Monthly Archives: March 2017

What’s Wrong With America’s Current Approach to Cybersecurity?

By Gregory Michaelidis – Go behind the headlines of the latest megahack, and what you’ll find is a growing public-safety and national-security crisis.

We are barely discussing how to help people help themselves in the digital world, let alone do their part in protecting our major networks and critical infrastructure.

Until we embrace a vision of public cybersecurity that sees people, at all ranges of skill, as essential to our collective security, there will be no widespread cybersecurity.

Right now, America’s collective cybersecurity effort is headed toward near-certain failure for reasons within our own control. In less than a decade — thanks to the influx of dollars and high-level policy and press attention — cybersecurity has transformed what is actually a “people problem with a technology component” into its exact opposite.

Official Washington and Silicon Valley have adopted a set of faulty assumptions about cybersecurity and internalized them to such a degree it’s practically a new religion, somewhere between late-19th-century technological determinism and medieval alchemy. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How sales taxes could boost economic growth
By Dee Gill – Many big economies are stagnating, and economists are running out of options to fix them.

The conventional monetary policy for encouraging spending has been to drop short-term interest rates. But with rates already near, at, or below zero, that method is all but exhausted. Some economists have also started to empirically and theoretically question the power of forward guidance, in which central banks publicize plans for future interest-rate policies, at the zero lower bound.

To create the rising prices that fuel higher wages and economic growth, central banks must convince consumers and companies to spend more money. But controversial asset-buying programs that brought down long-term interest rates have not also produced sustained price increases as hoped, and they have inflated central-bank balance sheets.

The idea that the threat of a sales-tax hike might stimulate stagnant economies has been around for some 25 years. But before the researchers homed in on the German VAT increase, economists had not documented such an effect in real life. more>


Updates from Boeing

787-10 Dreamliner Makes Its First Flight
Boeing – The 787-10 Dreamliner is the newest and longest member of the super-efficient 787 family.

As a stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 leverages the family’s proven technology, long range and preferred passenger experience, with unprecedented efficiency: 10 percent better fuel and emissions than the best on offer by the competition and 25 percent better than the airplanes it will replace. more>

90 years later, the broadcast public interest standard remains ill-defined

By Jack Karsten – The public interest standard has governed broadcast radio and television since Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927. However, decades of successive court cases and updated telecommunications laws have done little to clarify what falls into the public interest.

Prior to the public interest standard, free speech advocates argued with the broadcasting industry over who should have editorial control over content. Industry groups opposed a common carrier approach that would have allowed anyone to buy airtime. The resulting compromise established a short-term renewable licensing regime, overseen by the Federal Communications Commission since 1934, which required broadcasters to act on behalf of all others who did not receive a license. Congress granted the FCC the flexibility to revise its interpretation of the public interest standard to reflect changing circumstances. Since its founding, the FCC has repeatedly refused to set forth its own concrete definition of the public interest.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 updated the 1934 Communications Act, but did not address the public interest standard beyond maintaining the status quo. more>

The slow professor can dish out a more nutritious education


The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, Authors: Barbara Seeber and Maggie Berg.
Slow Food Nation, Author: Carlo Petrini.

By Barbara Seeber and Maggie Berg – Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary life. In order to protect the intellectual and pedagogic life of the university, we need to create opportunities to think and to shift our sense of time. This might mean getting away from having everything scheduled down to the minute. We can’t do our best work if we are frantic.

Slow teaching is not about lowering standards. Rather, it is about reducing our distractedness so that we can focus on our students and our subjects. We need to be able to concentrate on creating a convivial classroom in which our students can meet the challenges – and we can foster the joys – of learning a discipline.

Slow scholarship is about resisting the pressure to reduce thinking to the imperative of immediate usefulness, marketability and grant generation. It’s about preserving the idea of scholarship as open-ended enquiry. It will improve the quality of teaching and learning. more>

Hierarchy is either strictly constrained or it is indefensible


Just Freedom, Author: Philip Pettit.

By Philip Pettit – This thesis really is unfashionable, because of the extreme way in which they understand hierarchy at the abstract level.

‘When we talk about hierarchies here,’ they say at the outset, ‘we mean those distinctions and rankings that bring with them clear power differentials.’ And, sharpening the concept even further, they say later that it is ‘a condition in which one adult commands, threatens or forces another adult to do something’.

Nor is this a sort of hierarchy justified by fault or failing on the part of the subordinated individual: that person might be ‘innocent of any wrongdoing, competent to make decisions’ and so on. It is illustrated, they suggest, by ‘political paternalism’, which is defined as ‘coercive interference with autonomy’.

More generally, the essay sketches an attractive architecture of political power in which experts certainly command requisite esteem but their role ‘is often not as decision-makers, but as external resources to be consulted by a panel of non-specialist generalists’. This architecture, it is said, would involve ‘a kind of collective, democratic decision-making that makes use of hierarchies of expertise without slavishly deferring to them’.

There are no objectionable power differentials in a system where there is ‘democratic accountability’ – however proximately insulated – and where there are checks and balances that restrain the different authorities. more>

How Ethernet Will Get to 400Gbps

By Lynnette Reese – The IEEE 802.3bs standard for 400Gbps is on track to be ratified and released late this year. Higher speed technologies tend to get driven to adoption as soon as they are available.

In 2004, 10Gbps was the leading edge. In 2010 40Gbps Ethernet and 100Gbps were introduced. How did we get this far, so fast?

The present group is leveraging a parallel lane structure to get to 400Gbps. For electrical interfaces the fastest speeds in the spec will be 50Gbps. When discussing optical fiber transmission, then the variation depends on the distance that one requires.

Technically, 400Gbps is not possible without switching away from non-return-to-zero modulation (also known as NRZ-type) encoding, the encoding scheme that everyone thinks of when they visualize Ethernet communication and other serial data transmission schemes.

NRZ data is encoded into a binary pattern with fixed voltage levels. A binary 0 is represented by the lower voltage level; the higher voltage level indicates binary 1. In 1000base-T Ethernet, the stream of 0s and 1s is driven at a 1000 bits per second (1Gbps) transmission rate.

At present, the physical “wall” of streaming 0s and 1s for single lane electrical interfaces is 25 Gbps, found in the standards as 802.3bj across backplanes and cables, and 802.3bm across chip-to-chip and chip-to-module interfaces.

In May 2016, an IEEE 802.3 task force formed to develop a single-lane 50 Gbps Ethernet standard. The 802.3bs standard, which defines 400Gbps in aggregate, will use an encoding scheme called PAM4 (4-Level Pulse Amplitude Modulation) to reach 50Gbps per channel. PAM4 is an encoding scheme that doubles the bit rate by providing four signal levels in the space of the two that NRZ presently provides. PAM4 cleverly divides the least significant bit (LSB) signal level in half and adds it to the signal of the most significant bit (MSB). more>

Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

By Noah Smith – One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:

It isn’t just manufacturing employment and the sector’s share of gross domestic product that are hurting in the U.S. It’s total output. The U.S. doesn’t really make more stuff than it used to.

And, more troubling, the U.S. is now losing computer manufacturing. Susan Houseman et al. show that U.S. computer production began to fall during the Great Recession. In semiconductors, output has grown slightly, but has been far outpaced by most East Asian countries. Meanwhile, trade deficits in these areas have been climbing.

Faced with this evidence, many skeptics will question why the sector is important at all.

Why should a country specialize in making things, when it can instead specialize in designing, marketing and financing the making of things? more>

The Future of Work — 3 Mega-Trends

By Graham Brown-Martin – Technology is just part of a broader spectrum of human activity and social change is driven by society rather than machines, that is, we have agency to act independently and make free choices.

The path of innovation and its social consequences are almost entirely shaped by society as a result of numerous social factors such as culture, politics, regulatory mechanisms and economic arrangements. The latter one is particularly apposite given the post-WWII obsession with neoclassical economics, as taught in most universities.

Political decisions supported by economic frameworks have excluded citizens from the discourse and, as a result, are now unraveling across the western world. It turns out that the things we value most are the things that are difficult or impossible to measure.

This obsession for economics and measuring what could be measured and ignoring what it couldn’t gave us global agencies such as the World Bank, IMF and OECD.

But these organizations have been unable to apply their frameworks, wedded as they are to a single metric of GDP, to the worlds most pressing challenges such as climate change, increasing population or growing inequalities, rather they have exacerbated them. more>

In defense of hierarchy

By Stephen C Angle, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Julian Baggini, Daniel Bell, Nicolas Berggruen, Mark Bevir, Joseph Chan, Carlos Fraenkel, Stephen Macedo, Michael Puett, Jiang Qian, Mathias Risse, Carlin Romano, Justin Tiwald and Robin Wang – Good and permissible hierarchies are everywhere around us.

Yet hierarchy is an unfashionable thing to defend or to praise.

We live in a time when no distinction is drawn between justified and useful hierarchies on the one hand, and self-interested, exploitative elites on the other.

First, bureaucratic hierarchies can serve democracy. Bureaucracy is even less popular these days than hierarchy. Yet bureaucratic hierarchies can instantiate crucial democratic values, such as the rule of law and equal treatment.

There are at least three ways in which usually hierarchical constitutional institutions can enhance democracy: by protecting minority rights, and thereby ensuring that the basic interests of minorities are not lightly discounted by self-interested or prejudiced majorities; by curbing the power of majority or minority factions to pass legislation favoring themselves at the expense of the public good; and by increasing the epistemic resources that are brought to bear on decision-making, making law and policy more reflective of high-quality deliberation. Hence democracies can embrace hierarchy because hierarchy can enhance democracy itself.

Yet in recent decades, these civic hierarchies have been dismantled and often replaced with decentralized, competitive markets, all in the name of efficiency. This makes sense only if efficiency and effectiveness (usually assumed to be measured in economic terms) are considered the overriding priorities.

But if we make that assumption, we find ourselves giving less weight to values such as the rule of law, democratic legitimacy or social equality. Hence, we might sometimes prefer the democratically accountable hierarchies that preserve those values even over optimal efficiency. more>