Google's New Algorithm Can Read Employees' Minds

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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.

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

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