Benchmark Blog

Bringing home the virtual bacon

Employees of one startup now teleport to work. High Fidelity, a project started by Philip Rosedale, develops virtual office experiences for companies with remote workforces. Building a digital analogue to the analog world is a labor of love for Philip Rosendale. In 2003, he created Second Life, the online virtual archipelago, with a thriving in-game economy. In […]

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Lessons from the ashes

Chances are, at some point in the past few weeks, you have read or listened to news about the wildfires currently burning across Australia. Much like 2018 here in the United States, this fire season is setting records in Australia for all the wrong reasons. Australia’s fire season typically stretches from December through March but […]

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Sanctuary for immigrants?

Across the country, hundreds of cities, states, and counties are having the same conversation about sanctuary policies for immigrants. In December of 2019, Madison, Wisconsin, became a microcosm of that discussion. The conclusions that each jurisdiction across the U.S. reaches may have dramatic effects on US immigration policy. The conversation in Madison was about a […]

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All I want for Christmas is a shorter commute

Discussions about the future of work often focus on the relationship between worker satisfaction and productivity. While we know that happy and fulfilled workers are more productive, an often-overlooked factor in workplace satisfaction is how we get to work in the first place. The great American commute continues to get longer, and this trend is […]

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The end of shopping as we know it?

Numbers are in, and 2019 was another record-breaking year for Black Friday Weekend. Yet once again, the lines and fights that have come to characterize Black Friday were conspicuously missing. Why? It’s simple: online shopping is fundamentally changing the way we buy. More than half of all Thanksgiving weekend sales took place online. Unsurprisingly, it seems shoppers prefer […]

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Was your Thanksgiving dinner radioactive?

Last month, I wrote a post about how misperceptions and misinformation surrounding nuclear energy has proven to be more dangerous than the technology itself. And, as luck would have it, just a week later, I got to witness an incident involving potentially radioactive material, public exposure, and misinformation play out right here in my hometown. […]

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Let’s tear down the invisible wall

Extensive attention is given to proposals to build a wall along the United States’ southern border. By the end of 2020, for example, at least 450 miles of wall is expected to be built. In a way, a physical barrier would add a second wall around the US. Immigration scholars call the existing legal rules and processes for […]

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The future of education may not be what you think

On going discussions about the future of work continue to center around how to prepare people better to step into the rapidly growing tech field. In a recent survey, 80 percent of companies said they will need more employees with tech skills soon. Thanks to continued growth in tech-focused areas, there’s little doubt that there will […]

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The opportunity cost of public transit

On November 5th, voters from 19 states passed 89 percent of the transportation measures on their election ballots. One of the most interesting votes occurred in Houston, where voters approved a bond of $35 billion to improve the city’s public transportation system. The bond is earmarked to fund 75 miles of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes, 16 miles of Light Rail […]

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With Nuclear Power, the Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

Ask most people what they think about nuclear power these days, and the odds are that the conversation will involve some discussion of dangerous radioactive waste and nuclear meltdowns. For over half a century, nuclear energy has played a significant role in both U.S. and international pop culture. Still, most movies, comic books, and television […]

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Would deportations even work?

Between 2000 and 2017, the United States government removed 5,562,827 people from the country. A removal is exactly what you think: a person is forced to leave the U.S. because they are here without legal documentation. Source: Department of Homeland Security. Note: The data […]

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Finding Meaning in a Future of Less Work

Akey topic of debate in last week’s Democratic presidential debate was the perennial question of how technological progress is impacting workers and what should be done to protect them. Candidates argued about whether international trade or automation was to blame for the loss of manufacturing jobs. Both are important drivers. But concerns about automation, in particular, have […]

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“The great moral renovator of society”

Earlier today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a wide-ranging, “unfiltered” speech outlining his views on free expression and the internet (you can read it here and a companion oped here). It marked a rare and forceful speech from someone who has become a bit of a boogeyman among policymakers on both the left and right. It also outlined, in […]

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Want to See Green Tech Thrive?

In an interview with Bloomberg last month, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates said it’s time to re-examine our current approach at subsidizing green energy. Speaking of wind and solar, Gates said, “The tax benefits there should be shifted into things that are more limiting, like energy storage, offshore wind — which still has a […]

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Immigrants, Robots, and the American Farmer

Every fall, crops are harvested, and the seasonal workers return home. For many agricultural workers, that means returning to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Farmers throughout the US have always relied on immigrant workers to bring in crops, yet in the last few years, farmers have made more and more requests to bring immigrants […]

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“Look at the Camera for Entry”

Earlier this year, shoppers at Jacksons Food Stores in Tacoma, Washington found a new sign greeting them when they tried to enter the store. It told them to “Look at the Camera for Entry” because facial recognition technology was in use. Billy Easley examines the implications of this becoming commonplace across the United States […]

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Did Gavin Newsom kill the sharing economy?

Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom, signed groundbreaking legislation that will have widespread impacts across the gig economy. Once in effect, the law will establish three criteria for whether a worker should be categorized as an employee or an independent contractor. Proponents of the law have celebrated it as a step toward establishing fair working conditions for gig […]

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America’s nuclear future

Climate change continues to drive the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and a majority of Democratic candidates have already put out their plans. Many revolve around similar strategies: move to 100 percent renewable energy, electrification of the transportation sector, and taxes on carbon. The timeframes vary, and some hope to achieve all of this before today’s toddlers have graduated […]

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From Booze Cruise to Silicon Sands

If you’ve been to Tijuana, it was probably on a booze cruise. Known as the “Vegas before Vegas was Vegas,” the city holds a particular reputation. Only 15 miles from the US border, tourists have long headed south to escape the cold weather or for an inexpensive weekend getaway. Tijuana is known for its tequila and tacos; however, […]

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Chasing Away the American Dream

Thanks to low overhead costs and high flexibility, home-based businesses are an increasingly popular option for aspiring entrepreneurs. Amazon, Apple, Disney and some of the most successful companies in the United States were started at home. According to Small Business Trends, 69 percent of entrepreneurs in the US start their business out of their home. They clearly play […]

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Should we fear facial recognition?

This week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for a ban on police use of facial recognition as part of his presidential campaign’s criminal justice reform platform. He’s not alone. Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first city in the US to ban local agencies’ use of facial recognition technology. Since then, officials in Oakland, CA and Somerville, MA also voted to limit how police […]

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Why immigration raids backfire

Last week President Trump’s administration executed the largest immigration raid in the previous decade. With a total of 680 people arrested, the raids throughout six Mississippi cities will leave permanent marks. The raids hit an especially emotional note as August 7 also marked the first day of school. Children emerged from classes to find relatives or family friends waiting […]

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Reskilling tomorrow’s workforce

Amazon recently announced that it will invest $700 million to help 100,000 of its employees improve their technical skills to stay competitive. The company has dubbed these training efforts “upskilling,” noting that in today’s changing workplace, “there’s a greater need for technical skills in the workplace than ever before, and a huge opportunity for people with the […]

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Driverless cars could transform our roads

Last year, 40,000 Americans died in car crashes. Another 4.5 million were seriously injured. And every seven seconds, another person was hurt on the road. These numbers are astronomically high. For reference, they’re more than double the number of deaths caused by prescription opioids in 2017. But that’s not the worst of it. The saddest […]

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Beyond the Fight for $15

The latest jobs report from the BLS reports a sudden acceleration of an ongoing trend of job growth, and unemployment in the US is now around 3.7 percent. Despite these impressive job numbers, real wages remain low for American workers. Perhaps in light of this, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act this week, which reflects the […]

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The road to wildfire is paved with good intentions

This piece is the fourth of a multi-part series by Brian Isom on wildfires. Click to read parts one, two, and three. In January of 1969, an oil drilling accident off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, released millions of gallons of oil into the surrounding ocean ecosystem. Within days, 30 miles of beaches along the […]

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The Border Patrol’s problems aren’t about Facebook

We should expect the best from our public servants, and they should feel an obligation to provide their very best to us. Otherwise, they should find other work. Earlier this month, ProPublica revealed posts from a secret Facebook group that raises questions about the culture within the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). As the Washington Post put it, […]

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Bringing mom to work (and bringing work to mom)

This week Utah announced that thousands of state employees may soon become eligible for a work-from-home option. That news comes after a pilot project showed that productivity went up 20 percent among workers allowed to telecommute. But these workers aren’t just more productive. They’re also reducing carbon dioxide emissions by foregoing a long commute and […]

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You probably can’t pass the US citizenship test

The Fourth of July brings fireworks, cookouts, and a lot of red, white, and blue. For many of the approximately 850,000 people who became citizens in 2018, this will be their first Independence Day as full citizens. That number of new citizens also marks a five-year high, which should give everyone cause to […]

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Are nonexistent connected cars slowing our WiFi?

Getting connected to Wi-Fi can be a frustrating experience. Even if you can find a signal, your connection may be slow or unreliable. Sometimes the culprit may be many other devices trying to use the same radio frequencies at the same time. The FCC should now help alleviate this problem by creating a large, contiguous […]

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