tasks by gathering, analyzing, and making decisions using multiple sources of information. When any of these cognitive processes are interrupted, inefficiency and mistakes increase.

    Being able to focus on a task without interruption or distraction is an essential foundation for effective work. But research suggests that poor design can have unintended consequences–increasing the cognitive load on workers through high density or low privacy, both of which increase distraction.

    [Source Image: tarras79/iStock]

    Why open plan doesn’t necessarily lead to collaboration

    In many open plan offices, the drive for increased interaction and collaboration comes at the expense of the ability to focus and concentrate. When distraction makes it hard for employees to focus, cognitive and emotional resources are depleted. The result is increasing stress and errors, undermining performance. When employees can’t concentrate on their work, their desire to interact and collaborate with others is reduced.

    In addition, new research suggests that increased crowding in the workplace and low levels of privacy lead to defensive behaviors and strain workplace relationships. Other aspects of workplace design, such as views of nature or access to daylight, can replenish cognitive resources even in the presence of distractions.

    An aesthetically pleasing environment may provide an experience that is restorative. Additionally, research has shown that aesthetically pleasing workplaces can help create trust within organizations.

    [Source Image: tarras79/iStock]

    Getting the balance right

    Emerging research has shown that individuals view similar work environments differently. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, as is traditional in open plan design, work environments should provide various options that support employees working effectively.

    Evolving models of workplace design are seeking to achieve this, by providing different zones for different types of work and different needs. However, the effect of shared desk arrangements in these types of environments requires further investigation. Many employers are heavily focused on driving collaboration and interaction at the expense of privacy and concentration. This has negative outcomes for both productivity and work relationships.

    Organizations should focus on providing workplaces that support the requirements for privacy and focus, as well as interaction and collaboration. To achieve this, greater emphasis needs to be placed on both visual and auditory privacy, particularly the use of acoustic treatments, as well as the layout and appearance of the workplace as a whole.

    Libby Sander is assistant professor of organizational behavior at Bond University.

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    “Chandeliers are an icon of opulence,” says Courtney Song, a designer at international design firm Ideo.

    Indeed, hanging from the ceilings of noble palaces and McMansions, chandeliers feel today like a symbol of yesteryear riches. But Song and her team believe that Infinite Aura–a tech-enabled reinvention of the chandelier for famed manufacturer of glass bling Swarovski–will change that idea.

    “We wanted to push beyond the common assumption that chandelier owners are motivated solely by status and displays of wealth,” Song tells me via email, “and perhaps get to something deeper.”

    [Photo: courtesy Swarovski]

    According to Song, while researching the classical chandelier, her team learned that many people don’t buy chandeliers as a status symbol, but because they simply like how they reflect light and become a focal point in a room. “Moreover, people’s stories associated with the chandelier were emotional,” she says, “stories of being in utter awe and entranced by the quality of light.”

    The design team’s objective, then, was to make the Infinite Aura as magical as the chandeliers of yore but also more intimate, smaller, and contained, as the lamp had to fit in the casual and diverse housing styles that are popular today.

    [Photo: courtesy Swarovski]

    A portal to a new infinite dimension

    The key is in what Song calls “an infinite tunnel of crystal.” The designers flattened the chandelier into a ring. According to Roger Carthew, global SVP at Swarovski Lighting, “the final proportion of the Infinite Aura pendant relates to the proportions found in many classic chandelier designs,” but the chandelier itself is nothing like those classic designs.

    [Photo: courtesy Swarovski]

    Lining the inside of the minimalistic metal ring at the end of the pendant are Swarovski crystals that reflect the light of LEDs placed inside the disc. In the space inside the ring, there’s a disc made of two circular flat glass sheets. That double glass acts like an infinite mirror, reflecting Swarovski crystals inside the ring in a way that that seems to go on forever. From the distance you only see a disc floating in space. Up close, looking inside the ring, you are looking at a never-ending light show that feels like a portal to another dimension.

    There are more tricks up the Infinite Aura’s sleeve. The lamp connects to an app that allows you to control the LEDs that create the light in the chandelier: the ones inside the ring, that get reflected inside the “infinite tunnel,” and then a line of light that divides the ring. The former provides the sparkle, the latter provides functional room lighting.

    Using tech to enhance, not overwhelm, the experience

    Elger Oberwelz, Ideo’s executive design director, tells me that Swarovski Lighting asked them to come up with a way to modernize the traditional chandelier in “surprising ways.” However, rather than piling up tech features, the Ideo team asked first how a person’s life is affected by light: “How can light contribute to a person’s self-expression or the daily well-being?”

    According to Song, their research concluded that “individuals were often overwhelmed by having to make decisions on every aspect of their connected home.” So instead of developing another connected light fixture that gives users a billion combinations of color and intensity, the team decided to carefully develop and curate presets tailored to basic needs and desires.

    [Photo: courtesy Swarovski]

    “This process of designing the actual app started with identifying use cases that were more situational versus functional,” she says. Using prototypes, the Ideo team tested various lighting scenarios, recording how people reacted to assorted combinations of light color and intensity. That research resulted in an app that is meant to serve everyday situations, like a setting for an easygoing dinner with friends, another one for relaxing after a long day at work, another to read a book on a summer evening, and so on.

    [Photo: courtesy Swarovski]

    This is part of the broader mission at Swarovski–which has been making glass in Tyrol, Austria, since Daniel Swarovski invented a machine to cut crystal with incredible precision in 1895–to not be perceived as a technology brand. According to Oberweltz, competing brands like Nest and Phillips Hue Lights tend to market their technological prowess; Swarovski, for its part, wants to emphasize art and craftsmanship. “We wanted to honor that heritage by using technology to enhance what the brand already stands for,” he says.

    For Oberwelz, there’s a compelling personal connection. “When I was a child, I still remember very vividly being captivated by our 150-year-old chandelier at our kitchen table,” he says. “It was beautiful and the centerpiece of our otherwise pretty basic dining room, Imagine a heavily ornamented cast-iron disk with hundreds of long elegant glass crystals that reflected and refracted the light beautifully. I still recall staring at its very mysterious light for hours after dinner time with my family.”

    Now you can augment that feeling with a bit of technology–but it will cost you. According to Swarovski, the Infinite Aura collection will be available through their authorized lighting retailers network for $5,000 for the large pendant lamp and $2,000 for the small wall sconce version this fall.


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    Planning a wedding is a stressful time. There’s the venue selection, the menu planning, decor, date, etc., etc. But one of the most fraught decisions can be who to include on the guest list. Who receives an invitation and who doesn’t will depend on many factors, but when it comes to adding co-workers to the guest list, the choice can be even more complicated.

    To avoid creating a potentially stressful work situation, ask yourself these questions when deciding who to invite from the office.

    Are you “real” friends?

    When adding coworkers to your guest list, consider first whether you are truly friends. “If there are coworkers who you socialize with outside of the office, they should be invited,” says etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.

    If there is a group of coworkers that you go out to dinner with, spend time on weekends with or play on recreational teams with, those co-workers can be considered actual friends and should be treated the same as your non-work friends when it comes to getting an invite.

    Coworkers that you spend your lunch time with or hang out with only during work events are not treated the same. “The difficulty is that the time we spend with co-workers can create the faux-friend feeling,” says Smith. Beware though that even though you may not consider them a true friend, they may feel differently and may be hurt if they don’t receive an invite, especially if others in the office do. If you’re inviting some friends from work, you may need to extend the invitation to these “work friends.”


    Related: Why Having Friends At Work Is So Important


    Are you inviting more than half the office?

    When inviting coworkers, Smith refers to the rule of half. “If you are inviting close to half of the work group–or half of those in a small office–you should be inviting everyone,” she says. If you’re inviting less than a third of the work group and are excluding more coworkers than you are inviting, then you don’t need to extend an invitation to everyone.

    Are you the boss?

    If you’re the boss, inviting co-workers to your nuptials gets a little more complicated. Smith says you should either invite everyone on your team or no one to avoid playing favorites. But before extending any invitations, be aware if the company has any HR or ethics policies that you need to adhere to for an event outside the office.

    Should you invite your boss?

    There is no rule that you have to invite your boss to your wedding. Smith says your boss should be treated in the same way as any other work group. If you are friends outside the office, or if you are inviting half of the office or work group, your boss should be on the invite list.


    Related: These are your two biggest workplace etiquette mistakes


    Can you avoid wedding talk at work?

    Your wedding is a huge life event. It’s natural to be excited about it and expected that your colleagues will be excited for you and will pepper you with questions for details. But if you have made the decision to not invite coworkers, Smith recommends pre-empting the conversation by saying something like, “We’re getting married in the fall. I wish we could invite everyone, but we can’t.” To avoid hurt feelings, don’t say that only friends and family are invited because a co-worker may consider themselves a personal friend, even though you don’t think of them that way.

    If you are inviting some individuals from the office, Smith recommends letting them know that you were not able to invite everyone in the office, so while the wedding is not a secret, it shouldn’t become the major topic of discussion at the office so as not to offend anyone who wasn’t included on the guest list.


    Related: Wedding planning gets a high-tech upgrade with The Knot’s new digital planner


    Do you want to mix your work and personal life?

    Your wedding is one of the most intimate events of your life. Inviting co-workers to participate along with all your family members and friends may get awkward if you aren’t already friends outside of work. This is especially true if you display a different side of your personality at work than at home, or if you feel the need to maintain a certain character at the office. Co-workers may find it difficult to take your hard-line approach seriously once back at the office if they’ve just witnessed you letting loose and tearing up the dance floor at your wedding. Consider whether you want your co-workers to get that close to your personal life before you send out an invite.

    Remember, your wedding is a special day that you will remember for years to come. “25 years from now, long after you have left this job, your childhood friends will still be your childhood friends, your cousins will still be your cousins, but will you still be in touch with your coworkers from a quarter of a century ago?” asks Smith. When making your guest list, think about the faces you want to see in your wedding album when you’re celebrating your anniversary years from now.


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    InterContinental Hotels has teamed up with Baidu to create Smart Rooms fueled by artificial intelligence. The rooms don’t require an app or a special button. Instead guests at InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun and InterContinental Guangzhou Exhibition Centre can do things like tell their room they are “going to sleep,” and the room will recognize the phrase and know what to do with the information.

    While it can’t tuck you into bed yet, it will shut the curtains and turn off the lights in the room.

    Thanks to voice control technology, guests can just tell the room that they want the lights dimmed, the room a little warmer, the music a little softer, and order up some champagne and oysters, keeping their hands free for whatever they want.

    There are only two hotels equipped with the AI Smart Rooms for now, but InterContinental Hotels plans to roll out the smart service to a total of 100 AI-powered suites across China within the year.

    InterContinental isn’t the only brand rushing to embrace technology in the hopes of wowing business travelers and wooing millennials. Marriott is piloting a new facial recognition check-in program and high-tech showers, while Hilton is taking a phone-based approach to smart rooms.


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    There’s a long list of arguments for a universal basic income, the idea of the government giving everyone a check–say $1,000 a month–with no strings attached. Robots will eventually take many or most jobs. Even before that happens, giving people money could help ameliorate inequality and extreme poverty. Employers would be forced to raise wages if their workers knew they could leave a job and survive. Because it’s a universal program, UBI can avoid the racism built into current aid (and because it’s efficient, some libertarians argue that it should replace welfare completely).

    In the new book Give People Money, Annie Lowrey, a reporter who covers the economy and economic policy, examines all of these arguments–and arguments against the idea–in detail. She explains that the U.S. could afford this type of program, though it would be expensive. She also shares evidence that UBI wouldn’t lead to a massive number of people choosing not to work, and those who do quit their jobs might do so for beneficial reasons, like going back to school or childcare. But she stops short of saying that it’s something that should actually happen in America.

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    Lowrey has covered universal basic income for several years, as the once-obscure idea gained more and more attention. While other books had made the case for or against it, Lowrey saw an opportunity to take a journalistic perspective and look at questions about how it could work and whether it makes sense, and related questions that the concept raises, such as whether all childcare workers should be compensated or how the robot takeover of jobs might happen.

    “I’m not even sure that I think UBI itself is the greatest idea,” she tells Fast Company. “I think it’s really interesting, and I think it contains within it a lot of principles that are really interesting.”

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    Those principles include simplicity, inclusivity, unconditionality, and universality–all principles that are unusual in typical government aid programs. Someone trying to apply for food stamps or cash benefits has to make it through a gauntlet of paperwork, and sometimes be approved by algorithms designed to limit aid before they can get help. Racism has shaped programs like welfare; states that have large white populations offer better benefits. A universal program would avoid prejudice and make it easier for those who most need help to get it.

    A universal program would also help people who are often overlooked, such as women who are currently unpaid or underpaid for taking care of children or the elderly. As Lowrey puts it, it would “cement every person’s place in society as having value.” If a program is universal, in theory, it’s easier to administer.

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    But there are also obvious problems: Do we really want to give extra cash to software engineers making a $250,000 salary? On its own, giving everyone $1,000 a month wouldn’t provide a full safety net for the poor, meaning other programs, like welfare, would still be necessary. And given the American obsession with work and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps–and the fact that some members of Congress are currently trying to reduce the number of food stamp recipients by introducing new work requirements–how likely is it that voters can be convinced to support a system that allows people to choose not to work?

    The story might be different in developing countries, where it may be easier to get support for a universal basic income, or at least a basic income for the poorest people–and where the idea shows its greatest promise to date. Direct cash transfers are already in place in more than 100 countries. In a village in Kenya where the nonprofit Give Directly transfers money to every villager, people have used the money to start businesses and improve their health and to let their children attend school instead of working. Because the program gives cash–instead of shoes or tablets or other donations of items that might not be particularly helpful–it’s an efficient way to let recipients decide the best way to help themselves. In the village, it makes sense that it’s universal, because everyone is extremely poor. Socially, cash transfers to the poor have more support in places like Kenya.

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    “These work really well to eliminate poverty,” Lowrey says. “They don’t require too much state capacity–you’re just getting the money out to people, you just need the infrastructure for that.” One study of a cash transfer program in Mexico, for example, found that children in families that participated in the program went further in school and had higher incomes as young adults.

    “What’s kind of funny is we’re actually more resistant to them in the U.S. than a country like Ethiopia or India or Brazil . . . I think that it’s actually in higher-income countries where there’s a lot more judgment of the poor and you’ve got this kind of, ‘Well, we don’t want to give someone something for nothing,'” she says. “Whereas in a country like Kenya, it’s just really clear people are poor because they’re poor.”

    In India, where the national government is considering the idea of a universal basic income and increasing the use of cash transfers, the shift could simplify the current complicated bureaucracy and system of subsidies, making anti-poverty programs easier and cheaper to run. Universality might make sense there, given that the country doesn’t have good income records for everyone.

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    In the U.S., partly fueled by tech industry enthusiasm for UBI, some small experiments are underway. Y Combinator, the startup accelerator, is funding one experiment in Oakland, California. Another is happening in Stockton, California. Hawaii is considering the idea of a statewide UBI. Lowrey thinks there may be more experiments, but that states are unlikely to be able to afford to offer true universal basic income without the federal government’s involvement. And a national UBI is even less likely.

    But perhaps the benefit of UBI’s appearance in mainstream policy conversations is that it could inspire other, smaller policies that might still do wonders to end poverty. A program might be means-tested but could still be as universal as possible, with few requirements other than a specific income threshold. More government programs could give cash, offering families more freedom to spend money where they need it. Although a full UBI may be unlikely, Lowrey thinks it’s possible that the U.S. could offer something like a child grant–Canada, for example, gives families with children a certain amount of money each month–or a “negative income tax,” which looks at annual income and gives you money if the total falls below a certain amount.

    [Source Image: Sylverarts/iStock]

    Universal basic income also points to the idea that government could be more creative and effective in choosing the policies that ultimately shape our economic outcomes. “We have a very limited sense of what we as a society or elected representatives could do to fix problems in the economy,” Lowrey says. “They could do a lot more.”

    “I do think you see a deep need for stronger social insurance, for stronger anti-poverty measures, like a better designed safety net, and just more insurance for people who are worried that if Silicon Valley comes up with lots of amazing technologies, that they’re not going to get to particpate in that, and that their work is valueless,” she says. “Whether it’s through UBI or not, I feel like these are not intractable problems.”


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    “We stand here and it feels like we’re finally winning,” Tiffany Thomas Lopez said on stage at ESPN’s ESPY awards on Wednesday night.

    Lopez is one of the so-called “Sister Survivors,” the more than 150 women who were sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar. They were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for their “strength and resolve” and for bringing “the darkness of sexual abuse into the light.”

    Some 140 survivors of Nassar’s crimes came together on stage to accept the award, but survivor Sarah Klein said those present represented “hundreds more.” She added: “Make no mistake, we are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see: a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.”

    In January, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after the court heard seven days of statements from women who said he sexually abused them during his long tenure as team doctor, in what may be the biggest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sports.

    Olympic gold medalist and survivor Aly Raisman said, “To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story.”


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    The growing activism among tech workers in Silicon Valley reached a tipping point in June when Google–under intense pressure from employees–announced that it would not renew in 2019 a contract to provide image-recognition technology to the Pentagon’s Project Maven, a controversial military AI program that, among several goals, aims to improve the efficiency of drone attacks.

    The tech giant’s internal debates over the issue were revealed in internal emails obtained by publications including the New York Times, showing that one of the company’s top minds, Google Cloud head AI scientist Fei-Fei Li, had early on raised alarms about Project Maven. But her motives appeared to be more focused on the potential for negative publicity rather than ethical concerns.

    Fast Company recently asked Fei-Fei to clarify her views on the controversy but got only a partial answer that didn’t seem to bridge the gap between ethical aspiration and business reality.

    [Photo: Sean Captain]

    Ethicist on the hot seat

    The attitude expressed in the emails seemed particularly disconcerting considering Fei-Fei’s longstanding commitment to a human-centered approach to new technologies. Holding a second job as head of Stanford University’s AI Lab, Fei-Fei has dedicated years to advancing ethical uses of artificial intelligence. Her nonprofit, AI4ALL, aims to increase gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity among the next generation of AI professionals, by recruiting high school students for summer training at top universities.

    “Anytime humanity goes through a new wave of innovation and technological transformation, there are people who are hurt, and there are issues as large as geopolitical conflicts,” she told a few dozen tech and public service professionals at this week’s Summit on Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on Communities, in Mountain View, California. The event was cohosted by AI4ALL and Dream Corps, a multifaceted public-service organization founded by political polymath Van Jones. (Fast Company attended the event and also spoke individually with Fei-Fei and Jones.)

    But her concerns over Project Maven, as revealed in the emails, appeared to show more concern for optics than harmful effects. “This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google,” she is reported to have written in an email exchange with Scott Frohman and Aileen Black from Google’s defense sales team. (Fei-Fei declined Fast Company‘s request to confirm or deny the veracity of the emails.)

    At the summit, I asked Fei-Fei how she squares her concern about harmful technology and her involvement with Google and Project Maven. She declined to address the topic directly, but touched on the issue and launched into a general discussion about how to change the culture in Silicon Valley.

    “It’s very important that academia, industry, nonprofits all join this conversation about AI and take part in responsible research and development of AI,” she said. Fei-Fei then complimented Jones, who had just interviewed her, for pushing the tech industry on issues of ethics and inclusion. “Whether it’s Google or other companies, they’re starting to roll out AI principles and do that self-introspection,” she said, adding, “I personally want to see more of that.”

    Google has revised its AI principles to disavow lethal applications of the technology, and better image recognition could also have beneficial effects in drone warfare, such as decreasing the chance of hitting innocent bystanders. But critics are taking a wait-and-see attitude on the company.

    One AI expert at the event told me that they had been “very disappointed” by the language in those emails. In one exchange, Fei-Fei is reported to have written that Google Cloud “has been building our theme on democratizing AI in 2017, and Diane [Greene, chief executive of Google Cloud] and I have been talking about Humanistic AI for enterprise,” adding “I’d be super careful to protect these very positive images.”

    A hero to many

    Fei-Fei’s altruism seems like far more than posturing–with a faith in kids’ ability to succeed, rooted in her own inspiring, improbable success story. Coming to the U.S. from China with her parents at age 16, she spent her early years working odd jobs but progressed to earn a PhD from Caltech, specializing in image recognition. (She created the ImageNet database and benchmark that have been pivotal in advancing computer vision technology.) The only female faculty member at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab when she joined in 2009, she became its director in 2014.

    “Fei-Fei Li is the Rosa Parks of the new millennium,” Van Jones tells me after the event. “I mean, she is the person who is pulling us forward into a world of more inclusion, more wisdom, more appreciation, more understanding.” Fei-Fei began what became AI4ALL as a girls AI summer camp at Stanford in 2015. It progressed to a formal nonprofit organization in 2017 and now operates out of AI labs at six universities. “[UC] Berkeley targets the Oakland area school district . . . low-income students,” says Fei-Fei, giving one outreach example. “Princeton targets racial minority schools.” Students have come from as far away as Saudi Arabia.

    “One of our alumni is the daughter of farmworkers, grew up in a very low-income family, first-generation Mexican-American,” says Tess Posner, Ai4ALL’s CEO, in a conversation she, Fei-Fei, and I had before the summit. “She’s using AI to detect water quality issues, which has been an issue that’s affected her community.”

    But AI clearly has harmful uses, too, as Fei-Fei herself acknowledged. “In human civilization, we have seen so many times that tools and technologies have been used in ways that we’re not proud of,” she said at the event. Silicon Valley’s dilemma now is to decide what uses of AI it can feel proud of.


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    Eva (not her real name) and I left sticky notes on each other’s work stations. “Meet me at the wine bar.”

    It was as if we’d intuited the well-established Gallup finding that, basically, everything is better when you have a best friend at work. Only, our instinct was to cordon off our friendship from the daily machinations of the office. We sensed from the get-go that work could drive a wedge between us.

    I’ve formed many friendships over two decades in the workforce, none so sheltered from work-related fallout as that early one I struck up with Eva, when working and “adulting” were new to us both. Looking back, I realize that we’d hit upon something critical: work-proofing your friendships (and maximizing their benefits) means fending off the twin threats of poor boundaries and, paradoxically, rigid roles.

    Keep the guardrails but freely switch lanes

    My friendship with Eva likely began with some sort of minor transgression of work boundaries and norms–a disclosure, an eye-roll, an experience where trust was rewarded. But it’s easy for lapsed boundaries to imperil the closeness they help to cement.

    I once mentioned to a colleague that my then-best friend at work was moving house. That turned out to be a misstep because the colleague knew my work friend’s landlord, and rent control hung in the balance. It was the first but not last time that I’d need to repair a boundary.

    You don’t have to take friendships completely out of the office, though, in order to conduct them with discretion. Another friend, Leah (likewise a pseudonym), overlaps with me in multiple professional contexts and we carry on a close friendship at work. Sometimes over the course of a workday we’ll communicate on as many as four different email addresses (her business, my business, that of a shared client, personal). The nature of our conversation shifts according to the conventions demanded by each. Heeding that context and staying in the right role with one another creates psychological safety. (It protects data privacy, too.)

    But later on, at a work dinner, I leave it to my friend to explain the parameters of her Kosher vegan diet. And just last weekend, Leah and I bumped into one another and found time for a quick walk together. After agreeing not to discuss work at all, we switched to a social lane–which ensured that the right people back at work would still get to weigh in on the issues we intentionally didn’t discuss without them.

    Playing the right role, authentically

    Staying in the right role at the right time doesn’t necessarily make it harder to be authentic with one another at work.

    When someone to whom I once reported delivered bad news about a reorg in my department, she sat in one chair to convey the official position of the organization. Then she physically got up and moved to another chair, and spoke as my friend about her own thoughts and feelings. I appreciated it. We had agreed at the start that it wouldn’t be a fun conversation. But in a dark way that true friends get, it sort of was.

    A client recently shared that he and his colleague, who’d spent much of a recent team meeting in the hot seat, had gone off after the intense session to get pedicures. I’d facilitated the meeting and couldn’t even tell based on their professional demeanor that they were friends. I was delighted to hear that they’d decided to kick off their shoes and cool down in a spa chair after that high-pressure experience–and was equally impressed that they’d managed to stay in their professional roles beforehand.

    It’s when we fail to embrace the complexity of our work relationships, by embodying one role or another too fully, that things fall apart. Whether you reflexively repeat the party line on a matter that deeply affects your friend’s work life or, on the other hand, inadvertently reveal private medical information (despite the best intentions), you may find yourself bereft of work friends (and potentially in trouble with HR, too).

    Want to hold on to your best friend at work? Understand and care for the boundaries that divide one role from another, but know how and when to cross them when the situation demands. If it sounds hard, just try it. With practice, you can navigate those moments more easily and authentically than you think.


    Dana Bilsky Asher, PhD, is the founder of RELATED ExPERIENCE (Rx), a culture strategy and leadership development consultancy focused on relational leadership. Follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


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    In the vast majority of hospitals, nurses are required to check on patients at least once an hour. This practice, called hourly rounding, is designed to reduce the number of patient falls and pressure ulcers, which happen when bedridden people don’t move enough. But there’s no way to know whether nurses are checking every hour–or even at all.

    Patient neglect is a nationwide problem. According to a 2016 study, medical errors–which include lapses in caregiving that lead to falls and injuries–are the third leading cause of death in the country, causing more than 250,000 deaths per year. “In nursing homes and hospitals, we hear horror stories about neglect,” says Michael Wang, an entrepreneur and registered nurse who worked in the cardiothoracic wing of New York Presbyterian Hospital. “Patients become injured or they die for the very simple fact that no one checked on them.”

    [Photo: Inspiren]

    Wang’s career began in the military, and he enrolled in Columbia’s nursing program to start his life as a civilian. After earning his degree as an RN, he worked in New York Presbyterian’s cardiothoracic unit at night while tackling an MBA from Columbia during the day. “That’s when I started to really combine what I learned in school and some of the practical issues I witnessed as a practicing bedside nurse,” he says. “I realized that there are huge gaps in the patient care process.”

    In 2016, Wang founded the startup Inspiren with the goal of providing data about what actually goes on in hospital rooms. The company’s first product is a device that monitors everything that happens in a patient’s room, paired with an analytics platform to help nurses and hospitals understand how well they’re taking care of patients.

    Called iN, the oval-shaped device sits on the wall in every hospital room and uses sensors to detect when a staff member is there. It also uses machine learning algorithms to understand what they’re doing–like turning a patient to prevent them from getting pressure ulcers. The device can recognize when patients are out of bed or if they fall, and raise the alarm.

    It sounds a bit like Big Brother, hospital-style. But iN doesn’t use facial recognition to determine who is in the room. Instead, it senses motion and then measures the unique ratio of the hospital staff’s limb lengths, as if they were stick figures. Then, it looks them up in the system to identify who is in the room. To ensure that the device is HIPAA compliant, patients are identified only by their room number and bed number, and the processing happens on the device before the data itself, which is 95% accurate, is beamed up to the cloud.

    [Photo: Inspiren]

    The company went through 72 different iterations of the design, which is carefully crafted to mitigate the uncanny feeling of being watched. Initially iN was circular, but nurses told Wang and his team that it reminded them too much of an eye that was constantly staring down at them–so he tweaked it to be a much friendlier oval. LED lights around its edge indicate a patient’s status–green for all good or orange if a patient hasn’t been seen. Based on feedback from nurses and doctors, the LEDs adjust to the amount of light in the room, ensuring that they’re not too bright when patients are trying to sleep.

    Along with the iN monitor, Inspiren’s system comes with an app to help doctors and nurses keep track of which patients they’ve seen and who needs more attention. When a patient hasn’t been seen for an hour or more, nurses get notification reminders to make sure they’re doing hourly rounding effectively.

    Kyle Mushet, a nurse at New York Presbyterian, hasn’t tested iN but says the system would help him make sure that no one falls through the cracks. “If we get busy or something’s happening, we don’t get to check in on our patients once an hour like we’d like,” Mushet says. “It’s going to revolutionize the way we’re going to interact with our patients.”

    [Photo: Inspiren]

    While the device aims to help nurses do their jobs better and save patients’ lives, it’s also useful for hospitals. “Hospitals don’t know what is going on inside the patients’ rooms,” Wang says. “There’s a big hole on real-life information that hospitals cannot keep track of. This translates to cost.”

    That’s because when patients fall, develop ulcers, or have any kind of problem due to something the hospital staff has done, it’s the hospital that has to pay out of pocket for it. Insurance companies have skin in this game too–hospitals charge based on man-hours and the complexity of care received, but insurers don’t know if hospitals are accurately reporting how much time doctors and nurses have spent with a patient. iN has the potential to give hospital management the intel into what’s happening inside their walls, preventing neglect, reducing costs, and making sure that people are charged the right amount of money once they leave.

    Currently, Inspiren’s system is on trial at a hospital in Queens, and Carolyn Sun, a researcher at Columbia, is working on an initial clinical study to determine its effectiveness. While Sun is still working on gathering baseline data about the current state of hourly rounding, she’s certain that knowing more about what’s going on in hospital rooms will help the patients inside them. “The evidence shows that the more time nurses have with patients, the better the patient outcomes,” she says. “We don’t even know if nurses truly do or don’t do these things. There’s no great data about that. It’s going to be really amazing to have this 360-degree view about what’s going on with the patient.”

    Sun sees even greater potential in machine learning intelligence. “If you had all the data, in theory, even if a patient couldn’t tell you, you could predict whether they’re having pains by the look on their face or their heart rate,” she says. “You could have care that was preventative in a whole new way that we’ve never seen before.”


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    Federal bank regulators took a dangerous step this week toward loosening the Volcker Rule, by filing proposed changes to the regulatory measure that would put the futures of millions of workers at risk. The regulation, named after former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker and implemented after the last financial crisis, limits the ability of banks to engage in risky trading with depositors’ money–in other words, to gamble with the economy on the expectation that U.S. taxpayers will rescue them when they lose.

    We’ve seen this story unfold before: Politicians take Wall Street money and roll back common-sense protections. And it’s ordinary workers and families who’ve paid the price each time. Congress used similar logic to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, in the last major deregulation push. What did banks do with their newly won “freedom”? They placed huge bets on subprime mortgages and securitization, causing the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.

    Revising or watering down the Volcker Rule might not on its own precipitate the next market meltdown, but it will increase risk in financial markets at precisely the wrong time. If the proposed rule change makes it through five federal regulators, it could take effect in 2019, amid trade wars that are already escalating onmultiplefronts. Just as worryingly, the International Monetary Fund recently warned that all the world’s economies (developed and emerging nations’ alike) are looking increasingly unable to weather another downturn due to rising debt loads. So at some point during the rule-making process, the Federal Reserve and other regulators will have to think deeply about how loosening trading restraints in the banking sector will impact monetary policy and credit access for the majority of Americans, not just the likely upsides for Wall Street executives and their shareholders.

    When banks pursue profit without common-sense safeguards, it’s workers who suffer disproportionately. The last financial crash cost American families $16 trillion in wealth, according to U.S. Treasury data. Eight million people lost their jobs, and despite a generally reinvigorated economy, research indicates that the impact of that crisis remains visible in worker salaries and labor participation today. Labor Department analyses show that African Americans lost half their wealth in the Wall Street collapse, and it hasn’t come back. Now it seems as though regulators in the Trump administration are determined to expose ordinary Americans–many of whom still haven’t recovered from the past decade’s economic fallout–to those very same risks all over again. Investors recover, but frontline workers’ retirement savings rarely do. Nor do their careers automatically jump back on track after prolonged unemployment or taking a demotion.

    It’s no surprise, then, that workers’ perceptions of job security increase during a financial crisis, according to Boston College researchers. Wracked by financial anxiety, even employees who succeed at holding down jobs experience reduced job quality, lower productivity, and frayed workplace culture. Obviously, this is bad for employees and employers alike. And these detriments aren’t just confined to the United States; an analysis of European workers found that the 2007-2008 financial crisis had significant negative impacts on employment, particularly on temporary, less-skilled, and younger workers.

    The future of work for millions of people in the United States is already precarious due to tectonic shifts in technology and automation, and data suggests that the last financial crisis magnified those pressures. Employers in the hardest-hit areas were more likely to invest in automation and add job requirements for advanced degrees. Combined with ballooning tuition rates, this puts living-wage jobs out of reach for millions of Americans. Meanwhile, the gig economy has displaced older employees in traditional industries, pushing them into competition with younger workers for lower-skilled jobs that come with few to no benefits and protections.

    And while the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to a historic low point, slicing employment data along racial lines shows a different picture. According to the Economic Policy Institute, black unemployment rose at nearly twice the level of white unemployment during the crisis, and job recovery remains slower. Families of color were most likely to lose their homes to foreclosure, often leading to lost wealth and damaged credit scores that can impact those households’ fortunes for decades. The evidence, in other words, is overwhelming: Bank speculation left our country poorer, sicker, less entrepreneurial, more unequal, and racing toward an insecure gig economy. Setting up another crisis is a gamble we simply can’t afford.

    My organization, People’s Action (formerly National People’s Action), has been making this case, in various forms, for years–including to Paul Volcker himself. Volcker’s office repeatedly ignored our letters calling on the Fed to lower interest rates (which in many cases had climbed to nearly 20%) on loans targeting owner-occupied homes and multifamily properties, since they were putting affordable housing out of reach for low- and moderate-income families. Hopefully, though, our advocacy still helped Volcker consider the real impact of monetary policy and banking regulation on everyday people who are simply trying to support their families and make ends meet. In restraining the riskiest banking bets, the Volcker Rule has also provided that insulation–however imperfect–to ordinary American workers.

    Unless federal regulators change their minds, that will soon vanish. Gutting the Volcker Rule will set the stage for another financial crisis, because we know what happens when you let the banks run the Wall Street casino: The house always wins.


    George Goehl is the director of People’s Action Institute, a progressive, multiracial, working-class organization of more than a million people working for economic, racial, and gender justice.


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    While one can never predict the outcome of an interview, there are some surefire ways to shoot yourself in the foot and earn yourself a rejection. These five behaviors will send off red flags to hiring managers and likely prevent you from landing your dream job!

    1. Not providing concrete answers to interview questions

    Hiring managers and recruiters will often reject candidates because they didn’t get clear responses to their questions. If you want to avoid sounding “wishy-washy,” focus on articulating yourself with answers and examples that elude to your past and potential future success.

    Try this: While you can’t predict every question that might come up, you can certainly predict a handful of them. Try preparing for these questions using the S.T.A.R. method, and provide answers that focus on the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This helps you tell a succinct and linear story while giving the hiring manager clear insights and evidence into how you have handled situations in the past.


    Related:These are the worst answers to the most common job interview questions 


    2. Not managing emotions

    We all have scars that can leave us feeling emotional, whether they be from previous employers, or past life experiences. However, if you can’t keep those feelings under wraps during an interview, you’ll quickly find yourself written off from an opportunity. Keep topics like wrongful termination, horrible bosses, financial struggles, and personal sob stories out of the interview room. You need to articulate how, and why, you are the best-suited candidate for this role, not why the hiring manager should have empathy for you. Remember, never speak poorly about a past employer, no matter how horrible your experience.

    Try this: Focus on your success stories rather than your sad stories! If you’re unable to put your emotions aside when meeting with a hiring manager, consider taking a break from interviewing to regroup. Similar to dating, you likely wouldn’t want to jump back into the pool after a bad break up without taking some needed healing time!


    Related:Recruiters look at this more than your LinkedIn


    3. Can’t articulate why you’re leaving a job

    One question you can certainly count on coming up is “Why are you looking to leave your job?” If you’re unable to provide a reasonable answer, the hiring manager might be suspicious and assume the worst. Additionally, stating that you’re leaving because you want more money, or stating something negative about your team/company will also raise red flags.

    Try this: Before heading into an interview, prepare an answer for this question that is both neutral and non-critical. For example, you can say something like this:

    • You’re looking for new kinds of experiences (if you say this, be ready to talk about what kind of experiences these are, and why you’re not getting them at your current job!)
    • You’re looking to switch industries (again, be prepared to say why)
    • You’re looking to be stretched in new ways
    • You’ve learned everything you will from the role and you’re looking towards the next steps

    4. Can’t explain movements throughout your career

    Movement in one’s career is healthy. In fact, “Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less, and job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even to be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer,” said Vivian Giang in a previous Fast Company article. While this may be true, the movements need to make sense. If you’ve made several moves across roles and industries, you need to connect the dots for the hiring manager, otherwise they will assume you can’t commit or might be flaky.

    Try this: Write down all your experiences, and think through the skills you’ve gained. Can you explain how each step and skill has helped you move forward? Tell a cohesive story about your career, and how each experience has inspired and contributed to your long-term goals.


    Related:Hiring managers reveal the 10 seemingly small things they judge candidates on


    5. Mistaking arrogance for confidence

    Displaying arrogance is almost guaranteed to make recruiters perceive you in a negative light. While it is paramount to sell yourself with confidence, you don’t want to come across as cocky, or a “know it all.”

    Try this: Actively listen when the hiring manager speaks. Show gratitude for the opportunity, and demonstrate (with humility) how you can add value to the team and organization. Ask questions that express your willingness to learn, be a team player, and contribute without an ego.

    One final tip to decreases the likelihood of rejection is to really understand what the company does and show your enthusiasm for their mission statement and company objective. With proper preparation and self-awareness, we can all better equip ourselves with the right tools and information we need to show up well and make a lasting first impression!


    This article originally appeared on Glassdoor and is reprinted with permission. 


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    “I don’t know if you watch Westworld,” Andrew Conru says, “but the artistic process may be a very simple algorithm.”

    Conru is the founder of Robotart, a global contest for artwork created by AI and robots. He’s referring to the big reveal [SPOILER ALERT] in the second season of the HBO series: After looking for a way to simulate human consciousness, AI researchers realize that under humanity’s apparent complexity lies a very simple set of rules coded in our genetics. This set of rules, or algorithms, control our basic behavior from birth, and therefore they can be easily simulated with code. We are extremely predictable and simple in our apparent complexity, not only according to Westworld writers but also according to actual scientists.

    So it’s reasonable to argue that the artistic process is also a set of pretty simple algorithms that can have complex outcomes. The way artists look at and reinterpret the world, along with the techniques they work with, result in a particular aesthetic–impressionism, say, or abstraction. “Of course, part of it is the artist’s physiology,” Conru says, “the way the hand, the arm, the eyes, and the brain interact to introduce an element of unique randomness” in each brushstroke. But beneath it all, an artist’s algorithms–their methods, their processes–are not that complicated, though they may cause powerful emotions in viewers.

    Could machines ever create art that moves us? Conru–who holds a PhD from Stanford in mechanical engineering and, incidentally, founded FriendFinder Networks, home of Adult FriendFinder–thinks so. Robotart is a benchmark for gauging how close we are to that goal.

    First-place winner, CloudPainter. [Image: courtesy Andrew Conru/Robotart]

    Robotart, now in its third year, is judged both by a public voting system and a panel of art critics, including New York magazine’s Jerry Saltz. The critics weigh three criteria: originality and aesthetics; painting techniques like layering, energy, subtleness, or blending of brushstrokes; and the art’s technical contribution to the field.

    Some of the 100 artworks submitted by 19 teams this year were extremely convincing. As Conru points out, some human artists are taking advantage of robot “apprentices” to aid their output, using the robot to do the heavy lifting before finishing it the same way many artists use studio assistants for these tasks today. But perhaps more importantly, the entries suggest that we’re getting much closer to the moment when humans won’t be able to tell the difference between machine-generated art and human-generated art.

    Take this year’s winner, CloudPainter. CloudPainter is the project of generative artist Pindar Van Arman. He describes his role as “designing creative algorithms,” which control an industrial robotic arm equipped with brushes and powerful artificial intelligence. The results can fool a human: In a recent interview, Saltz pointed out at one of his works and said “that doesn’t look like a computer made it.”

    But Saltz followed that apparent compliment with a major caveat: “That doesn’t make it any good.”

    That’s the crucial next step, Conru says–the point when machine art can move not only Saltz, but any viewer, the same way that the Blacks Paintings by Goya or Monet’s waterlilies can move us; a “sort of Turing test for art,” as he puts it. When will an AI-composed symphony move us in the same way Beethoven’s Ninth does? Conru believes that we’re close to fooling humans to the point of moving them, for instance by reproducing the styles of canonical painters. But that kind of technology still relies on imitating what people already do, emulating human sensibilities acquired through deep learning. We’re light-years away from the sci-fi vision of AI that has the kind of consciousness upon which great art is made, and Conru thinks that no matter how intelligent machines become, human viewers will always respect human artists more than machine ones, the same way human grand masters elicit more admiration than computer grand masters.

    Still, there’s room for plenty of debate–and imagination–when it comes to the future of AI, and art is a way to discuss those issues. If machines ever gain sentience, would there really be any difference between the art humans create and the art those new life forms create? Perhaps these new beings could push our human practice of art, which is so heavily based on iteration, into an entirely original new phase and let us see the world through eyes that are not human, interpreted by brains that are not human. Regardless of the quality of the art, I would love to experience that.


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    [Photo: lisafx/iStock]
    Whatever President Trump says or un-says, it’s clear that election authorities in the U.S. and around the world have faced and will continue to face an onslaught of hacking attacks. While it’s unclear if hackers have been able to actually manipulate vote tallies, anyone from a Russian agent to a “400-pound” hacker sitting on his bed can easily seed mayhem and doubt by knocking voter registration sites offline or posting forged announcements of election results.

    Now San Francisco-based cloud security provider Cloudflare is offering a free service, called the Athenian Project, to any U.S. election authority for the 2018 polls. About 70 agencies, including 10 state election authorities as well as county- and city- level bodies have signed up, the company announced today. (If other companies are also providing pro-bono election security services, please let me know!) Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince acknowledges that these are just a “drop in the bucket” out of the over 8,500 election authorities in the US, and he said that any other ones are welcome to join.

    Takers include the states of Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, North Carolina, and Rhode Island; the City and County of San Francisco, and Pickens County, South Carolina. (Not all authorities want to reveal their participation, preferring “security through obscurity,” says Prince.) Before today, only Alabama had revealed its participation in the Athenian Project, which launched with little fanfare in December 2017. The state used Cloudflare in the December senate race in which Democrat Doug Jones narrowly beat Republican Roy Moore.

    Prince claims that the protection that the Athenian Project provides is worth “millions of dollars per year,” based on what it charges business clients for full enterprise protection. But he adds that, “We’re not seeing this as how we can claim a tax write-off.”

    Trying to stop mayhem

    Prince cautions that Cloudflare can’t protect everything. “What we are good at is anything internet-facing that helps support the election…the site that you would go to register to vote; the site you would go to, to find out where your polling place is; the infrastructure that various polling places would use to report back the vote counts,” he says.

    “We’re not the right solution to help secure your electronic voting machines,” he says. “I think that the thing that the more aware states earlier on saw was that there was a lot more to elections than just [voting machines].”


    Related: Here’s How To Plug One Of The Biggest Privacy Holes In The Internet


    Cloudflare–and competitors like Amazon Web Services, Akamai, and Incapsula–form a barrier between clients and the internet, absorbing hacking attempts. One example is denial of service–a flood of traffic that overwhelms and crashes servers. Cloudflare can also, for instance, shield outdated or unpatched software from attacks that take advantage of known vulnerabilities, says Prince.

    Election hacks aren’t “about making sure candidate A wins and Candidate B loses,” says Prince. “This is about subverting the process so that whoever wins has a harder time governing.” An example, he says, would be a close election for which the voter registration site had been knocked offline. If more people had been able to register and vote, would the results have been different?

    More than PR?

    The Athenian Project may be good PR for Cloudflare, but there’s reason to believe that motives go deeper. It was conceived together with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), a non-profit advocate for online privacy and free expression. (Funders range the political spectrum, from conservatives’ bête noire George Soros to liberals’ persona non grata Charles Koch.)

    Cloudflare and CDT have also worked since 2014 on Project Galileo, which provides free protection to threatened political or artistic parties, such as LGBT groups in the Middle East or African journalists reporting on corruption.


    Related: Cloudflare’s Matthew Prince Explains Why It Was So Hard To Dump The Daily Stormer


    Cloudflare has provided paid support to election campaigns in other countries, like both major parties in the 2014 Mexican presidential race. (If one is especially small, it may qualify for free service.)

    “We had 16 of the 17 major presidential candidates, ranging the political spectrum from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump,” says Prince. “Everyone except Hilary Clinton, somewhat ironically.” Neither the Democratic not Republican national committees use the Cloudflare, either.

    Could Cloudflare have stopped Russian hacking of the Clinton campaign? “I think some of the database security stuff we might have helped with,” he says. “Email spear-phishing, I don’t know if we would have helped with.” That attack, which infiltrated the Clinton campaign, uses bogus emails that appear to come from a trusted source, like a coworker, to request sensitive information or direct someone to a malicious website.

    Prince says he doesn’t have definitive evidence about election hacking by Russia or other countries. Cloudflare can spot the source that launches an attack, but these are typically hacked servers or networks of computers directed by attackers somewhere else.

    However, attacks have “signatures” that might show up in multiple attacks, such as those sets of compromised machines, or lists of usernames and passwords that hackers fire at a login page in hopes of getting a match.

    “As we’re seeing information coming out in the [special counsel Robert] Mueller report, we’re going back through our information and [asking], ‘Are we seeing anything similar?” for any Cloudflare clients, says Prince. “And we’ve seen evidence of similar attempts of attack that have been launched against individuals and infrastructure that we’ve helped protect.”