Monthly Archives: August 2021

Apocalypse or co-operation?

The perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change, and resulting economic damage, will likely trigger much more social and political instability.
By Jayati Ghosh – The apocalypse is now. That is the glaring message of the perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change which has broken. The pandemic is unlikely to end for years, as the novel coronavirus mutates into increasingly transmissible, drug-resistant variants. And the climate catastrophe is no longer ‘impending’ but playing out in real time.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—whose assessments predate the extreme climate events of the past year—tells us that some drastic, adverse climatic changes are now irreversible. These will affect every region, as the recent heatwaves, wildfires and floods demonstrate. They will also severely damage many natural species and adversely affect the possibilities for, and conditions of, human life.

Keeping future global warming to a manageable level (even if above the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of 1.5C) will require a massive effort, involving sharp economic-policy reversals in every country. Major changes in the global legal and economic architecture will be essential.

For its part, the pandemic has devastated employment and livelihoods, pushing hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, into poverty and hunger. The International Labor Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2021 shows the extent of the damage in grinding detail. In 2020, the pandemic caused the loss of nearly 9 per cent of total global working hours, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. This trend has continued in 2021, with working-hour losses equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs in the first quarter and 127 million jobs in the second quarter. more>

Energize This: Canada Could Become A Global Hub For New Nuclear Technology

By Tomas Kellner – Canada, like many industrialized countries, has pledged to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But what makes Canada unique is how it wants to achieve that goal. Like others, it has been boosting renewables like wind and solar. But it also plans to add to the mix a powerful new source: small modular reactors, or SMRs.

SMRs can generate carbon-free electricity while overcoming some of the nuclear industry’s biggest challenges — namely, cost and lengthy construction times.

They can play a crucial role in helping Canada decarbonize in several important ways. Designed to produce up to 300 megawatts of carbon-free electricity generation, SMRs can step in when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, which can happen for extended periods during Canada’s long winters, marked by a formidable mix of snow, cold and short days. But they can also help provide carbon-free generation in remote areas, particularly in the northern regions, where many rely on diesel generators for electricity. more>

Updates from Ciena

Navigating vendor equipment swaps: Minimizing risk while maximizing outcomes leveraging data-informed tools and automation
Vendor equipment swaps are typically complex from a technical as well as an operational standpoint due to the need to ensure network service continuity and stability during the transition process. Chris Antlitz details a real-world use case that involved multiple vendors and an aggressive timetable.
By Chris Antlitz – The increased focus on protecting critical infrastructure has prompted situations where communication service providers (CSPs) have had to adjust their networks, specifically to replace equipment provided by certain vendors that are deemed by governments in some countries to pose network security and/or customer privacy risks. These network adjustments typically involve swapping out gear from an unapproved vendor with gear from an approved vendor. Also referred to as vendor swaps, these situations are typically complex from a technical as well as an operational standpoint because the CSP needs to ensure network service continuity and performance is stable during the transition process.

Fortunately, there are approved vendors that have a proven track record of providing the replacement equipment and/or the services required to perform equipment swaps. There are also situations where multiple vendors participate in the swap, in some cases with one or more vendors providing equipment and one or more vendors providing the services as third parties.

In one such case, a large CSP with global operations had a DWDM network that required the replacement of thousands of circuits from one untrusted vendor with circuits from an approved vendor. To align with government mandates, the swap had an aggressive timetable of two years. The scope of the project also implicated network management systems (NMS), IP multimedia subsystems (IMS) and operational support systems (OSS) that were tied to the untrusted vendor’s equipment. more>

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Why the EU needs interoperable digital wallets

By Lars Rensing – Recently, the news emerged that the EU Commission had proposed a new framework for the introduction of European Digital Identity. This framework proposal represents an interoperable EU digital ID, which will be produced by the individual Member States. These IDs will be linked to national digital IDs, and the announcement demonstrates how the EU is looking ahead by working to establish a European-wide digital ID system.

Something that will be included in this framework is the creation of a digital wallet, which will enable users to present their IDs digitally to access cross-border services. Digital wallets also help citizens regain control over their personal data. These wallets hold users’ digital identities, so they can then choose who they share information with.

However, the current production of these wallets will be the responsibility of each individual Member State, using whatever system they see fit. Using different systems for digital wallets could cause problems for citizens, though, when they need to access cross-border services or when they need to verify documents or identities with other member states. Making digital wallets and IDs as interoperable as possible, then, is essential. The proposed framework from the EU Commission needs to be interoperable, to ensure that the wallets created by each member state can interact with each other. more>

Vaccine Greed: Capitalism Without Competition Isn’t Capitalism, It’s Exploitation

Among the pandemic’s many lessons, however, is that greed can easily work against the common good
By Jag Bhalla – DID GREED JUST save the day? That’s what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed recently. “The reason we have the vaccine success,” he said in a private call to Conservative members of Parliament, “is because of capitalism, because of greed.

Despite later backpedaling, Johnson’s remark reflects a widely influential but wildly incoherent view of innovation: that greed — the unfettered pursuit of profit above all else — is a necessary driver of technological progress. Call it the need-greed theory.

Among the pandemic’s many lessons, however, is that greed can easily work against the common good. We rightly celebrate the near-miraculous development of effective vaccines, which have been widely deployed in rich nations. But the global picture reveals not even a semblance of justice: As of May, low-income nations received just 0.3 percent of the global vaccine supply. At this rate it would take 57 years for them to achieve full vaccination.

This disparity has been dubbed “vaccine apartheid,” and it’s exacerbated by greed. A year after the launch of the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool — a program aimed at encouraging the collaborative exchange of intellectual property, knowledge, and data — “not a single company has donated its technical knowhow,” wrote politicians from India, Kenya, and Bolivia in a June essay for The Guardian. As of that month, the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, a vaccine sharing scheme established to provide developing countries equitable access, had delivered only about 90 million out of a promised 2 billion doses. Currently, pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers continue to oppose proposals for patent waivers that would allow local drug makers to manufacture the vaccines without legal jeopardy. They claim the waivers would slow down existing production, “foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines,” and, as North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr said, “undermine the very innovation we are relying on to bring this pandemic to an end.” more>

Updates from McKinsey

Running on all five sources: Actions leaders can take to create more meaningful work
Knowing about the five sources of meaning is a great start, but the real magic occurs when leaders begin to embed them into how the work gets done.
By Timothy Bromley, Taylor Lauricella and Bill Schaninger – Research shows that when people view their work as meaningful, their performance and job attitudes improve significantly. Previously, we proposed a strategy that leaders can use to create meaningful work: making the connection to and highlighting the impact their work has on society, customers, the company, team, and individuals’ personal success—otherwise known as the five sources of meaning.

Knowing about the five sources of meaning is a great start, but the real magic occurs when leaders begin to embed them into how the work gets done. There are three steps leaders can take to start integrating the five sources this week:

  1. Determine what matters most. Start a dialogue with your team to understand what sources resonate most. This can be done during one-on-one check-ins or as a group exercise during a team meeting.
  2. Hardwire meaning into day-to-day work. Once you know what sources of meaning resonate most for your team, find small ways to hardwire them into existing activities and communications. Perhaps it’s adding an “impact story” or recognition to the start of a meeting, encouraging team members to lead meetings and complete work autonomously, or sharing customer feedback in a weekly recap email.
  3. Create connections. A common thread across the five sources is the impact of the work on others. Providing opportunities for your team to assist, mentor, support, or simply spend time with customers, other teams, members of the community, and one another is key to providing a touchpoint for meaningful experiences—particularly as the workforce returns from remote work.

There’s no shortage of inspiration in how other companies put the five sources of meaning into practice. Many organizations have found creative and bold ways to integrate the five sources of meaning into their communications, talent processes, and day-to-day activities. more>

Updates from ITU

Up to 8 Gbit/s broadband with new ITU standard MGfast
ITU – ITU standards experts have achieved another leap forward in broadband access over telephone wires and coaxial cable with MGfast, a new access technology capable of transmission at an aggregate bit rate up to 8 Gbit/s if in Full Duplex (FDX) mode, and up to 4 Gbit/s if in Time Division Duplexing (TDD) mode.

The MGfast standard, ITU G.9711, not only promises higher bit rates than ever, but also ultra-low latency for highly interactive applications, the capability to optimize Quality of Service (QoS) in line with the needs of different applications, and point-to-multipoint operation enabling better coverage within the premises.

This work is led by the Q4/15 working group (Broadband access over metallic conductors) of ITU-T Study Group 15 (Transport, access and home). See the graphic below for an overview of the bit rate and reach capabilities of ITU-standardized access solutions from the Q4/15 working group, and more on key application features of MGfast in an MGfast technical flyer. more>

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Why Elon Musk Isn’t Superman

The Betting Economy vs. The Operating Economy
By Tim O’Reilly – At one point early this year, Elon Musk briefly became the richest person in the world. After a 750% increase in Tesla’s stock market value added over $180 billion to his fortune, he briefly had a net worth of over $200 billion. It’s now back down to “only” $155 billion.

Understanding how our economy produced a result like this—what is good about it and what is dangerous—is crucial to any effort to address the wild inequality that threatens to tear our society apart.

In response to the news of Musk’s surging fortune, Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Bernie was right that a $7.25 minimum wage is an outrage to human decency. If the minimum wage had kept up with increases in productivity since 1979, it would be over $24 by now, putting a two-worker family into the middle class. But Bernie was wrong to imply that Musk’s wealth increase was at the expense of Tesla’s workers. The median Tesla worker makes considerably more than the median American worker.

Elon Musk’s wealth doesn’t come from him hoarding Tesla’s extractive profits, like a robber baron of old. For most of its existence, Tesla had no profits at all. It became profitable only last year. But even in 2020, Tesla’s profits of $721 million on $31.5 billion in revenue were small—only slightly more than 2% of sales, a bit less than those of the average grocery chain, the least profitable major industry segment in America.

No, Musk won the lottery, or more precisely, the stock market beauty contest. In theory, the price of a stock reflects a company’s value as an ongoing source of profit and cash flow. In practice, it is subject to wild booms and busts that are unrelated to the underlying economics of the businesses that shares of stock are meant to represent. more>

Germany is the freest country in Europe; Norway, Lithuania, and Finland are the worst on the 2021 Nanny State Index

By Christopher Snowdon – Today sees the publication of the Nanny State Index, now in its fourth edition. Launched in 2016, it looks at the over-regulation of food, soft drinks, vaping, tobacco and alcohol in thirty European countries. Since the last edition was published in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has led governments around the world to impose coercive controls on an almost unprecedented scale.

The index does not include anti-Covid policies that are expected to be a genuinely temporary response to the pandemic, but the outlook is bleak nonetheless. Almost without exception, governments across Europe are adopting higher sin taxes and more prohibitions.

Norway tops the league table, although that could change once it legalises e-cigarettes. Lithuania, with its heavy temperance legislation, is again in second place while Finland drops to third. The top of the table is dominated by Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Greece is the only country from southern Europe in the top half, largely thanks to its very high sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. At the more liberal end of the table, the best countries are a mixed bag. Germany has performed the extraordinary feat of having the lowest score in all four categories of the index. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

A new approach to ensuring drugs are safe
Researchers propose a new empirical method for monitoring and evaluating the safety of drugs already on the market
By Sarah Kuta – In May 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a strict warning for rosiglitazone after studies linked the approved diabetes drug to an increased risk of heart problems. Use of the drug plummeted 78 percent in 15 months; annual sales dropped from $3 billion to $183 million.

In 2013, following additional studies of the drug’s safety, the FDA reversed course and removed restrictions on rosiglitazone. But it was too late to undo the damage caused by their initial warning—sales never recovered, and patients had to resort to taking potentially less suitable medications.

The FDA could have prevented this six-year roller-coaster ride if it had taken a more robust, data-driven approach to its postmarket drug surveillance process, suggests research by Southern Methodist University’s Vishal Ahuja, Texas Tech’s Carlos Alvarez, and Chicago Booth’s John R. Birge and Chad Syverson.

Using rosiglitazone as a retrospective case study, the researchers propose a new empirical method for monitoring and evaluating the safety of drugs already on the market. Their approach uses large, relevant, and reliable longitudinal databases and established econometrics methods to assess the relationships between approved drugs and potentially related adverse health events.

This evaluation method could help prevent incorrect drug recalls and warnings that cause financial consequences for drugmakers, confusion among doctors, and potential harm to patients’ health, the researchers argue. more>

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