Weekly Roundup 12.4.2020

Posted in Newsletters

Hope everyone had a restorative and safe Thanksgiving break. Highlights for the week include an NLRB complaint against Google, AI systems, robots, and Spiderman: Miles Morales. 

Tech + Labor

Here’s the NLRB Complaint Alleging Google Illegally Fired and Surveilled Workers: The National Labor Review Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint against Google for illegally surveilling, retaliating against, and intimidating software engineers involved with labor organizing in 2019. The NLRB move shows that in a time of unprecedented interest in worker activism and organization, retaliation from higher-ups at tech companies may not produce the desired results.

Justice Dept. Suit Says Facebook Discriminates Against U.S. Workers: The complaint accuses Facebook of choosing foreign workers with visas over workers from the United States. “The discrimination suit, which goes before an administrative law judge, opens a different front in Washington’s battle against Big Tech. Although President Trump has jabbed at the companies as recently as this week, when he threatened to revoke speech liability protections for internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it is the first time the administration has brought legal action claiming immigrant employment bias.”

Silicon Valley

Google Researcher Says She Was Fired Over Paper Highlighting Bias in A.I.: Timnit Gebru, a co-leader of Google’s Ethical AI team stated that she was fired after criticizing the company’s approach to minority hiring and the biases built into contemporary AI systems. “Her firing only indicates that scientists, activists and scholars who want to work in this field — and are Black women — are not welcome in Silicon Valley,” said Mutale Nkonde, a fellow with the Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab. “It is very disappointing.”

A ‘Robot’ Delivery Startup With Human Operators Is Pushing No Tips for Workers: Food delivery startup Coco believes that the use of robots will help streamline the cost of delivery for the consumer (no need to tip a driver!). But what does that mean for the people who are actually navigating the robots? 

Raise your hand if ‘Cash App launches a clothing line’ was on your 2020 bingo card: Payment app Cash App has a clothing line. So…yeah. 


Why We Forget How Early It Gets Dark Every Year: The sun will set at 4:46 PM today in Washington, DC. Every year, daylight savings forces us to watch the sunset from our desks, and every year, I am surprised by this. The reason likely has to do with memory and human expectation. 

AI has cracked a problem that stumped biologists for 50 years. It’s a huge deal: DeepMind’s AI system seems to have solved “the protein folding problem.” This breakthrough will likely help researchers better understand diseases and develop better drugs. It also means that AI might get taken more seriously in the research world. 


In ‘Spider-Man: Miles Morales,’ Harlem Is More Than a Backdrop: Kwame Opam interviews Evan Narcisse, a writer for the PlayStation game Spiderman: Miles Morales. The two discuss writing, portrayals of superheroes of color, and the future Miles Morales.

Among Us and a Resurgence of Narrative-Free Games: In a time where it feels like we’re all engulfed in a daily battle with forces beyond our control, culture writer MJ Lewis extols the virtue of narrative-free games like Among Us and Fall Guys. “I don’t want to be the hero right now; I just don’t have the energy.” 

New Pokémon ASMR video just lets you hang out with Pikachu for 15 minutes: Personally, hearing Pikachu say “Pikachu” over and over again does not sound like the most relaxing thing in the world, but if that’s up your alley, the folks at The Pokémon Company have created just the thing for you. 

Return to Bird World is the real soundtrack to a fake sequel to a video game that doesn’t exist: Bird World, everyone’s favorite album based on a videogame that doesn’t actually exist, now has a sequel. In Return to Bird World, Musician and Twitter-person Leon Chang has designed the album to sound like a game from the original PlayStation (think Final Fantasy). The album is currently available through Bandcamp.

The Horse Girl Canon: Polygon’s comprehensive review of books, movies, television and merch that define the quote-unquote Horse Girl aesthetic is exactly the kind of Friday-at-4:30PM-content I need. Really, any media that argues that The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (MOVIE ONLY) is Horse Girl content is the content I need. Additionally, Susana Polo’s argument that (again, movie only) Aragorn is a horse girl is another great read.