Our future virtual life

by Grace aka costofcollege

Where does your imagination take you as we consider the ways that technological innovations will continue to change our lives?

Here’s one way learning may be made more efficient and easier.

Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain

“As we discover more about optimising, personalising, and adapting brain stimulation protocols, we’ll likely see these technologies become routine in training and classroom environments.

“It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”

We may be able to implant memories of vacations that we actually never took.

More possible trends:

Anthem Tells Customers to Visit Virtual Doctors, Therapists, and Psychologists
Growing number of insurers push virtual visits to doctor

The Rich Are Already Using Robo-Advisers, and That Scares Banks

The Language Barrier Is About to Fall
Within 10 years, earpieces will whisper nearly simultaneous translations—and help knit the world closer together

Roaches to the rescue: insect provides blueprint for robotic first responder
Researchers at University of California at Berkeley are developing a mechanical roach after finding its exoskeleton is uniquely suited to fitting into small spaces

Robots will force experts to find other routes to the top
If grunt work of professions is automated, an important way that juniors hone skills will be lost

Domino’s Is Testing the World’s First Pizza-Delivery Robot

Isn’t sex the driving force behind so much of technology?

Makers of ‘mindblowing’ sex robot with virtual vagina swamped with orders

The sex toys of the future: Talking high-tech dolls can be given a personality via an app to create the ‘perfect lover’

What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots

And the scariest proposition of all?

A lot of people who make over $350,000 are about to get replaced by software

Let’s discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of how technology will affect the future for us and our children.

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172 thoughts on “Our future virtual life

  1. I have mixed feelings…as much as I see benefits of technology, I also see the benefits of being unplugged and just engaging with nature and people. It is often hard for me, with so many things to juggle, but I think there is benefit to doing nothing.

    Doing certain grunt jobs gives you an appreciation of what it takes to get something done and to understand the underlying elemets of a job. Sort of like using a calculator for basic math with the assumption you don’t really need to know 2+2.

  2. DH was showing me that YouTube video of the Amazon warehouse robots. They are pretty creepy. So once all of the robots take all of our jobs who is going to pay the taxes?:)

  3. If they made a robot that would satisfy Sandusky, are we good with that? Furthermore, would it really work? One of the articles said that the idea was something that a majority of the surveyed men and women agreed would be “inappropriate.”

    At this point in our society, I’m wondering since when appropriate was ever the relevant question.

  4. Hah — I like the “robots taking $300K jobs” article. I think that really points to our current fascination with applying Sabermetrics to all facets of life. As the article notes, robots will always be able to digest data faster and more accurately than humans. But at least at this point, we still need human judgment to evaluate and apply the data appropriately to a new situation, which is never exactly like the historical ones that generated the data.

    I can’t read the article about robots forcing experts to find other ways to the top, but I definitely see the pressure in my practice just on corporate legal budgets. The standard outside counsel business model is that junior lawyers have lower hourly rates because they don’t know as much and so take more time to figure things out, and then the senior people have higher rates because they know more and can get to the answer more quickly, so you make assignments by matching the level of experience to the kind of work involved (e.g., senior partners don’t do research). But about 10 years ago, some clients stopped paying for summer associate time, just on general principle; and now we have some clients who don’t even want to pay for first- and second-year associate time. Their philosophy is that “training” should be on the firm, and they shouldn’t pay for it.

    This is a real practical difficulty for those junior lawyers — if we can’t put them on matters, even at rates that reflect their relative level of knowledge and efficiency — then how are they going to get the training to become the senior lawyers that the clients want to work with? I think you end up with something more like medical residency or post-docs, where baby lawyers work long hours for half pay to get to the point where they can start billing (unless you land a job at a huge firm that can carry the costs of 2-3 years of free training — which then just puts more pressure to get those fewer good jobs that will cover the loans).

    I also think it’s short-sighted — we’re not running a nonprofit here, so if we have provide “free” junior-level work, then we will either have more of that work done by more senior lawyers, or we will have to raise the rates for senior lawyers to offset the free training we are providing for the junior lawyers. The end result will likely be put more mid-sized firms out of business, because the clients they serve are big enough to make these kinds of demands, but they don’t have the overhead structure to carry the costs of several years’ of paid apprenticeships. So you’ll end up with smaller firms serving the smaller fry clients, big firms serving the big boys, and maybe a few specialty firms whom clients need in particular areas.

  5. Atlanta – I think the expectation is that people will modify the skills they develop to meet the demands of the workplace. For example, how many college students really learned how to type prior to the mid-80s, as the expectation was if you were “professional” you would have a secretary or similar to do the typing for you.

    Now, we teach keyboarding to early elementary students and almost everyone types their own documents. While documents might go to someone else for proofing and layout design, especially if multiple people are completing different sections of a report, sometimes this must be done by the writer as well.

    Think about the number of secretaries, editors, typesetting-type folks the trend of do your own typing put out of work. Did anyone really worry about the loss of these jobs?

  6. Excellent analysis of our profession, LfB. The other thing that you didn’t mention is computers having taken over the document review function of younger associates.

  7. LFB: I see your point from the law firm/profitability point of view, but as someone who hires attorneys, I see the client’s point of view, too. I think the current law firm model might have to shift to survive.

  8. Mad Dog, you are very right. But how do the young lawyers (who nobody wants to pay for) develop the skills they need to grow up and get smart? I think LfB had it exactly right when she suggested that the rates of senior lawyers will have to increase to reflect the costs of more junior lawyers.

  9. “But how do the young lawyers (who nobody wants to pay for) develop the skills they need to grow up and get smart?”

    The same way resident physicians do?

  10. PTM: Average is $700/hour in Houston for a corporate securities partner at a large law firm. $900/hour if I use a NY firm. Not sure how much prices can go up. Famous last words…

    That said, we love our attorney, who keeps us on the straight and narrow. We still try and use her as little as possible. : )

  11. LfB, your definition of mid-size is different than mine! :)

    My firm deals with the training issue by not hiring any first-years and/or when they do, paying them 50K. We also don’t see clients griping about associate fees, perhaps because everything is so siloed and there are so few associates to begin with. Also, we don’t have the giant doc reviews to outsource.

  12. Sex does not drive technology: cute cat videos do!!! You can measure Internet capacity in cute-kitties-per-second

  13. large pharmacies, like those in hospitals, already use a lot of robots and have for years. Where I see technology going is towards more and more automated extraction of data via text and data mining. I also see a future in which large private tech companies, who will control all the data, encryption technology, and algorithms, will become more powerful than governments.

  14. @Houston: Do you have time/interest in laying out the client perspective in a little more detail? From my perspective, it is all about rate efficiency — i.e., if I can get an answer twice as fast as a younger associate, then my billing rate should be twice as high, and so the client shouldn’t care which of us does the work. OTOH, you sure don’t want to pay my rates for basic research — you want the cheapest competent researcher possible to do the research and give me a summary, so I can then evaluate/analyze/spot holes or ideas/etc. So from my perspective, the issue is more of implementation than the underlying structure — e.g., people aren’t setting the rates right or managing the assignments correctly. But I also obviously have a limited perspective and so would appreciate more input from the other side of the fence.

  15. I’m glad DH graduated from law school when he did, he had a lot of hours on doc review when he was a first and second year associate. DH’s firm has moved to a eat what you kill type model, especially for older associates. If you have a certain amount of money in the door directly attributable to you then you can get an additional lump sum payment (not a bonus, just additional salary). If you don’t make that minimum threshold no extra payment and your base pay is probably under review if it happens for more than one year.

  16. Do you think an important difference between the law or consulting professions and the medical profession is that medical doctors need to be geographically dispersed? Does that make medicine less hierarchical?

    I imagine a consulting or law firm will have a few senior partners who are decision makers in their areas of expertise, and that nationally, there will be far fewer people at that level than physicians, where one OB/GYN is supposed to have the same capabilities as another.

    In engineering, there is a trade-off between technical depth (becoming senior in a narrow area) and breadth, at least where I work. We have tons of senior technical experts, so I’m developing a niche as a plug-n-play contractor. I get bored easily, so that fits me well. There are surprisingly few people who can get to “mediocre” in a field quickly, though.

  17. Milo- the government pays for most Doctor training through Medicare. It is functionally required. It is the only way to get licensed. Residents primarily serve poorer populations – the model likely doesn’t work for new lawyers to help with poor people who need to do mergers and acquisitions, and don’t need high-quality work done.

  18. LfB – swamped today, but you should also keep in mind, from the client’s perspective, that we see a lot of extra/unnecessary involvement that drives up the bill. For example, do the partner, senior associate and junior associate all need to be on the conference call? I’d suggest in most cases, no. Clients also don’t always think of discussing issues with external counsel by level of expertise. They think of the work as the thing that needs to get done and want an overall estimate for the entire project, that is not then inflated for change x or y or dependent on who is involved.

  19. So obviously the Career of the Future is “sex robot repair tech”.

    “It keeps insisting on cuddling afterwards! Can you adjust its neediness parameters?”

  20. I was the above anon. I have thought a lot about what are the threats to my profession. I think mid-level practitioners have really taken over some professions in a way that was surprising. Anesthesiology is no longer the very high-paying, relaxed specialty that it once was. OB/GYN’s are being supplemented in many areas with mid-level practitioners as well, but I don’t for see that they can ever fully replace the surgical functionality of an OB/GYN. Radiology has been outsourced to low cost cities, Australia and India. So much of my job is explaining things in detail to patients, what negative test results mean, what they can expect, when they need to return. While certainly some of my work can be done by mid-level practitioners, I think my job has a very secure future. The majority of the patients I have do not read the discharge information that they are given or follow it. More than half do not search their symptoms online before they arrive. People are, on the whole, not ready to interact with technology to diagnose and treat their medical conditions.

  21. “They think of the work as the thing that needs to get done and want an overall estimate for the entire project, that is not then inflated for change x or y or dependent on who is involved.”

    @ATM — First, ITA with your point about duplication (which I also put in the “implementation” category vs. “the structure is fundamentally flawed” category).

    But what is interesting to me is that I hear clients say what you said all. the. time. And then we work through, and we give them a fixed fee quote along with an hourly rate option, and I swear, 9 times out of 10, they choose the hourly rates. I think they start off worrying about paying for more work than necessary to accomplish the task, and then once they see “we will do this work for $XXX,” they switch to worrying about overpaying for the work required.

    That said, I do think this gives a market for efficient firms — we have a number of clients who have us on a monthly retainer, for ex., where we then evaluate the spend every 6 mos. or year to make sure it’s fair to both.

  22. LFB: You are correct, and if the situation is laid out and implemented that way, it makes total sense. I would love that. However, on the client side, we don’t see that. I feel the same way reading a legal invoice that I do reading a hospital invoice–I kind of get it, but not 100%.

    For this reason, the firms I hire follow L’s model–very little associate work, lots of partner work. I am more comfortable with this model, as the billing is simpler and it seems that I have more control as a client.

    That said, you guys do important work. I would not dream of being without a really good, experienced attorney.

  23. “Do you think an important difference between the law or consulting professions and the medical profession is that medical doctors need to be geographically dispersed?”

    This is one aspect of the law I find really interesting. Because laws are often state (or country) specific, you’ll almost always need some level of local expertise. However, many states have specialized in certain areas (Del. corporate law, Maryland REITs, etc.) to attract business nationally/globally. NY and UK law are dominant in the cross border transactions I deal with daily, yet these transactions are often supplemented with more local law issues (collateral, corporate authority, etc.) Part of what I like about what I do is figuring out what issues arise out of laws from different jurisdictions and interacting with people expert in the laws of those jurisdictions.

  24. LfB – it really depends on how standardized the work is project to project. We have been outsourcing some work lately, at a flat rate (instead of simply hiring, grumble grumble) and its been interesting to see what we thought was very standard, isn’t. Good for me because my clients have a better sense of the value add internal counsel brings to the table but a PITA to manage.

  25. The articles are all very Matrix-like, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

    A box within the “implant memories of vacations” article spoke about implanting memories of crimes that were not committed by the person remembering them. Or at all. That’s very “Minority Report” to me and ridiculously scary. It’s not difficult to do, according to the study cited, but would lead to a whole level of trust when it comes to confessions. And the need to remove the criminal from the crime. By that I mean putting less confidence in a signed confession and more into the evidence. This would mean a total overhaul of how we solve crimes and I’m not sure it’s feasible. Too big brother for me, honestly.

    My job is safe for now. While a bot could compile the data in hand, the bot could not come up with the synthesis. Nor could it do the research. Not everything exists online, and the personal connections needed to locate some of those things are not possible with bots.

    I’m sure one day my job will be replaced, but I doubt it would be in my working life.

  26. LfB, all of the deals I worked in involved attorneys from TT firms, or one step below. All of the deals were bond deals or bankruptcies. Most of these firms had departments that specialized in our specific bond class, and the associates were able to quickly learn these asset classes. I didn’t mind working with the same associates over, and over if they understood the deals. The partners were great for more complex issues.

  27. I think there are 2 risks beyond being replaced by robots: 1) being outsourced, which is happening more and more in white collar professions, and 2) simply losing your job due to downsizing, change in direction, etc.

    I worry about losing my job, but not to robots.

  28. Again, what worries me is not robots but the idea of large corporations controlling the data, the encryption, and the algorithms. When all of that comes together, we will have no power at all

  29. I was at KDD a couple of years ago (big data/text mining conference) and one of the scariest papers I saw presented was on a text mining algorithm that used Twitter feeds to predict where people would congregate for a demonstration. Their algorithm was quite accurate. They plugged it as a way for people to figure out where to go to demonstrate, but all I could think was: what if Putin, or Isis, has algorithms like this.

    Of course the credit card companies have been doing this for years, and they are amazingly accurate.

  30. I guess I’m glad I was a young lawyer when I was too. I remember with much affection my mentor– an older, gruff senior lawyer, who was at the pinnacle of his field.

    I sat in on every single phone conversation that that partner had with the client on any deal I was working on. Every single call. After his secretary answered the call I would be summoned– and found, even in the bathroom– before the partner would pick up the call. Just the sort of duplication that LfB was talking about eliminating. It actually was pretty efficient, but wouldn’t cut it today.

    As the junior associate, I knew everything. Not the strategy or anything (I had no gray hair then) but everything in the documents, all the background, all the people– that was my job. I knew the weeds. Every weed. I had to.

    All the partner’s calls were on the speaker phone (new back then). There was a mute button. My purpose during those calls was to feed information to the senior partner. I was constantly running around his desk showing him something, writing him notes with relevant facts, motioning when he needed to put the phone on mute so I could speak, summoning his secretary when he was about to dictate a paragraph, taking notes.

    At a very large multiple of my billing rate, it would have been silly for that partner to know obscure details– he needed the answers to questions involving details of course– but providing them was my job. His job was the big picture and client relations and making the big decisions. My job was to shut up and make him look good.

    And learn how to be a lawyer. From listening to him.

    Very few clients ever knew I was in the room.

    He did this with all his deals and all the associates he trusted. It was very efficient in that he always had the answers, or the information to derive the answers at a low cost to the client. Because someone else did the grunt work, he had the time to do more deals making more money for the firm.

    As LfB and Houston have said, that approach wouldn’t cut it today, but it certainly worked back then for the firm and for the client.

  31. I wonder if once sex robots get to the point of being widely available and reasonably convincing substitutes for the real thing, people will have a lot less person-to-person sex. Sure, they’ll still fall in love, want to procreate, and so on — the robots won’t replace that — but that still leaves a lot of getting-it-on that could be more efficient, easy/ inexpensive, and safe with the involvement of robots.

  32. PTM – was your time on those calls billed to the client? I went through a very similar training (maybe not as long ago), and for sure a lot of my time was written off by various partners, particularly when I was very junior. That process can certainly create efficiencies, but can also be easily abused.

    Those were also the days where relationships mattered. These days, unfortunately, that is less the case.

  33. MM – I’m petrified of that scenario… I wonder if a cash only society would creep up? Like a counter culture movement? Or are people so used to “big brother” that they won’t rise up? By the time this level of control is implemented, most people won’t remember a time when big brother wasn’t watching at some level. The world keeps moving closer and closer to 1984.

  34. So what do the credit card companies know about me, Mooshi, and why should I be scared?

  35. They know all the places you have travelled, all the crap you buy, including healhcare products you have charged. If you pay for your college tuition on a credit card, they have that. They know what movies you downloaded from Amazon. Using data mining algorithms, they can put all of it together and infer even more about you and your behavior, and what you are likely to do. And, they can sell all of that to third parties.

  36. Given that I’m not Paris Hilton, does anyone care that I buy 4 gallons of milk/week, prefer Huggies and order childrens’ clothes in volume from Gymboree and Kohl’s? Given the volume of formula coupons that the register prints for me, Big Brother can’t even tell that I don’t use formula.

  37. I am not scared of the future. I bet my 13 year old he would have a hyper drive in his lifetime.

  38. PTM – in re-reading my post, I may have come across as snarky. Not my intention at all and my apologies if I did.

    I would not want to be a young attorney trying for partnership these days.

  39. Every single one of the half-dozen times our credit card has been compromised, they picked it up immediately and contacted us. Don’t think we ever had an authorized transaction that they did NOT flag, and there have been only a handful of times that legitimate transactions were held up for confirmation. With all of DH’s travel and our simultaneous use of the same card number in different geographic locations, it’s amazing that the algorithms work as well as they do. I think it might be fun to work in the fraud department at one of those firms.

  40. Mooshi, I can see where this information is of use to companies whose customers are otherwise anonymous, but knowing with 90% accuracy that I’ll be at work tomorrow seems utterly unremarkable.

    I can stereotype and do better than those data mining algorithms. I just hired three ~18 year old LDS babysitters who all have no fewer than two younger brothers, based mostly on that information. I did not do any background checks. They are all great babysitters and I’m pretty sure they would have passed background checks, had I wanted to bother.

  41. Using data mining algorithms, they can put all of it together and infer even more about you and your behavior, and what you are likely to do. And, they can sell all of that to third parties

    Ok, why is that a problem? If it says, i know from your blog commenting that you’re looking for a comfortable mid century modern couch – how about this? Oh, exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! How is that a problem.

  42. Yeah. Still not scared. That Daily Beast article was just frothy, and the Bloomberg one didn’t scare me.

  43. Mooshi,

    Ah, I see the problem. If you couldn’t get a car loan or a job because you were likely to get sick or divorced. My understanding is that in France if you get a mortgage you have to get a medical checkup so the bank has some assurance that you’ll be healthy enough to pay most of it off. I think most of us would agree that is something the bank doesn’t need to know.

  44. “I think most of us would agree that is something the bank doesn’t need to know.”

    I’m not so sure I agree with that example. And if a bank offered lower mortgage rates exclusively to a population of people less likely to die with outstanding debt, I think any of us would jump on it. Is it really that different than a lot of the other factors that go into credit rating?

  45. And if a bank offered lower mortgage rates exclusively to a population of people less likely to die with outstanding debt,

    So, a newlywed couple where one has Type 1 diabetes should have to pay higher rates for a mortgage (or be denied a mortgage entirely) due to the higher risk of death and disability associated with that diagnosis?

  46. Is it really that different than a lot of the other factors that go into credit rating?

    Your credit rating only pulls in factors related to your use of credit, age of accounts, credit available, credit utilization, payment history, etc. By adding in health scores your allowing them access to vastly more information about you.

  47. Sorry, ATM. I was picking up my kid. We have a nice little monsoon this afternoon to remind us that summer is coming.

    The answer to your question is yes, my time was billed. The partner I’m talking about was, as I say gruff. As far as billing was concerned he’d just say, “I bill all my associates’ time. I won’t work with associates who aren’t good or waste time.”

    Actually, he didn’t and wouldn’t. Still I’m sure some of my time got written off.

  48. Rhett – I was thinking of this sort of thing, which apparently is some degree of against the rules (for now).

    [blockquote]
    A rare glimpse into the details of behavioral modeling was revealed in a federal lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in June 2008 against subprime credit card marketer CompuCredit Corp. According to the lawsuit, CompuCredit used an undisclosed behavioral scoring model to track customer purchases. The company lowered credit limits on cardholders who shopped at certain establishments or used certain services, including pawnshops, massage parlors, tire retread shops, marriage counselors and bars and nightclubs.
    [/blockquote]

    http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/how-shopping-can-affect-credit-1282.php

  49. The algorithms on human behavior are really interesting. I loved the tv show Numbers. I know people who work in credit card fraud. Your credit history is hurt by late night atm runs at a casino, or a strip club. Additionally, for retail algorithms, they can tell what stores on what days (give or take) will be hit up by serial shoplifters (the kind that are gang controlled and steal a pallet of Tide).

  50. I’ve only recently noticed that if I Google a retail store’s hours, I get a chart showing the busiest times for that store, by the hour and by the day. It seems to be a good tool for trying to do your shopping most efficiently.

  51. My concern with algorithms is where they go askew.

    I have read a few articles recently where automated responses/Google searches/Apps are wrong, misogynist, racist, etc.

    There was also an article in the NYT where a man had a warrant, went to court, got the warrant discharged/cleared by a judge, but it was never cleared in “the system” so he was picked up an additional 4 times (!) for the already discharged warrant/ He spent time in jail, more time in court, etc. trying to get the warrant really and truly cleared. He is now suing.

  52. Peak shopping time at my local grocery store M-Th is around 5-6 pm, but on Friday it’s closer to 3pm. I wonder how they get that data.

  53. “marriage counselors and bars and nightclubs”

    pawn shops makes sense and gambling , but the above shouldn’t hurt your credit

  54. Wine – Why is it OK to use the pawn shops and gambling against someone, but not marriage counseling and ‘tonks?

    If a lot of defaults are preceded by divorce, and a lot of divorces are preceded by marriage counseling…

  55. I’m not sure about marriage counselors, but bars and nightclubs and the times you visit, make you a risky customer. if you have a history of paying your bar tab at 3:30 in the morning, you most likely are partaking in risker behavior than those that grab a bite to eat and drink at 8pm. Again, that might not be the case for some people, but as a whole…good things do not happen after midnight.

  56. Milo I was just looking at it from the viewpoint of if it would hurt their personal finances.

    if someone has a gambling problem, I don’t want to lend them money, or if their cash flow is so bad they have to pawn things

    lots of folks go to marriage counseling who do not divorce, I’d say most of my married friends with kids have been to counseling, only a couple have divorced…

  57. Except when you’re on swing shift and get off at midnight, then you go to the clubs (and find all the Skidmore girls ;) )

    The data identifies all of those things as indicators of higher default likelihood. I’m just wondering why some are acceptable to use and others are not.

  58. Lemon, if someone works second shift, they are more likely to stop at a bar after midnight than at 8pm like we might do that work 1st shift

  59. The thought that we will be increasingly rewarded and penalized based on generalized data gathering is indeed scary. This will inevitably make us more likely to try to cover our tracks or to alter our behavior, but not necessarily in good ways. Maybe marriage counseling could potentially save my marriage but I decide not to go because of the negative ramifications.

  60. “lots of folks go to marriage counseling who do not divorce”

    Lots of folks go to Vegas who do not have a gambling problem.

  61. true Milo, I skimmed the article and took it to mean more every weekend at the local casino versus an annual trip to Vegas

  62. “use cash for “risky” business”

    Seriously. Some people use cash instead of their easypay or similar cards to pay bridge and highway tolls so their movement cannot be tracked. But many toll locations have done away with cash options.

  63. “Ok, why is that a problem?”

    Because none of here gets any say in what kind of use is “reasonable.” I really don’t care that Amazon knows that I prefer Charmin to Cottonelle. But I don’t particularly want the government to, say, track which synagogue I attend and decide that I am worthy of some eavesdropping as a result, because you know those radical Jews and all that. Or to have an employer retrieve my voting records and decide to fire me because I didn’t vote for their particular party line.

    Technology is just a tool that can be used for good or evil (or the purely banal). I don’t care about the first or last, but I can’t stop imagining what the Nazis could have done with one good supercomputer.

    I also know I can’t control what other people believe, or what kind of government they want to vote into power. All I can do is advocate for a right to privacy and limits on what this stuff can reasonably be used for.

  64. moral of the story – use cash for “risky” business :)

    Then cash bank withdrawals will be a huge red flag.

  65. Met at a bar, bought the ring at a pawn shop, honeymooned in Vegas, and then started counseling. You’re screwed.

    I remember reading something along the lines of behavioral predictions that one of the best things you can buy is a carbon monoxide detector. One of the worst was some sort of skull thing to accessorize your car.

  66. COC – thanks for pointing out that Googling a store’s hours gets you a chart of the busiest times for the store. I hadn’t noticed that before.

  67. “Or to have an employer retrieve my voting records and decide to fire me because I didn’t vote for their particular party line.”

    How you actually vote is still technically a secret, but both parties have gotten very good at watching who votes when, and unless it’s every single time, they can make an amazingly accurate guess based on when you participated and when you stayed home.

  68. “The thought that we will be increasingly rewarded and penalized based on generalized data gathering is indeed scary.”

    Hasn’t the insurance industry always done this?

  69. They already know all of that about me, should they care to look. But the problem is when they can fine tune your refi rate based on whether the Mrs has been looking a maternity clothes or the Mr a motorcycle. Or deny you a job or promotion because they see donations to Hillel and not Campus Crusade or vice versa.

  70. “Hasn’t the insurance industry always done this?”

    We’ll have sensors in our cars soon. My understanding is that what they’re really looking for is how often you have a sudden braking incident, as that’s the biggest predictor of getting into accidents.

  71. “Then cash bank withdrawals will be a huge red flag.”

    most people direct deposit, but if not, the cash never hits the bank in the first place

    and I doubt $80/month on marriage counseling from the ATM will cause red flags

  72. Somewhat related – I came across this story about employers who run credit checks as a screen before hiring employees. This has become a civil rights issue in some places. However, according to this article banning credit checks may have the opposite effect:

    “A new study from Robert Clifford, an economist at the Boston Fed, and Daniel Shoag, an assistant professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, finds that when employers are prohibited from looking into people’s financial history, something perverse happens: African-Americans become more likely to be unemployed relative to others.

    There were always going to be winners and losers from these bans, Shoag says. That’s because these kinds of regulations don’t really create new jobs. They help some people to get hired at the expense of others…. In states that passed credit-check bans, it became easier for people with bad credit histories to compete for employment. But disproportionately, they seem to have elbowed aside black job-seekers….

    To understand how banning credit checks can lead to unforeseen repercussions, consider the problem from the employer’s perspective. A single job opening these days can get hundreds of applications. Since hiring managers can’t interview every candidate, they need some way to narrow the field. Filtering out people with bad credit helps them bring the number of applicants down to a manageable size. But if employers can’t look into a job-seeker’s financial history, they try something else.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/23/the-law-was-supposed-to-reduce-discrimination-but-it-made-hiring-more-racially-biased/

  73. Wondering how many victims of the Brussels bombings would have traded a bit less data privacy for a bit more government knowledge of the location and activities of the perpetrators.

  74. Hasn’t the insurance industry always done this?

    Using your FICO score to determine your car and homeowners insurance rates is relatively new.

  75. One of the worst was some sort of skull thing to accessorize your car.

    Not TruckNutz? I’m surprised.

  76. which makes me wonder, how much cash do you guys get from the ATM each month?

    some months would be none, but if I’m going to a local carnival or amusement park, I might get out $100 even though lots of vendors take cards now

  77. “Not TruckNutz? I’m surprised.”

    Just spitballing here, but TruckNutz makes me picture someone who’s a little bit older and more steadily employed than skulls.

  78. I know people who run their budgets with all cash or nearly all cash, a la Dave Ramsey.
    We vary in how much cash we use, but my farmstand and National Forest campground purchases almost always are paid in cash.

  79. “which makes me wonder, how much cash do you guys get from the ATM each month?”

    I never get anything other than the $400 limit, usually from 7-Eleven, as they have an agreement not to charge NFCU members an ATM fee.

    Most of it goes to our sitter and housecleaner.

  80. Scarlett – Europe’s data privacy laws are a direct result of WWII. Recent events have shown that the pendulum may have swung a bit too far. The stories on the inadequacies (to put it mildly) of the Belgian authorities’ security agencies are shocking.

  81. Wondering how many victims of the Brussels bombings would have traded a bit less data privacy for a bit more government knowledge of the location and activities of the perpetrators.

    That’s a straw argument! We are talking about tracking by private companies for the purpose of selling or not selling us products based on some data they have collected! No one is arguing about key word and behavior tracking and analysis done by governments (which they are obviously failing at)

  82. Wondering how many victims of the Brussels bombings would have traded a bit less data privacy for a bit more government knowledge of the location and activities of the perpetrators.

    To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”

  83. We’ve only taken $200 in cash out from the ATM so far this year. Most of that went to a restaurant that we like that is cash only. I also spent $10 on a March Madness pool at work and $12 on Girl Scout cookies. I rarely use cash at all. I’ll usually take out $60/week during Farmer’s Market season, but I think most of the vendors actually take credit cards. Most of them seem to use Square.

    Our housecleaner uses Chase EPay.

  84. Rhett – No, I don’t. But I wonder if that wasn’t the writer’s inspiration for Walter White to put an industrial grade electromagnet inside a van, park it next to the police evidence facility, and wipe the hard drive of the laptop they had in possession.

  85. So what is y’all’s opinionon on the kerfuffle over the San Bernandino shooter’s phone? I have some strong opinions, and they are probably not what you think.

  86. I think I tend to be more concerned about the use of data mining by big companies simply because i am pretty familiar with the algorithms and know how good they are. For example, someone said that the health insurance companies have always tracked data to set rates, and on paper they did, but the reality was that they weren’t very good at it and didn’t have very much of your data, so they actually didn’t do all that much. Most of their data was in the form of paper documents, or scanned paper documents, that couldn’t be easily read by computers. They also didn’t have the computing power to do much in the way of analysis. Now, everything is computer readable, and they have the computing horsepower. Because data mining algorithms are very good at making predictions that humans couldn’t have guessed by slogging through huge amounts of data, insurance companies will increasingly be able to predict future illnesses and health conditions in a way that they never could before. That may not matter much because health insurance companies are so regulated. But if credit card companies could also start using your health related purchases to make predictions.

    The other thing that concerns me is how easy it is to combine big datasets to put things together.

  87. “Wondering how many victims of the Brussels bombings would have traded a bit less data privacy for a bit more government knowledge of the location and activities of the perpetrators.”

    Wonder how many of DH’s relatives would have traded anything for a bit less government knowledge of their location and activities. We’ll never know, because everyone except his grandparents and two great-aunts in Belgium got wiped out in the camps.

    Two sides to every coin. You trust our government to use its tracking powers for good. I don’t.

  88. I get probably $200-300 / month cash. It mostly goes toward lunches during the week, shopping at farmers’ markets and a bakery near my work, and allowances. Actually I’d get out more if the kids didn’t so often ask for allowance money to be credited toward an online purchase or some such.

  89. I have some strong opinions, and they are probably not what you think.

    So what are they? I would have thought you’d be on the side of strong data security.

  90. “To quote Benjamin Franklin, ‘Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.'”

    To quote Abe Lincoln, “More rogues than honest men find shelter under habeas corpus.”

  91. “Two sides to every coin. You trust our government to use its tracking powers for good. I don’t.”

    The government is us. The legacy of the Holocaust and the Cold War has obviously contributed to European uneasiness with data sharing, but surely ISIS is a far greater risk to society than is Big Brother.

  92. totally off topic: My 16 year old has to have a jacket and dress pants for a presentation he is doing on Friday. My not very fashionable DH took him out just now, and they returned home with a black dress jacket, and khaki pants. Is this a normal combination? I always think of khakis as not too formal, so they would go with a blue blazer or maybe a tweed kind of jacket. And black suit jackets to me would go with black dress pants, or maybe gray dress pants. But I am no expert on male business dress. Opinions?

  93. In case it’s not obvious, I agree with you that black jacket and khaki pants is kind of an odd combination. But since this is just for a high school presentation, who cares. You can pick him up some gray pants at Forever 21 next time you’re there for the jacket’s future outings — they have cheap men’s pants. Or go for the quirky look and pick up the more colorful pants they also carry (like primary colors) which actually could work in a non-conservative way with a black jacket.

  94. My kids leave the house with zero cash, and usually they’re fine. But sometimes machines are out of order or other glitches occur, so they’re stuck without money. Still, they can;t get it into their heads that having some cash on hand is a good idea.

    Somehow, a navy blazer seems more appropriate. I think khakis are fine for a teen. But I’m really out of my element here . . .

  95. Also, as a general strategy, there are some decent and cheap boys’ and men’s suits and blazers you can get on Amazon so if you buy new dress clothes when the old ones are outgrown, just on spec, you’ll have them when something like this comes up. I do that and I have yet to have them go unworn. (Obviously in the case of tuxedo boy he looks for every possible occasion for dressing up. Free dress day at middle school? Tuxedo!)

  96. MyDS reports that most of the other boys have been wearing full black dress suits for this presentation (they are presenting scientific research papers). My guess is that a full black suit is all a lot of boys own, leftover from a wedding or bar mitzvah

  97. Navy blazer and khaki pants (plus tie and non-athletic shoes with dark socks) is the standard “dress” uniform for teenage boys and covers a multitude of events. Agree that the black jacket is an odd choice. Any chance someone could swap it out for a navy one?

  98. Are they khaki pants? Or are they tan dress pants. That’s actually a big difference.

  99. MM, is it state science fair time in NY? My daughter is in ‘business dress’ this week for that reason.

  100. I am in shopping-for-kid hell as well. I have been instructed to find a “soft” white button front shirt for a certain particular child. ONE THAT ISN’T SCRATCHY. If anyone has a preferred brand of truly soft button front shirts, please oh please let me know.

  101. Even I wouldn’t buy DS a black jacket and khaki pants to wear together. I’d sooner have him wear black jeans with that jacket.

    When DS needed a suit for his debate tourneys, he inherited my old interview suit from my college days that will probably never fit me again. When he needed a tux for orchestra concerts, he inherited my tux from my single days that will probably never fit me again.

  102. HM, on first reading your comment, I wondered why your DD would be doing state SF in NY.

  103. “I prefer Charmin to Cottonelle”

    DW recently bought a bunch of Cottonelle (probably from Costco). I find it preferable to Charmin.

  104. From my perspective, it is all about rate efficiency — i.e., if I can get an answer twice as fast as a younger associate, then my billing rate should be twice as high, and so the client shouldn’t care which of us does the work.

    LfB, then why not bill by the job/request rather than by the hour at different rates based on who is doing the work? Tell the client the request cost $x and will be done by Y time and it doesn’t matter who does the work or what their rate is.

  105. Finn, all that teenager had to do was lie. Pretty easy for me as a teenager.

  106. “Navy blazer and khaki pants (plus tie and non-athletic shoes with dark socks) is the standard “dress” uniform for teenage boys and covers a multitude of events. Agree that the black jacket is an odd choice. Any chance someone could swap it out for a navy one?”

    I agree. A navy jacket will come in very handy. If you buy it slightly large, you can get 2 years of wear out of it.

  107. My view of college is that is part of the start we want our kids to have in life. We don’t have a family business, so the odds are they will support themselves with whatever skills the pick up between age 18 and 25. If, on the other hand, our oldest did lawn care for his last 2 years of high school and asked to use his college money to buy a yard business, I would look at that as a good use of the college $.

  108. I love cash and withdraw about 1000 a month, and I keep at least 250 in my wallet and 500 in mixed bills in a drawer just in case. I pay out about 600 a month in cash to individuals, 100 a month for bridge games, 100 in tips. If I am in a hurry I’ll use cash at a restaurant. I never use a card for anything under $20. I know that you hate to be behind the old lady who uses cash as opposed to swiping or tapping something. At least I just toss a bill at the cashier and don’t fish in my change purse for the pennies. Groceries and gas have extra cash back on the credit card, so I always use credit there.

  109. Lark – it has been a couple of years since I’ve had to buy them, but Hollister had the softest ones we found. We bought a handful once we found them because it was so hard to find one that felt alright.

  110. The default formal dress for boys here is khaki or tan dress pants, blue blazer, white or black socks, boat shoes and a tie preferably red/maroon or a bow tie. Choice of shirt varies. Vineyard Vines is a favorite store down here for said outfit.

  111. I know that you hate to be behind the old lady who uses cash as opposed to swiping or tapping something.

    I don’t mind that at all. Just as long as you’re not writing a check.

  112. Even if you’re not fishing for exact change, using cash is slower because you have to wait for change and put it somewhere.
    There is a special circle of hell waiting for those who write a check at the checkout counter, with dispensation for those who have their checkbooks out and every item entered except for the amount.

  113. You guys are far too wound up. This is no way to live. Where are you in such a rush to go, anyway? Relax. Take a look at the tabloid headlines. Chat with the person behind you.

  114. “MyDS reports that most of the other boys have been wearing full black dress suits for this presentation ”

    I suspect they’re wearing charcoal or dark navy. I have an older version of your son, and my son would probably say black when it’s actually a dark color. Not really observant about these things.

  115. “LfB, then why not bill by the job/request rather than by the hour at different rates based on who is doing the work?” — @DD, we offer that where it’s feasible, and more often than not the clients say no. But in many cases, you can’t know how big/little it’s going to be at the outset (e.g. when I do enforcement defense, it could fizzle into nothing, or it could take 3-5 years).

    @Meme — I don’t mind people who pay cash; if you are efficient (and I am confident you are), it can be just as fast as swiping with signature. I reserve my scorn for people who just. can’t. figure. it. out. E.g., beginning to rummage through their purse looking for their wallet only after the total rings up. Or — the worst of the worst — people who wait for the entire transaction to be rung up, and *then* take out the checkbook and start filling it in (“what date is it?”).

  116. “Where are you in such a rush to go, anyway?”

    In one case, it was my daughter’s Christmas concert, which I missed the beginning of because of the sweet little old lady who needed two separate price checks, happily chatted with the cashier, and *then* finally pulled out the checkbook to start filling it out.

    In most cases, though, the answer is just “anywhere but the checkout line.”

  117. “In most cases, though, the answer is just “anywhere but the checkout line.”

    Learn to enjoy life wherever you find yourself. It’s like the people who fight hours of miserable traffic and congestion and hassle in order to get somewhere where they can *relax*.

    Relax now. There are things to read, there are sights to enjoy and things to observe, there are usually interesting people to talk to.

    For some of you, I don’t think it’s so much about the checkout line. I think you’re more bothered by feeling a loss of control. Just go with it.

  118. “Where are you in such a rush to go, anyway?”
    doesn’t bother me unless I’m running late or my son is having a meltdown

  119. “DW recently bought a bunch of Cottonelle (probably from Costco).”

    Our Costco doesn’t carry anything but the Scott industrial stuff, Kirkland (one of the only bad Kirkland products), and Charmin. I wonder if I could campaign for the stores in our area to carry it. Along with Jif peanut butter.

    Lark – I can’t remember how old your kids are. Are you telling me that there is no end in sight to the pickiness for “comfy” and “soft” clothes? Buying sweatpants and shirts with no embellishment is fine, but he’s very Mr. Pitt about his socks & it drives me batty as he will reject any new styles, yet he keeps outgrowing them. The couple times a year we have to get him into nice clothes, you’d think we were torturing him by his reaction. Meanwhile, when his teacher told him that he had to dress up because they were going on a field trip to a play, he did it without as much complaint.

    LFB – whenever you talk about the troubles you have with your business model, I realize how similar it is to my industry (advertising). We have a lot of the same struggles.

  120. I don’t feel like I have many issues in the checkout line. I don’t know if it’s because I’m enjoying flipping through magazines or spacing out & not paying attention or if I just don’t actually encounter very many issues. I do occasionally get the new checkout person who has to look up every produce code & has to ask me to identify all my produce, which is not that big of a deal. Admittedly, I am not usually in a rush at the grocery store anyway.

    I haven’t seen someone write a check in years. We occasionally write one at Home Depot when we buy something for the condo association. I don’t think Whole Foods or Mariano’s even accept checks. I don’t even see it at Costco, and that’s where I do see people take out giant wads of cash to pay.

  121. Ivy – I’ve given up on my son wearing anything but sweats. He’s only 6, so he might change, but I doubt it. He refuses to wear anything with a button. He’ll wear a zipper on a sweatshirt/jacket, but not on a sweater or pullover. I am very picky when it comes to the way clothes feel and absolutely cannot concentrate if anything I’m wearing is remotely uncomfortable, so I have a lot of empathy for my son.

  122. But that circle is nothing compared to the circle waiting for the scam artists who leave threatening voicemail messages about IRS enforcement proceedings. Instead of deleting the message as I usually do, I’ve already called back twice to ask for details about the enforcement proceeding and to point out that “Lisa Brown” is not actually a government agent but a scam artist who should stop calling my number. I am going to try calling back repeatedly today to waste their time.

  123. “You guys are far too wound up.”

    I don’t really mind life’s little inefficiencies as much as I used to. I can make all sorts of excuses for those who aren’t as fast as I like to be, because I spent a few years not being nearly as fast as I liked to be. DH is not so tolerant, so I see all of these scenarios through his eyes. Unfortunately, the only place with tabloids is the supermarket, which has lots of checkout aisles and very good employees, so there is no time to read them. If only the big-box retailers would swap out their impulse items for junk reading.

  124. @ Ivy – my oldest is a tween and there is no end in sight. A collared shirt and khakis are fine since that’s what he wears to school every day per the uniform, so we can get him in that with no problem for outside-of-school events. But, the blue blazer, button front shirt, and tie requirement for several upcoming dates (May is the new December) are going to push us all over the edge.

    To be fair, I’m pretty sure my husband never outgrew these issues either, from the way his tie comes off as he’s walking to his car in the parking lot…

  125. My DS has gotten much better about dressing up. He does look from the corner of his eye at the older teens dressing up (which they do for “nice”) events. I am surprised by the change – actually combing his hair, putting on the deodorant (school suggestion for teens). The school requires shirts to be tucked in, belts etc. (I don’t know all the rules but the kids do).

  126. @Scarlett – ugh. I ran into a particularly aggressive breed of fake collector a few years ago. They were threatening to send me to jail if I didn’t start sending money. They called and told me they were with the “government agency” when I asked him which one, they said they didn’t have to tell me.

    I looked them up online (based on the phone number) and found out that they got information from payday loan companies. They would use the exhaustive employment and house details to make very specific threats, to people who are clearly living on the financial edge anyway. I’ve never had a payday loan, but the person with my phone number had one.

    Anyway I pursued this to the level of trying to speak with my local law-enforcement, district attorney, and no one could help me because they were calling across state lines. It was really sad. I was not at risk of sending them anything, but I feel bad for people who don’t understand the system and think that a private collector may come and arrest him for debts they don’t owe.

  127. Even if you’re not fishing for exact change, using cash is slower because you have to wait for change and put it somewhere.

    The new chip readers make credit card payments take much longer now. Cash is definitely quicker.

    I haven’t seen someone write a check in years. We occasionally write one at Home Depot when we buy something for the condo association. I don’t think Whole Foods or Mariano’s even accept checks. I don’t even see it at Costco, and that’s where I do see people take out giant wads of cash to pay.

    I pay by check at Costco, but they make it so easy because you give them the blank check, and they stick in the register and it fills it out for you.

  128. Because I know Finn wants to know about this, the RD acceptance rate at Stanford this year was 3.6%. Which means RMS article was not that far off.

  129. One of my peninsula works for Stanford now. She said if you take out the band, athletes, legacies and a few other have to admit…..you’re close to 1% in the regular pool.

  130. There are a lot of people who still prefer to receive paper checks because they want them now. In addition to the usual residential contractors and repairmen, when the volunteer leaders at church or Scouts are collecting checks for something, it’d be kind of obnoxious to tell them that you’d rather send it through electronic check payment and to keep an eye on their mailboxes.

    Just write a damn check.

  131. ” She said if you take out the band”

    Band? Band gets preference?

    It’s too late for DS, but not too late for DD to switch from orchestra to band.

  132. “you’re close to 1% in the regular pool.”

    A couple of years ago, about a quarter of the senior class at my kids’ school applied there, so obviously there are a lot of applicants who aren’t up to their academic standards who are applying. What’s scarier are the stats like rejecting 69% of the applicants with 2400s on their SATs.

  133. “Just write a damn check.”

    Who said that they wouldn’t write a check if the person that they are paying wanted one? I write checks in the types of situations that you describe, just not at stores. And I rarely see people writing checks at stores.

  134. Milo, do you often end up standing in line for 20+ minutes? Or when you suggest simply enjoying the moment, are you picturing more like a three minute wait that turns into a five minute wait?

  135. Me at Giant. Or me at Safeway.

    Wegman’s on a bad day is 10-15. But at least they try. Safeway will have 5-6 people in each line because they have only 3 lines open.

  136. Band? Band gets preference?

    Dude, how can you not know that? You went there.

  137. “simply enjoying the moment”

    A lot of people do that by playing with their phones.

  138. “Wegman’s on a bad day is 10-15.”

    I’ve NEVER seen this. There are never more than two people ahead of you, and even that’s rare. Even Walmart, it’s never more than two or three people in any checkout lane.

    It must be a function of population density.

  139. “I will at least provide hints.”

    You better do more than that, or email me or something. You can’t talk about college this and college that for years and not tell us how it all works out.

  140. You better do more than that, or email me or something. You can’t talk about college this and college that for years and not tell us how it all works out.

    Right?? And did he get the money you expected from the NMF stuff? Jeez Louise.

  141. “It must be a function of population density.”

    Nah, I never wait in 20 minute lines either. I try to avoid going at busy times, but usually even when I do, they have so many lanes open that it isn’t more than 5-10 minutes tops.

    The longest lines are at Costco, and even then it’s nowhere near 20 minutes – they are efficient.

  142. Well, *I* get the fun of waiting in 20 minute lines from time to time. And 5-10 minute lines regularly. I don’t try to squeeze in store visits when I’m on a tight schedule so I don’t stress that much about it, but it’s hardly what I’d characterize as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy life.

  143. I’ve NEVER seen this. There are never more than two people ahead of you, and even that’s rare. Even Walmart, it’s never more than two or three people in any checkout lane.

    It must be a function of population density.

    That’s like all those articles Slate writes about dealing with the obscenely long lines at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never seen that at the ones here. Apparently it’s unique to the NYC stores.

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