David Burkus: Why you should know how much your coworkers get paid-2

Economists warn that information asymmetry can cause markets to go awry. Someone leaves a pay stub on the copier, and suddenly everybody is shouting at each other. In fact, they even warn that information asymmetry can lead to a total market failure. And I think we’re almost there. Here’s why: first, most employees have no idea how their pay compares to their peers’. In a 2015 survey of 70,000 employees, two-thirds of everyone who is paid at the market rate said that they felt they were underpaid. And of everybody who felt that they were underpaid, 60 percent said that they intended to quit, regardless of where they were — underpaid, overpaid or right at the market rate. If you were part of this survey, what would you say? Are you underpaid? Well, wait — how do you even know, because you’re not allowed to talk about it?

Next, information asymmetry, pay secrecy, makes it easier to ignore the discrimination that’s already present in the market today. In a 2011 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gender wage gap between men and women was 23 percent. This is where that 77 cents on the dollar comes from. But in the Federal Government, where salaries are pinned to certain levels and everybody knows what those levels are, the gender wage gap shrinks to 11 percent — and this is before controlling for any of the factors that economists argue over whether or not to control for.

If we really want to close the gender wage gap, maybe we should start by opening up the payroll. If this is what total market failure looks like, then openness remains the only way to ensure fairness.

Now, I realize that letting people know what you make might feel uncomfortable, but isn’t it less uncomfortable than always wondering if you’re being discriminated against, or if you wife or your daughter or your sister is being paid unfairly? Openness remains the best way to ensure fairness, and pay transparency does that.

That’s why entrepreneurial leaders and corporate leaders have been experimenting with sharing salaries for years. Like Dane Atkinson. Dane is a serial entrepreneur who started many companies in a pay secrecy condition and even used that condition to pay two equally qualified people dramatically different salaries, depending on how well they could negotiate. And Dane saw the strife that happened as a result of this. So when he started his newest company, SumAll, he committed to salary transparency from the beginning. And the results have been amazing. And in study after study, when people know how they’re being paid and how that pay compares to their peers’, they’re more likely to work hard to improve their performance, more likely to be engaged, and they’re less likely to quit.

That’s why Dane’s not alone. From technology start-ups like Buffer, to the tens of thousands of employees at Whole Foods, where not only is your salary available for everyone to see, but the performance data for the store and for your department is available on the company intranet for all to see.

Now, pay transparency takes a lot of forms. It’s not one size fits all. Some post their salaries for all to see. Some only keep it inside the company. Some post the formula for calculating pay, and others post the pay levels and affix everybody to that level. So you don’t have to make signs for all of your employees to wear around the office. And you don’t have to be the only one wearing a sign that you made at home. But we can all take greater steps towards pay transparency. For those of you that have the authority to move forward towards transparency: it’s time to move forward. And for those of you that don’t have that authority: it’s time to stand up for your right to.

So how much do you get paid? And how does that compare to the people you work with? You should know. And so should they.

Thank you.

Om Namah Shivay

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David Burkus: Why you should know how much your coworkers get paid-1

How much do you get paid? Don’t answer that out loud. But put a number in your head. Now: How much do you think the person sitting next to you gets paid? Again, don’t answer out loud.

At work, how much do you think the person sitting in the cubicle or the desk next to you gets paid? Do you know? Should you know?

Notice, it’s a little uncomfortable for me to even ask you those questions. But admit it — you kind of want to know. Most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of broadcasting our salary. We’re not supposed to tell our neighbors, and we’re definitely not supposed to tell our office neighbors. The assumed reason is that if everybody knew what everybody got paid, then all hell would break loose. There’d be arguments, there’d be fights, there might even be a few people who quit. But what if secrecy is actually the reason for all that strife? And what would happen if we removed that secrecy? What if openness actually increased the sense of fairness and collaboration inside a company? What would happen if we had total pay transparency?

For the past several years, I’ve been studying the corporate and entrepreneurial leaders who question the conventional wisdom about how to run a company. And the question of pay keeps coming up. And the answers keep surprising.

It turns out that pay transparency — sharing salaries openly across a company — makes for a better workplace for both the employee and for the organization. When people don’t know how their pay compares to their peers’, they’re more likely to feel underpaid and maybe even discriminated against. Do you want to work at a place that tolerates the idea that you feel underpaid or discriminated against? But keeping salaries secret does exactly that, and it’s a practice as old as it is common, despite the fact that in the United States, the law protects an employee’s right to discuss their pay.

In one famous example from decades ago, the management of Vanity Fair magazine actually circulated a memo entitled: “Forbidding Discussion Among Employees of Salary Received.” “Forbidding” discussion among employees of salary received. Now that memo didn’t sit well with everybody. New York literary figures Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood, all writers in the Algonquin Round Table, decided to stand up for transparency and showed up for work the next day with their salary written on signs hanging from their neck.

Imagine showing up for work with your salary just written across your chest for all to see.

But why would a company even want to discourage salary discussions? Why do some people go along with it, while others revolt against it? It turns out that in addition to the assumed reasons, pay secrecy is actually a way to save a lot of money. You see, keeping salaries secret leads to what economists call “information asymmetry.” This is a situation where, in a negotiation, one party has loads more information than the other. And in hiring or promotion or annual raise discussions, an employer can use that secrecy to save a lot of money. Imagine how much better you could negotiate for a raise if you knew everybody’s salary.

Om Namah Shivay

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Sebastian Kraves: The era of personal DNA testing is here-3

This may seem like an extreme place for DNA analysis, but let’s move on to an even more extreme environment: outer space. Let’s talk about DNA analysis in space. When astronauts live aboard the International Space Station, they’re orbiting the planet 250 miles high. They’re traveling at 17,000 miles per hour. Picture that — you’re seeing 15 sunsets and sunrises every day. You’re also living in microgravity, floating. And under these conditions, our bodies can do funky things. One of these things is that our immune systems get suppressed, making astronauts more prone to infection.

A 16-year-old girl, a high school student from New York, Anna-Sophia Boguraev, wondered whether changes to the DNA of astronauts could be related to this immune suppression, and through a science competition called “Genes In Space,” Anna-Sophia designed an experiment to test this hypothesis using a personal DNA machine aboard the International Space Station. Here we see Anna-Sophia on April 8, 2016, in Cape Canaveral, watching her experiment launch to the International Space Station. That cloud of smoke is the rocket that brought Anna-Sophia’s experiment to the International Space Station, where, three days later, astronaut Tim Peake carried out her experiment — in microgravity. Personal DNA machines are now aboard the International Space Station, where they can help monitor living conditions and protect the lives of astronauts.

A 16-year-old designing a DNA experiment to protect the lives of astronauts may seem like a rarity, the mark of a child genius. Well, to me, it signals something bigger: that DNA technology is finally within the reach of every one of you.

A few years ago, a college student armed with a personal computer could code an app, an app that is now a social network with more than one billion users. Could we be moving into a world of one personal DNA machine in every home?

I know families who are already living in this reality. The Daniels family, for example, set up a DNA lab in the basement of their suburban Chicago home. This is not a family made of PhD scientists. This is a family like any other. They just like to spend time together doing fun, creative things. By day, Brian is an executive at a private equity firm. At night and on weekends, he experiments with DNA alongside his kids, ages seven and nine, as a way to explore the living world. Last time I called them, they were checking out homegrown produce from the backyard garden. They were testing tomatoes that they had picked, taking the flesh of their skin, putting it in a test tube, mixing it with chemicals to extract DNA and then using their home DNA copier to test those tomatoes for genetically engineered traits.

For the Daniels family, the personal DNA machine is like the chemistry set for the 21st century. Most of us may not yet be diagnosing genetic conditions in our kitchen sinks or doing at-home paternity testing.

But we’ve definitely reached a point in history where every one of you could actually get hands-on with DNA in your kitchen. You could copy, paste and analyze DNA and extract meaningful information from it. And it’s at times like this that profound transformation is bound to happen; moments when a transformative, powerful technology that was before limited to a select few in the ivory tower, finally becomes within the reach of every one of us, from farmers to schoolchildren. Think about the moment when phones stopped being plugged into the wall by cords, or when computers left the mainframe and entered your home or your office.

The ripples of the personal DNA revolution may be hard to predict, but one thing is certain: revolutions don’t go backwards, and DNA technology is already spreading faster than our imagination.

So if you’re curious, get up close and personal with DNA — today. It is in our DNA to be curious.

Thank you.

Om Namah Shivay

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Sebastian Kraves: The era of personal DNA testing is here-2

This ability to make copies of DNA, as simple as it sounds, has transformed our world. Scientists use it every day to detect and address disease, to create innovative medicines, to modify foods, to assess whether our food is safe to eat or whether it’s contaminated with deadly bacteria. Even judges use the output of these machines in court to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty based on DNA evidence. The inventor of this DNA-copying technique was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993. But for 30 years, the power of genetic analysis has been confined to the ivory tower, or bigwig PhD scientist work. Well, several companies around the world are working on making this same technology accessible to everyday people like the pig farmer, like you.

I cofounded one of these companies. Three years ago, together with a fellow biologist and friend of mine, Zeke Alvarez Saavedra, we decided to make personal DNA machines that anyone could use. Our goal was to bring DNA science to more people in new places. We started working in our basements. We had a simple question: What could the world look like if everyone could analyze DNA? We were curious, as curious as you would have been if I had shown you this picture in 1980.

You would have thought, “Wow! I can now call my Aunt Glenda from the car and wish her a happy birthday. I can call anyone, anytime. This is the future!” Little did you know, you would tap on that phone to make dinner reservations for you and Aunt Glenda to celebrate together. With another tap, you’d be ordering her gift. And yet one more tap, and you’d be “liking” Auntie Glenda on Facebook. And all of this, while sitting on the toilet.

It is notoriously hard to predict where new technology might take us. And the same is true for personal DNA technology today.

For example, I could never have imagined that a truffle farmer, of all people, would use personal DNA machines. Dr. Paul Thomas grows truffles for a living. We see him pictured here, holding the first UK-cultivated truffle in his hands, on one of his farms. Truffles are this delicacy that stems from a fungus growing on the roots of living trees. And it’s a rare fungus. Some species may fetch 3,000, 7,000, or more dollars per kilogram. I learned from Paul that the stakes for a truffle farmer can be really high. When he sources new truffles to grow on his farms, he’s exposed to the threat of knockoffs — truffles that look and feel like the real thing, but they’re of lower quality. But even to a trained eye like Paul’s, even when looked at under a microscope, these truffles can pass for authentic. So in order to grow the highest quality truffles, the ones that chefs all over the world will fight over, Paul has to use DNA analysis. Isn’t that mind-blowing? I bet you will never look at that black truffle risotto again without thinking of its genes.

But personal DNA machines can also save human lives. Professor Ian Goodfellow is a virologist at the University of Cambridge. Last year he traveled to Sierra Leone. When the Ebola outbreak broke out in Western Africa, he quickly realized that doctors there lacked the basic tools to detect and combat disease. Results could take up to a week to come back — that’s way too long for the patients and the families who are suffering. Ian decided to move his lab into Makeni, Sierra Leone. Here we see Ian Goodfellow moving over 10 tons of equipment into a pop-up tent that he would equip to detect and diagnose the virus and sequence it within 24 hours. But here’s a surprise: the same equipment that Ian could use at his lab in the UK to sequence and diagnose Ebola, just wouldn’t work under these conditions. We’re talking 35 Celsius heat and over 90 percent humidity here. But instead, Ian could use personal DNA machines small enough to be placed in front of the air-conditioning unit to keep sequencing the virus and keep saving lives.

Om Namah Shivay

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Sebastian Kraves: The era of personal DNA testing is here-1

Imagine that you’re a pig farmer. You live on a small farm in the Philippines. Your animals are your family’s sole source of income — as long as they’re healthy. You know that any day, one of your pigs can catch the flu, the swine flu. Living in tight quarters, one pig coughing and sneezing may soon lead to the next pig coughing and sneezing, until an outbreak of swine flu has taken over your farm. If it’s a bad enough virus, the health of your herd may be gone in the blink of an eye. If you called in a veterinarian, he or she would visit your farm and take samples from your pigs’ noses and mouths. But then they would have to drive back into the city to test those samples in their central lab. Two weeks later, you’d hear back the results. Two weeks may be just enough time for infection to spread and take away your way of life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, farmers can take those samples themselves. They can jump right into the pen and swab their pigs’ noses and mouths with a little filter paper, place that little filter paper in a tiny tube, and mix it with some chemicals that will extract genetic material from their pigs’ noses and mouths. And without leaving their farms, they take a drop of that genetic material and put it into a little analyzer smaller than a shoebox, program it to detect DNA or RNA from the swine flu virus, and within one hour get back the results, visualize the results. This reality is possible because today we’re living in the era of personal DNA technology. Every one of us can actually test DNA ourselves.

DNA is the fundamental molecule the carries genetic instructions that help build the living world. Humans have DNA. Pigs have DNA. Even bacteria and some viruses have DNA too. The genetic instructions encoded in DNA inform how our bodies develop, grow, function. And in many cases, that same information can trigger disease. Your genetic information is strung into a long and twisted molecule, the DNA double helix, that has over three billion letters, beginning to end. But the lines that carry meaningful information are usually very short — a few dozen to several thousand letters long. So when we’re looking to answer a question based on DNA, we actually don’t need to read all those three billion letters, typically. That would be like getting hungry at night and having to flip through the whole phone book from cover to cover, pausing at every line, just to find the nearest pizza joint.

Luckily, three decades ago, humans started to invent tools that can find any specific line of genetic information. These DNA machines are wonderful. They can find any line in DNA. But once they find it, that DNA is still tiny, and surrounded by so much other DNA, that what these machines then do is copy the target gene, and one copy piles on top of another, millions and millions and millions of copies, until that gene stands out against the rest; until we can visualize it, interpret it, read it, understand it, until we can answer: Does my pig have the flu? Or other questions buried in our own DNA: Am I at risk of cancer? Am I of Irish descent? Is that child my son?

Om Namah Shivay

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Harald Haas: Forget Wi-Fi. Meet the new Li-Fi Internet-2

Now what I would like to do first is switch on the light, and I’ll simply, only switch on the light, for a moment, and what you’ll notice is that the instrument jumps to the right. So the solar cell, for a moment, is harvesting energy from this artificial light source. If I turn it off, we see it drops. I turn it on … So we harvest energy with the solar cell.

But next I would like to activate the streaming of the video. And I’ve done this by pressing this button. So now this LED lamp here is streaming a video by changing the brightness of the LED in a very subtle way, and in a way that you can’t recognize with your eye, because the changes are too fast to recognize. But in order to prove the point, I can block the light of the solar cell. So first you notice the energy harvesting drops and the video stops as well. If I remove the blockage, the video will restart.

And I can repeat that. So we stop the transmission of the video and energy harvesting stops as well. So that is to show that the solar cell acts as a receiver.

But now imagine that this LED lamp is a street light, and there’s fog. And so I want to simulate fog, and that’s why I brought a handkerchief with me.

And let me put the handkerchief over the solar cell. First you notice the energy harvested drops, as expected, but now the video still continues. This means, despite the blockage, there’s sufficient light coming through the handkerchief to the solar cell, so that the solar cell is able to decode and stream that information, in this case, a high-definition video.

What’s really important here is that a solar cell has become a receiver for high-speed wireless signals encoded in light, while it maintains its primary function as an energy-harvesting device. That’s why it is possible to use existing solar cells on the roof of a hut to act as a broadband receiver from a laser station on a close by hill, or indeed, lamp post.

And It really doesn’t matter where the beam hits the solar cell. And the same is true for translucent solar cells integrated into windows, solar cells integrated into street furniture, or indeed, solar cells integrated into these billions of devices that will form the Internet of Things. Because simply, we don’t want to charge these devices regularly, or worse, replace the batteries every few months.

As I said to you, this is the first time I’ve shown this in public. It’s very much a lab demonstration, a prototype. But my team and I are confident that we can take this to market within the next two to three years. And we hope we will be able to contribute to closing the digital divide, and also contribute to connecting all these billions of devices to the Internet. And all of this without causing a massive explosion of energy consumption — because of the solar cells, quite the opposite.

Om Namah Shivay

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Harald Haas: Forget Wi-Fi. Meet the new Li-Fi Internet-1

I would like to demonstrate for the first time in public that it is possible to transmit a video from a standard off-the-shelf LED lamp to a solar cell with a laptop acting as a receiver. There is no Wi-Fi involved, it’s just light.

And you may wonder, what’s the point? And the point is this: There will be a massive extension of the Internet to close the digital divide, and also to allow for what we call “The Internet of Things” — tens of billions of devices connected to the Internet.

In my view, such an extension of the Internet can only work if it’s almost energy-neutral. This means we need to use existing infrastructure as much as possible. And this is where the solar cell and the LED come in.

I demonstrated for the first time, at TED in 2011, Li-Fi, or Light Fidelity. Li-Fi uses off-the-shelf LEDs to transmit data incredibly fast, and also in a safe and secure manner. Data is transported by the light, encoded in subtle changes of the brightness. If we look around, we have many LEDs around us, so there’s a rich infrastructure of Li-Fi transmitters around us. But so far, we have been using special devices — small photo detectors, to receive the information encoded in the data. I wanted to find a way to also use existing infrastructure to receive data from our Li-Fi lights. And this is why I have been looking into solar cells and solar panels.

A solar cell absorbs light and converts it into electrical energy. This is why we can use a solar cell to charge our mobile phone. But now we need to remember that the data is encoded in subtle changes of the brightness of the LED, so if the incoming light fluctuates, so does the energy harvested from the solar cell. This means we have a principal mechanism in place to receive information from the light and by the solar cell, because the fluctuations of the energy harvested correspond to the data transmitted.

Of course the question is: can we receive very fast and subtle changes of the brightness, such as the ones transmitted by our LED lights? And the answer to that is yes, we can. We have shown in the lab that we can receive up to 50 megabytes per second from a standard, off-the-shelf solar cell. And this is faster than most broadband connections these days.

Now let me show you in practice. In this box is a standard, off-the-shelf LED lamp. This is a standard, off-the-shelf solar cell; it is connected to the laptop. And also we have an instrument here to visualize the energy we harvest from the solar cell. And this instrument shows something at the moment. This is because the solar cell already harvests light from the ambient light.

Om Namah Shivay

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