In Nicholas Carr’s new book, "The Glass Cage – Automation and Us," he describes an academic study in which researchers discover a key difference between how we feel at work versus at home. At work, people can’t wait to clock out, whereas at home, they dread returning to work.
But surprisingly, the study also found that by many metrics, people are actually happier on the job. And in a world where the main goal of technology seems to be to reduce the work we do, Carr thinks maybe we should take a different tack:
“I think most of us, if we really thought about it, know that it’s really when we’re being challenged and when we’re really immersed in a task or a job…that’s when we feel like we are experiencing life in some better, more fulfilling way.”
In the book, Carr offers one example of how the video game, Red Dead Redemption, helped him realize that games can be a good model for software designed to engage and challenge us in an activity. Carr argues that if we are simply more mindful of how technology influences our experience of life, we can make better decisions about the things we buy, even if it’s as small as a video game.
Click the media player above to hear Nicholas Carr in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
All four cases relied on the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause to invalidate state bans on gay marriage. For now, the Supreme Court gave a tacit nod to the legal reasoning.
How to enter:
1) Follow @Marketplace on Twitter.
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Marketplace NYC Road Show Twitter Giveaway Official Rules
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As thousands more same-sex couples marry all over the country, this legal climate change becomes a kind of fait accompli.
The Supreme Court surprised many by refusing to weigh in on gay marriage Monday. And it prompted a question: What does this mean for same-sex couples in 20 states that still have a ban?
A new study of drug use in Afghanistan, relying on information from female heads of households and confirmed by lab tests, shows that 1 in 20 Afghans are using prescription or illicit drugs.
The 18-time gold medalist said that he was going to attend a program to "better understand myself." USA Swimming said Phelps will be excluded from 2015 FINA World Championships.
As times got tough, America's less-wealthy citizens grew more generous, according to a new study. But people making at least $200,000 a year cut the portion of their incomes they gave to charity.
Of the following four people, which one runs the Federal Reserve?
The answer choices were:
a) Janet Yellen... correctly picked by 24 percent of people.
b) John Roberts... 5 percent.
c) Sonia Sotomayor... 6 percent.
d) And this one, the troubling part: Alan Greenspan... 17 percent.
Those who admitted to not knowing? Forty-eight percent.October 6, 2014
Much of the evidence used against Ed Graf, in prison since 1986 for setting a fire that killed his stepsons, is now considered junk science. His is one of many old arson cases Texas is re-examining.
Arkansas prisoner Gregory Holt hand-wrote a 15-page petition without the help of lawyers, arguing that he be permitted to wear a beard as part of his religion. The Supreme Court will hear the case.
The corn harvest is coming in, and great weather has produced a record crop. This is terrible news for farmers: Oversupply means cratering prices.
If that sounds like a paradox, consider this: Corn, the biggest crop in our agricultural powerhouse of a nation, is not a foodstuff. It’s a highly refined industrial material—more like aluminum than apples. And a hard look at corn economics puts world hunger in a different light.
Let's start at an ethanol plant: Lincolnway Energy, in Nevada, Iowa. CEO and President Erik Hakmiller is our guide.
The plant includes several big buildings, lots of loud noises... and some unexpected smells. One is hard to place at first. "What you smell is residual carbon dioxide, and a cooking— very much like a bakery smell," says Hakmiller.
Then Hakmiller opens the door to a giant building with a corrugated metal roof.
It’s a barn. Inside are these golden mountains—piled-up flakes of grain.
For every bushel of corn that comes to Lincolnway Energy, only a third comes out as ethanol. Another third comes out as carbon dioxide, which goes into soda pop.
The rest—the fat, fiber and protein—ends up on one of these piles. "Each pile being about a thousand tons," says Hakmiller.
That’s one day’s worth of this stuff, called distillers grains.
"It’s good food for cows, chickens and pigs," Hakmiller says. Just as important, it’s cheap.
"For animal feeding, you feed the lowest cost to get the most growth out of the animal," he says. "So, everything has to price itself into the ration. Because a cow doesn’t say, ‘I’m eating Italian tonight.’ He’s got to eat whatever he gets fed."
If he’s in a feedlot—where most cows gain half their body weight—he’s probably eating corn, either distillers grains or the whole kernel.
And we are not. We wouldn’t recognize it.
Chris Edgington has been growing corn for decades. Here’s what his corn isn’t: "It is not the corn you eat off the cob," he says. "It is not what’s in the can. It is not what’s in the freezer, in the bag. It is not that product."
That product, sweet corn, is a different crop. And a lot smaller. Last year, for every pound of sweet corn, U.S. farmers grew more than 260 pounds of field corn.Sweet corn-- the stuff on the cob-- is not the corn that's grown on 90 million acres. | Create Infographics
Which goes to farm animals. If you are what you eat, they are, more than anything else, corn.
So, when we eat a ham-and-cheese omelette, that’s mostly corn.
"It’s a very small component of other foods," says Joseph Glauber, chief economist of the United States Department of Agriculture. "People talk about high-fructose corn syrup, but..."
Want to guess how much of the corn crop goes to corn syrup?
Three-and-a-half percent. A little less than that goes to other sugars, plus alcohol for vodka.
Actual corn-type food—Doritos, Jiffy cornbread mix, cornflakes—represents 1.5 percent of the corn crop.
For stuff we eat and drink, that’s about it.
Other than as a low-cost ration for animals, the big use for corn is ethanol.
Ethanol has been booming since 2000; there’s eight times as much now.
That’s been great for corn farmers because they have so much corn to get rid of.
"The joke in farm country has always been, if you give a farmer a market, he’ll overproduce it," says Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the state’s ethanol lobby. "And quite frankly, for over 200 years, that’s been pretty true, except for these last eight years, when ethanol sucked up all that extra corn production."
Extra production is not one year’s bumper crop, and it is not just the extra acres that got planted after the ethanol boom.
It’s a long-term constant. Productivity—the yield from one acre of cornfield—has been ratcheting up for decades and decades.
Even in 2012—a terrible drought year, with the worst yields in more than 15 years—productivity was more than twice as high as any year before 1960.
Which puts the whole food-versus-fuel question in a new light.
We plant more than 90 million acres of corn, and it’s in huge surplus. And it’s not even food. What if we planted actual food instead?
I put that question to Bruce Babcock, an economics professor at Iowa State University who studies corn, ethanol and renewable fuels.
"Our ability to supply the world with vegetables is practically unlimited," Babcock said.
Take corn, and add in other giant crops that basically just feed animals—crops like soybeans, barley, hay, sorghum—and two-thirds of U.S. farmland goes to animal feed.
"Such a small portion of our land goes to grow actual food that people consume," said Babcock, "that if we really wanted to increase that supply, it would be pretty easy."
The trick would be convincing the country—and other countries that import animal feed from the U.S.—to go vegan.
"There would be such a surplus of farmland to grow kumquats and pecans that we would be awash in those, in a heartbeat," says Babcock.
Would it be enough to feed the 10 billion people the United Nations projects as global population by 2100?
"We would have more land available for the 10 billion than they would know what to do with," says Babcock.
But we don’t. Thank markets.
"That’s not what consumers want," says Babcock. "As they get more money, they want to eat meat."
So farmers plant corn.
Members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra remain locked out in a labor dispute, unable to reach an agreement with management for the second time in two years. Both sides have now agreed to talk through a federal mediator.
But what's happening isn't unique to Atlanta. Orchestras in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Louisville and Nashville have also faced contract and budget issues.
So why does this keep happening?
Tom Smith, an economist at Emory University's Goizueta Business School, says to think of an orchestra player like a professional athlete.
"You have these uniquely talented people, and they deserve more money," he says.
Smith says just like sports teams, orchestras depend in part on ticket sales to pay their players. But whereas pro sports teams usually have packed stadiums, orchestras are struggling because of aging audiences and lagging box office sales.
So that's the problem, right?
Well, sure, says Smith, but it's more complicated than that.
"A team like the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks or whomever else—maybe 35 percent of their revenue comes from ticket sales," he says. "So just filling the seats doesn't help the Hawks pay for their salaries on their players."
Smith says orchestras suffer from something called "cost disease."
Think of a string quartet: To be a quartet, there always need to be four players, and it takes them the same amount of time to play a piece today as it did 100 years ago.
But the costs associated with that performance—paying the players, renting a venue, promotion—increase over time.
That's cost disease: Expenses go up, but they're not offset by more accuracy or efficiency.
"Most people who work in the performing arts expect their pay to increase roughly at the same rate as pay in the rest of the economy," says Robert Flanagan, a professor at Stanford University and author of "The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras: Artistic Triumphs and Economic Challenges."
"But unlike the rest of the economy," he says, "the labor requirements for putting on a performance don't change."
To a lesser extent, sports teams suffer from the same economic affliction. It still takes 10 people to play a basketball game that's four quarters long. But sports teams have billion-dollar broadcasting deals, stadium naming rights and merchandise sales to round out their budgets. Orchestras don't have that luxury, so they have to rely on corporate donations, large individual gifts and endowments.
Flanagan says this is where declining demand comes into play: fewer large donors.
"Most of that declining demand is also people who had previously contributed to the support of orchestras," he says.
But Emory's Tom Smith says even when big donations do come in, they often come with a catch.
"People aren't usually going to just give you money and say, 'Oh, here's a million dollars and go ahead, use it to pay the salary of your violin players,'" he says. "They're going to say, 'I want a building, and I want a building with my name on it.'"
And that has led to the downsizing of orchestras, including Atlanta's.
Two years ago, the players agreed to salary cuts and the elimination of seven positions.
But cuts come with their own consequences, as the best musicians will leave for spots at bigger orchestras that haven't had to make the same cuts. So what's a struggling orchestra to do?
Symphony consultant Darrell Edwards says today's orchestras may need to diversify their music, opting for more of a mix of popular music and symphony classics.
"The orchestras that are doing well are doing both," he says. "And it's not to take away from the importance of orchestras playing the master works, because that's how they really grow artistically. You're not going to get better as an orchestra playing pops concerts."
Which leaves orchestra directors in a tricky spot. Do they play the score from "Star Wars" for the umpteenth time to bring in people, or play something new that might not appeal to a wide audience?
Edwards says it's a decision many directors may be reluctant to make.
There's a company town in Liberia with 80,000 residents. Ebola was first detected in March. Firestone's resourceful response has kept the virus from spreading.
The NBA announced a new deal with TV networks today that gives us a glimpse into what one aspect of the future of TV might be like.
The deal, which kicks in two years from now, gives TNT, ABC and ESPN the rights to broadcast professional basketball games through 2025, and one part of that deal will allow ESPN to stream some games online to customers regardless of whether they have a pay-television subscription, allowing the channel to have a much more direct relationship with viewers.
But don’t rush to cut that cable cord just yet. ESPN’s move is a baby step, and we don’t really know yet in what direction.
“What ESPN doesn’t want to do is compete with itself,” says Peter Kafka, a senior editor for Re/Code who covers media and technology. Kafka says ESPN is likely only going to offer live streams to basketball games that are not going to be broadcast on one of its channels.
“What you're not going to be able to do is watch a full suite of NBA games without getting ESPN,” says Kafka.
That’s because ESPN’s cable channels are its cash cow. The network gets about $6 per pay-TV customer, more than any other channel.
At a Re/Code conference last month, ESPN’s CEO John Skipper signaled this latest move is a part of the company’s future, but would not replace its present business model, which relies on pay-TV subscriptions.
“We have two big revenue streams: payments from distributors, advertising. We think about, are there sports events we can offer that the consumer will pay us directly?” Skipper said, adding that the live-streaming services he envisions would be a third revenue stream, but would offer content that’s different than what’s on the TV channels.
“It is incumbent on the NBA and on ESPN to reach audiences that are attractive to advertisers,” says Rebecca Lieb, a media analyst at Altimeter Group.
Lieb says among the most attractive and hard-to-reach audience for advertisers is the 18-to-33-year-old male demographic, which is increasingly cutting the cable cord. And yet, if this audience tries to live stream a sports game today, it would have to have a cable TV plan.
“What I see in this deal is the beginning of a kind of uncoupling of that," Lieb says, predicting that other pay TV networks, such as HBO and Showtime, may also take steps away from a cable-only approach.
Over the weekend, police found the mass graves that are thought to contain the bodies of some of the students.
The web series "Frankenstein, MD" recasts Mary Shelley's titular doctor as "Vicky," fresh out of med school and vlogging with her assistant "Iggy," who only moans "yes, master" sarcastically. The show is born out of a partnership between PBS Digital Studios and Pemberley Digital, which made a name for itself with similar adaptations of Jane Austen novels.
Bernie Su developed "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and "Emma Approved" — webcam updates on "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" respectively — and now "Frankenstein, MD." He says telling stories in four-to-five-minute increments "speaks to our modern culture."
“People want to just get in and get out, get in and get out,” says Su. “What’s challenging for that format for us is when you’re talking about a long story, like a grand narrative.”
But Pemberley Digital’s challenge is even bigger than that. The studio doesn't only update classic literature broken up into YouTube-able chunks, it creates shows with an eye toward building franchises and making real money, which isn't something all web-series creators can say.
Here are five ways Pemberley has turned its web series into a business, starting with "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."
YouTube's partnership program allows Pemberley and other users to get a cut from ads shown before their videos.
The world of Lizzie Bennet and William Darcy has not only expanded to spinoff videos, but pins, a mug, posters and more.
Similar to the YouTube ad program, if Su's company links to another website and that site makes a sale, Pemberley gets a piece.
You can still stream "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," but Pemberly has also put the series out on home video.
"We’ve sold, I believe now, 7,000 units," Su says. "Again, for a show that is available for free online, which is amazing.”
Simon & Schuster published a novelization called "The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet," which retells the series as journal entries. For those keeping score at home, Su says, "Lizzie Bennet is now "a book based on the web series, which is based on a book.”
The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong largely have been peaceful, but many mainland Chinese see the demonstrators as spoiled troublemakers who are asking for too much, too soon.
Hewlett-Packard is splitting in two, the company confirmed this morning. The printing and computer side of the business will go in one direction, and in the other direction will go... everything else, under the name HP Enterprise.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is a software and services business. It does advanced analytics, enterprise development and a number of other consulting services.
The computer printer side is still grappling with the age of the tablet and smartphone, which hit the computer sector hard.
“Not only were consumers purchasing fewer desktops and laptops where HP was strong,” says Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, “but on the smartphones and tablets consumers were doing less printing because tablets can be taken with you and you can view the documents on the tablet itself instead of having to print it.”
The printer and computer side has stabilized over the past few years, and paid down some of its debt. Even so, the Enterprise group had higher margins, says Rubin.
“HP is splitting because there are two different directions and two segments of the business,” he says. “They have different market dynamics, different margin structures, different distribution systems.” HP Inc. (the computer-printer people) has a much bigger consumer-facing marketing component, whereas the Enterprise group is more consulting- and services-focused.
Generally speaking, “independent companies can pursue what’s best for them rather than what a board of directors looking at various subsidiaries would be doing, and Wall Street tends to value that highly,” says Bill Caffee, a securities lawyer with White Summers Caffee and James.
Investors who might’ve liked one side of HP but not the other will be free to invest in just the side they want, another reason why splitting can help valuations. Consumers won’t see much difference; computers and printers will keep the high-powered HP brand.