Category Archives: Economy

Updates from Georgia Tech

Growing Pile of Human and Animal Waste Harbors Threats, Opportunities
By Josh Brown – As demand for meat and dairy products increases across the world, much attention has landed on how livestock impact the environment, from land usage to greenhouse gas emissions.

Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are highlighting another effect from animals raised for food and the humans who eat them: the waste they all leave behind.

In a paper published November 13 in Nature Sustainability, the research team put forth what they believe is the first global estimate of annual recoverable human and animal fecal biomass. In 2014, the most recent year with data, the number was 4.3 billion tons and growing, and waste from livestock outweighed that from humans five to one at the country level.

“Exposure to both human and animal waste represent a threat to public health, particularly in low-income areas of the world that may not have resources to implement the best management and sanitation practices,” said Joe Brown, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “But estimating the amount of recoverable feces in the world also highlights the enormous potential from a resource perspective.” more>

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Updates from Datacenter.com

30 Years of Open Internet in Europe
By Piet Beertema – On Saturday, 17 November at 2.28 pm it is exactly thirty years ago since the Netherlands was the first country in Europe to be connected to the Internet. System Administrator Piet Beertema of Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam received the confirmation that CWI – as the first institute outside the US – officially gained access to NSFnet, an academic computer network that later evolved into the worldwide Internet.

In 1988, the pioneers of CWI gained access tot the – then still American – Internet after years of preparation (CWI was already the central hub within the European network ‘EUnet’ and predecessor NLnet), thanks to their good contacts in the network world. Teus Hagen, head of IT at CWI at that time, explains in the documentary that during the development period, especially hard work was being done to establish the internet connection and the associated technology, so that communication between – especially scientists – would be faster and easier. “Data and information were exchanged freely at that time. If we had known that privacy and hacking would play such a big role in the future, we would have opted for a different approach for sure.”

Steven Pemberton was one of the first Internet users in Europe. In a later stage he developed important standards for the World Wide Web, one of the most important applications of the Internet. “In retrospect, establishing that first connection was a historic moment, something we did not realize at that time.” more>

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Is a Recession Coming?

By Derek Thompson – Cascading stock prices might seem like a random crisis if you’ve been paying attention to the overall economy, which is booming. At 3.7 percent, the official unemployment rate is the lowest of this century. Job satisfaction is at its highest level in more than a decade. Small-business and consumer confidence hit record highs this year.

Observing the gap between Wall Street jitters and Main Street optimism, some are inclined to point out that “the stock market is not the economy.” But you should resist that temptation. The stock market is not the entire economy. (Neither is wage growth or health-care spending.) Rather, the stock market is a part of the economy that reflects both the value of capital investment in public companies and a prediction of their future earnings. As labor costs increase (good news for workers), and interest rates creep up (good news for traditional savings accounts), cost of business increases for many large companies, which can hurt their stock value.

For many years, corporate profits thrived as labor costs were low. Now corporate profits are at risk as labor costs are rising.

One way to predict the likelihood of a recession today is to look back at the past few downturns and evaluate whether the U.S. economy is in danger of repeating history. more>

The Boundary Between Our Bodies and Our Tech

By Kevin Lincoln – Many of the boundary lines in our lives are highly literal, and, for the most part, this is how we’ve been trained to think of boundaries: as demarcations shored up by laws, physical, legal, or otherwise, that indicate exactly where one thing ends and another begins. Here is the border of your property; here is the border of your body; here is the border of a city, a state, a nation—and to cross any of these boundaries without permission is to transgress.

But one of the most significant boundary lines in our lives is not this way, and one piece of ubiquitous technology is making this line increasingly permeable and uncertain, at a cost that we may only be starting to comprehend.

The debate over what it means for us to be so connected all the time is still in its infancy, and there are wildly differing perspectives on what it could mean for us as a species. One result of these collapsing borders, however, is less ambiguous, and it’s becoming a common subject of activism and advocacy among the technologically minded. While many of us think of the smartphone as a portal for accessing the outside world, the reciprocity of the device, as well as the larger pattern of our behavior online, means the portal goes the other way as well: It’s a means for others to access us. more>

Why Is the US Losing the AI Race?

By Chris Wiltz – AI is rapidly becoming a globally valued commodity. And nations that lead in AI will likely be the ones that guide the global economy in the near future.

“As AI technology continues to advance, its progress has the potential to dramatically reshape the nation’s economic growth and welfare. It is critical the federal government build upon, and increase, its capacity to understand, develop, and manage the risks associated with this technology’s increased use,” the report stated.

While the US has traditionally led the world in developing and applying AI technologies, the new report finds it’s no longer a given that the nation will be number 1 when it comes to AI. Witnesses interviewed by the House Subcommittee said that federal funding levels for AI research are not keeping pace with the rest of the industrialized world, with one witness stating: “[W]hile other governments are aggressively raising their research funding, US government research has been relatively flat.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, China is the biggest competitor to the US in the AI space. “Notably, China’s commitment to funding R&D has been growing sharply, up 200 percent from 2000 to 2015,” the report said.

AI’s potential threat to national security was cited as a key reason to ramp up R&D efforts. While there has yet to be a major hack or data breach involving AI, many security experts believe it is only a matter of time.

Cybersecurity companies are already leveraging AI to assist in tasks such as monitoring network traffic for suspicious activity and even for simulating cyberattacks on systems. It would be foolish to assume that malicious parties aren’t looking to take advantage of AI for their own gain as well. more>

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>

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>

In Praise Of Deviants

By George Bradt – Your team needs disrupters, rebels, challengers, and deviants to help it evolve and survive. That’s the main premise of my earlier article on Why The Highest Performing Teams Always Fail Over Time. Here we explore how to get more positive deviation, drawing from Andrew Benedict-Nelson and Jeff Leitner’s book “See Think Solve” on how to solve tough societal problems.

Benedict-Nelson and Leitner’s main premises are:

  1. Deviant behavior can subvert the social norms – informal, unspoken rules – preventing you from solving problems.
  2. Every tough problem is held in place by one or more problematic social norms.
  3. See the actors, history, limits, future, configuration, and parthood, then think about norms and deviance, before deviating from the norm to solve the problem.

Deviance can be positive or negative, evolutionary or revolutionary, unintentional or deliberate. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Why we’re all impact investors now
By Chana R. Schoenberger – Laurence “Larry” Fink, the founder and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which has more than $6 trillion in assets under management, issued an open letter to CEOs this past January—and reportedly sent many of them into a tizzy.

Fink’s letter said society is demanding that companies, public and private, need to “serve a social purpose,” benefiting not just shareholders but also employees, customers, and neighbors. And, he explained, from that point forward, BlackRock would be “eager to participate in discussions about long-term value creation and work to build a better framework for serving all your stakeholders.”

Executives, he wrote, should be able to answer their questions about the company’s actions. For example, what role does the company play in the community? How is it managing its impact on the environment? Is it working to create a diverse workforce?

“The time has come for a new model of shareholder engagement,” he wrote.

For nearly 50 years, many have been guided by the idea, laid out most famously by Milton Friedman, that the most appropriate way to create social change is to give profits to investors, and taxes to the government, and use that money to make an impact. more>

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