Category Archives: Education

Updates from Ciena

The implications behind service and content provider requirements for coherent optical solutions
By Helen Xenos – In 2007, I was asked to write a white paper about this really cool new “coherent technology” our team was working on and explain how the coherent receiver would completely revolutionize optical networks as we knew them. As I tried to get started, I quickly learned that the only source for content were the engineers actually working on the project – my efforts of scrolling through pages upon Google search pages netted zero information.
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The evolving coherent optical networking landscape: a deep dive

In the end, I wrote the paper by transcribing what a dear co-worker and mentor, Michel Belanger, who was one of the designers, patiently explained to me (it took several hours). He made sure I understood the significance of coherent technology and how it would change the game in optical networks.

Fast forward a dozen years – there is no shortage of information pertaining to coherent technology, and there are about a dozen coherent module and system suppliers. Coherent optical systems have become the networking foundation that underpins the digital economy that we know today.

Network providers are ubiquitously deploying coherent to scale networks for capacity, reduce transport costs and provide a better end-user experience to their customers. In fact, they are now looking at expanding the role that coherent technology plays in the network and deploy it in space and power/optimized applications in addition to traditional infrastructure, submarine and data center interconnect (DCI) build-outs.

As coherent technology plays an increasingly critical role for successful network evolution, we must step back and ask ourselves:

  • What do network providers need from their coherent solution partners to succeed?
  • What are the implications of the divergent customer and networking requirements to the suppliers of the technology?

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Democratising Europe: by taxation or by debt?

Europe desperately needs to resolve its collective-action problem to emerge from the crisis. Democratizing Europe, with a fiscal capacity, is better than monetary easing.
By Manon Boujou, Lucas Chancel, Anne-Laure Delatte, Thomas Piketty, Guillaume Sacriste, Stéphanie Hennette and Antoine Vauchez – On December 10th 2018 we launched a Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe, along with 120 European politicians and academics. Since it was launched, the manifesto has accrued over 110,000 signatures and it is still open for more. It includes a project for a treaty and a budget enabling the countries which so wish to set up a European Assembly and a genuine policy for fiscal, social and environmental justice in Europe—all available multilingually on the website.

In the Guardian, on December 13th, Yanis Varoufakis presented his ‘Green New Deal’ as an alternative to the manifesto, which he considers to be irrelevant.

The Varoufakis plan builds on the European Investment Bank (EIB) which is responsible for issuing bonds to the value of €500 billion per annum, including these securities in the program of purchase of securities by the European Central Bank (ECB).

The main criticism by Varoufakis seems to be the following: why do you want to create yet more new taxes when one can create money? Our budget is indeed financed by taxation, whereas his plan is financed by public debt.

In his proposals, private firms involved in the ecological transition borrow money from the ECB, after having been selected by the EIB.

In fact, part of this arrangement already exists in the form of the Juncker plan. What Varoufakis adds is the purchase of securities by the ECB rather than by private investors. more>

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans

Experts say the rise of artificial intelligence will make most people better off over the next decade, but many have concerns about how advances in AI will affect what it means to be human, to be productive and to exercise free will.
By Janna Anderson, Lee Rainie and Alex Luchsinger – Digital life is augmenting human capacities and disrupting eons-old human activities. Code-driven systems have spread to more than half of the world’s inhabitants in ambient information and connectivity, offering previously unimagined opportunities and unprecedented threats.

As emerging algorithm-driven artificial intelligence (AI) continues to spread, will people be better off than they are today?

Some 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists answered this question in a canvassing of experts conducted in the summer of 2018.

The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities. They spoke of the wide-ranging possibilities; that computers might match or even exceed human intelligence and capabilities on tasks such as complex decision-making, reasoning and learning, sophisticated analytics and pattern recognition, visual acuity, speech recognition and language translation. They said “smart” systems in communities, in vehicles, in buildings and utilities, on farms and in business processes will save time, money and lives and offer opportunities for individuals to enjoy a more-customized future.

Yet, most experts, regardless of whether they are optimistic or not, expressed concerns about the long-term impact of these new tools on the essential elements of being human. more>

They Don’t Just Hide Their Money. Economist Says Most of Billionaire Wealth is Unearned.

By Didier Jacobs – The 62 richest people in the world own as much wealth as half of humanity. Such extreme wealth conjures images of both fat cats and deserving entrepreneurs. So where did so much money come from?

It turns out, three-fourths of extreme wealth in the US falls on the fat cat side.

A key empirical question in the inequality debate is to what extent rich people derive their wealth from “rents”, which is windfall income they did not produce, as opposed to activities creating true economic benefit.

Economists define “rent” as the difference between what people are paid and what they would have to be paid to do the work anyway. The classical example is the farmer who owns particularly fertile land.

With the same effort, she can produce more than other farmers working on land of average productivity. The extra income she gets is a rent. Monopolists also get rent by overcharging customers as compared to what they could charge in competitive markets.

More generally, economists have identified a series of “market failures”, which are situations where full competition does not prevail and where someone can therefore overcharge – they would be ready to do the work for less, but lack of competition allows them to make a quick extra buck. Government can alleviate market failures through proper economic regulation; or it can make them worse.

Political scientists define “rent-seeking” as influencing government to get special privileges, such as subsidies or exclusive production licenses, to capture income and wealth produced by others.

So how much of extreme wealth derives from rents? more>

Updates from Siemens

Why fulfilling airworthiness requirements means going digital
By Dave Chan and John Cunneen – Any organization that must consistently prove airworthiness requirements can relate to the frustrating tasks of locating and providing proof their products will perform in accordance with standards, rules and laws in a myriad of countries.

No more so is this appropriate than in the aerospace industry where everything is built on safety. Every rule, every design requirement has blood on it. These rules exist because someone was or can be hurt, a plane could crash, or any number of catastrophic incidents can occur.

This is why there are rigorous standards in place to ensure anything that can take off and land, from the smallest glider and helicopter to the largest commercial airliner and military jet, must receive and maintain an airworthiness certificate. The process of aircraft certification can be daunting simply because many organizations don’t take proactive approaches in the development phase through delivery to make it so. more>

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Updates from ITU

Time to eliminate the password: New report on next-generation authentication for digital financial services
By ITU News – “We don’t want digital financial services to be built on the wrong foundation, which is the password,” says Abbie Barbir, Rapporteur for ITU standardization work on ‘Identity management architecture and mechanisms’ (Q10/17).

Over 3 billion usernames and passwords were stolen in 2016, and the number of data breaches in 2017 rose 44.7 per cent higher than that recorded in 2016.

“We are moving away from the ‘shared secret’ model of authentication,” says digital ID strategist and standards expert, Andrew Hughes of InTurn Consulting, referring principally to the username-password model of authentication.

“Considering the prevalence of data breaches, there are no secrets anymore,” says Hughes.

Designed to overcome the limitations of passwords, specifications developed by the FIDO Alliance (‘Fast Identity Online’) enable users to authenticate locally to their device using biometrics, with the device then authenticating the user online with public key cryptography.

This model is not susceptible to phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks or other forms of attacks targeting user credentials.

“This is the biggest transformation we have seen in authentication in 20 years,” says Jeremy Grant, Managing Director of Technology Business Strategy at Venable. more>

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A New Americanism

Why a Nation Needs a National Story
By Jill Lepore – Carl Degler issued a warning: “If we historians fail to provide a nationally defined history, others less critical and less informed will take over the job for us.”

The nation-state was in decline, said the wise men of the time. The world had grown global. Why bother to study the nation?

Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist, not a historian. But his 1989 essay “The End of History?” illustrated Degler’s point. Fascism and communism were dead, Fukuyama announced at the end of the Cold War.

Fukuyama was hardly alone in pronouncing nationalism all but dead. A lot of other people had, too. That’s what worried Degler.

Nation-states, when they form, imagine a past. That, at least in part, accounts for why modern historical writing arose with the nation-state.

But in the 1970s, studying the nation fell out of favor in the American historical profession. Most historians started looking at either smaller or bigger things, investigating the experiences and cultures of social groups or taking the broad vantage promised by global history.

But meanwhile, who was doing the work of providing a legible past and a plausible future—a nation—to the people who lived in the United States? Charlatans, stooges, and tyrants.

The endurance of nationalism proves that there’s never any shortage of blackguards willing to prop up people’s sense of themselves and their destiny with a tissue of myths and prophecies, prejudices and hatreds, or to empty out old rubbish bags full of festering resentments and calls to violence.

When historians abandon the study of the nation, when scholars stop trying to write a common history for a people, nationalism doesn’t die. Instead, it eats liberalism.

Maybe it’s too late to restore a common history, too late for historians to make a difference. But is there any option other than to try to craft a new American history—one that could foster a new Americanism? more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

The safest bank the Fed won’t sanction – A ‘narrow bank’ offers security against financial crises
By John H. Cochrane – One might expect that those in charge of banking policy in the United States would celebrate the concept of a “narrow bank.” A narrow bank takes deposits and invests only in interest-paying reserves at the Fed. A narrow bank cannot fail unless the US Treasury or Federal Reserve fails. A narrow bank cannot lose money on its assets. It cannot suffer a run. If people want their money back, they can all have it, instantly. A narrow bank needs essentially no asset risk regulation, stress tests, or anything else.

A narrow bank would fill an important niche. Right now, individuals can have federally insured bank accounts, but large businesses need to handle amounts of cash far above deposit insurance limits. For that reason, large businesses invest in repurchase agreements, short-term commercial paper, and all the other forms of short-term debt that blew up in the 2008 financial crisis. These assets are safer than bank accounts, but, as we saw, not completely safe.

A narrow bank is completely safe without deposit insurance. And with the option of a narrow bank, the only reason for companies to invest in these other arrangements is to try to harvest a little more interest. Regulators can feel a lot more confident shutting down run-prone alternatives if narrow bank deposits are widely available. more>

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Updates from Ciena

4 critical requirements for the next-gen photonic layer
By Paulina Gomez – Today’s market dynamics are making it harder for network providers to effectively compete in an environment where revenue per bit is declining, and network bandwidth requirements are exploding. In the face of these business challenges, network providers are realizing they must evolve and transform their networks towards a more programmable infrastructure that can scale and respond on demand, to meet changing customer expectations and unpredictable traffic requirements.

While coherent optics are a critical element in enabling a programmable optical infrastructure, alone they are not enough to fulfill operators’ requirements for successful network transformation.

So what else is needed?

The photonic layer is the foundation of this programmable infrastructure, leveraging the latest coherent optical technology to deliver maximum scale at the lowest cost per bit. When examining the requirements of metro and long-haul infrastructure applications, including global data center interconnect (DCI) networks, there is a growing need for an agile, resilient and intelligent photonic layer.

This Reconfigurable Add-Drop Multiplexer (ROADM)-based optical foundation leverages flexible, instrumented photonics and Layer 0 software control to scale the network for maximum capacity at the lowest space, power, and cost per bit. more>

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Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism.

BOOK REVIEW

Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, Author: Malcolm Harris.

By Sean Illing – What made millennials the way they are? Why are they so burned out? Why are they having fewer kids? Why are they getting married later? Why are they obsessed with efficiency and technology?

His answer, in so many words, is the economy. Millennials, Harris argues, are bearing the brunt of the economic damage wrought by late-20th-century capitalism. All these insecurities — and the material conditions that produced them — have thrown millennials into a state of perpetual panic. If “generations are characterized by crises,” as Harris argues, then ours is the crisis of extreme capitalism.

What Harris focused on is millennials as workers and the changing relationship between labor and capital during the time we all came of age and developed into people. If we want to understand why millennials are the way they are, then we have to look at the increased competition between workers, the increased isolation of workers from each other, the extreme individualism of modern American society, and the widespread problems of debt and economic security facing this generation.

Millennials have been forced to grow up and enter the labor market under these dynamics, and we’ve internalized this drive to produce as much as we can for as little as possible. That means we take on the costs of training ourselves (including student debt), we take on the costs of managing ourselves as freelancers or contract workers, because that’s what capital is looking for.

And because wages are stagnant and exploitation is up, competition among workers is up too. As individuals, the best thing we can do for ourselves is work harder, learn to code, etc. But we’re not individuals, not as far as bosses are concerned. The vast majority of us are (replaceable) workers, and by working harder for less, we’re undermining ourselves as a class. It’s a vicious cycle. more>