Google's New Algorithm Can Read Employees' Minds

It's not enough that Google troll every corner of the Internet, turn itself into a universal library, and read through your email to pepper your Inbox with relevant advertising. No, Google will not stop until it has developed an algorithm to read your mind. Or at least, the minds of all of its employees.


Google has become a behemoth during a recession, a double whammy because not only are profits thinning but also it's ceding the start-up atmosphere, which draws the best tech minds, to sites like Hulu and Twitter. That explains the company's recent "talent exodus" as middle-level employees and top execs have hit the road to join greener ears in greener pastures.

So Google turned to what it does best: an algorithm that seek to be all-knowing. It is, the Wall Street Journal reports, in the process of developing a code that synthesizes employee surveys, promotions and pay to estimate which employees are most likely to quit the company. The purpose of the algorithm is to anticipate their best employees' dissatisfaction, before their idle thumb-twirling begets a few extra-long lunch breaks and a drawn out process that ends with an all-company email that ends "It's time to move on." The company hopes that, with enough pre-warning, it can keep potentially dissasisfied workers from ever feeling that they were potentially dissatisfied.

This might turn out to be controversial in some corners, but frankly it's seems like a great idea for all sides involved. If Google could somehow build a scalable algorithm to anticipate employee satisfaction, it would help employers understand who to push harder or who's likely feeling underused enough to tackle an important long-term project. For employees who might feel embarrassed or otherwise reluctant to complain about workload, the algorithm would speak for them. I don't believe in telepathy. But there have been days when I wished my boss could read my glazed eyes as a prayer for a real assignment. And if Google can turn those bosses into Miss Cleo, I say Bravo.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In