Daily Archives: November 27, 2018

Click Here For The Brave New World Of Work

By Steve Coulter – Technology is transforming the world of work, but social democrats and others appear unsure how to respond. Progressives embrace change but want technology to benefit the many and not just the few who develop, own or exploit it. Trade unions, moreover, must confront the impact of IT and automation on work as it’s the jobs and conditions of their members that are on the line.

What, then, is a ‘progressive’ approach to the ‘new’ economy?

Research into the labor market impact of ‘digitalization’ falls into three categories. The first tries to assess its impact on total employment by quantifying the number and type of jobs at risk. It has contributed to a surfeit of scare stories in the media about ‘robots taking your job’. The fear animating this is that automation and smart computers will eliminate millions of jobs, condemning people to drudgery or idleness.

There is ample evidence of accelerating shifts in employment patterns due to the replacement of formerly well-paying factory and service jobs by robots and algorithms and the emergence of new forms of economic organization mediating the worker-employer relationship. We are seeing a ‘hollowing out’ of the labor market whereby high and low skilled work is increasing at the expense of medium skilled work, particularly where this involves performance of routine tasks. more>

Why Inequality Matters

By Thorvaldur Gylfason – Since the early 1970s, the share of national income paid to workers in advanced economies has fallen from 55 to 40 percent. A declining labor share goes along with increased inequality in the distribution of income and wealth as well as health. Medical researchers report that the wealthiest one percent of American men live 15 years longer than the poorest one percent and that the wealthiest one percent of American women can expect to live ten years longer than their poorer counterparts. The gap is widening.

Concerns about inequality have recently been thrust to the forefront of political discourse around the world. An important part of the explanation for the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election is that he did well among those voters who felt they had been left behind with stagnant real wages for decades while CEO compensation rose from 20 times the typical worker’s compensation in 1965 to 270 in 2008.

What could workers do?

As film maker Michael Moore puts it, they could throw Molotov cocktails at the powers that be. Trump was their Molotov. Similarly, in the 2016 referendum in the UK, those who felt left behind tended to vote for Brexit. more>

Air Gaps Key to Next-Gen Nanochips

By Kenny Walter – A new type of transistor—which uses air gaps to eliminate the need for semiconductors—could help scientists produce more efficient nanochips.

RMIT University researchers have engineered a new type of transistor that send electrons through narrow air gaps where they can travel unimpeded, rather than sending electrical currents through silicon.

“Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat,” lead author and PhD candidate in RMIT’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group Shruti Nirantar said in a statement.

“Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat.”

While the power of computer chips has doubled about every two years for decades, recently the progress has stalled as engineers struggle to make smaller transistor parts.

However, the researchers believe the new device is a promising way to create nano electronics that respond to the limitations of silicon-based electronics. more>

How the Incas governed, thrived and fell without alphabetic writing

By Christopher Given-Wilson – Between the 1430s and the arrival of the Spanish in 1532, the Inkas conquered and ruled an empire stretching for 4,000 kilometers along the spine of the Andes, from Quito in modern Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. Known to its conquerors as Tahuantinsuyu – ‘the land of four parts’ – it contained around 11 million people from some 80 different ethnic groups, each with its own dialect, deities and traditions. The Inkas themselves, the ruling elite, comprised no more than about one per cent.

Almost every aspect of life in Tahuantinsuyu – work, marriage, commodity exchange, dress – was regulated, and around 30 per cent of all the empire’s inhabitants were forcibly relocated, some to work on state economic projects, some to break up centers of resistance. Despite the challenges presented by such a vertical landscape, an impressive network of roads and bridges was also maintained, ensuring the regular collection of tribute in the capacious storehouses built at intervals along the main highways. These resources were then redistributed as military, religious or political needs dictated.

All this suggests that the Sapa Inka (emperor) governed Tahuantinsuyu both efficiently and profitably. What’s more, he did so without alphabetic writing, for the Inkas never invented this. Had they been left to work out their own destiny, this state of affairs might well have continued for decades or even centuries, but their misfortune was to find themselves confronted by both superior weaponry and, crucially, a culture that was imbued with literacy. As a result, not only was their empire destroyed, but their culture and religion were submerged. more>