The swine biz is going hog-wild


February 26, 2019

As disease pillages the pig industry, Chinese companies are racing to create facial and voice recognition products to save them.
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No rest for the wicked: The perils of being a content moderator — all for $28k a year

More than 65 years of video are uploaded to YouTube each day, and it ain’t all puppies and soldiers reuniting with their loved ones.  

The internet is mostly NSFW and, unfortunately, it takes more than machine learning algorithms to keep bad actors at bay. In fact, humans are still the first line of defense — meaning that even if we aren’t seeing the dark and demented, someone else is.

According to a report from The Verge, US content moderators at Facebook have resorted to drug use and “trauma bonding” at work to cope with the stress of viewing graphic material on loop — all for the price of $15 per hour.

Cognizant times call for Cognizant measures

Deciding what belongs online is one of the fastest-growing jobs in tech — and maybe the most difficult for employees — reviewing everything from offensive jokes to murder on a daily basis. 

This is where Facebook’s partnership with Cognizant, a “professional services” vendor, comes in.

According to some working moderators, Cognizant’s business model is shrouded in secrecy, for fear that Cognizant and its clients like Facebook will face criticism about their working conditions.

Becoming a ‘process executive’

Worldwide, Facebook employs over 7.5k content moderators — or as Cognizant calls them, “process executives.” 

According to Cognizant, employees are equipped with everyday check-ins from counselors, hotline services, and an “employee assistance program.”

But the employees describe a very different workplace that is heavily micromanaged (with barely an hour of incremental breaks each day) and constantly on the edge of chaos. 

Workers are pressured to keep their experiences private, forcing them to cope at work by resorting to drugs, jokes about suicide, and what one employee called “trauma bonding” — AKA having sex with employees inside stairwells and other office locales.

It goes deeper…

Many employees start to believe the conspiratorial content they’re subjected to — one employee told The Verge he no longer believes 9/11 was a terrorist attack.

Employees are often fired after only a handful of errors. And once they’re out, ex-employees are saddled with PTSD-like symptoms — with no additional support from Facebook or Cognizant.

Those who remain employed reportedly live in fear of retaliation from former colleagues. One ex-employee said he started bringing a gun to work while he was there to protect himself.

The real wild wild west
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Barrick Gold launches a $17B+ bid to become the most major miner

The Canadian gold-mining company Barrick Gold made a $17.8B hostile takeover bid for its rival, Newmont Mining. If the deal goes through, the resulting giant would be a $42B company — the most gargantuan gold-grabber on the globe. 

But given that the title of the world’s largest gold company has changed hands twice in the past 6 months due to a flurry of mergers, the deal is far from certain.

All that glitters is… sold

Consolidation in the gold industry has increased in recent months as extraction costs rise and accessible global gold supplies dwindle.

Last September, Barrick acquired Randgold Resources for $6B, and became at the largest gold mining company in the world. But just 3 months later, Newmont acquired rival Goldcorp for $10B, setting a new gold standard.

Now, Barrick is trying to muscle its way back to the top by acquiring Newmont (which would have to end its acquisition of Goldcorp). But the leadership teams at Barrick and Newmont have a history of bickering.

Who will become the mightiest mineral merchant?

In 2014, Barrick and Newmont discussed a merger, but the deal fell apart due to disagreements between the companies’ leaders.

Today, not much has changed: Barrick accused Newmont of overpaying Goldcorp assets, and Newmont is now writing off Barrick’s offer (an 8% discount on the company’s most recent stock price) as a lowball.

Newmont’s CEO  — whose name, cross my heart hope to die, is Gary Goldberg — insisted that Barrick’s acquisition offer “doesn’t make sense.”

» Miner be mined

Roadie raises $37m with hopes to bring peer-to-peer package delivery mainstream 

P2P package delivery startup, Roadie, announced it has secured $37m in series C funding, led by The Home Depot.

The new funds bring its total capital raised to $62m, as the company plans to fuel its enterprise expansion over the next few years.

Hittin’ the road with some guy named Jerry’s package

Launched in 2015, Roadie planned to recruit a speck of the estimated 250m vehicles on the road to deliver goods en route to their destinations, according to VentureBeat.

Now, with more than 120k drivers, Roadie is one of the leading independent contractees in the space, helping retailers compete with the 2-day shipping promise of Amazon.

Here’s how it works: Shippers post through Roadie’s app with details like the size of the item and its destination. Roadie uses predictive analytics to find a driver with the right-sized vehicle headed in that direction — the driver then gets a flat-rate quote upfront.

Is this necessary?

Right now, a good chunk of America’s 57m gig-economy workers deliver for services like TaskRabbit, Postmates, or Amazon Flex. But, as shopping shifts further online, management consulting firm McKinsey predicts total annual deliveries in the US will more than double within 10 years.

In roughly 5 years since its launch, Roadie has teamed with brands like Delta, Walmart, The Home Depot, Kroger, Macy’s, and United to fulfill deliveries to over 224 metropolitan areas around the country.

» Peer-to-peer for the win

Alibaba is adapting facial recognition tech to address China’s swine shortage

China’s most cutting-edge surveillance technology isn’t just for tracking citizens anymore. Instead, The New York Times reports, Alibaba and other companies are building elaborate facial recognition and voice recognition systems for a new audience: pigs.

With pork production imperiled by a recent outbreak of disease, China’s tech giants have turned to AI to keep pigs healthy.

China’s got swine fever

China is the world’s largest pork producer. But swine fever, which spreads through live pigs and pork products such as ham and sausage, has led to the mass slaughter of more than 1m sick piggies.

If the supply continues to fall, global pork prices will rise. So to fix the problem, Alibaba, JD.com, and other startups use facial recognition to monitor pig health and prevent disease. 

JD.com’s system feeds information to robots to feed pigs optimal amounts. Alibaba’s system goes even further by using a voice recognition system to listen to pigs’ coughs and determine their health.

Maybe not the best way to bring back the bacon

Despite the investment in pig technology, many farmers are skeptical of the benefits. For one thing, the systems are no help once pigs are slaughtered.

“How then can you connect the head to the rest of the carcass?” asked Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the City University of Hong Kong.

But even more critics point to the cost of the process: Tagging a pig’s ear (the normal process for tracking pig health) costs approximately $0.30 per pig, while facial mapping costs $7 per pig.

» Big Pig
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What Beethoven, Steve Jobs, and Ben Franklin all had in common

Air baths, bean counting, carrot eating. 

Those are just 3 of the strange habits we came across when researching the daily practices of history’s most successful leaders, thinkers, and doers. 

Truth is: Eccentric, uber-successful people have more in common than you think. 

Aluminum and Beethoven: The origins of the keystone habit

Those strange routines are actually examples of a keystone habit. Think of it as the one thing you do each and every day that primes you for other positive habits down the line. 

Interestingly, the concept of a keystone habit has its roots with an American aluminum manufacturer, and can help explain why strange obsessions — like Beethoven counting 60 coffee beans each morning — are more positive than you’d think. 

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