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Some apps mimic enterprise software. Michael Perry, founder of the app Maple, says his apps—inspired by workplace tools like Slack and Trello—put tasks in a “dumping ground” where family members can choose them via chat, without needing one person to delegate.
Other approaches take their inspiration from research into domestic inequality. Rachel Drapper, a research associate at Harvard Business School, has been working to integrate research on how couples can more successfully split housework into a forthcoming app, FairShare. “Many solutions are targeting women, and we thought that was missing the point,” she says. Drapper’s solution—which is still just a prototype—is to crowdsource data on how households split their chores and use the results to inform other households about what works and what doesn’t.
The trouble is that these apps face an enormously difficult task in trying to overturn deeply rooted societal norms—girls in the kitchen with their mothers, boys playing with their fathers. Such expectations are part of what leaves women in heterosexual couples with so much of the housework (same-sex couples are noticeably more egalitarian). Once women become mothers, the imbalance gets worse.
Still, the issue is not if men can play an equal part in housework but how. Men in more egalitarian cultures, unsurprisingly, take on a much fairer share. And in those places, if neither partner has the time or energy, the government itself may come to their aid. In Sweden, which tops the Gender Equality Index in the EU, the state pays half the bill for hiring out chores like laundry and house cleaning—which means many more busy families can afford to do so. That, in turn, helps women’s earning potential. In Belgium, a similar state subsidy for outsourcing chores led to a significant increase in women’s employment.
In the United States, however, many women—mothers or not—are at a crisis point, with little in the way of safety nets like affordable or subsidized child care or healthcare.
Papering over inequalities
Part of the reason apps may be struggling to make a serious dent in women’s housework load is that much of the labor women do is not physical, but mental and emotional. The burden still falls mostly on women to anticipate the needs of those around them and make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the family, says Allison Daminger, a doctoral student in sociology at Harvard. These tasks might include researching the best deal for a couch or remembering that it’s time to schedule a child’s visit to the dentist. It’s time-consuming work, even if it’s mostly hidden from others.
Chore app design regularly further embeds the status quo: that it’s usually women who delegate household tasks. “I can’t think of a time [in my research] where a man made a list for his wife, but I can think of several instances where a wife made a list for her husband,” Daminger says.
Jaclyn Wong, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina, is not only an expert on the role of gender expectations in couple dynamics. She’s also piloting her own app, a chore calendar that tries to dodge gendered traps—woman handles the cooking, man handles the yard work— by dividing the full range of household tasks between both partners. It also aims to put into writing exactly what each person is doing.
Chapman Clark says that making the invisible labor visible in this way was one huge benefit of using her chore app. “It did help me to notice when my husband was contributing, and it helped my husband to notice that so many more chores exist than just sweeping, vacuuming, cooking, and dishes,” she says.
But not everyone enjoys seeing that discrepancy between a couple’s contributions. Wong’s research shows that this is an uphill battle: “There’s pushback. People get defensive when they are notified of ways they are not being equal partners,” she notes. The risk is that couples may abandon an app for that reason even if it could help them in the long run.
While apps may be easy to access and use, they often seem to just paper over gender inequalities in the home. In fact, they can sour relationships if they’re seen as a “management tool” rather than a “partnership tool,” says Kate Mangino, author of an upcoming book, Equal Partners, about how to improve gender equality in households.
“One of the ways we excuse gender inequality is ‘She’s the manager, and I’m the helper,’” Mangino says, paraphrasing how a husband might feel. It makes for a strange power dynamic that the apps just reinforce.
Most important for an app’s success is buy-in by the partner who has been doing less, and that is impossible to guarantee. “The work in managing the app is still going to be seen as women’s work,” says Wong. “We have constructed these norms that women and mothers have the final say.”
Ultimately, a chore app can only do so much to get an unwilling partner to pitch in, and it can’t undo centuries of sexism. It can help to make who does what around the house more visible, but it can’t change the situation unless both members of a couple have bought into the need for change—and that remains the biggest barrier.
“I’m often approached by [chore app] entrepreneurs, and the feedback I almost always give is, ‘How are you going to ensure male uptake in engagement?’” says Daminger. “That’s the biggest hurdle, and I don’t know of anyone who has cracked that.”
5G private networks enable business everywhere
The manufacturing industry is exploring 5G technology at an accelerated pace, largely to enable AI-driven use cases such as closed-loop manufacturing, adaptive manufacturing, predictive analytics for maintenance, and extended reality (XR)-based worker training and safety, says Jagadeesh Dantuluri, general manager for private and dedicated networks at Keysight Technologies. “It’s not about a static assembly line performing the same action time and time again, but one that can change based on their needs,” he says. “Private networks essentially enable new business models in manufacturing.”
Yet, the benefits of 5G private networks extend beyond manufacturing. Because the technology offers more reliable connectivity, faster data rates and lower latency, and greater scalability, security, and network control than previous communications technologies, 5G private networks will drive innovations in many industrial and enterprise sectors.
The benefits of 5G private networks
A private cellular network is built on 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)-defined standards (such as LTE or 5G), but it offers dedicated on-premise coverage. This is important for remote facilities where public networks do not exist, or where indoor coverage is not robust. A private network also makes exclusive use of the available capacity; there is no contention from other network users, as on a public network. Private operators can also deploy their own security policies to authorize users, prioritize traffic, and, most importantly, to ensure that sensitive data does not leave the premises without authorization.
The dedicated nature of 5G private networks coupled with a customized service, intrinsic control, and URLLC capabilities provides more reliable industrial wireless communication for a wide variety of use cases, Dantuluri says “Applications include wireless, real-time, closed-loop control and process automation, and AI-based production and AR/VR-based design for onsite and remote workers,” he explains. “In addition, low-cost connectivity allows sensors to become easily deployed in a wider variety of scenarios, allowing businesses to create innovative applications and collect real-time data.”
The industrial sector is driving toward a massive digital transformation, and the integration of information-technology (IT) systems with operational-technology (OT) systems will speed up this process. Digital technologies will also enable many new use cases, such as automated manufacturing.
A 5G private network enables a facility to synchronize and integrate tracking data into its workflow, allowing production lines to be configured in real time, says Dantuluri. “Since the factory’s assembly lines and infrastructure, such as robotic arms, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), and sensors, are wirelessly connected, configuring or moving assembly elements on demand is much easier. This use case demands highly reliable, low-latency wireless connectivity and coverage, and potentially high data rates in both the uplink and downlink, and maybe support for Time Sensitive Networks (TSN) in the future. This use case application can only be achieved with 5G private networks.”
Outside the industrial sector, 5G private networks enable mobile augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (VR) applications, allowing, for example, engineers to view superimposed blueprints, soldiers to have heads-up displays, and businesses to have virtual meetings in the field or working remotely. “If a machine has to be repaired, and a technician or a factory worker has AR goggles, they can have technical information superimposed on the real-world device to see what is wrong,” says Dantuluri. “And the data center can send instructions about how to do the repairs, step by step.”
As enterprises realize the benefits of pervasive, low-latency, high-bandwidth, and secure connectivity, the applications of 5G private networks will expand. By the end of 2024, analysts expect investment in 5G private networks will add up to tens of billions of dollars. A separate analysis by the research arm of investment firm JP Morgan predicts that the global enterprise opportunity for 5G will exceed $700 billion by 2030.
Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything
As China grapples with its biggest-ever spike of covid cases, the government’s decision to keep pushing the narrative that surfaces pose a significant infection risk means time and money are being poured into the wrong things during a crisis, scientists say. Measures to stop airborne transmission are far more effective.
The policy of prioritizing disinfection is part of a wider state-controlled narrative that’s politicizing the health crisis and is designed to legitimize the government’s response. It also plays into China’s favored narrative about covid’s origins: that it could have been imported into Wuhan through frozen food.
Diverging pandemic paths
The scientific debate about how much surfaces contribute to covid’s spread is pretty much over internationally. For example, a study from the University of Michigan, published in April 2022 in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, estimated that the chance of catching covid from a contaminated surface is 1 in 100,000—well below the benchmark researchers suggested as a tolerable risk.
And while the risk isn’t zero, the vast majority of public health bodies, including the World Health Organization, have judged that it’s too low to warrant active measures except recommending hand-washing. Outside China, most countries long ago gave up encouraging people to disinfect things as a way to avoid covid. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance a full two years ago, in May 2020, to reflect the fact that it’s mostly unnecessary.
Instead, the overwhelming consensus is that aerosols and droplets transmit the virus much more readily than surfaces. Indeed, the same April 2022 Michigan study found that airborne transmission is 1,000 times more likely than surface transmission.
“People only have the bandwidth to do so many protective health behaviors. It’s ideal for them to be focusing on the things that are going to have the biggest impact on reducing their risks,” says Amy Pickering, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “And that would be mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor spaces.”
The media and government in China often point to research to justify the continued fear of surface transmission. Studies carried out by researchers in Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia have found that covid viruses can survive days or weeks on various surfaces.
But many have not been peer-reviewed, and anyway, these lab results don’t reflect real life, says Ana K. Pitol, a postdoctoral researcher at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK. “If you put a huge droplet inside a medium that protects the virus, and you put it inside a container, and you put it in an incubator, of course, it will survive many days, sometimes even weeks,” she says. “But the question we should be asking is how long it survives in a realistic situation.”
I tried to buy an Olive Garden NFT. All I got was heartburn.
I wanted to plunk down my $20, but OpenSea didn’t accept credit cards. I would need to buy some of the cryptocurrency Ether to complete the transaction. Okay! I’m game. Ether in hand (or wallet, more precisely), I went back to OpenSea and tried to make a purchase. Except by the time I was ready, those initial drops had already seemingly sold out. The price had gone up. Way up. Secondary sellers, who perhaps saw the same Twitter threads I’d seen, were now trying to flip their OG NFTs. With grim resignation, I bought some more Ether and tried again.
That’s when I discovered gas fees, a service fee charged by miners to verify transactions. Being cheap, I lowballed. My transaction never went through. The price of Olive Gardens was still going up. I tried again, paying market rate this time. Success! Katie was going to be so happy.
Except … have you ever tried giving someone an NFT? I needed to pay even more in gas fees to make the transfer. All in, the jokey purchase I had initially thought would cost me $20, and later reassessed to maybe $75, ultimately set me back nearly 300 bucks.
But hey, my friend Katie was now the owner, kind of, of a JPEG of a photo of an Olive Garden in a mall in Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ethereum blockchain. What a great gift!
That is, it was a great gift until just over a week later, when the real Olive Garden’s attorneys sent OpenSea a takedown notice, and all those non-fungible Olive Gardens vanished into the, uh, ether. Poof.
Like I said, money is weird now. And so this issue dives into the way technology is shaping our financial future.
Whether it’s a biometric-based universal cryptocurrency meant to underpin Web3, cities built by Bitcoin, digital currencies that are replacing cash, or the way iBuying is transforming the housing market, technology is fundamentally changing the ways we buy, spend, and save money. Even the way we gamble.
We hope you enjoy this issue, and that it reveals something new to you about the present that helps you better understand and prepare for the future. Even if that’s just budgeting in your gas fees in advance.
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited a copyright notice, it was actually a trademark infringement notice.