TIME cities

The 5 U.S. Cities Bouncing Back Strongest From the Recession

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas Murat Taner—Getty Images

Metro areas in the South and the West are flourishing

U.S. cities in the South and West are more likely to have recovered from the recession while metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast have largely struggled, according to a new report.

The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five.

(MORE: Oklahoma Shakes—Is Fracking to Blame?)

The report, released Thursday, tracks how cities around the world have fared since the recession. Globally, the main metropolitan drivers are found in developing countries, especially China and Turkey.

In the U.S., the cities with the strongest GDP growth and employment levels since the Great Recession are generally found in the south and west, largely due to the growth of the energy sector.

“Those places are the epicenter of what has been the shale energy boom that’s been occurring in the U.S.,” says Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst and lead author of the Global MetroMonitor report.

(MORE: The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America)

Cities in Texas and Oklahoma have especially benefited from the expanded production in oil and gas thanks to an increase in fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from shale.

The cities that have seen the least progress are largely clustered in the Midwest and Northeast in areas that are historically industrial and manufacturing hubs. Most of those cities—like Kansas City, Mo., Allentown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio—have only partially recovered or not recovered at all, according to Brookings.

As the U.S. continues to see good economic numbers, many of which were touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, most cities are still struggling to rebound from the recession. More than half of U.S. metropolitan areas either have not recovered from 2007 GDP per capita levels or have not fully seen a rebound in employment.

MONEY Uber

Uber Reveals How Much Its Drivers Really Earn…Sort Of

Uber
Gamma Nine Photography/Uber

Uber says its drivers make $6 more than traditional cab drivers, but the devil is in the details.

Uber has long said its drivers get paid more than traditional cabbies. But do they really?

New data from the ridesharing service itself gives the clearest look into the company’s business—and that of its drivers—than ever before. On Thursday, Uber released two reports: an anonymous survey of 601 Uber drivers and an analysis of the Uber labor market co-authored by Princeton economics professor Alan B. Krueger and Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of policy research. Together, they provide information on how drivers use Uber, how much they make, and how fast Uber’s business is growing.

The real scoop on wages

The big news in this latest report is wage data. Previously, Uber stated the median driver in New York City was making $90,000 a year in “business income,” but this number was criticized by many because business income doesn’t include costs like gasoline, maintenance, car insurance, health insurance, and, you know, the car itself. Another complaint was that the company wasn’t being clear about how many hours one had to drive in order to make said $90k.

This time around, Uber still isn’t including those costs when calculating drivers’ wages, but it has broken down earnings on a per-hour basis and compared them with government data on how much conventional taxi drivers take home. The results show an Uber driver makes an average of $6 per hour more than the average taxi/chauffeur/limo driver. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps those professions together, which makes for a reasonably fair comparison to Uber’s grouping of commercially licensed Uber Black drivers—a premium service—and lower-paid UberX drivers.)

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Uber

These numbers are impressive, but Uber acknowledges that its driver-partners “are not reimbursed for driving expenses, such as gasoline, depreciation, or insurance, while employed drivers covered by the OES [Occupational Employment Statistics] data may not have to cover those costs.” So how much do these drivers really make, including expenses? It’s still hard to say. Uber told finance writer Felix Salmon that fuel, gas, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance would add about $15,000 per year in New York City.

That works out to about $7.20 per hour (assuming a 40-hour work week), which would still leave New York Uber drivers ahead, but would seriously cut into Uber’s advantage across the board if costs in other cities are similar. It should also be noted that cab drivers likely share in many of those expenses. But cab drivers may not have to pay for their own vehicle, which drives Uber’s average net hourly wages even lower.

The takeaway from all this? We don’t know much more than before, but it would appear that an Uber driver’s salary is at least on par with that of a normal cab driver, and potentially more.

What kind of jobs is Uber providing?

The good news is that the vast majority of Uber drivers—78%—are satisfied working for the company. But the data also reveal that many drivers see the ride-sharing service as a stopgap measure until they find a better job. The survey results show 32% of drivers said the major reason for partnering with Uber was “to earn money while looking for a steady, full-time job.”

That makes sense considering nearly half of Uber’s drivers have a college degree or higher, well above the 18% of taxi drivers with similar credentials. Indeed, slightly more than half of Uber drivers became inactive one year after joining the service, suggesting they quit or found other work.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of Uber’s major selling points is that anyone can drive a car to earn a little extra money, and it has clearly succeeded in this regard. But the numbers demonstrate how Uber isn’t providing a career as much as an income supplement or temporary gig: Just 24% of Uber drivers say the company is their only source of personal income, and another 16% say Uber is their largest source of income but not the only one. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of drivers said Uber did not make up a significant source of their wages.

Stunning growth

Ultimately, it’s up to drivers to choose whether Uber makes sense for them, and the results seem to speak for themselves. In the United States, Uber says, more than 160,000 drivers had partnered with the company by the end of 2014, and almost 40,000 new U.S. drivers provided their first trips in December of last year. Thanks to Uber’s new data release, prospective drivers will have more information than ever when making their decision.

Read next: Uber CEO: We’ll Create 50,000 Jobs in Europe This Year

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MONEY The Economy

Why These 5 Companies Are Laying Off Thousands of Workers

eBay Inc. office building, San Jose, California.
Kristoffer Tripplaar—Sipa USA

The economy is on the mend. Unemployment rates are down. So what's up with all these companies slashing jobs by the thousands?

Here’s some explanation—note we used the word “explanation” not “justification”—for why a handful of companies are laying off large chunks of their workforces even as the economy is on the upswing and unemployment is falling month after month.

eBay: 2,400 jobs
On Wednesday, eBay announced it would be cutting 2,400 jobs in the first quarter of 2015. The company says that the layoff figure includes positions that are unfilled, so the actual number of people losing their jobs will be less than 2,400. What’s more, eBay points out that the figure represents only 7% of the company’s total workforce. (Are we the only ones surprised to hear that eBay currently employs 34,600 people?)

Among the factors influencing the layoff decision: “Weak holiday sales” and revenues that have been lower than analysts expected, as well as a company restructuring in anticipation of the spinoff of eBay’s online payment service PayPal. The company said it may also spin off a third division, eBay Enterprises, which runs e-commerce operations for other companies, explaining in a statement: “It has become clear that [eBay Enterprise] has limited synergies with either business, and a separation will allow both to focus exclusively on their core markets.”

As for weak sales, one reason eBay is suffering is that, unlike Amazon—which effectively uses its Amazon Prime membership program to create legions of shoppers who make the vast majority of their purchases at its site—many eBay customers use the site randomly and haphazardly rather than habitually. “It’s the infrequent shopper that comes two, three, four times a year,” eBay CEO Donahoe told USA Today. “They didn’t come back at the rate we thought.”

American Express: 4,000 jobs
During the course of 2015, AmEx plans on cutting costs by trimming 4,000 jobs after failing to meet long-term revenue growth target of 8%. The Wall Street Journal pointed to “a stronger dollar, a weak December for retail sales and the sharp drop in gas prices” as forces that hurt the company’s fourth quarter results—which actually showed revenue and profits increasing, just not enough to satisfy investors. The 4,000 layoffs represent 6% of AmEx’s total workforce of roughly 63,000.

Baker Hughes & Halliburton: 8,000 jobs
The two energy companies agreed to merge last autumn, and both ended the year strongly, with Halliburton posting revenues up nearly 15% and Baker Hughes achieving record revenues for the quarter. Nonetheless, in light of plunging crude oil and gas prices, oilfield services provider Baker Hughes announced plans for layoffs of 11% of its workforce, roughly 7,000 employees, while Halliburton plans for about 1,000 job cuts of its own.

“This is really the crappy part of the job, and this is what I hate about this industry frankly,” Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead said this week in a conference call with analysts. “This is the industry, and it’s throwing us another one of these downturns, and we’re going to be good stewards of our business and do the right thing. But these are never decisions that are done mechanically.”

Schlumberger: 9,000 jobs
Another oilfield services company, Schlumberger also reported surprisingly strong fourth quarter results despite the steep drop in oil and gas prices—and it too recently announced big-time layoffs. Last week, the company said it had laid off 9,000 employees worldwide in late 2014 as profits fell and demand for oil retreated.

Read next: Here’s What You Really Need to Advance Your Career

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TIME mergers

Family Dollar Shareholders Approve Dollar Tree Takeover

Inside A Family Dollar Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
A man walks into a Family Dollar Stores Inc. location in Mansfield, Texas on Jan. 7, 2014. Ben Torres—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The vote sidelines Dollar General’s competing offer, in favor of long-term growth over immediate earnings

Family Dollar’s shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a $8.5 billion takeover bid by rival discount chain Dollar Tree, a vote that sidelines Dollar General’s competing offer.

At the vote held in North Carolina, investors holding 74% of Family Dollar’s total outstanding shares voted in favor of the proposal, an outcome that Chairman and CEO Howard Levine praised. The merger still requires approval from the Federal Trade Commission, and that could come as soon as March.

The discount-retail sector has been the subject of a complicated and drawn out love triangle that has made headlines since July, when Dollar Tree initially made a play for Family Dollar in a cash-and-stock deal. But rival Dollar General swooped in with a competing offer, saying it would pay $80 per share for Family Dollar while Dollar Tree has stuck with its original $74.50 cash-and-stock offer.

While the Dollar General offer guarantees a higher price paid to shareholders, the vote ultimately asked investors to consider the growth potential of a merged Family Dollar-Dollar Tree (if they are willing to stick with their investment) over the long term.

Dollar Tree also lauded the outcome, while Dollar General was unsurprisingly disappointed.

“Today’s vote is a loss not only for Family Dollar shareholders, but also for consumers across the country who will not have the opportunity to benefit from the cost savings and efficiencies that we believe would have been created by a merger between Dollar General and Family Dollar,” said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s CEO and chairman.

The Dollar Tree bid also comes with fewer headaches, as the merged company would need to unload far fewer stores than if Dollar General had been successful, with divestitures needed from both proposals to win backing from the FTC.

Investors were finally persuaded the Dollar Tree deal was the right course to pursue. The Family Dollar vote had been postponed at one point because there hadn’t been enough votes to adopt the Dollar Tree merger, which Family Dollar has backed since the beginning. Since then, two influential shareholder advisory firms — Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis — have thrown their support behind the Dollar Tree bid.

Dollar Tree’s offer was a roughly 23% premium over Family Dollar’s trading price at the time the offer was officially made. The combined company will generate annual sales of about $18 billion, putting it slightly above Dollar General and making it a larger rival to Wal-Mart and other stores that sell goods at low prices. Dollar Tree sells everything in its stores for $1 or less, while Family Dollar has multiple price points to court value-conscious shoppers.

While the Family Dollar winner had remained in doubt for months, one clear winner was activist investor Carl Icahn. Icahn last year called on Family Dollar to put itself up for sale immediately, and at one point held a 9.4% stake in the company. He scored a reported $200 million profit on his investment when a bidding war broke out shortly after he lamented the retailer’s underperformance.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Leadership Tips for Women in Tech

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Getty Images

Being a woman in the fast-growing tech space can work to your benefit

startupcollective

The tech sector is a notoriously difficult place to be a woman. A congressional report shows that only 7% of women-founded businesses receive venture capital funding. Every time we turn around, it seems there’s another gaffe that causes a rise within the community — this ranges from major companies’ lack of women in board positions to distasteful overheard conversations.

While most everyone in the tech sector has an opinion on the issue, for me, being a woman in the fast-growing tech space has actually paid off. In fact, I think that in most ways, being a female in tech has worked to my benefit.

Maybe it’s the dynamic between me and my co-founder Eileen Murphy Buckley, or the fact that we’re an ed-tech company that operates in a female-dominated industry (nearly two-thirds of teachers in the U.S. are women). I’d like to think it’s because we built an amazing product that helps great teachers teach better. So far, all signs point to the fact that we’re doing something right: ThinkCERCA is now available in schools nationwide, and we’ve secured $1.5 million in funding. We were a graduate of the Impact Engine Accelerator’s inaugural class, and we won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge in July 2013.

So how can you navigate the complex male-dominated tech world and succeed?

Combine Skill Sets

You have to be strategic about whom you partner with and bring onto your team. Our biggest success had nothing to do with gender. It had to do with our team’s unique combination of skills. I come from an entrepreneurial background, and have years of experience taking businesses from concept to launch, growing them in both revenue and size. Eileen is a teacher turned entrepreneur, and the former director of curriculum and instruction for a major school system. So while I brought the entrepreneurial know-how, Eileen brought the industry expertise and a firm basis of pedagogy and research. This helped us create a product that principals, teachers and students really need. Her deep knowledge continues to help us meet our core goal: helping students achieve college and career readiness.

I believe it’s this combination of skills that has not only helped us build a successful business, but also secure funding.

Never Shy Away From the Hard Stuff

So much of our success can be attributed to our dedication to our customers. Sometimes that means going against what others are telling you to do. While the ed-tech market continues to boom, there’s still the age-old problem of the chicken and the egg. Several investors wanted ThinkCERCA to be something it was not. They told us we either had to be a content publisher or a technology platform. Despite this feedback, based on our expertise and what our customers were telling us they needed, we decided to be both. Technology alone wasn’t the answer. Content alone wasn’t either. Focusing on both, and using a research-based approach, we have carved out a place in the ed-tech ecosystem and are poised for continued and rapid growth.

Build a Team of Mentors and Advocates

While Eileen and I have a great partnership, we have strived and will continue to work to create a team that complements our skills and builds off of what the two of us have created. We now have 16 people at ThinkCERCA whose expertise ranges from technology to sales to marketing. In addition, we’ve had an incredible group of mentors and advisors, such as Chuck Templeton, the former Managing Director of the Impact Engine accelerator. Our mentors have provided the encouragement we need but also given us hard-nosed doses of reality from time to time. Our mentors aren’t the people who always tell us what we want to hear. They’re always looking out for us and telling us what we need to hear.

As our business has grown, so have we. When we came together, Eileen was “the educator” and I was “the entrepreneur.” Now, we have both learned and have each assumed both roles. We are able to fluidly assume the voice of the customer and the voice of the business, which allows us to brainstorm and problem solve, and — most importantly — switch hit. Thanks to our complementary skill sets, dedication to our customers, and our refusal to accept the stereotypical limits that go along with being a woman in tech, ThinkCERCA is doing great things for the future of education.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Inspiring Habits of Truly Remarkable Bosses

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Getty Images

Here's how to be the boss no employee will want to leave

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Conventional wisdom—and a bunch of research—says people don’t quit their companies; they quit their bosses.

Of course that means the opposite must also be true: people who love their bosses should stay at that company even if they could find (within reason) better pay and benefits somewhere else.

So how can you be a boss everyone wants to work for? Start by realizing that the basics—professionalism, objectivity, ethical behavior, etc.—are a given. (As Chris Rock would say, those are things you’re supposed to do.)

You have to go further. You have to do things that don’t show up on paper, but definitely show up where it matters most: in the minds and even hearts of the people you lead.

You need to:

1. Take real, not fake risks.

Many bosses—like many people—try to stand out in superficial ways. Maybe they wear unusual clothing or pursue unusual interests or publicly support popular initiatives. They try to stand out—and they choose easy ways to do so.

Great bosses do it the hard way. They take unpopular stands, not because they hope to stand out, but because they want to do the right thing. They take unpopular steps. They’re willing to step outside business-as-usual to make things better.

They take real risks not for the sake of risk but for the sake of the reward they believe is possible. And by their example, they inspire others to take a risk to achieve what they believe is possible.

Great bosses inspire their employees to achieve their dreams: by words, by actions, and most important, by example.

Who doesn’t want to work with a leader like that?

2. See opportunity in instability and uncertainty.

Unexpected problems, unforeseen roadblocks, major crises—most bosses horde supplies, close the shutters, and try to wait out the storm.

Great bosses see a crisis as an opportunity. They know it’s extremely difficult to make major changes, even necessary ones, when things are going relatively smoothly. They know reorganizing an operations team is much easier when a major customer jumps ship. They know creating new sales channels is much easier when a major competitor enters the market.

Great bosses see instability and uncertainty not as a barrier but as an enabler. They reorganize, reshape, and re-engineer to reassure, motivate, and inspire—and in the process make the organization much stronger.

And that makes people want to stay, if only to see what tomorrow will bring.

3. Believe the unbelievable.

Most people try to achieve the achievable; that’s why most goals and targets are incremental rather than inconceivable.

Memorable bosses expect more—from themselves and from others. Then they show us how to get there. And they bring us along for what turns out to be an unbelievable ride.

No one is eager to step off of that kind of ride.

4. Wear your emotions on your sleeves.

Good bosses are professional. Great bosses are professional yet also openly human. They show sincere excitement when things go well. They show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They show sincere disappointment—not in others, but in themselves. They’re even willing to show a little anger.

In short, great bosses are people, and they treat their employees like people, too.

Treat me like a number and I’ll stay until a better number comes along. Treat me like a person and I’ll stay because, ultimately, that’s what we all really want.

5. Save others from onrushing buses.

Even good bosses sometimes throw employees under the bus.

Great bosses never throw employees under the bus.

Great bosses see the bus coming and pull their employees out of the way, often without the employee’s knowing until much, much later (if ever—because great bosses never seek to take credit).

When someone volunteers to take a bullet on our behalf they inspire incredible loyalty.

6. Go there, do that, and still do that.

Dues aren’t paid (past tense); dues get paid each and every day.

The true real measure of value is the tangible contribution a person makes on a daily basis.

That’s why, no matter what they may have accomplished in the past, great bosses are never too good to roll up their sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.

Who wants to leave a job where they feel everyone—including and especially their boss—is in it together?

7. Lead by permission, not authority.

Every boss has a title. That title gives them the authority to direct others, to make decisions, to organize and instruct and discipline.

Great bosses don’t lead because they have the authority to lead. They lead because their employees want them to lead. Their employees are motivated and inspired by the person, not the title.

Through their words and actions, they cause employees to feel they work with, notfor, their boss. Many bosses don’t even recognize there’s a difference, but great bosses do.

It’s easy to leave a boss we work under; it’s much harder to leave a boss we stand with side-by-side.

8. Embrace a larger purpose.

A good boss works to achieve company goals.

A great boss works to achieve company goals and to serve a larger purpose: to advance the careers of employees, to make a real difference in the community, to rescue struggling employees, to instill a sense of pride and self-worth in others.

Great bosses embrace a larger purpose—and help their employees embrace a larger purpose—because they know business isn’t just business.

Business is personal.

We all seek to find meaning in our personal and professional lives. Find that meaning, and it’s hard to leave. Money is important, but fulfillment and self-worth are priceless.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What You Really Need to Advance Your Career

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Getty Images

“Mentors give you perspective while sponsors give you opportunities”

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

If you want to advance your career, having a mentor isn’t enough anymore. Don’t get me wrong—mentors are wonderful. They help you gain critical skills, navigate you through challenges at work, and offer a sounding board when you’re at a crossroads in your career. But if you aspire to climb higher in this modern and competitive climate, you’ll need a sponsor as well.

In the article, “Why You Need a Sponsor—Not a Mentor—to Fast-Track Your Career,” for Business Insider, author Jenna Goudreau says, “Four recent studies clearly show that sponsorship—not mentorship—is how power is transferred in the workplace.”

As a general manager in the medical devices industry once described to me, “A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case.” Millette Granville, Director of Diversity and Inclusion with Delhaize America described a sponsor as “an influential spokesperson for what you are capable of doing.”

But what’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? Heather Foust-Cummings, a vice president with Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership, explained it this way: “A mentor will talk with you, but a sponsor will talk about you.”

My friend and Twitter buddy Cate Huston explains it this way: “Mentors give you perspective while sponsors give you opportunities.”

Mentors help you “skill up,” whereas sponsors help you move up. Having the support of a sponsor is like having a safety net, allowing you to confidently take risks like asking for a stretch assignment or a promotion. They provide a protective bubble and can shield you from organizational change like reorganizations or layoffs. And they bring your name up in those high-level talent development discussions that take place behind closed doors. If your career is moving forward, chances are there’s a sponsor behind the scenes, pulling strings on your behalf.

So, how do you get a sponsor? Well, the catch is, that’s not how it typically works—you don’t get to choose the sponsor; the sponsor almost always chooses you.

In a series of reports on sponsorship, Catalyst reported, “There is no ‘silver bullet’ for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor”—and that’s certainly true. However, through my 15 years of experience coaching emerging leaders to advance their careers, I have recognized that there are certain behaviors that can swing the odds in your favor and make it more likely that a sponsor will choose and advocate for you.

Here are six steps you can take to attract the attention of an influential sponsor:

1. Perform

Great performance must come first. You can’t expect a sponsor to advocate for you and put his or her own reputation on the line to speak up on your behalf if you’re not going above and beyond in your role.

2. Know Who the Good Sponsors Are

This can be tricky, but see if you can identify the leaders in your organization who have a track record of being talent developers and talent scouts. For example, listen for leaders who publicly praise subordinates, back them up on contentious issues, and offer challenging assignments to up-and-comers who have not yet proven themselves. That’s who you want on your side.

3. Raise Your Hand for Exposure Opportunities

You can’t expect a sponsor to put his or her reputation on the line when he or she doesn’t know the quality of your work and what you’re capable of. So, look for a special project working directly for one of the potential sponsors you identified in the previous step, or try to join special task forces or committees he or she serves on. Your goal here is for the sponsor to see you in action and directly experience the quality of work you can deliver.

4. Make Your Value Visible

Whatever you do, don’t be the best-kept secret in the organization! Once you achieve something noteworthy, make your achievements visible to your leaders.

For example, if you bump into a potential sponsor the cafeteria line, ask how he or she is doing. Chances are he or she will ask you the same, so have a ready-to-share sound bite about a recent accomplishment, so you can respond, “I’m doing well. I just heard I’ve been nominated for engineer of the year!”

And re-write your elevator speech so that every time you introduce yourself, you’ll be showcasing your leadership skills and the value you add to your organization. (Here’s how.)

5. Have Clear Career Goals

You must have clarity about your career goals! There’s little chance a sponsor is going to know what opportunities to match you with if you don’t even know what you want for yourself.

6. Share Your Career Goals With Your Leaders

This is the clincher. If you are a demonstrated high performer and have clear career goals, sharing those goals with your manager, your mentors, and leaders can often be enough to enlist their sponsorship.

A final word of advice comes from Granville, who says, “Sponsorship can come to you in different ways. You never know who is watching you, so be ‘sponsor-ready’ at all times.”

So what are you waiting for? Use these six items as a checklist to determine what action to take, and go grab the attention of an influential sponsor!

More from The Muse:

TIME Davos

How Technology Is Making All of Us Less Trusting

A technician checks the light in the Congress Hall before the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2014 in Davos Jan. 21, 2014
Denis Balibouse / Reuters

The world's major tech companies better pay attention to the growing backlash — before it's too late

Davos Man, take note: the technology that has enriched you is moving too fast for the average Joe.

That’s the takeaway from the 2015 Trust Barometer survey, released by public relations firm Edelman every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year’s survey, which came out Wednesday, looks at thousands of consumers in 27 countries to get a sense of public trust in business, government, NGOs and media. This year, it’s falling across the board, with two-thirds of nations’ citizens being more distrustful than ever of all institutions, perhaps no surprise given that neither the private nor the public sector seems to have answers to the big questions of the day — geopolitical conflict, rising inequality, flat wages, market volatility, etc.

What’s interesting is how much people blame technology and the speed of technological change for the feeling of unease in the world today. Two to one, consumers in all the countries surveyed felt that technology was moving too quickly for them to cope with, and that governments and business weren’t doing enough to assess the long-term impact of shifts like GMO foods, fracking, disruptors like Uber or Apple Pay, or any of the myriad other digital services that affect privacy and security of people and companies.

That belies the conventional wisdom among tech gurus like, say, Jeff Bezos, who once said that, “New inventions and things that customers like are usually good for society.” Maybe, but increasingly people aren’t feeling that way. And it could have an impact on the regulatory environment facing tech companies. Expect more pushback on sharing-economy companies that skirt local regulation, a greater focus on the monopoly power of mammoth tech companies, and closer scrutiny of the personal wealth of tech titans themselves.

Two of the most interesting pieces of journalism I have read in recent years look at how the speed of digital change is affecting culture and public sentiment. Kurt Andersen’s wonderful Vanity Fair story from January 2012, posited the idea that culture is stuck in retro mode — think fashion’s obsession with past decades, and the nostalgia that’s rife in TV and film — because technology and globalization are moving so fast that people simply can’t take any more change, cognitively at least. Likewise, Leon Wieseltier’s sharp essay on the cover of the New York Times book review this past Sunday lamented how the fetishization of all things Big Tech has led us to focus on the speed, brevity and monetization of everything, to the detriment of “deep thought” and a broader understanding of the human experience.

I agree on both counts. And I hope that some of the tech luminaries here at Davos, like Marissa Mayer, Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg, are paying attention to this potential growing backlash, which I expect will heat up in the coming year.

TIME Innovation

Here’s What It’s Like to Use Microsoft’s Amazing New Holographic Headset

HoloLens
Windows

The coolest new product to come out of Microsoft in decades, the HoloLens, can overlay 3-D images on real-world surroundings, mixing of fantasy and reality

After tickling pint-sized sheep across a coffee table, blowing a holographic hole through a wall and touring the surface of Mars, it seems safe to say that Microsoft’s newly unveiled headset, the HoloLens, marks a major leap forward in the field of virtual reality.

Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens during a Windows 10 press conference at its Redmond, Washington headquarters on Wednesday. Rather than immerse the user in a digital fantasy world, like the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens overlays 3-D images on top of real-world surroundings, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

No recording devices were allowed into the demonstration rooms, which were hidden beneath the ground floor of Microsoft’s Visitor Center and secured behind locked doors. Unlike the sleek, donut-shaped headset unveiled on stage, the prototypes in the demonstration were skeletal contraptions that wrapped around the cranium and included a small computer slung around the neck. The weight was easy to ignore once the technicians fired up a game of Minecraft and the game’s fantasy world sprawled out over real world living room furniture.

As the headset’s spatial sensors scanned their surroundings, a pulse of blue light passed over the tabletop and slipped around the corners. Suddenly a slightly translucent image of a castle rose from the tabletop. Beneath it, a pool of blue water was spread across the floor and thumb-sized sheep grazed at the water’s edge. The images are projected directly into the user’s eye and precisely turn with the user’s movements.

While the images appear to fade away at the periphery, a turn of the head quickly fills in the blank with new terrain. Users can interact with their surroundings by training their eyes on any object of interest, holding out a pointer finger and “air tapping” it with a downward flick. Air tap a holographic shovel, for instance, and it punches a hole through the coffee table. A soft beam of light passes through the opening and casts a bright patch on the floor.

The holes can offer keyhole glimpses into new terrains. Beneath the side table was a lake of lava. After a blowing a hole through the wall, a passageway to a cave opened, complete with bats flitting back out towards the user. But the highlight of the demonstration had to be the bizarre-yet-satisfying pleasure of tickling miniature sheep across a table, and watching one poor creature take a lemming-like leap over the table’s edge.

The second demonstration suspended a Skype video screen in mid-air. The caller, a Microsoft engineer, shared my view on her screen and directed me toward a scattering of tools. She then guided me through a real world installation of a light switch, with her drawing holographic arrows at the tools I needed each step of the way. It worked, and it showcased the HoloLens ability to stick an expert into a novice’s field of vision, instantly eliminating the skills gap.

A third demonstration projected photographic landscapes of Mars, snapped by NASA’s mars rover, in a surprisingly crisp image of its cracked and rocky surface. Microsoft has partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to simulate exploratory missions on Mars. A real-world monitor showed the two-dimensional landscape on a conventional screen, but pull the mouse cursor beyond the screen’s edge and it floats seamlessly into the 3-dimensional landscape, where a mouse click can plant a holographic flag into the ground.

A final demonstration showed how models can be constructed in space, by pinching pre-fabricated shapes, rotating them and gluing them together. A “perfect print preview for 3-D printing,” explained a Microsoft engineer as a coworker put the finishing touches on a koala wearing a space helmet. Moments later they distributed 3-D printed models of the same koala in a goodie bag.

To be sure, these were highly stage managed interactions with the HoloLens, and it remains to be seen how it will fare for the average consumer. When that will happen remains an open question. The HoloLens has been under development for at least five years, and its lead inventor, Alex Kipman, said the product would release sometime “within the Windows 10 timeframe,” which could mean a matter of years.

Still, the technology is mind-bendingly cool. If the experiences in the demonstration rooms can be carried over into the real world, Microsoft may have a shot at reclaiming the mobile market, leapfrogging over the current jumble of smartphones, tablets and phablets, and into the next generation of augmented reality.

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