Category: Internet & social media

Google launches its AI-powered jobs search engine

Techcrunch:

To create this comprehensive list, Google first has to remove all of the duplicate listings that employers post to all of these job sites. Then, its machine learning-trained algorithms sift through and categorize them. These job sites often already use at least some job-specific markup to help search engines understand that something is a job posting (though often, the kind of search engine optimization that worked when Google would only show 10 blue links for this type of query now clutters up the new interface with long, highly detailed job titles, for example).

Once you find a job, Google will direct you to the job site to start the actual application process. For jobs that appeared on multiple sites, Google will link you to the one with the most complete job posting. “We hope this will act as an incentive for sites to share all the pertinent details in their listings for job seekers,” a Google spokesperson told me.

As for the actual application process itself, Google doesn’t want to get in the way here and it’s not handling any of the process after you have found a job on its service.

It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t try to filter jobs based on what it already knows. As Zakrasek quipped, the fact that you like to go fishing doesn’t mean you are looking for a job on a fishing boat, after all.

Google is very clear about the fact that it doesn’t want to directly compete with Monster, CareerBuilder and similar sites. It currently has no plans to let employers posts jobs directly to its jobs search engine for example (though that would surely be lucrative). “We want to do what we do best: search,” Zakrasek said. “We want the players in the ecosystem to be more successful.” Anything beyond that is not in Google’s wheelhouse, he added.

If I wanted a large data set for training an AI to identify, understand and track individuals, this is exactly the service I’d launch to get one.  And I’m sure Google currently has no plans to allow people to list jobs directly on Google.

On the rise of unproductive entrepreneurs like Travis Kalanick

Financial Times:

Entrepreneurs are universally celebrated, but what if modern day entrepreneurship is creating ventures that do more harm than good?

piece this week in Harvard Business Review by Robert E. Litan and Ian Hathaway reminds us of this point by citing the work of William Baumol, who passed away last month.

Baumol’s overarching theory is fantastically compelling. It suggests the number of entrepreneurs in an economy is essentially fixed and what influences a nation’s entrepreneurial output is how those entrepreneurs are incentivised.

As per our own longstanding argument that innovation should not be treated as a universally positive phenomenon — since innovation comes in both good and bad forms — the view here is that the underlying incentive structure of the economy in which an entrepreneur operates dictates whether ventures are productive or unproductive.

As HBR’s Litan concludes:

If the U.S. is going to tackle its many problems, we are going to have to find ways to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to start innovative, productive businesses, rather than dedicating their efforts to co-opting government in order to secure economic advantage.

It should be noted that no company exemplifies this unproductive practice more than Uber.

Hence it’s worrying that amidst all the focus on Uber’s horrible corporate culture, very little attention is still being paid to the underlying non-viability of the business model, which is mostly based on undercutting the competition via free giveaways, exploiting drivers and/or adjusting the rules of the regulatory framework to suit the company’s own monopolistic agenda.

Thank goodness then for Hubert Horan, who’s bucking the trend with another scathing analysis of what’s really the issue with Uber.

As he notes in Naked Capitalism on Thursday:

Uber’s strategy was always to skip the hard “create real economic value” parts of this process, and focus strictly on the pursuit of artificial market power that global dominance would provide. As noted, Uber’s $13 billion investment base was used to fund the predatory competition needed to drive more efficient competitors out of business. This was 1600 times the investment funding Amazon needed prior to its IPO because Amazon could fund its growth out of positive cash flow. By contrast, Uber’s carefully crafted “narrative” allowed it to pursue predatory competition for seven years without serious scrutiny of its financial results or whether its anticipated dominance would improve industry efficiency or consumer welfare.

And if that doesn’t persuade you perhaps the following will (our emphasis):

Kalanick’s management culture, while repulsive on many levels, was actually brilliantly aligned with its business strategy and its investors’ objectives. Companies that can make money in competitive markets by creating real economic value do not have to create ruthless, hyper-competitive cultures where there are no constraints on management behavior as long as they are totally loyal to the CEO’s vision and can rapidly capture share from more efficient competitors. None of Uber’s bad behavior was aberrant—it was a completely integral part of its business strategy. Without this culture, Uber would have never grown as rapidly as it has, and would have never had any hope of industry dominance.

You’ll never guess where Russian spies are hiding their control servers

ARS Technica:

According to a report published Tuesday by researchers from antivirus provider Eset, a recently discovered backdoor Trojan used comments posted to Britney Spears’s official Instagram account to locate the control server that sends instructions and offloads stolen data to and from infected computers. The innovation—by a so-called advanced persistent threat group known as Turla—makes the malware harder to detect because attacker-controlled servers are never directly referenced in either the malware or in the comment it accesses.

Very clever.

Digital Privacy Is Making Antitrust Exciting Again

Wired:

A COUPLE WEEKS ago, during an unassuming antitrust conference at Oxford University, a German bureaucrat uttered a few words that should send a chill through Silicon Valley. In front of a crowd of nearly 200 competition law experts—including enforcement agents, scholars, and economic policy-makers from the United States and Europe—Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s antitrust agency, Bundeskartellamt, said he was “deeply convinced privacy is a competition issue.”

It’s a conviction major tech platforms are listening to closely, especially since Mundt’s agency is in the midst of a high-profile investigation into whether Facebook abused its dominance as a social network by forcing customers to agree to unfair terms about the way the company uses their data. Mundt’s words may have sounded mundane, but his implication was anything but: the world’s foremost antitrust regulators were publicly discussing whether they should intervene if a transaction weakens consumer privacy protections, a pervasive concern in the era of big data.

A few years ago, to suggest that enforcement agents should act based on privacy would have be heretical to accepted antitrust dogma, particularly as it’s been practiced in the US. The underlying aim of antitrust regulation is to keep the market humming by promoting competition and limiting barriers to entry (this is why the field is known as competition law outside of the US).

For decades, antitrust philosophy in America, and to some extent in Europe, has been shaped by the Chicago School, a highly influential conservative framework that favored big business. Its proponents argued that intervention was only necessary if a business deal hurt consumer welfare, not, for example, smaller competitors. The scope was narrowed further by measuring consumer welfare primarily by whether people had to pay higher prices.

This anti-interventionist approach has led to consolidation across the board, from healthcare to pharmaceuticals to telecom. But the fixation on price has been a boon for tech platforms, which have mastered the art of making money off of free products. An intellectual shift among antitrust experts could ultimately pose an existential threat to Silicon Valley—especially to the idea that its companies are simply scrappy, innovative upstarts that won out rather than heavyweight incumbents using valuable data troves and network effects to dominate one niche after the other.

My emphasis.  A very interesting new angle of attack.

Notes From An Emergency

Via Charles Arthur, another great observation from Maciej Cieglowski in Idle Words:

Facebook is the dominant social network in Europe, with 349 million monthly active users. Google has something like 94% of market share for search in Germany. The servers of Europe are littered with the bodies of dead and dying social media sites. The few holdouts that still exist, like Xing, are being crushed by their American rivals.

In their online life, Europeans have become completely dependent on companies headquartered in the United States.

And so Trump is in charge in America, and America has all your data. This leaves you in a very exposed position. US residents enjoy some measure of legal protection against the American government. Even if you think our intelligence agencies are evil, they’re a lawful evil. They have to follow laws and procedures, and the people in those agencies take them seriously.

But there are no such protections for non-Americans outside the United States. The NSA would have to go to court to spy on me; they can spy on you anytime they feel like it.

This is an astonishing state of affairs. I can’t imagine a world where Europe would let itself become reliant on American cheese, or where Germans could only drink Coors Light.

In the past, Europe has shown that it’s capable of identifying a vital interest and moving to protect it. When American aerospace companies were on the point of driving foreign rivals out of business, European governments formed the Airbus consortium, which now successfully competes with Boeing.

A giant part of the EU budget goes to subsidize farming, not because farming is the best use of resources in a first-world economy, but because farms are important to national security, to the landscape, to national identity, social stability, and a shared sense of who we are.

But when it comes to the Internet, Europe doesn’t put up a fight. It has ceded the ground entirely to American corporations. And now those corporations have to deal with Trump. How hard do you think they’ll work to defend European interests?