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The new and uncertain future of work

The new and uncertain future of work

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the many ideas about the future of work to ice-cream-machine hackers.

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Best of Protocol

Forced unemployment and second-class status: The life of Google's data center contractors, by Anna Kramer

  • You get a job at a Google data center, only to find out your contract ends in two years, there's exactly zero chance it gets renewed and the only way to keep working there is to leave for six months. That's life for these employees, and nobody will tell them why the system works this way.

Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson: A new headset is just months away, by Janko Roettgers

  • Peggy Johnson's tenure at Magic Leap has been one of huge change, as the company goes from nifty consumer demo (and money pit) to genuinely useful enterprise tool. She talks about changing cultures and processes, all while continuing to try to ship game-changing products.

The post-pandemic office: Is work from the office Wednesday the new WFH Friday? By Megan Rose Dickey

  • Some parts of work life — like, you know, being around humans — will eventually feel normal again. But some parts of the 9-to-5 just won't ever be the same, and companies across the tech industry are trying to figure out what to do next. There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all work setup anymore.
  • Also, check out Anna Kramer's story about all the people who moved during the pandemic and now don't know if they need to move back.

App makers went to Washington and spilled all their tea on Apple, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Two things to note from this week's antitrust hearing: Republicans and Democrats are surprisingly aligned in their belief that Big Tech needs to be reined in, and developers are increasingly unafraid to come forward about the way they're treated by the tech giants. Life's not going to get easier for Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Epic signs up more app makers for its PC store. But it's not asking for a cut of sales, by Nick Statt

  • Epic is gearing up for a public brawl with Apple, and continues to do everything it can to seem like the industry's best friend. And, of course, to find increasingly clever — and expensive — ways to paint Apple as a rent-seeking Mafia boss. The Epic Store has become a fascinating place to watch it all play out.


The internet has changed a lot in the 25 years since lawmakers last passed comprehensive internet regulations. It's time for an update. See how we're making progress on key issues and why we support updated regulations to set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges.

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Best of Everything Else

Why the chip shortage is so hard to overcome — The Wall Street Journal

  • We don't have enough chips. Why don't chip companies just, you know, make more chips? The answer, it turns out, has to do with the way the industry was created, how supply chains are designed, how companies plan for the future and how geopolitical fights have knock-on effects throughout the business world. Making more chips requires remaking the chip industry.

Google turmoil exposes cracks long in making for top AI watchdog — Bloomberg

  • What happened to people like Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell was not the result of one-off decision making, but rather an outpouring of the culture built inside Google over the last two decades. And as this story finds, it raises big questions about whether the tech industry is capable of regulating itself and stopping its worst impulses.

Do brain implants change your identity? — The New Yorker

  • Neural implants aren't a fantastical idea about the future; for hundreds of thousands of people they're already a part of day-to-day life. And there's evidence that putting something into your brain changes the way it works, maybe in more fundamental ways than you think. There's a big, Singularity-level question in this story, one everyone should think about.

They hacked McDonald's ice cream machines — and started a cold war — Wired

  • Right-to-repair meets "Mission: Impossible" in this wild story about the white-hat hackers of ice cream machines, the huge company that tried to stop them and the economies that protect bad products. You'll never think of soft serve the same way again.

Foundering: The TikTok story — Bloomberg

  • I loved season one of Bloomberg's Foundering podcast, which chronicled the rise and fall of WeWork. This one has very different, more geopolitically-related drama, but plenty of drama nonetheless. The first couple of episodes are a good primer on why TikTok became the phenomenon it is today, and the issues it's had from the beginning.

The case for universal creative income — Li Jin

  • We are entering the Age of the Creator. Again. But what does the new creator economy look like? This essay makes a compelling case that history is a good guide, and that paying people to create art tends to be both good for society and good for creating great art. It's a good companion to Li Jin's seminal essay about the creator economy's middle class, and a good read for anyone thinking about how to approach this space.


It's been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations passed. But a lot has changed since 1996. See how we're taking action and why we support updated regulations to address today's challenges — protecting privacy, fighting misinformation, reforming Section 230, and more.

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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