Category Archives: Business

End of a golden age

BOOK REVIEW

An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Rise of the Ordinary Economy, Author: Marc Levinson.

By Marc Levinson – Between 1948 and 1973, Australia, Japan, Sweden and Italy had not a single year of recession. West Germany and Canada did almost as well. The good times rolled on so long that people took them for granted.

Governments and the economists who advised them happily claimed the credit. Careful economic management, they said, had put an end to cyclical ups and downs. Governments possessed more information about citizens and business than ever before, and computers could crunch the data to help policymakers determine the best course of action. In a lecture at Harvard University in 1966, Walter Heller, formerly chief economic adviser to presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, trumpeted the success of what he called the ‘new economics’. ‘Conceptual advances and quantitative research in economics,’ he declared, ‘are replacing emotion with reason.’

The Golden Age was wonderful while it lasted, but it cannot be repeated. If there were a surefire method for coaxing extraordinary performance from mature economies, it likely would have been discovered a long time ago. more> https://goo.gl/oQN8FL

The European Unraveling?

By Ana Palacio – The problem for the EU is no longer the indifference that marked the worst elements of President Barack Obama’s approach to Europe. It is outright US hostility. Trump’s praise of Brexit, which emphasized the British people’s “right to self-determination,” and his belittling reference to the EU as “the Consortium” in his appearance with British Prime Minister Theresa May, underscores his hostility.

Europe is now stuck between a US and a Russia that are determined to divide it. What are we Europeans to do?

One option is to pander to Trump. That is the approach May took on her visit to Washington, DC, when she stood by silently as Trump openly declared his support for the use of torture at their joint press conference.

But, for the EU, such appeasement would be counter-productive. It is our values, not our borders, that define us. It makes little sense to abandon them, especially to ingratiate ourselves with a leader who has shown himself to be capricious and utterly untrustworthy.

The third option – and the only viable one for the EU – is self-reliance and self-determination. Only by strengthening its own international positions – increasing its leverage, in today’s jargon – can the EU cope effectively with America’s wavering fidelity to its allies and the values they share. more> https://goo.gl/FRuIrO

Crisis of capitalism? Perhaps, but don’t blame it on globalization

By Simon Tilford – Donald Trump, Brexit, serious populist pressures in other EU countries: are we entering a full-blown crisis of international liberal capitalism? There is no doubt that globalization poses policy challenges for governments.

But globalization by itself did not force governments to adopt policies that have divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

The problem is not that we have allowed an increased role for markets, as many on the left (and increasingly on the populist right) argue. Open markets remain the best way of generating wealth and opportunities, of challenging vested interests and of expanding people’s freedom. We are in this mess because we’ve forgotten the lessons of the post-war period. Basically, we have a crisis of distribution and opportunity.

Globalization is a net positive, and has played a huge role in reducing poverty globally over the last 30 years. But there are winners and losers from increased trade and movements of capital, as there are from rapid technological change, and many countries, notably the US and the UK, have failed to take the necessary corrective action. more> https://goo.gl/ei52Zk

Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again

By Emily Dreyfuss – The facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth.

Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.

President Trump is a “great businessman,” he says over and over again. Some evidence suggests that might not be true.

So what’s going on here? “Repetition makes things seem more plausible,” says Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s. “And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.” So … 2017, basically. more> https://goo.gl/D5eOfK

Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work

By Jon Messenger, Oscar Vargas Llave, Lutz Gschwind, Simon Boehmer, Greet Vermeylen and Mathijn Wilkens – New information and communications technologies (ICT) have revolutionized everyday work and life in the 21st century. They enable people to connect with friends and family – as well as with work colleagues and supervisors – at any point in time; however, they also facilitate the encroachment of paid work into the spaces and times normally reserved for personal life.

The uncoupling of paid work from traditional office spaces has been a crucial factor in this development. Today’s office work and, more broadly, knowledge work, is supported by the internet, and can be carried out from practically any location and at any time. This new spatial independence has transformed the role of technology in the work environment, offering both new opportunities and new challenges.

Regarding the positive effects of T/ICTM (telework/ICT-mobile work), workers report a reduction in commuting time, greater working time autonomy leading to more flexibility in terms of working time organization, better overall work–life balance, and higher productivity. Companies benefit from the improvement in work–life balance, which can lead to increased motivation and reduced turnover as well as enhanced productivity and efficiency, and from a reduction in the need for office space and associated costs.

The disadvantages of T/ICTM are the tendency to lead to longer working hours, to create an overlap between paid work and personal life (work–home interference), and to result in work intensification. Home-based teleworkers seem to report better work–life balance, while ‘high-mobile’ workers are more at risk of negative health and well-being outcomes. Partial and occasional forms of T/ICTM appear to result in a more positive balance between the benefits and drawbacks. From a gender perspective, women doing T/ICTM tend to work shorter hours than men, and women seem to achieve slightly better work–life balance effects. more> https://goo.gl/0Oc9fq

Proper fiber broadband is not a waste, but you need a little socialism to do it properly

By Chris Duckett – To overcome the lust of corporations to hit the next quarterly target by squeezing the very last dollar from aging assets and instead roll out more future-proof technologies, a little government encouragement is needed in the form of monetary incentives or legislation.

There is no point in running down the path of smart infrastructure and digital interactions with authorities if the rural section of the community is stuck on outmoded systems, and governments can also enforce another important aspect to dealing with broadband on a societal level: Universality.

Broadband is a paradoxical beast once baseline speeds in double digits are attained as the benefits it can provide to society become proportional to the difficulty in reaching them, and this inversely impacts profitability.

Consequently, users end up in a situation where those who need it most often have to go without, or live with poor connections because it doesn’t make economic sense to service them. Private companies will not willingly enter regional areas, because even if there is a very slim profit margin, it could take decades before the investment paid for itself. more> https://goo.gl/wZTkjB

Solving the Crisis of Extractive Capitalism

By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis – The peer-to-peer capacity to relate to each other over the Internet entails the emergence of what Yochai Benkler in the The Wealth of Networks called ‘commons-based peer production’ (CBPP).

CBPP is a new pathway of value creation and distribution, where peer-to-peer infrastructures allow individuals to communicate, self-organize and, ultimately, co-create non-rivalrous use value, in the form of digital commons of knowledge, software and design.

Think of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, the myriad of free/open-source projects or open design communities such as Wikihouse and Farmhack.

CBPP is open to anyone with skills to contribute to a common project: the knowledge of every participant is pooled. These participants may be paid, but not necessarily. Precisely because CBPP projects are open systems in which knowledge can be freely shared and distributed, anyone with the right knowledge and skills can contribute, either paid by companies, clients, or not at all. In these open systems, there are many reasons to contribute beyond or besides that of receiving monetary payment.

CBPP allows contributions based on all kinds of motivations, but most importantly on the desire to create something mutually useful to those contributing. This also generally means that people contribute because they find it meaningful and useful. From the point of view of the contributing communities as well as simple users, the orientation of their work is most often on use value creation, not exchange value. more> https://goo.gl/TusXs3

Updates from GE

By Samantha Shaddock – GE’s Slide Rule Sisters — Loren Ingraham, Betty Lou Bailey, Eleanor Semple and Janet Neely — worked closely with jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann and used their mathematics and physics expertise to advance jet-engine design in the aftermath of World War II.

“When I started going to technical engineering meetings … men just stared — a woman engineer!” Loren Ingraham told the Post in 1956. “Now when I walk in, they just sort of glance over their shoulders.”

The second world war was pivotal for the women who took the place of male engineers who’d been called to the armed forces. In 1940, fewer than 800 female engineers were working in the U.S., according to the Post’s profile. By the time the story ran 16 years later, their ranks had grown to 4,000.

Today’s numbers are better, but they’re nowhere near what they could be. Women account for 14 percent of all engineers in the U.S. and only 25 percent of information technology professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the aerospace and mechanical engineering fields, women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce.

GE currently employs 14,700 women in engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management, which represents 18 percent of the company’s technical workforce. GE is aggressively pursuing a plan to grow their numbers even further by setting goals of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all its technical entry-level programs. more> https://goo.gl/DQWP5K

The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding

By Clive Thompson – Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming?

Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school.

You could learn how to do it at a community college; midcareer folks would attend intense months-long programs like Dev Bootcamp. There’d be less focus on the wunderkinds and more on the proletariat.

These sorts of coders won’t have the deep knowledge to craft wild new algorithms for flash trading or neural networks. Why would they need to? That level of expertise is rarely necessary at a job. But any blue-collar coder will be plenty qualified to sling Java­Script for their local bank. more> https://goo.gl/o8vkzl

A New Reason for Foreigners to Avoid Google and Facebook

By Leonid Bershidsky – A Philadelphia court has made the unfortunate decision to reopen the legal debate on whether the U.S. has the right to access e-mails stored on foreign servers if they belong to U.S. companies.

That’s a dangerous approach that hurts the international expansion of U.S. tech companies. Privacy-minded customers in Europe are already suspicious of the U.S. government’s cooperation with the tech giants, revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Nationalist politicians in some countries — for example, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front — want to ban cross-border personal data transfers, arguing that such data must be stored on servers inside the internet user’s country. That, however, does not appear to guarantee that the U.S. won’t get at it, either.

Those who are uneasy about the degree of the U.S. government’s reach into their private files and communications need to start thinking about alternatives, no matter how hard it may be to replace Google, Microsoft or Facebook. more> https://goo.gl/a1hqfP