The surveillance society appears to have gone just a step too far.
A company named Quantified Toilets announced this week it would be installing smart-toilets at the convention center in the city of Toronto, Canada.
To quote from their literature: "Using advanced sensing technologies and a state of the art centralized waste data collection system, we are able to discreetly capture data from each individual toilet. Activities at each toilet create unique signatures..." and, well it goes on.
It was also, sadly, a hoax. A sort of interactive experiment at a conference in Toronto this week about human factors in computing.
Han Shan, an Occupy Wall Street protester, makes a 1 percent shirt while protesting outside of the annual Bank of America Corp. shareholders meeting on May 9, in Charlotte, N.C.
The "1 percent" and the "99 percent" have become household phrases in the last few years. But in the course of moving discussions of income distribution percentiles beyond economic text books and in to the popular discourse of sound bites and protest signs, the nuances can get lost. Which brings us to some interesting new research about the 1 percent, discussed in a recent book called “Chasing the American Dream.”
Back when the Occupy Wall Street movement was fond of chanting “We are the 99 percent” the book’s co-author, Mark Rank, got curious about some of the assumptions buried in that chant. Who exactly is the 99 percent? What’s their relationship to that remaining, increasingly notorious 1 percent?
The whole debate struck Rank as very us versus them. “There’s this image out there that those two groups do not cross over -- that they're static groups,” he says.
Rank is a professor of social welfare at Washington University, and so he had the tools to see if this static image of the 1 percent versus everyone else was true. He and his co-author, Thomas Hirschl of Cornell, combed through four decades of survey data that followed the lives of thousands of Americans to see how much money they made each year. And what they found surprised them.
The top-earners club isn’t quite the bastioned, unreachable world it's been painted out to be. “There actually is this really strong sense of fluidity in terms of folks entering the top income percentiles,” Rank says. According to Rank and Hirschl’s research, one in five Americans are in the 2 percent at some point in their lives. And one in eight spend at least a year in the one percent.
So who are these visitors to the 1 percent? Some might be your neighbors.
Barrett Yeretsian, 34, lives in the southern California suburb of Glendale, CA in a totally non-descript condo — the same one he grew up in. Yeretsian says growing up, he was solidly middle class. His mom, a widow, owned an Armenian book store in Los Angeles, and money was sometimes tight. Scholarships and help from family got him through college at UCLA.
When he graduated, he turned down acceptance at two top law schools in favor of trying to make it in the music industry, as a song-writer and producer. After years almost making it, a few years ago, a song he wrote in his bedroom, became this smash hit, Jar of Hearts, after it debuted on the reality show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Literally over night, “everything changed,” Yeretsian says. Including his income. That year he catapulted in to the 1 percent. But, he says, tries not to live like he has. “Keep the overhead low. Enjoy life,” is his philosophy. (He was a philosophy major in college, and traces his non-lavish lifestyle back to reading Thoreau’s Walden.)
“Don't get me wrong, I go to Hawaii every year,” he says. And he’s bought several rental properties as investments. “Financially, I’m in a comfortable position. I think that's the big difference is you have that comfort.”
Jason Laan is another recent arrival to the 1 percent, who made the leap after his iPhone app made it big. For him, the surprising thing about being at the top is that it doesn't always feel like the top.
“The 1 percenters we think of spend $10,000 on a commode,” Laan says. “If you make $340,000” — the approximate household income needed to break into the 1 percent in the last few years — “you're not going to waste money on something like that.”
Laan says the year he made enough to qualify as a “1 percenter,” he asked his accountant about whether he should consider trying to take advantage of tax loop holes or off-shore accounts, to protect some of his money. His accountant laughed and told him he wasn't rich enough.
“You’re not connected enough to try to hide your assets in such a way,” Laan recalls his accountant saying. “You can’t afford the overhead.”
Another thing about the latest research on the 1 percent from Rank and Hirschl: While one in eight Americans might visit the 1 percent for a year, only one in a hundred stay there for a decade or more.
How much you have to earn in order to make it into the "1 percent" by year.
Income (USD) 1967 171,737 1968 191,151 1969 193,437 1970 191,119 1971 200,383 1972 217,578 1973 226,942 1974 222,524 1975 213,235 1976 234,114 1977 217,740 1978 229,473 1979 228,014 1980 222,287 1981 216,483 1982 211,998 1983 219,320 1984 235,775 1985 229,477 1986 240,388 1987 254,770 1988 277,464 1989 257,154 1990 257,815 1991 248,205 1992 262,715 1993 333,888 1994 308,292 1995 301,423 1996 320,269 1998 364,160 2000 440,253 2002 363,702 2004 362,315 2006 379,511 2008 376,608 2010 332,300
Source: Mark R. Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl, Is it just the One Percent, or is Affluence a Normal Life Course Event?, Cornell UniveristyMarketplace for Friday May 2, 2014 Krissy Clark/Marketplace
Barrett Yeretsian sits in his condo. Yeretsian was catapulted into the 1 percent after a song he wrote, Jar of Hearts, debuted on the reality show “So You Think You Can Dance.”by Krissy ClarkPodcast Title Making it to the 1 percent is more common than you thinkStory Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No
Some very good news out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics today: There were 288 thousand jobs added in the last month, more than many people expected. Unemployment is now down to 6.3 percent. Of course down is not the same as low, but there was one piece of information that was not changed – earnings. Wage growth did not move over the month.
Over the past 12 months by several measures wages have grown about two percent. On the other hand, inflation has run around 1-1.5 percent. Since inflation devalues wage growth, real wages have increased very little. Ideally, inflation would be near two percent, and wage growth a percent or two above that.
Despite March-April’s flat numbers, the two percent growth over the year has marked an improvement.
The economy may be in the process of early movement in that direction. The more jobs are created, the less workers are trapped in jobs that don’t offer raises, and the more employers will be pressed to raise wages to remain competitive.
Do your pets eat better than you? A hamster with a taste for Tex-Mex food gets to feast on homemade burritos, courtesy of his very own chef.
Merrill Garbus, lead singer of tUnE-yArDs, stops by to talk about her latest release, "Nikki Nack"
When you ask someone about their favorite piece of music, the conversation gets personal. Everyone feels music differently -- that's what makes it human.
It's why music and technology, at least to some people, seem like a mismatch. Machines are cold. Music is not.
Here's the thing: We use technology to make music all the time. No, I do not count the auto-tuned antics of Glee tracks released on iTunes. I'm talking about musicians using technology to compose, create, and record music. It's a relationship that gets deeper and more complex all the time. The place where music and technology cross paths is a fascinating intersection.
All this week, we'll talk to musicians for whom tech is an integral part of their process. From Squarepusher, who wrote an entire EP of music played by robot musicians, to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, who turns herself into a one-woman percussion instrument using loops and drum machines. We'll also talk to prolific film composer John Powell about his recording process for film, and electronic musician/composer Dan Deacon about why the computer is the biggest diva he's ever worked with (and why it has a right to be). DJ Rekha, credited with bringing Bhangra music to America, talks about the technology involved in being a DJ, and how it has evolved over time.
These are musicians and performers at the top of their game who constantly ask themselves how technology can help them be better at what they do, but also wonder how far is too far when it comes to letting machines take over. Each of these guests have funny and insightful comments to offer.
So plug in your keytar, boot up your computer, and let's get to playing with machines.Marketplace Tech for Monday, May 5, 2014by Ben JohnsonStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No
Toasting the Kentucky Derby with a shot of prized Pappy Van Winkle bourbon will cost you. Last fall, 222 bottles were stolen straight from the distillery, and the police still don't know who did it.
Rebels say they have agreed to retreat from some areas they control in Homs, a city once known as the capital of the revolution.
The new Spider-Man sequel has a lot riding on it for Sony Pictures. It sets up two spin-off movies, plus the third and fourth installments of the franchise.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has already earned more than $150 million overseas. But critics have hammered the flick in the U.S.
“I think Sony is hoping that this movie will gross a billion dollars. And I don’t think that’s going to happen,” says Jeff Sneider with the entertainment news website, TheWrap.com.
He describes the new movie as “the worst Spider-Man movie that I have personally seen.”
Other fans may shy away because of superhero overload.
“Part of it just might be some amount of fatigue from the audience. This is going to be the fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years,” says Albert Ching, an editor at Comic Book Resources.
And if audiences aren’t happy, investors won’t be either.
Sneider says, “Sony has come under fire from its investors, namely Daniel Loeb, who’s like a big hedge fund guru.”
If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t clobber the competition, expect that fire from investors to heat up.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal earlier this week signed legislation that will require some people applying for Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) benefts to submit to drug testing. Georgia is one of more than a dozen states proposing - or trying out - laws that require welfare recipients or applicants to take drug tests.
Governor Deal's Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Robinson said in a statement to Marketplace:
"Governor Deal has said drug abuse poses a major barrier to getting and keeping a job. He understands that many users are suffering from the disease of addition. He believes we as a state have a duty to help those who want to help themselves by providing an option for treatment. He's also led on diverting people with drug addictions out of the criminal justice system into treatment programs with strict accountability so that people are able to be taxpayers instead of being tax drainers. But if people choose to reject treatment and choose a lifestyle that renders them unemployable, taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize that."
But in some cases, drug testing does not appear to be catching many drug users.
"In Oklahoma, 29 people out of 1,300 were denied benefits," said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a policy coordinator at the Center for Law and Social Policy. "And then Utah. Twelve people out of 4,730."
Advocates of the testing say the low numbers are likely due to deterrence.
"By having the testing requirement in place, you screen out individuals who have a drug addiction who never go through the process to begin with, because they know they won't recieve benefits," said Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank.
Lower-Basch isn't certain that deterrence is the best thing for needy families.
"These are very poor families and they have children," Lower-Basch said. "You don't want to scare them off and not getting help. You want the kids to get help so they can have clothes and housing. And you want the parents getting treatment so they can get jobs and be better parents. Scaring them off is a terrible outcome."
Many welfare researchers say drug tests are sometimes necessary. However, mass testing can also cost a state money. In 2011, Florida required welfare recipients to pay for their own drug tests. More than 97% passed and the state had to reimburse them to the tune of more than $100,000.
Map of 2012 Legislative Proposals to Screen for Drug Use Among Welfare Recipients
Courtesy of National Conference of State Legislatures.