How Bronze Age Rulers Simply Canceled Debts

By Michael Hudson – My book And forgive them their debts”: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year  is about the origins of economic organization ad enterprise in the Bronze Age, and how it shaped the Bible. It’s not about modern economies. But the problem is – as the reviewer mentioned – that the Bronze Age and early Western civilization was shaped so differently from what we think of as logical and normal, that one almost has to rewire one’s brain to see how differently the archaic view of economic survival and enterprise was.

Credit economies existed long before money and coinage. These economies were agricultural. Grain was the main means of payment – but it was only paid once a year, at harvest time. You can imagine how awkward it would be to carry around grain in your pocket and measure it out every time you had a beer.

We know how Sumerians and Babylonians paid for their beer (which they drank through straws, and which was cleaner than the local water). The ale-woman marked it up on the tab she kept. The tab had to be paid at harvest time, on the threshing floor, when the grain was nice and fresh. The ale-woman then paid the palace or temple for its advance of wholesale beer for her to retail during the year.

If the crops failed, or if there was a flood or drought, or a military battle, the cultivators couldn’t pay. So what was the ruler to do? If he said, “You owe the tax collector, and can’t pay. Now you have to become his slave and let him foreclose on your land.”

Suddenly, you would have had a slave society. The cultivators couldn’t serve in the army, and couldn’t perform their corvée duties to build local infrastructure.

To avoid this, the ruler simply cancelled the debts (most of which were owed ultimately to the palace and its collectors). The cultivators didn’t have to pay the ale-women. And the ale women didn’t have to pay the palace.

All this was spelled out in the Clean Slate proclamations by rulers of Hammurabi’s dynasty in Babylonia (2000-1600 BC), and neighboring Near Eastern realms. They recognized that there was a cycle of buildup of debt, reaching an unpayably high overhead, followed by a cancellation to restore the status quo ante in balance.

This concept is very hard for Westerners to understand. more>

Updates from ITU

New Measuring the Information Society Report 2018 shows big progress, big gaps
ITU News – More and more people worldwide have access to and are using the Internet. At the same time, ICT prices have dropped globally in the last decade. However, stronger information and communication technology (ICT) skills are needed to connect people everywhere.

These are some of the top highlights in ITU’s new Measuring the Information Society Report 2018, released today.

The MIS Report also finds that improved ICT regulation and policy-making have played a pivotal role in creating the conditions for the reduction of prices, ensuring that part of the efficiency gains of higher ICT adoption are passed on to consumers.

“This year’s report shows how increased investment in broadband technologies is driving the global digital transformation and enabling more people to access a myriad of services at the click of a button,” says ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

The report finds that there continues to be a general upward trend in the access to and use of ICTs. Most importantly, the world has crossed the halfway line in terms of Internet use, with 51.2 per cent of the world population using the Internet by the end of 2018. more>

Updates from Ciena

Sharing Bandwidth with the Neighbors

By Wayne Hickey – Neighbors, when asked, will typically share a cup of sugar. In some cases, the ‘cup of sugar’ request was, and is, a great way to meet or start a friendly conversation with our neighbors. Waving from 50 feet away, or over a fence, isn’t as inviting or approachable. While being a good neighbor has its benefits, most draw the line for sharing with things like Internet access, typically by simply adding a security key to their home WiFi network. After all, now we’re talking bandwidth, and not sugar!

But with the Internet, every connection is a ‘shared’ connection. Sometimes sharing is done close to your house, a fiber node, headend, or Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) router. BGP is the routing protocol used to route traffic across the Internet Wide Area Network (WAN).

If you want to guarantee that your service is not shared, you must get an enterprise level connection. But even with enterprise level connections, they only guarantee your speed up until the BGP router of your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and as soon as you get on the Internet – you guessed it, its shared and all bets are off!

For cable operators today, coaxial cable is used to deliver broadband services to their existing customers, and will continue for many years. In the cable operator coaxial access network, cable bandwidth is shared among all subscribers in a service group. Service group sizes can vary, but typical coaxial access networks can range in the hundreds (300-500), depending on region. more>

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Updates from Adobe

5 & 3/4 QUESTIONS
By Enisaurus – I’m Enisaurus, a professional freelance illustrator from the sunny land of Valencia, Spain.

My works are usually based on geometry. There, between simple shapes and bright colors, is where I feel most comfortable. I’m always pushing myself to try new ways to communicate ideas and thoughts through my illustrations, constantly seeking ways of being a better storyteller and professional.

When I’m not at the climbing gym, I’m usually working on private commissions for clients from around the world, like BMW, Movistar, the Henry Ford Museum, TED, Bespoke Post, and Cabify, to name just a few. And between climbing and private commissions are my beloved side projects—what would I do without them! This is the time that I use for experimentation purposes and just for having fun; they are excellent exercises that help me develop my illustration skills and allow me to to step out of my comfort zone.

It’s the only way to avoid the dreadful feeling of being creatively stuck. more>

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Complexity Economics Shows Us Why Laissez-Faire Economics Always Fails

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer – Over the last three decades, an unprecedented consolidation and concentration of earning power and wealth has made the top 1 percent of Americans immensely richer while middleclass Americans have been increasingly impoverished.

Traditional economic theory is rooted in a 19th- and 20th-century understanding of science and mathematics. At the simplest level, traditional theory assumes economies are linear systems filled with rational actors who seek to optimize their situation. Outputs reflect a sum of inputs, the system is closed, and if big change comes it comes as an external shock. The system’s default state is equilibrium. The prevailing metaphor is a machine.

But this is not how economies are. It never has been. As anyone can see and feel today, economies behave in ways that are non-linear and irrational, and often violently so. These often-violent changes are not external shocks but emergent properties—the inevitable result—of the way economies behave.

The traditional approach, in short, completely misunderstands human behavior and natural economic forces. The problem is that the traditional model is not an academic curiosity; it is the basis for an ideological story about the economy and government’s role—and that story has fueled policymaking and morphed into a selfishness-justifying conventional wisdom.

It is now possible to understand and describe economic systems as complex systems like gardens. And it is now reasonable to assert that economic systems are not merely similar to ecosystems; they are ecosystems, driven by the same types of evolutionary forces as ecosystems. Eric Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth is the most lucid survey available of this new complexity economics. more>

AI’s Ethical Implications: The Responsibility Of Firms, Policymakers and Society?

By Frederick Ahen – The market for AI is massive.

The expertise needed in the field is growing exponentially; in fact, firms are unable to meet the demand for specialists. Contributions of AI to both advanced and emerging economies is significant and it is also powering other fields that once depended on manual labor with painstakingly slow processes.

For example, precision agriculture now uses drones to help irrigate and monitor plant growth, remove weeds and take care of individual plants. This is how the world is being fed.

Journalists are using drones to search for truth in remote areas. Driverless cars are being tested. Drones are doing wonders in the logistics and supply chain areas. But drones are also used for killing, policing and tracking down criminal activities.

There are many other advantages of AI in the health sector, elderly care and precision medicine. AI machines have the capacity to do things more efficiently than humans or even tread spaces that are more dangerous for humans.

This is the gospel. Take it or leave it.

But there is more to the above. What is also true is that ‘the world is a business’ and business is politics that controls science, technology and information dissemination. These three entities know how to subliminally manipulate, calm, manage and shape public sentiments about anything.

They control how much knowledge we can have and who can be vilified for knowing or speaking the truth, demanding an ethical approach to the production and use of AI or turned into a hero for spinning the truth.

So, the question is, which industrial policies will promote the proper use of AI for the greater good through ethical responsibility in the midst of profits, power, politics and polity? more>

Updates from Siemens

Visionary manufacturers are rethinking enterprise architecture
By Alex Allison and Josh Ray – Digitalization has caused a groundswell of ongoing change. Emerging technologies push one another forward, helping businesses create new business models and new value-adding opportunities. Leading business thinkers know that the digitalization of internal processes is one of the greatest areas of opportunity for businesses.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in manufacturing, as next-generation smart products and processes wirelessly integrate data and consolidate control at limitless scale. In most cases, traditional manufacturing technology is obsolete simply because most older machines, hardware and software were not designed for the massive amounts of data and Internet of Things (IoT) networking that are required for competitive operations these days.

In fact, PWC says that out of 2,000 manufacturers, 86 percent expect to see cost reductions and revenue gains from digitalization over the next five years.

Conversely, manufacturers that don’t embrace digitalization fast enough risk being left behind. In a survey of more than 500 C-suite executives across Europe and the U.S., two-thirds said they believe that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist in 10 years due to digital disruption. Over half (53 percent) said they were concerned about competition from disruptive businesses.

Still, for many on the path to digitalization, there’s a bump in the road: Enterprise Systems Architecture (ESA).

ESAs have traditionally been siloed by function, location, file systems and other boundaries. Many manufacturers still rely on legacy infrastructure that can’t integrate with connected devices, applications or modern security protocols—all important building blocks of a digital enterprise. more>

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What Peter the Great Discovered in Amsterdam: Inclusivity Creates Wealth

By Nick Cassella – After coming to power in the late 17th century, Peter the Great of Russia decided to escape the confines of the Kremlin and travel incognito across Europe for a variety of diplomatic and personal reasons.

During his European odyssey, Peter visited Holland and was amazed at the commercial success of the small nation.

Trade was clearly a factor, but so too was religious toleration. Holland at the time was what Mathis calls an “intellectual and artistic clearinghouse” where clever thinkers, who let their pen or mouth wander too far, escaped repressive regimes.

In this land of inquisitive minds, Dutch religious tolerance was born. While this principle was not encoded in law, people would “look the other way” so that Calvinists, Catholics, and others could live together peacefully and productively.

Peter began to realize that Dutch commercial prosperity largely derived from its tolerant nature. He left Europe “intrigued by the atmosphere of religious toleration” and swore to mitigate the intolerance and rigidity of the Russian Orthodox Church on his return home.

The levels of wealth inequality across the world and in nations is, to put it lightly, suboptimally distributed. The United States offers a sterling example. Brookings senior fellow, Richard Reeves, looked at Congressional Budget Office data and found the top 20 percent “saw a $4 trillion increase in pretax income in the years between 1979 and 2013” while “the combined rise for the bottom 80 percent…was just over $3 trillion.”

The only way to defend wealth distortion like this is to claim a well-functioning society necessitates great inequality. Just like the religious intolerance of yore, today’s exclusive brand of economics is clearly not the best way to organize a group of people, but instead represents the best way for a few individuals to maintain power and wealth. more>

Updates from Ciena

What’s Next for Cable Business Services?
By Darren McKinney – The state of cable business services, fiber versus coax, the addition of mobile services along with the advent of 5G (friend or foe), new service offerings, service level agreements, the move to virtualization, and more, were all hot topics at the recent Light Reading “Future of Cable Business Services” conference.

I have attended this conference for several years, and as it falls at the end of year it’s always a good time to reflect on what this means for the cable industry moving forward. Here are my top takeaways from the 2018 event, and what I’m thinking about heading into 2019.

For years business services represented 20%+ year-over-year revenue growth for cable MSOs – a significant growth engine given MSOs have experienced declining video subscribers (due to OTT competition), and have generally had consolidated revenue growth of 5-10% in recent years. MSOs have experienced higher growth rates in business services with small (100 employees), where these customers require more sophisticated services and competitive service level agreements (SLAs). more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Blockchain’s weakest links
By Chana R. Schoenberger – Blockchain” has become a business buzzword. Commentators, thought leaders, and business experts are highlighting how the distributed-ledger technology promises to revolutionize business and logistics. Universities are teaching courses in blockchain. Blockchain jobs are “booming in Asia,” reports CNBC.

Blockchain “lets us imagine a world that’s not dominated by Google, Facebook, or, for that matter, the [US National Security Agency], one where we, the people, the core components of global society, get to say how our data is managed,” reads The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything.

It’s a lot of attention for what is essentially an accounting technology. The plumbing behind financial services is generally unaccustomed to such publicity.

Companies are expected to spend $2.1 billion on blockchains by 2018, and $9.2 billion by 2021, according to research firm IDC. But first, like any new technology or market—and blockchain is both, in some sense—it has to overcome a few issues to prove its staying power.

For starters, there are different types of blockchains, and researchers have identified some potentially severe challenges facing the most ubiquitous type, known as “proof-of-work.” The choices companies and others make in the near future about which system to use, and how to use it, will determine how blockchain systems progress—and if blockchain does indeed mark a next era of tech.

Because bitcoin mining is a proof-of-work system, miners use electricity to run computers as they race to solve math problems to earn the right to validate the next block in a blockchain, and thereby win a bitcoin reward. This has raised another big concern with Nakamoto’s system: energy use.

As Bitcoin prices surged, so did mining and its impact on the power grid. If Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 39th in worldwide energy usage, behind the Philippines (38th) and ahead of Austria (40th), more>

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