Monthly Archives: December 2018

Averting The Death Of Social Democracy

By Neal Lawson – Reformist social democracy has just two problems that result in its crisis. The first is that it’s heading in the wrong direction. The second is that it’s heading in the wrong direction in the wrong way.

If this crisis is to be averted then we need to understand why the ends and means are wrong and establish a different set of goals and ways of achieving them – ones applicable to the tail end of the second decade of the 21st century.

To set out an alternative course and process to get there is not so difficult. Some ideas are offered below. Others are available. What is difficult, and could well be impossible, is the ability of social democrats to truly adapt or transform both their course and their culture. Instead of change, their stock response is to blame the media, poor communications or even the people, and go on doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

Even when some recognize the scale of the crisis, they shrug because meaningful change is more difficult to face than the prospect of electoral annihilation. If social democrats can’t or won’t transform themselves then it will be up to others to carry the torch for a society that is more equal, democratic and sustainable and to fight the lurch to the far right.

Let’s start by observing that the crisis is not tactical or cyclical but existential because it is cultural and structural. It can be witnessed most obviously and dramatically through the electoral decline of almost every social democratic party in Europe. The Dutch, French and Greek parties have or have almost been eradicated. The Germans, the Italians and even the Scandinavians and Nordics struggle for life. more>

Updates from Siemens

Aerospace and Defense Verification Management
Siemens – Our aerospace and defense verification management solution helps companies achieve faster time to certification by providing a single, integrated environment that ensures all product verification events, whether simulation modeling and analysis or physical tests, are driven by requirements, planned and executed in the correct sequence, link individual tests and analyses to necessary resources and provide full traceability.

For commercial aircraft development and certification and military development and qualification, increasing global competition puts contractors under pressure to win new orders and to deliver on time and at cost. Aerospace and defense companies must also demonstrate, in an auditable and efficient manner, that program requirements are achieved through successful test definition, simulation, planning and execution.

Successful product launches and customer acceptance require manufacturers to verify that product requirements have been fulfilled throughout the design and development of the product. more>

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Updates from Ciena

The Story Behind the First Reliable Trans-Atlantic Submarine Cable Laid 150 Years Ago
By Brian Lavallée – As mentioned in a previous blog, undersea cable networks deployed around the world carry close to 100% of all intercontinental communications traffic, but they’re not a new phenomenon by any means. In fact, this week is the 150-year anniversary of the first reliable trans-Atlantic telegraph cable that was put into service way back in 1866. You’re not hallucinating; it was indeed a century and a half ago!

The 1866 submarine cable snaked along the Atlantic Ocean seabed to connect Telegraph Field at Foilhommerum Bay on Valentia Island (Ireland) to Heart’s Content in Newfoundland (now part of Canada). The 1866 cable wasn’t actually the first trans-Atlantic submarine cable though; it was the fourth attempt, though the first which was successful, after multiple failed attempts in 1857, 1858, and 1865. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again — and they did.

The first message successfully sent across a trans-Atlantic cable occurred on August 16, 1858 and ushered in an era of drastically reduced communication times.

The first repeatered trans-Atlantic cable was TAT-1 deployed nearly a century later in 1956, which used such newfangled technologies as coaxial cable, polyethylene insulation instead of gutta-percha tree sap, reliable vacuum tubes in submerged repeaters instead of newly introduced (and untrusted) transistors, as well as other engineering improvements in the 1950s. TAT-1 was a submerged fossil by today’s standards, but an absolutely critical step to where we are today.

What will future generations think of the submarine cables that we’re so proud and fond of today? Will today’s cables be viewed in the future the same way we view 8-track cassettes today? more>

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Updates from Adobe

Nothing Good Comes Easy: Documenting ‘Project Antarctica’
By Scott Kirkwood – When the three twenty-something Germans set out to film a documentary about a journey to Antarctica, one goal was to share a message with young viewers—a message they wish they’d heard earlier in life: When you’re preparing to launch your career, don’t be so obsessed with your grades and so fixated on your resume that you miss out on truly meaningful experiences. But anyone can say that—as visual storytellers, they wanted to show people that no dream is out of reach, even if it’s a pricey month-long excursion to a frozen continent 10,000 miles away.

The result is their new documentary film, Projekt Antarktis (Project Antarctica).

“For us, Antarctica was a great symbol for something that’s almost impossible,” says Müller-Zitzke. “You’ve got the crazy temperatures, the unpredictable weather, and the difficulty of going through the Drake Passage—one of the stormiest seas in the world. It was such a great challenge for us, and a great way for us to motivate our audience to go for their own dreams instead of just staying at home and being afraid.”

The trio spent a year planning logistics, cobbling together cameras and equipment from Sony, and arranging sponsorships (including sponsorships from Adobe Germany and Adobe Stock—in exchange for those sponsorships, they produced photographs that have been made available on Adobe Stock and created German-language tutorials on using Adobe Photoshop CC, Photoshop Lightroom CC, and Premiere Pro CC. more>

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How a World Order Ends

And What Comes in Its Wake
By Richard Haass -A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain.

As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

Although the Cold War itself ended long ago, the order it created came apart in a more piecemeal fashion—in part because Western efforts to integrate Russia into the liberal world order achieved little. One sign of the Cold War order’s deterioration was Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, something Moscow likely would have prevented in previous years on the grounds that it was too risky. Although nuclear deterrence still holds, some of the arms control agreements buttressing it have been broken, and others are fraying.

The liberal order is exhibiting its own signs of deterioration. Authoritarianism is on the rise not just in the obvious places, such as China and Russia, but also in the Philippines, Turkey, and eastern Europe. Global trade has grown, but recent rounds of trade talks have ended without agreement, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has proved unable to deal with today’s most pressing challenges, including nontariff barriers and the theft of intellectual property.

Resentment over the United States’ exploitation of the dollar to impose sanctions is growing, as is concern over the country’s accumulation of debt. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How poverty changes your mind-set
Understanding psychology may be key to addressing the problem
By Alice G. Walton – In a 2013 study published in Science, researchers from the University of Warwick, Harvard, Princeton, and the University of British Columbia find that for poor individuals, working through a difficult financial problem produces a cognitive strain that’s equivalent to a 13-point deficit in IQ or a full night’s sleep lost. Similar cognitive deficits were observed in people who were under real-life financial stress. Theirs is one of multiple studies suggesting that poverty can harm cognition.

But it was the fact that cognition seems to change with changing financial conditions that Chicago Booth’s Anuj K. Shah, along with Harvard’s Sendhil Mullainathan and Princeton’s Eldar Shafir, two authors of the Science paper, were interested in getting to the root of.

They suspected that poverty might essentially create a new mind-set—one that shifts what people pay attention to and therefore how they make decisions.

“Some say you really have to understand the broad social structure of being poor, and what people do and don’t have access to,” says Shah. “Others say that poor individuals have different values or preferences. We stepped back and asked: ‘Is there something else going on?’” more>

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Updates from Ciena

How will Adaptive IP change your IP networks?
By James Glover – Over the last several years, network operators have been searching to control costs and accelerate innovation, while avoiding heavily integrated solutions that lock them into a single vendor’s solution. This search has led to explosive growth and innovation in the “open source” software and hardware communities that facilitates increased choice for best-in-breed network solutions and services.

Disaggregation, programmability, and open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are together playing a major role in disrupting legacy network designs by shifting innovation from hardware to software. The software-based virtualization of network functions and services allow for improved scaling and flexibility via a new approach to designing, deploying, and managing network architecture.

Today there is a disruptive trend towards virtualization of applications, services, and disaggregation (separation of hardware and software) of infrastructure. Combine this trend with the never-ending need for bandwidth, scaling and flexibility in network deployments, and we see an entirely new approach to network architecture emerging.

The entire end-to-end network must be agile to enable compute, storage and networking resources when and where required by leveraging programmable resources that don’t require physical reconfiguration to accommodate evolving service demands. This has led to open source discussions around open APIs, such as NETCONF/YANG, routing protocol extensions and enhancements, path computation, remote procedure calls, and so on… but what about OPEX?

How can operators address costs that scale linearly alongside network scaling?

Through automation and orchestration. more>

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Updates from Autodesk

3D Printed Wireless Earbuds Help Enhance Hearing and Reduce Stigma Around Traditional Hearing Aids

Autodesk – Manchester Metropolitan University graduate Elen Parry, a current Industrial Digitalization masters student at the university and an International Autodesk Student Ambassador for the UK, is focused on using “Human-Centered Design methods” to reduce exclusion against people. Her current project is a 3D printed wireless earbud concept, aimed at helping people with hearing disabilities fight the stigma around traditional hearing aids, while enhancing their hearing at the same time.

Parry’s HeX earbuds, which were chosen by the Design Council’s CEO Sarah Weir as the top pick for this year’s ‘New Designers’ event, are audio headphones that can also be used as an advanced hearing device. The concept calls for the use of an advanced chip, which would receive and process sound signals and be able to differentiate and control what you actually want to hear and normal background noise. Users could decrease or increase the volume of their environment, which could help extend their ability to hear while at the same time protecting them against hearing loss.

Thanks to technology like 3D printing and connected manufacturing systems, it’s now possible to produce devices like hearing aids and earbuds, and combined products like HeX, on a large scale. more>

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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>