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What Disbanding the Police Really Meant in Camden, New Jersey

Two schools of thought have emerged for altering US policing practices following the killing of George Floyd and widespread Black Lives Matter protests: reform the way police do their jobs, or defund or even disband police agencies.

Reform-based initiatives like 8 Can’t Wait, endorsed by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, call for new rules, including deescalation training for officers, bans on choke holds, and mandatory reporting on use-of-force incidents. The Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week, would require racial bias training and increase funding for body cameras.

Supporters of defunding say such steps aren’t enough. Police departments in Cleveland, Chicago, and Baltimore have instituted reforms but still face accusations of police brutality. Defunding means cutting hundreds of millions from police budgets and investing in housing, addiction treatment, and mental health services. Last month, the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department.

One prominent case in the debate is Camden, New Jersey, which disbanded its police force in 2012, converting it to the Camden Metro Division of the Camden County Police Department. Hundreds of officers were fired and made to reapply following new training and psychological evaluations.

At a glance, the move looks like a success. Violent crime in the city has decreased 42 percent since 2012, officials say. Former police chief Scott Thomson has lauded the restructuring and new training.

But community activists in Camden argue that disbanding the force didn’t substantively change policing. “We never really accepted it,” says Darnell Hardwick, treasurer for the Camden chapter of the NAACP. “The whole narrative that the people were in it from the beginning is a lie. What the people wanted was their own police department.”

Keith Benson, president of the Camden Education Association, one of New Jersey’s largest teacher’s unions, says the crime rate has fallen largely because gentrification is pushing out residents living on the margins. “Correlation is not causation,” he says.

Neighborhoods that were struggling with violence are being transformed. “The people are not there anymore,” Benson says. “That type of thing really has nothing to do at all with the police.”

Among their issues with the new force, activists note that while nearly 80 percent of Camden’s residents are Black or Latinx, the Metro police are mostly white and don’t live in the city. Benson argues that changes how they interact with residents.

If officers lived in the city, “you’re not just a cop. You’re also my neighbor,” Benson says. “And now you see me not as a potential criminal, but also as your neighbor.”

Another factor often overlooked in the Camden story is the increased reliance on surveillance, including license-plate-reading cameras, aerial surveillance, thermal-imaging equipment, and a city-wide web of CCTV cameras. Brendan McQuade, a professor of criminology at the University of Southern Maine who studied the Camden County Police for his book on police intelligence systems, says Metro has turned to “soft social” policing and “mass supervision.”

“There’s a danger in the ‘defund’ discussion in assuming that uniformed, armed police are bad, soft social police are good,” says McQuade. The shift to “mass supervision,” McQuade says, is a cost-saving measure and a half-hearted approach to reform.

Hardwick, the NAACP treasurer, says the surveillance is “infringing on a lot of people’s rights” and increasing the number of minor arrests. Officials argue that “the people wanted these cameras. No, the people want to be safe.”

In 2011, then governor Chris Christie proposed eliminating the Camden police department as a cost saving measure, alongside tax incentives meant to bring in new businesses. By laying off police officers and rehiring them as county employees instead of city workers, Camden saved almost $90,000 per officer. With the savings, Thomson, the chief, hired hundreds of new officers at much lower salaries. That led to a big increase in arrests and summonses for minor crimes like tinted car windows or riding a bicycle without a bell.

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One Free Press Coalition Spotlights Journalists Under Attack – July 2020

In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its eighth monthly 10 Most Urgent list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.

Here’s July’s list, ranked in order of urgency:

1. Maria Ressa (Philippines)
Filipino-US dual citizen sentenced in cyber libel case.

On June 15, a Manila court convicted Maria Ressa, editor of the privately owned Rappler news website, and Reynaldo Santos, a former researcher at the outlet, of cyber libel. The criminal offense requires each journalist to pay $7,950 in fines and moral damages as well as serve a jail term of six months to six years. Both are free on bail pending their appeal. The case arose from an article Rappler published in 2012 about a local businessman’s alleged ties to a former judge, who was later impeached for corruption, and purported links to drug and human trafficking rings.

2. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan)
Award-winning human rights reporter imprisoned 10 years.

June 15 marked 10 years since ethnic Uzbek Azimjon Askarov was arrested on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. A Kyrgyz court heard the final appeal in his case in May and upheld his life sentence. His health is deteriorating in detention, with limited access to medication and mistreatment by prison officials. His wife, Khadicha Askarova, has written to Kyrgyzstan’s president pleading for his release.

3. Solafa Magdy (Egypt)
Nearly four months without updates from imprisoned journalist in deteriorating health.

No one has received news from freelance reporter Solafa Magdy since March 9. She has been imprisoned alongside her husband for six months and endured deliberate medical neglect while at heightened risk of contracting Covid-19 due to overcrowding and inhumane conditions in Egypt’s prisons. Officials have again delayed trial for charges of “membership of a banned group” and “spreading false news” for her multimedia reporting on human rights and illegal immigration.

4. Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri (Yemen)
Four journalists detained five years, now sentenced to death.

On April 11, Yemeni journalists Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed and Tawfiq al-Mansouri were sentenced to death by the Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, after nearly five years in detention. The journalists were charged with spreading false news “in support of the crimes of Saudi aggression and its allies against the Republic of Yemen.” In June, the UN joined over 150 organizations calling for their release. Their lawyer plans to appeal.

5. Jean Bigirimana (Burundi)
Four years without information regarding journalist’s disappearance.

July 22 marks four years since reporter Jean Bigirimana went missing in the middle of the day after leaving his home in Bujumbura. He had received a phone call from a source in the country’s national intelligence service. He was working as a newspaper and online journalist with the independent Iwacu Press Group and previously with the pro-government radio station Rema FM. He has not been seen or heard from since 2016.

6. Norma Sarabia Garduza (Mexico)
Investigation idling in case of journalist murdered at her home one year ago.

June 11 marked one year since unknown attackers shot and killed reporter Norma Sarabia in her Huimanguillo residence, yet there has been little movement in the investigation announced on Twitter by the state attorney general’s office at the time. Sarabia, 46, was a correspondent in the Tabasco town near the border with Guatemala for the newspapers Diario Presente and Tabasco HOY. She is one of 54 journalists killed in Mexico between 1992 and 2020.

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In These Factories, Inspector Robot Will Check Your Work

The UK company P2i adds water-repelling nanocoatings to smartphones and other gadgets. Normally, it flies engineers to its clients’ factories to identify and solve quality-control problems.

That’s not an option in a world where flights are grounded, borders closed, and security tightened. So in some plants, P2i now relies on a system that uses artificial intelligence to look for even the slightest defects.

“Over the last four months, since the coronavirus, we’ve had to reevaluate how we are going to service and deploy our machines worldwide,” says Neal Harkrider, chief operating officer at P2i.

To spot problems, P2i is using technology from a company called Instrumental. Cameras dotted around P2i’s nano-coating machines examine smartphones after they’ve been treated, and an algorithm sounds an alert if the process appears to have gone awry.

“That vision system is our primary quality-control methodology now,” Harkrider says. He says the company can adjust its tolerance for error on the fly, “and we can do that remotely, which is fantastic.”

The pandemic has forced many manufacturers to rethink established practices. In some places, remote sensing and machine learning substitute for fewer visits, overnight package deliveries, and manual inspections. Robots may be far from displacing humans in manufacturing that requires nimble fingers and flexibility. But systems like the one used by P2i show how AI can help machines carve out niches in manufacturing.

Instrumental’s software lets manufacturers check the performance of a production line and automatically flags problems.

Courtesy of Instrumental

Before Covid-19, Harkrider says, most companies were reluctant to allow outsiders—including their own partners—to connect to their manufacturing equipment, for security reasons. Now, he says, five plants have allowed P2i’s machines, and Instrumental’s inspection technology, to be monitored and controlled remotely.

Bruce Lawler, managing director of the MIT Machine Intelligence for Manufacturing and Operations program, says the pandemic came as manufacturers already were warming to deploying automated inspection technology. “One of the big problems in manufacturing is ‘Where did the problem occur?’” he says. “If you can do more inspection more often, and have a camera on every robot, for every step, then you can say, ‘Well OK, that was here.’”

Manufacturers have long used computer vision to inspect products for defects or other problems, but this traditionally involved hand-coded rules for identifying flaws, making it time-consuming to deploy and change the equipment. Using AI, inspection systems can be fed examples of particular flaws or—as with Instumental’s system—be trained on what a product is supposed to look like and asked to identify abnormalities.

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Free Webinar: Is My Idea Any Good?

Do you have an idea for a business? Join seasoned entrepreneur and startup mentor, Gabe Zicherman, in this informative webinar to help you turn your idea into a winning idea. He’s helped bring thousands of ideas to life in his role as Director of the Founder Institute.

During the webinar, Gabe will cover:

  • What it takes to turn your idea into a successful new business.
  • Develop your concept and figure out your market opportunity
  • Get the right resources to make it happen.

*Based on our best-selling book, Start Your Own Business, we have launched a new on-demand start-up course, providing you with a step-by-step guide to starting your own business. Whether you’re ready or just thinking about it, get started for free.

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An Infrastructure Arms Race Is Fueling the Future of Gaming

The future of gaming lives inside metal cages, if you believe some of the biggest gaming companies out there. Piled on hardware racks, blinking with little green lights, it’s calculated inside stacked-together computers and pumped out of a remote server through big underground tubes. It is distributed across the globe—Shanghai, London, Prague, Virginia—from nondescript, city block-sized architectural monoliths. To see it up close, you would need to pass through multiple levels of security.

Over the last two years, it seems every major gaming and tech company has launched a cloud gaming service: Microsoft’s Project xCloud, Sony’s PlayStation Now, Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Tencent’s Start. Facebook and Amazon are reportedly sniffing around, too. For a monthly fee—$10 to $35—users can play a library of videogames on demand, streamed to their phone, television, console, computer, or tablet.

Big tech expects cloud gaming to be white hot, if the major ante they’ve pushed into it says anything. Like a lot of cutting-edge tech, it cloaks the technology behind the magic, giving you the impression that you’re barely dealing with hardware at all. It’s a charming effect. Don’t fall for it. In interviews with WIRED, the people behind some of cloud gaming’s biggest services and data center organizations lifted the curtain on the infrastructure powering these immaterial services. Many agree that, as competition becomes more fierce, and cloud gaming sees mass adoption, success in cloud gaming could mean an infrastructure arms race.

“We live in a culture of ‘instant’ when it comes to any kind of electronic media,” says Microsoft corporate vice president of cloud gaming Kareem Choudhry. He was winding up for the cloud gaming pitch: Of the world’s eight billion human beings, over two billion are gamers. Gaming is as culturally impactful as music, television, and movies. And until cloud gaming, there was no mass-market Netflix for videogames—on-demand content that’s device-agnostic. Besides, says Choudhry, “We know we’re not going to sell two billion consoles.”

Take something as simple as piloting the Witcher 3’s Geralt a few steps to the left in a cloud gaming service. Flicking the controller’s analog stock initiates a ping-pong of invisible signals to an uber-powerful and remote computer: from the controller, through the internet, to the cloud gaming service’s nearest data center and then the cloud gaming server, which processes your action and calculates a new game state—which it then feeds back to your monitor, where Geralt has inched closer to the bar.

Cloud gaming is software as a service. That service is two-pronged: a library of videogames the cloud service provider has negotiated with game publishers, and a way to stream those games over the internet. This culture of “instant” has generated big demands for that delivery service: low-latency, so you can dodge a combo in Street Fighter V; and no packet loss, so your very alive-seeming Overwatch character isn’t suddenly dead. While a service’s performance depends in part on your home internet situation—and will change with the arrival of 5G, at least on your phone—much of its lasting success will hinge on data taking as short and uninterrupted a round trip as possible from your hardware to a data center.

“It’s everything besides bandwidth, second only to bandwidth,” says David Linthicum, Deloitte’s chief cloud strategy officer, of the importance of data centers to cloud gaming competitors. “The company that provides the fastest infrastructure and the largest points of presence in data centers around the world. That’s gonna go to who’s gonna be successful.”

If you’re playing God of War in Egypt, but your cloud gaming service’s closest data center is in Qatar, there might be enough delay between your inputs and Kratos’s movements to emotionally disconnect you from gameplay. Sending an ax-slash signal from the United States’ East to West Coast takes 40 to 60 milliseconds; enough time for frustration to creep in. To give as many people as possible the best latency possible, you need to own or rent space from a lot of well-located data centers. “The slightest increase in latency, lag, or jitter can send early adopters away from these new platforms and back to their consoles and PCs,” says Jennifer Curry, the senior vice president of product and technology at data center colocation company INAP. “Just 20 to 30 additional milliseconds can be the difference between a top-tier and unviable service.”

Yet cloud-gaming-capable data centers can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. They need to be central to large populations—inside or nearby cities—require fiber optic connectivity, and eat up immense amounts of power, including for cooling. They can be huge; Microsoft owns a Dublin data center that’s 550,000 square feet, nearly 10 football fields. On top of size and location, these facilities require top-of-the-line hardware, security, maintenance. And gaming servers are specialized with powerful graphics cards and other high-octane tech ensuring low latency, beyond what might be expected from a server that hosts Google Docs. It’s a gargantuan risk to invest all of that cash in infrastructure supporting a not-quite-mainstream-yet technology. At the dawn of cloud gaming, some tech companies are better set up than others to succeed in an industry so reliant on infrastructure.

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An Ohio City’s Campaign Got More People to Buy Electric Cars

In 2016, the city of Columbus, Ohio, won a nationwide Department of Transportation challenge and was named America’s first smart city. This contest was not just for bragging rights, like some kind of Mensa for municipalities; the award came with $40 million in DOT funding for testing better transportation policies, with an additional $10 million from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. As part of Smart Columbus’ plans to make moving around more safely more sustainable, the foundation asked the city to increase adoption of battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids through an electrification program. And it succeeded.

ARS TECHNICA

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED’s parent company, Condé Nast.

The electrification program, which Ars wrote about last year, involved several different approaches to getting more local residents to switch to battery electric vehicles. The city assembled a fleet of 12 BEVs and PHEVs for a “ride and drive” road show, visiting communities and places of work to give people an opportunity to try out an EV—something that just under 12,000 people did over the course of two years.
The city created an experience center with a second fleet of test-drive plug-ins. This provided another 400 people with test drives from 2018 but also entertained more than 30,000 visitors from opening, educating them about alternative powertrains as well as shared mobility. On top of that, Smart Columbus conducted an online education campaign and worked with 35 area car dealerships, training staff so they could sell EVs. And finally, it worked with the local utility, AEP Ohio, to build out public level 2 and DC fast charging infrastructure in the region.

In 2016, before the grant was awarded, BEV and PHEV sales were just 0.4 percent in the seven-county region. When the electrification program began in April 2017, the goal was to boost this to 1.8 percent of new vehicle sales—or 3,200 EVs—by March 2020. And it worked; over the course of those 35 months, 3,323 new BEVs and PHEVs found homes in the region. Plug-in sales actually reached as high as 2.4 percent in Q4 2018 and 1.6 percent in Q4 2019. (2019 was a disappointing year nationally for plug-in sales, so we can forgive the year-on-year decrease.) Smart Columbus estimates that the program will cut carbon emissions by 1,850 tons over 10 years.

The outreach program also helped increase the odds that other locals will switch to electric powertrains too. Favorable perceptions of BEVs and PHEVs rose from October 2017 to March 2020 (BEVs: 48 percent to 62 percent; PHEVs: 57 percent to 65 percent). And whereas in October 2017, only a third of those surveyed said they were somewhat or extremely likely to purchase a BEV or a PHEV, by March 2020 that had grown to just over half.

“We’re thrilled to see the progress and success of the smart city program over the years,” said Paul Keating, senior director of philanthropy at Vulcan, the company that oversees the business and charitable activities of the late Paul Allen. “Columbus has demonstrated how a region can develop new transport systems through innovation to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. And in doing so, Columbus has created a model that can be replicated nationwide.”

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.


More Great WIRED Stories

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Amazon Shakes Up the Race for Self-Driving—and Ride-Hailing

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says his company wants to be the “Amazon for transportation.” Friday, Amazon made clear that it intends to be the Amazon for transportation.

The ecommerce giant said it had agreed to acquire Bay Area–based autonomous vehicle company Zoox, a deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion. (Amazon did not respond to WIRED’s queries.) Since its founding in 2014, Zoox has been known for its technical chops, its secretiveness, and its sky-high ambition. While Alphabet’s Waymo is focusing on self-driving tech and leaving the car building to places like Detroit, Zoox has stuck to its plan to design a robotaxi from the ground up—and operate a ride-hail service. In 2018, it showed off its first prototype vehicles, which look like sensor-laden golf carts on steroids. The company has also been testing its software on more conventional-looking Toyota Highlanders in San Francisco, where it is learning to handle chaotic city streets.

In a press release, Amazon signaled that it will not stray from Zoox’s formidable self-driving goals. “We’re acquiring Zoox to help bring their vision of autonomous ride hailing to reality,” it wrote in the headline. Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO of global consumer, said in a statement that “Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience.”

Which means the autonomous-taxi race just got more interesting. Amazon’s entrance to the space “is an existential threat to Uber and Lyft,” says Asad Hussain, a mobility tech analyst at the market analytics company Pitchbook.

In theory, autonomous vehicles and ride-hail services go hand in hand. As Uber and Lyft struggle to iron out the economics of trips, both continue to spend millions each year recruiting and retaining drivers. Moves by states including New York and California to require those drivers to be considered employees further threaten their business models. A self-driving car wouldn’t need a driver.

But lately, robotaxis have seemed to hit a rut, as the tech has proved more challenging than tech and auto executives once promised. In the last two years, well-funded competitors like Uber, Lyft, Waymo, Cruise (a subsidiary of General Motors), and ArgoAI (which is owned in part by Ford and Volkswagen) have delayed their timelines for deploying self-driving vehicles. Amazon acquired Zoox for well below its 2018 valuation of $3.2 billion.

Today, only Waymo is running an commercial, autonomous ride-hail service, only in the Phoenix metro area, and only occasionally without someone in the driver’s seat monitoring the nascent tech. In 2015, Chris Urmson, a former Google self-driving head who later cofounded self-driving startup Aurora, suggested his 11-year-old son might never need a driver’s license; the son has started learning to drive. Just this week, Aurora signaled it would shift its focus away from self-driving taxis and toward self-driving trucks. “If you want to get to market with a safe system quickly, you can do no better than to start in trucking,” Aurora cofounder Sterling Anderson said at an event hosted by The Information.

The WIRED Guide to Self-Driving Cars

How a chaotic skunkworks race in the desert launched what’s poised to be a runaway global industry.

If Amazon pushes ahead with its own ride-hail network using Zoox vehicles, the company may have some built-in advantages. In a note published a month ago, after The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Zoox deal was in the works, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak wrote that the company could offer discounts to its 100-million-plus Prime members, as it does at Whole Foods. He also theorized that Amazon could jump ahead of automakers, whose ability to pay for moon-shot tech like autonomous vehicles has waned during the Covid-19–induced recession. “In a post-Covid world, we believe fewer and more powerful players will be in position to deploy capital and talent to solving autonomy with a ‘play to win’ mindset,” Nowak wrote.

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The Long, Unhappy History of Working From Home

Three months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down offices, corporate America has concluded that working from home is working out. Many employees will be tethered to Zoom and Slack for the rest of their careers, their commute accomplished in seconds.

Richard Laermer has some advice for all the companies rushing pell-mell into this remote future: Don’t be an idiot.

A few years ago, Mr. Laermer let the employees of RLM Public Relations work from home on Fridays. This small step toward telecommuting proved a disaster, he said. He often couldn’t find people when he needed them. Projects languished.

“Every weekend became a three-day holiday,” he said. “I found that people work so much better when they’re all in the same physical space.”

IBM came to a similar decision. In 2009, 40 percent of its 386,000 employees in 173 countries worked remotely. But in 2017, with revenue slumping, management called thousands of them back to the office.

Even as Facebook, Shopify, Zillow, Twitter and many other companies are developing plans to let employees work remotely forever, the experiences of Mr. Laermer and IBM are a reminder that the history of telecommuting has been strewn with failure. The companies are barreling forward but run the risk of the same fate.

“Working from home is a strategic move, not just a tactical one that saves money,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “A lot of it comes down to trust. Do you trust your people?”

Companies large and small have been trying for decades to make working from home work. As long ago as 1985, the mainstream media was using phrases like “the growing telecommuting movement.” Peter Drucker, the management guru, declared in 1989 that “commuting to office work is obsolete.”

Telecommuting was a technology-driven innovation that seemed to offer benefits to both employees and executives. The former could eliminate ever-lengthening commutes and work the hours that suited them best. Management would save on high-priced real estate and could hire applicants who lived far from the office, deepening the talent pool.

And yet many of the ventures were eventually downsized or abandoned. Apart from IBM, companies that publicly pulled back on telecommuting over the past decade include Aetna, Best Buy, Bank of America, Yahoo, AT&T and Reddit. Remote employees often felt marginalized, which made them less loyal. Creativity, innovation and serendipity seemed to suffer.

Marissa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, created a furor when she forced employees back into offices in 2013. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings,” a company memo explained.

Tech companies proceeded to spend billions on ever more lavish campuses that employees need never leave. Facebook announced plans in 2018 for what were essentially dormitories. Amazon redeveloped an entire Seattle neighborhood. When Patrick Pichette, the former chief financial officer at Google, was asked, “How many people telecommute at Google?” he said he liked to answer, “As few as possible.”

Image
Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

That calculus has abruptly changed. Facebook expects up to half its workers to be remote as soon as 2025. The chief executive of Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company that employs 5,000 people, tweeted in May that most of them “will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.” Walmart’s tech chief told his workers that “working virtually will be the new normal.”

Quora, a question-and-answer site, said last week that “all existing employees can immediately relocate to anywhere we can legally employ them.” Those who do not want to go anywhere can still use the Silicon Valley headquarters, which would become a co-working space. Quora declined to say how many employees it has.

Adam D’Angelo, Quora’s chief executive, said that he and the rest of the leadership team would push against the notion that remote workers were second class by working remotely themselves. All meetings would be virtual. The future of work, he wrote, would be a paradise for the rank and file.

Quora said 60 percent of its workers expressed a preference for remote work, in line with national surveys. In a Morning Consult survey in late May on behalf of Prudential, 54 percent said they wanted to work remotely. In a warning sign for managers, the same percentage of remote workers said they felt less connected to their company.

One very public setback for remote work was at Best Buy, the Minneapolis-based electronics retailer. The original program, which drew national attention, began in 2004. It aimed to judge employees by what they accomplished, not the hours a project took or the location where it was done.

Best Buy killed the program in 2013, saying it gave the employees too much freedom. “Anyone who has led a team knows that delegation is not always the most effective leadership style,” the chief executive, Hubert Joly, said at the time.

Jody Thompson, a co-founder of the program who left Best Buy in 2007 to become a consultant, said the company was doing poorly and panicked. “It went back to a philosophy of ‘If I can see people, that means they must be working,’” she said.

The coronavirus shutdown, which means 95 percent of Best Buy’s corporate campus workers are currently remote, might now be prompting another shift in company philosophy. “We expect to continue on a permanent basis some form of flexible work options,” a spokeswoman said.

Flexible work gives employees more freedom with their schedules but does not fundamentally change how they are managed, which was Ms. Thompson’s goal. “This is a moment when working can change for the better,” she said. “We need to create a different kind of work culture, where everyone is 100 percent accountable and 100 percent autonomous. Just manage the work, not the people.”

But it is also a moment, she acknowledged, when working can change for the worse.

“It’s a crazy time,” Ms. Thompson said. “When you’re a manager, there is a temptation to manage someone harder if you can’t see them. There’s an increase in managers looking at spyware.”

Remote workers might be free of commuting costs, but they are traditionally more vulnerable. Jeffrey Gundlach, who runs the Los Angeles investment firm DoubleLine Capital, said in his monthly webcast that he had started seeing his newly remote staff in a new light.

“I kind of learned who was really doing the work and who was not really doing as much work as it looked like on paper that they might have been doing,” he said. With “some of the supervisory, middle-management people,” he added, “I’m starting to wonder if I really need them.”

At the beginning of the year, the unemployment rate was low and workers had some leverage. All that has been lost, at least for the next year or two. Widespread remote work could consolidate that shift.

“When people are in turmoil, you take advantage of them,” said John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University.

“The data over the last three months is so powerful,” he said. “People are shocked. No one found a drop in productivity. Most found an increase. People have been going to work for a thousand years, but it’s going to stop and it’s going to change everyone’s life.”

Innovation, Dr. Sullivan added, might even catch up eventually.

“When you hire remotely, you can get the best talent around and not just the best talent that wants to live in California or New York,” he said. “You get true diversity. And it turns out that affects innovation.”

Mr. Laermer, the public relations executive, is more cautious about the implications of the crisis. In March, when he shut down his office, he anticipated disaster — like what happened on Fridays in 2017, but five times worse.

Instead, things have been pretty good. He even hired a few people he had never met, via Zoom, “and they’ve been phenomenal.”

What changed? Well, the technology, including Zoom, is better. Moreover, “we have rules now,” he said. “You have to be available between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. You can’t use this as child care.”

But he said he was not trying to get out of his office lease.

“Companies are saying working from home is working so well we’re going to let people work from home forever,” he said. “It’s good P.R., and very romantic, and very unrealistic. We’ll be back in the office as soon as there’s a vaccine.”