March 2022

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Three questions with...
2019 Fellow Karen Levy

Your Fellows project is a forthcoming book, Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance. Can you share the origins of the project and why you chose to focus on the trucking industry?

Trucking is a fascinating industry—most of us don’t think about truckers all that much in our daily lives, but we’re unbelievably dependent on them. I don’t think most people realize just how hard these people work, under all kinds of strenuous and dangerous conditions, and for very low pay. They’re a group of workers who really prize their freedom and autonomy, but increasingly they’re under many watchful eyes—from the government, from the companies they work for, and from third parties. I got interested in trucking in 2011 when I heard that the Department of Transportation was proposing required electronic monitoring of drivers to ensure they didn’t drive beyond their legal time limits. I heard a story about it on the radio, and went to a truck stop that afternoon to see what it’d be like to try to talk to truckers about their work and lives. It was a lot of fun, and from there I was in it for the long haul.

You are also a lawyer and teach at Cornell Law School. How can the law keep up with the social, legal, and ethical dimensions of new technologies?

It’s really tricky! This is sometimes referred to as the “pacing problem”—technology evolves so quickly, while law is relatively slow and reactive. So policymakers always have to balance between making rules that address the challenges raised by particular technologies but will become outdated quickly, versus making more general rules that can apply even when the technology changes. Another way I think law can keep us is by addressing the root causes of the problems that new technologies exacerbate. A lot of what we think of as technology policy problems are really much deeper issues that relate to whether people have access to opportunity or the social and economic support they need to live. So law can do a lot to address those core conditions through things like progressive economic policy, labor rights, and access to justice.

Much has been written recently about the “future of work.” How does your book fit into this conversation? Do you have any predictions?

I always find it interesting that we tend to talk about the “future of work” as though it’s something far away. But the fact is that the future of work is not likely to be categorically different from the present day, and in many ways the present day is not so different from the past. Management practices have long been motivated by goals like efficiency and loss prevention, and managers have long increased oversight over workers to try to eke out some extra productivity. But there are new aspects too. For instance, increasingly, new kinds of data are being used for workplace management—including things like biometrics and location tracking—and they’re fueling new kinds of analytics, including more predictive analytics designed to forecast what workers are likely to do in the future. And these are affecting new kinds of workplaces—including mobile workplaces like truck cabs, which were previously immune to this kind of oversight.

Two Cents

Part 2: Fellows on what they would tell their younger selves.

To Read Part 1 click here.

1: Be gentler on yourself. — Monic B. Potts, Class of 2006

2: Be incredibly picky when it comes to choosing your literary agent and publishing house. Early in the book project process, especially for first time authors, there is a strong temptation to go with the first folks who express excitement about your project. But bide your time to see who truly understands you and your vision.
— Theodore R. Johnson, Class of 2017

3: Don't get caught up in trying to keep up with people. Go at your own speed.
— Clint Smith, Class of 2020

4: Buy bitcoin at $600 (just kidding). The advice I would really give is PLEASE, PLEASE don't worry about what other people think of you. Head down, do the work, everything flows from there. I think I've always known that but when you're younger it's easier to forget sometimes. — Anna Louie Sussman, Class of 2022


Matthieu Aikins was interviewed on Fresh Air about his new book, The Naked Don't Fear the Water. The book was reviewed widely, including in the New York Times, the Intercept, and the Guardian.

Clint Smith, Andrea Elliott, and Reuben Jonathan Miller have all been named finalists for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction for their recent books.

Julian Brave NoiseCat was awarded the American Mosaic Journalism Prize.

Jonathan Katz was interviewed on the Why is This Happening? podcast about his new book, Gangsters of Capitalism.

Anna Louie Sussman wrote about egg freezing and social media for the Economist.

Lauren Michele Jackson reviewed a new book of Zora Neale Hurston's collected writing for the New Yorker.

Reuben Jonathan Miller was awarded the PROSE Award for Excellence in Social Science for his book Halfway Home. 

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



Introducing FEAT, the Foreclosure and Eviction Analysis Tool

Join the Future of Land and Housing Program and DataKind for a live demonstration and panel discussion of the newly-released Forecloser and Eviction Analysis Tool (FEAT). Learn more


Community College Bachelor’s Degrees

Join the Center on Education & Labor at New America for a discussion on where and how community college bachelor's programs are connecting students to opportunity. Learn more


Strategic Foresight in U.S. Agencies

Join New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter for a discussion with Peter Scoblic on national security policy and strategic foresight. Learn more

Reading this month

This brilliant book grapples with the challenges and beauty of Black girlhood in America.
— Keisha N. Blain,
Class of 2022

Learn more

This super popular, epic, heart-wrenching, gross, inventive, violent, jaw-dropping, and award-winning series from Image Comics is finally back after a 3-year hiatus!
— Eve L. Ewing,
Class of 2021

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Perhaps the best crafted narrative non-fiction of all time. I return to it like a handbook for how-to when I'm stuck in my own work.
— Lisa M. Hamilton, Class of 2019

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