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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

Pizza Hut vs. the Selfie Stick

We'll get to that in a second. First: Self-reliance is putting people out of work. Politico:

I define shadow work as all the unpaid jobs we do on behalf of businesses and organizations: We are pumping our own gas, scanning our own groceries, booking our travel and busing our tables at Starbucks. Shadow work is a new concept, so as yet, no one has compiled economic data on how many jobs we, the consumers, have taken over from (erstwhile) employees. Yet it is surely a force shrinking the job market, and the unemployment it creates is structural. Thanks in part to this new phenomenon, widespread joblessness could become entrenched in the social landscape.

We have been pumping our own gas for a very long time. The days when a uniformed chap ran out and touched the brim of his cap in a salute before topping off the tank and checking your oil is such a distant memory I can’t summon up anything that isn’t a scene from “Back to the Future,” and I grew up around gas stations. It gets worse:

Consider what you now do yourself: You can bank on your cell phone, check yourself out at CVS or the grocery store without ever speaking to an employee, book your own flights and print your boarding pass at the airport without ever talking to a ticket agent—and that’s just in the last few years. Imagine what’s coming next.

Does anyone really want to bank the old way? Standing in line, shuffling to the teller, waiting for the receipt - this is preferable to punching in numbers on your phone and taking a picture of the check? If so, then we ought to get milk on our doorstep in glass bottles.

Votd There are two ways to do a commercial that attempts to connect with Internet culture. There’s the greatest-hits meme reel, attempting to be the most internet thing on the internet:

Nice to see Double Rainbow enthusiast getting some attention, but really: Dancing Baby, but no Mustard Guy? Funny, but it tries a little too hard. It’s reminding you of that time when everyone had seen that one thing. The thing itself may have been ordinary +1, but the fun was making a reference that other people got. Then there’s this approach, which is actually funny.

Both were released today, so quick! Send them to someone! Be the first! You don’t want to be the person who gets stuff instead of sends stuff, do you?

Everything is Auto-Awesome

Did you give Google permission to -

Oh, that’s a silly question. Of course you did. Somewhere along the line you clicked “Accept,” and voila. This happened.

Researchers from Google and The University of Washington are using Google computers to sift through million's of Flickr images of popular landmarks and locations. The project, called “time-lapse mining”, stitches these images together into beautiful sequences of time-lapse videos.

Like this.

And it works on an individual level, too. Venturebeat:

Every day, I got new notifications saying that Google had added a few “Auto Awesome” photos or a few new “Stories.” These are features that Google+ has had for a while. They use image analysis and location data to group images together, either automatically applying filters, auto-stitching panoramas together, or creating short animations from groups of related photos (Auto Awesome); or by putting photos together into narrative “stories” that cover a single day or a trip (Stories).

I guess that’s cool. I’d prefer to do it myself, though. Teach a man to created an animated gif, and you’ve freed him from the robots.

Oh, speaking of which:

Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”

Depends. Some starve, because they can’t be bothered to go to the Fish Depot and get their fish, so they rob someone else on the way back. Or they can’t afford the monthly premium for access to the robot-harvested fish, which is required because it costs a lot to keep the robot fishers going. Or they live with someone who fishes, unless that’s been banned by the big, influential Robot lobby.

I was thinking about that aphorism the other day, and wondered: maybe the person to whom you give a fish and feed for a day doesn’t live anywhere near water. The fish could be in the form of a McDonald’s sandwich, in which case teaching him how to fish isn’t very helpful. See, you put the bait on the hook, like this, then dangle the pole -

I know that. I’m not stupid. If I lived anywhere that had fish I’d do it, because I’m hungry. What I need is access to fresh water, a pole, bait, and transportation to and from the fishing area.

Sorry, I just thought that teaching you how to fish would help.

Doesn’t, really, but thanks for the thought.

Back to the original idea: how could robot fishers lead to universal starvation? That’s idiocy. It’s not the means by which fish are caught, it’s the amount and the distribution. But we’re talking about something else here.

Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities.

The number of Reddit members who advocate for something is as compelling as the number of comments on a YouTube video about a monkey trying to peel a greased banana, but nevermind. Here’s the amusing part:

But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.

So: “Area Man Asks For Money Online, Gets $500.”