Monthly Archives: February 2019

As the Climate Changes, Are We All Boiling Frogs?

New research finds that we normalize rising temperatures remarkably quickly.
By Tom Jacobs – Climate change is significantly increasing the chances of more unsettling weather in the years to come, including longer and more severe heat waves. But if you’re hoping the strange conditions will inspire people to realize that something profoundly dangerous is occurring—and will prod politicians into acting—new research suggests you’re likely to be disappointed.

An analysis of more than two million Twitter posts finds that people do indeed take note of abnormal temperatures. But it also reports that our definition of “normal” is based on recent history—roughly, the past two to eight years.

These findings suggest that, in less than a decade, climate change-induced conditions cease to seem all that unusual. That lack of historical perspective may make it hard to grasp the enormity of the changes that are already underway, and which promise to accelerate.

“This data provides empirical evidence of the ‘boiling frog’ effect with respect to the human experience of climate change,” writes a research team led by Fran Moore of the University of California–Davis. As with the imaginary amphibian who fails to jump out of a pot of water as the temperature slowly rises, “the negative effects of a gradually changing environment become normalized, so that corrective measures are never adopted.” more>

What Happens When You Believe in Ayn Rand and Modern Economic Theory

The reality of unfettered self-interest
By Denise Cummins – “Ayn Rand is my hero,” yet another student tells me during office hours. “Her writings freed me. They taught me to rely on no one but myself.”

As I look at the freshly scrubbed and very young face across my desk, I find myself wondering why Rand’s popularity among the young continues to grow.

The core of Rand’s philosophy — which also constitutes the overarching theme of her novels — is that unfettered self-interest is good and altruism is destructive. This, she believed, is the ultimate expression of human nature, the guiding principle by which one ought to live one’s life. In “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” Rand put it this way:

Collectivism is the tribal premise of primordial savages who, unable to conceive of individual rights, believed that the tribe is a supreme, omnipotent ruler, that it owns the lives of its members and may sacrifice them whenever it pleases.

By this logic, religious and political controls that hinder individuals from pursuing self-interest should be removed.

The fly in the ointment of Rand’s philosophical “objectivism” is the plain fact that humans have a tendency to cooperate and to look out for each other, as noted by many anthropologists who study hunter-gatherers. These “prosocial tendencies” were problematic for Rand, because such behavior obviously mitigates against “natural” self-interest and therefore should not exist. more>

Updates from Ciena

5G on stage in Barcelona

By Brian Lavallee – The theme of this year’s event is “Intelligent Connectivity” – the term we use to describe the powerful combination of flexible, high-speed 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data”. This clearly highlights that important fact that 5G is more than just a wireless upgrade. It’s also about updating the entire wireline network from radios to data centers, where accessed content is hosted, and everything in between.

This means the move to broad 5G-based mobile services and associated capabilities will be a multi-year journey requiring many strategic partnerships.

The multi-year journey towards ubiquitous 5G services will understandably be the star at MWC, and rightfully so.

There remains uncertainty about what technologies and architecture should be used for specific parts of the end-to-end 5G mobile network, such as the often discussed (and often hotly debated) fronthaul space.

Early 5G mobile services are already being turned up in many regions in the form of early deployments, field trials, and proofs of concept. These services are delivered in 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) configuration, which essentially hangs 5G New Radios (NRs) off existing 4G Evolved Packet Core (EPC) networks. This allows for testing new 5G wireless technologies and jumpstarts critical Radio Frequency planning and testing.

It also means that most new wireline upgrades that are taking place now for 4G expansion and growth will also carry 5G wireless traffic to and from data centers. more>

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‘Hate Is Way More Interesting Than That’: Why Algorithms Can’t Stop Toxic Speech Online

Researchers have recently discovered that anyone can trick hate speech detectors with simple changes to their language—and typos are just one way that neo-Nazis are foiling the algorithms.
By Morgan Meaker – Erin Schrode didn’t know much about the extreme right before she ran for Congress. “I’m not going to tell you I thought anti-Semitism was dead, but I had never personally been the subject of it,” she says.

That changed when The Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi website, posted an article about her 2016 campaign.

For years, social media companies have struggled to contain the sort of hate speech Schrode describes. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke before the Senate in April of 2018, he acknowledged that human moderators were not enough to remove toxic content from Facebook; in addition, he said, they needed help from technology.

“Over time, we’re going to shift increasingly to a method where more of this content is flagged up front by [artificial intelligence] tools that we develop,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg estimated that A.I. could master the nuances of hate speech in five to 10 years. “But today, we’re just not there,” he told senators.

He’s right: Researchers have recently discovered anyone can trick hate speech detectors with simple changes to their language—removing spaces in sentences, changing “S” to “$,” or changing vowels to numbers. more>

Debunking Deregulation: Bank Credit Guidance and Productive Investment

Deregulated banking in rich countries delivers more “investment” in speculative asset markets, not productive businesses.
By Josh Ryan-Collins – Mortgage and other asset-market lending typically does not generate income streams sufficient to finance the growth of debt. Instead, the empirical evidence suggests that after a certain point relative to GDP, increases in mortgage debt typically slows growth and increase financial instability as asset prices rise faster than incomes.

These new empirical findings support a much older body of theory that argues that credit markets, left to their own devices, will not optimize the allocation of resources.

Instead, following Joseph Schumpeter’s, Keynes’ and Hyman Minsky’s arguments, they will tend to shift financial resources away from real-sector investment and innovation and towards asset markets and speculation; away from equitable income growth and towards capital gains that polarizes wealth and income; and away from a robust, stable growth path and towards fragile boom-busts cycles with frequent crises.

This means, we argue, there is a strong case for regulation, including via instruments that guide credit. In fact, from the end of World War II up to the 1980s, most advanced economy central banks and finance ministries routinely used forms of credit guidance as the norm, rather than the exception. These include instruments that effected both the demand for credit for specific sectors (e.g. Loan-to-Value ratios or subsidies) and the supply of credit (e.g. credit ceilings or quotas and interest rate limits).

In Europe, favored sectors typically included exports, farming and manufacturing, while repressed sectors were imports, the service sector, and household mortgages and consumption. Indeed, commercial banks in many advanced economies were effectively restricted from entering the residential mortgage market up until the 1980s. Public institutions — state investment banks and related bodies — were also created to specifically steer credit towards desired sectors. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

The tax that could save the world
By Michael Maiello & Natasha Gural – It was, perhaps, the closest that the economics profession has ever come to a consensus. In January, 43 of the world’s most eminent economists signed a statement published in the Wall Street Journal calling for a US carbon tax. The list included 27 Nobel laureates, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve, and nearly every former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers since the 1970s, both Republican and Democratic.

“By correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future,” the economists noted. All revenue from the tax should be paid in equal lump-sum rebates directly to US citizens, they added.

Not all economists agree that the tax should be revenue neutral in this way, but the profession has been coalescing in recent years around the idea of a carbon tax. Most prefer such a tax to the most prominent alternative policy for tackling carbon emissions, cap and trade, according to a recent poll of expert economists.

But a carbon tax seems to be a political nonstarter in the United States. The bipartisan call for action from economists over the years has been echoed by a failure to act by presidents from both parties. President Donald Trump denies the need to confront man-made climate change.

But although Barack Obama, his predecessor, in 2015 called a carbon tax “the most elegant way” to fight global warming, he didn’t push strongly for one to be introduced.

“One of my very, very few disappointments in Obama when he was president is that he did not come out in favor of carbon tax,” Yale’s William D. Nordhaus told the New York Times last October, days after winning the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on economic modeling and climate change. more>

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Updates from Siemens

High-tech sports equipment: what do consumers want?
By Suzanne Kopcha – The sporting goods market is undergoing a major technological disruption: smart products are changing the way consumers and elite athletes interact with once seemingly simple products.

Technology is ubiquitous and has dramatically changed consumer expectations for connected, or “smart,” sporting goods – so much so that this new high-tech sports equipment market is expected to reach $1.2 billion in sales by 2022.

Consumers and elite athletes are obsessed with data and how it can help them achieve better health and personal performance, whether it’s a young professional looking to get into shape, or an elite, high-paid athlete aiming for peak performance. Different consumers want different things from the industry.

Let’s explore some of the most important consumer expectations. more>

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Updates from Adobe

Connecting with the Extreme
By Serena Fox – Renan Ozturk captures stories at the edge of the human condition. “I want to show humanity on the fringes,” says the photographer and documentary filmmaker. “Whether that’s high in the mountains or isolated on the edge of the earth, these cultures need their voices amplified in some way.”

A world-class climber, Ozturk is best known for his work as the director of photography and high-altitude director on the award-winning documentary Sherpa—which explores the Sherpa people’s cultural connection to Mount Everest—and for the Sundance Audience Award–winning Meru, which recounts the near-death accidents and transcendent beauty of Ozturk’s attempts, with climbers Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin, to climb the most-tried-and-failed peak in the Himalaya range.

In addition to being a prolific documentary filmmaker, Ozturk is a photojournalist for National Geographic and Sony, an expedition climber for The North Face, a co-owner of the production company Camp4 Collective, and a commercial director for clients including Apple, Nike, Yeti, ESPN, and NBC. On top of all that, he’s also a talented landscape painter.

Driven to show our connection to the natural world, the soft-spoken Ozturk faces extreme challenges: physical, cultural, and technological. He dangles thousands of feet in the air while shooting, hauls gear through the planet’s most extreme environments, flies ultra-light experimental aircraft to capture aerial shots, pilots drones during technical ascents of the earth’s most challenging peaks, and spends months slowly getting to know the people who live in the world’s most remote locations. more>

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Updates from Ciena

Ciena unveils WaveLogic 5: 800G and so much more
By Scott McFeely – Today is an exciting day at Ciena, as we have unveiled the next generation of our WaveLogic coherent technology – WaveLogic 5. Introducing the next member of our WaveLogic family is not something we take lightly, because as my friend and colleague Dino Diperna says, “If we aren’t pushing technology to the boundaries, then we’re not delivering the optimal solution for our customers.”

So it’s not surprising that Ciena is once again raising the bar in coherent optical technology by providing the scale, flexibility and intelligence that solidifies our position as a leader in optical networking and your trusted partner for building the Adaptive NetworkTM. And we aren’t just coasting on our past successes. With WaveLogic 5 we are introducing two new solutions that can deliver coherent technology however our customers need it – from integrated systems to pluggable form factors – addressing the complete set of technical and economic requirements they have across a range of network applications.

There is a lot to unpack in today’s announcement, so let’s start by addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room…do network operators really need 800G?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Our customers are responsible for providing the foundation of society’s digital lifestyle, and that requires moving massive amounts of data around the world – at the speed of light. While these challenges are not new, they are becoming more acutely felt. The pressure to deliver new revenue opportunities while cost-effectively supporting increased traffic demands is forcing providers to evolve and transform their optical networks. more>

How the body and mind talk to one another to understand the world


By Sarah Garfinkel – When considering the senses, we tend to think of sight and sound, taste, touch and smell. However, these are classified as exteroceptive senses, that is, they tell us something about the outside world. In contrast, interoception is a sense that informs us about our internal bodily sensations, such as the pounding of our heart, the flutter of butterflies in our stomach or feelings of hunger.

The brain represents, integrates and prioritizes interoceptive information from the internal body. These are communicated through a set of distinct neural and humeral (ie, blood-borne) pathways. This sensing of internal states of the body is part of the interplay between body and brain: it maintains homeostasis, the physiological stability necessary for survival; it provides key motivational drivers such as hunger and thirst; it explicitly represents bodily sensations, such as bladder distension.

But that is not all, and herein lies the beauty of interoception, as our feelings, thoughts and perceptions are also influenced by the dynamic interaction between body and brain.

The shaping of emotional experience through the body’s internal physiology has long been recognized. The American philosopher William James argued in 1892 that the mental aspects of emotion, the ‘feeling states’, are a product of physiology. He reversed our intuitive causality, arguing that the physiological changes themselves give rise to the emotional state: our heart does not pound because we are afraid; fear arises from our pounding heart. more>