Labor 2.0: why we shouldn’t fear the ‘sharing economy’ and the reinvention of work

Bernhard Resch, University of St.Gallen

Uber suffered a legal blow this week when a California judge granted class action status to a lawsuit claiming the car-hailing service treats its drivers like employees, without providing the necessary benefits.

Up to 160,000 Uber chauffeurs are now eligible to join the case of three drivers demanding the company pay for health insurance and expenses such as mileage. Some say a ruling against the company could doom the business model of the on-demand or “sharing” economy that Uber, Upwork and TaskRabbit represent.

Whatever the outcome, it’s unlikely to reverse the most radical reinvention of work since the rise of industrialization – a massive shift toward self-employment typified by on-demand service apps and enabled by technology. That’s because it’s not a trend driven solely by these tech companies.

Workers themselves, especially millennials, are increasingly unwilling to accept traditional roles as cogs in the corporate machinery being told what to do. Today, 34% of the US workforce freelances, a figure that is estimated to reach 50% by 2020. That’s up from the 31% estimated by the Government Accountability Office in a 2006 study.

Many aren’t ready for the on-demand economy that Uber represents, such as these taxi drivers in Brazil.


The theory of parallel universes is not just math – it is science that can be tested

Eugene Lim, King’s College London
The existence of parallel universes may seem like something cooked up by science fiction writers, with little relevance to modern theoretical physics. But the idea that we live in a “multiverse” made up of an infinite number of parallel universes has long been considered a scientific possibility – although it is still a matter of vigorous debate among physicists. The race is now on to find a way to test the theory, including searching the sky for signs of collisions with other universes.

It is important to keep in mind that the multiverse view is not actually a theory, it is rather a consequence of our current understanding of theoretical physics. This distinction is crucial. We have not waved our hands and said: “Let there be a multiverse”. Instead the idea that the universe is perhaps one of infinitely many is derived from current theories like quantum mechanics and string theory.


How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Email You The Ways

New research shows that it’s more effective, at least for Millenials, to write an email to express their intimate feelings than it is to leave a voicemail. We found a really interesting article about this over on Science Daily:

The research, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that, in this digital age, an email can be more effective in expressing romantic feelings than leaving a voicemail message.

Previous research and conventional wisdom suggested the opposite, that a voicemail message is a more intimate way to connect with others, but that may not be true, particularly among millennials.

“The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about,” said one of the authors, Alan R. Dennis, the John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems in IU’s Kelley School of Business.

It turns out that the generations that have grown up with email and texting are better at communicating their feelings in email than in conversation. On the next page, we cover why that is…


What’s a Ride Into Space Without a Nice Triple Malt?

You just plunked down a huge pile of cash to be a space tourist, so you might expect some special treatment, no?  Don’t worry, Ballantine’s, who makes blended Scotch whiskey, has got your back, according to a fascinating article on

… pouring a nicely aged whiskey is basically impossible without gravity there to lend a hand. Fortunately Ballantine’s, a maker of blended Scotch whiskey, has a solution: On Friday the company unveiled its Space Glass, which is the first vessel engineered specifically to deliver a distilled beverage to your lips while enjoying the weightlessness of space.

The specially-designed Space Glass, which has been designed by some seriously creative space enthusiasts over the Open Space Agency, uses capillary action, originally described by Leonardo DaVinci, to deliver the whiskey to the connoisseur’s lips for their enjoyment. Capillary action is how plants make water travel from their roots to their leaves and flowers.

How does the whole experience of pouring and serving whiskey in a Ballentine’s Space Glass work? Check the next page for that info…


Contribute to Science: Count Croaks

If you’re looking for a way that you can easily and satisfyingly contribute to scientific research without even having to spend a lot of time on it, then here’s a suggestion: count frog croaks.

We found an awesome article over on the Discover Magazine site that details the work that FrogWatch USA is doing to essentially crowdsource the measurement of frog species:

At dusk, Carolyn Rinaldi and her 14-year-old daughter sit silently on the shores of the lake at Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown, Conn. Then their ears go into overdrive. For three minutes they count the different grunts, gribbets, croaks and peeps emanating from frogs and toads resident in the wetlands.

They are just two of the volunteers that took part in FrogWatch USA during 2014, a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The name is somewhat of a misnomer. The program could be called FrogListen. Volunteers identify frogs by listening to their mating calls and indicating whether each was heard individually, in a group or in a full chorus.

Pretty cool that you can spend just three minutes to make a contribution to zoological science!

But why is researching the croaks of frogs important? See the next page for that answer…


We found only one-third of published psychology research is reliable – now what?

Elizabeth Gilbert, University of Virginia and Nina Strohminger, Yale University

The ability to repeat a study and find the same results twice is a prerequisite for building scientific knowledge. Replication allows us to ensure empirical findings are reliable and refines our understanding of when a finding occurs. It may surprise you to learn, then, that scientists do not often conduct – much less publish – attempted replications of existing studies.

Journals prefer to publish novel, cutting-edge research. And professional advancement is determined by making new discoveries, not painstakingly confirming claims that are already on the books. As one of our colleagues recently put it, “Running replications is fine for other people, but I have better ways to spend my precious time.”

Once a paper appears in a peer-reviewed journal, it acquires a kind of magical, unassailable authority. News outlets, and sometimes even scientists themselves, will cite these findings without a trace of skepticism. Such unquestioning confidence in new studies is likely undeserved, or at least premature.

A small but vocal contingent of researchers – addressing fields ranging from physics to medicine to economics – has maintained that many, perhaps most, published studies are wrong. But how bad is this problem, exactly? And what features make a study more or less likely to turn out to be true?

We are two of the 270 researchers who together have just published in the journal Science the first-ever large-scale effort trying to answer these questions by attempting to reproduce 100 previously published psychological science findings.


Poo transplants can eliminate two superbugs from the gut: mice study

Eliza Berlage, The Conversation

Two of the most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria circulating in hospitals can be wiped out by transplanting faeces from a healthy animal into the gut of an infected one, a study on mice has found.

The study, published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens examined two antibiotic resistant bugs: vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and multi-drug resistant Klebsiella pneumonia.

A research team led by Eric Pamer, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York found that the bacteria can share the same location in the gut, but that “transplantation of a diverse faecal microbiota eliminates both VRE and K. pneumoniae from the gut.”

Mark Morrison, Chair of Microbial Biology and Metagenomics at the University of Queensland said the study revealed some new insights into how these bacteria colonise the gastrointestinal tract.

“Using a dose of other gut microbes through faecal transplantation appears to effectively displace these antibiotic resistant microbes, which warrants further investigation,” said Professor Morrison, who was not involved in the study.

Previous studies have found that the gut’s protective mucus layer that normally guards against microbes can thin out when gut microbiota are not well balanced.

Morrison said more work was needed before the findings could be applied to humans infected with these bacteria.

“In addition to the potential of faecal transplants, we need to ensure the prudent and effective use of existing antibiotics, and better monitor and detect these bugs. We must find new solutions to inhibit existing superbugs and develop strategies that minimise, or even eliminate, the potential for development of new superbugs,” he said.

The Conversation

Eliza Berlage is Editor at The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.



Article republished in full with the generous permission of The Conversation.

Photo Credit: Rick Eh/flickr

Exploding 5 Myths About “Female Viagra”

With all the buzz in the news and on social media about the recently approved “female Viagra” drug, officially named Addyi, which will be going on the market in October, we ran across a great article over on CNN Health that helps to explode all of the myths.

Up first, turns out it’s not like Viagra at all:

While people are calling Addyi the “female Viagra,” it doesn’t really work that way. Viagra eliminates a physical problem for men. Men take it to get and keep an erection. They pop it before they want to have sex. Addyi doesn’t treat a physical problem for women — instead it targets the chemicals in their brain and it improves, in at least 37% of the women who take it, their sense of desire for their romantic partner. Women have to take Addyi every night.

Viagra works by dilating specific blood vessels which increases blood flow to the penis, a very different process altogether.

Will it be a cure for women who just aren’t that into sex? On the next page we answer that…


Humans Were Causing Species Extinction 10,000 Years Ago

In an incredible bit of news, Scientists at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge are claiming that humans were causing large mammal species to go extinct 10,000 years ago, when the wolly mammoth, sabretooth tiger, and the giant armadillo roamed the earth.

Lewis Bartlett, the lead researcher from Exeter said:

[C]utting-edge statistical analysis had helped solve the mystery almost beyond dispute, concluding that man was the dominant force in wiping out the creatures, although climate change could also have played a lesser role.

How did the statistics support this conclusion? On the next page, we go into detail…


Is Pluto a Nitrogen Generator?

Interesting new data from the New Horizons spacecraft indicate that Pluto may be generating nitrogen from geologic activity.  An in-depth article over on Science Daily explains the nitrogen paradox that they’ve discovered on Pluto:

The latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal diverse features on Pluto’s surface and an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen gas. However, Pluto’s small mass allows hundreds of tons of atmospheric nitrogen to escape into space each hour.

So where does all this nitrogen come from? Dr. Kelsi Singer, a postdoctoral researcher at Southwest Research Institute, and her mentor Dr. Alan Stern, SwRI associate vice president and the science lead for the New Horizons mission, outlined likely sources in a paper titled, “On the Provenance of Pluto’s Nitrogen.” The Astrophysical Journal Letters accepted the paper for publication on July 15, just a day after the spacecraft’s closest encounter with the icy dwarf planet (ApJ, 808, L50).

“More nitrogen has to come from somewhere to resupply both the nitrogen ice that is moving around Pluto’s surface in seasonal cycles, and the nitrogen that is escaping off the top of the atmosphere as the result of heating by ultraviolet light from the Sun,” said Singer. They looked at a number of different ways that nitrogen might be resupplied.

And it’s kind of amazing what kinds of sources they considered. On the next page, we explain….