Category Archives: History

My Fair Data: How the Government Can Limit Bias in Artificial Intelligence

By Josh Sullivan, Josh Elliot, Kirsten Lloyd, and Edward Raff –
The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) holds great promise, but also potential for pitfalls. AI can change the way we live, work, and play, accelerate drug discoveries, and drive edge computing and autonomous systems. It also has the potential to transform global politics, economies, and cultures in such profound ways that the U.S. and other countries are set to enter what some speculate may be the next Space Race.

We are just beginning to understand the implications of unchecked AI. Recent headlines have highlighted its limitations and the continued need for human control. We will not be able to ignore the range of ethical risks posed by issues of privacy, transparency, safety, control, and bias.

Considering the advances already made in AI—and those yet to be made—AI is undoubtedly on a trajectory toward integration into every aspect of our lives. As we prepare to turn an increasing share of tasks and decision-making over to AI we must think more critically about how ethics factor into AI design to minimize risk. With this in mind, policymakers must proactively consider ways to incorporate ethics into AI practices and design incentives that promote innovation while ensuring AI operates with our best interests in mind. more>

Updates from ITU

World Space Week – ITU’s contribution to a world united by space
By Alexandre Vallet – This year’s theme of World Space Week, “Space Unites the World,” resounds with the never-ending work carried out by the entire ITU membership since the 1960s to ensure that adequate radio frequencies are available for space activities.

Only six years after the historical first satellite launch of Sputnik in 1957, ITU organized the Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference to allocate frequency bands for space radiocommunication purposes in Geneva from 7 October to 8 November 1963.

The Conference, which was attended by more than 400 delegates from 70 ITU Member States, allocated for the first time radio frequencies for outer space activities, totaling about 6 GHz for the various kinds of space services and for radio astronomy, 2.8 GHz of which were for communication satellites. After the Conference, about 15 per cent of the Table of Frequency Allocations was available for outer space. more>

The Wounds Won’t Heal

By David French – We usually place outsized emphasis on elections that define our politics and too little emphasis on the values that define our culture.

But it was the nomination of Kavanaugh and the wrenching debate about core cultural and constitutional values that dominated American discourse these past few weeks. It’s a debate that illustrated the fundamentally different ways in which conservatives and progressives view the world, and it unlocked not just an intellectual response but an emotional response that has radicalized otherwise reasonable and temperamentally moderate individuals into believing that the other side hates even the good people in their own tribe.

And so when Ford came forward, it’s as if her allegations landed in two different countries. The good-faith residents of Redworld were skeptical and said, “Prove it.” The good-faith residents of Blueworld believed Ford and said, “Finally, she has a chance for justice.” The presumptions were diametrically opposite, and everything that followed turned on those different presumptions. more>

They Go Together: Freedom, Prosperity, and Big Government

Countries with larger government sectors tend to have more personal freedom
By Ed Dolan – The Human Freedom Index consists of two parts. One is the Economic Freedom Index (EFI) from the Fraser Institute, which includes measures of the size of government, protection of property rights, sound money, freedom of international trade, and regulation.

The other is Cato’s own Personal Freedom Index (PFI), which includes measures of rule of law, freedom of movement and assembly, personal safety and security, freedom of information, and freedom of personal relationships. The Cato and Fraser links provide detailed descriptions of the two indexes.

In order to explore the way freedom influences other aspects of human well-being, I will draw on a third data set, the Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI) from the Legatum Institute. The LPI includes data on nine “pillars” of prosperity, including the economy, business environment, governance, personal freedom, health, safety and security, education, social capital, and environmental quality.

The relationship between economic and personal freedom is partly explained by the fact that both are positively associated with income. As the next chart shows, that relationship is nonlinear for both measures of freedom. The log of real GDP per capita, expressed in U.S. dollars at purchasing power parity, provides a reasonably good fit.

There are many measures of prosperity and well-being available. I hope to be able to explore several of them and their relationships to human freedom in future posts. In this introductory treatment, however, I will limit myself to the education, health, and personal security indicators from the Legatum Prosperity Index. In what follows, I will refer to the average of these three Legatum “pillars” as the education-health-safety index, or EHS, measured on a scale of 1 to 100. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

The danger of making policy based on assumption
By George J. Stigler – The denunciation of American complacency, however, is not my purpose, at least not my explicit purpose. I admire the humane and generous sympathies of our society—sympathies that extend to the uneducated and the uncultured and the unenterprising and even the immoral as well as to the educated and the cultured and the enterprising and the moral.

We are a people remarkably agreed on our basic goals, and they are goals which are thoroughly admirable even to one, like myself, who thinks one or two less fashionable goals deserve equal popularity.

Fortunately, our agreement on basic goals does not preclude disagreement on the way best to approach these goals. If the right economic policies were so obvious as to defy responsible criticism, this would be an intolerably dull world. In fact, I believe that each generation has an inescapable obligation to leave difficult problems for the next generation to solve—not only to spare that next generation boredom but also to give it an opportunity for greatness. The legacy of unsolved problems which my generation is bequeathing to the next generation, I may say, seems adequate and even sumptuous.

It is not wholly correct to say that we are agreed upon what we want but are not agreed upon how to achieve it. When we get to specific goals, we shall find that our agreement does not always extend to orders of importance. For example, some people are willing to preserve personal freedom of choice for consumers even if the choice is exercised very unwisely in some cases, and others will be more concerned with (say) the health of consumers which these unwise choices may impair. Nevertheless, it is roughly true that we know where to go.

We do not know how to get there. This is my fundamental thesis: we do not know how to achieve a given end. more>


The Collapse Of European Social Democracy, Part 2

By Paul Sweeney – The privatisation of state assets in Europe has added little value and was a costly distraction from the proper management of public services and development of a strong public sector ethos, delivering excellent services. Despite the privatisation of hundreds of billions of asssets, the outsourcing of public services, and fresh privatised ways of funding public services, spending in the modern state has not shrunk, though the value of state assets has been reduced.

The public sphere, open spaces, public ideas and the scientific commons which are open to all are coming under threat of being fenced off, privatised by extensions and enforcement of Intellectual Property, trademarks, copyright laws etc.. This needs to be curbed. The state has been remiss in protecting its own assets from privatisation over the past four decades and, simultaneously, it has given away substantial parts of this public sphere to private interests. It has done this by being over-zealous in protecting the “rights” of major corporations, drug companies, tech and data companies and rich individuals through extended patent rights, and the like.

Patents serve the useful purpose of protection for inventors whose ideas should be rewarded in order to encourage further innovation. But the balance has shifted from protecting innovation to blocking it. It is the state which provides this protection through internationally agreed laws and through enforcement. The growth in patents, trademarks, copyrights and industrial designs has been very high. The state is now agreeing to renewing patents and granting extensions to the likes of branded drugs, thanks to lobbying. Many patents are acquired to build a monopoly and to act as a deterrent against rival innovations.

Some MNCs now troll and hoover-up patents and others exist to build major patent portfolios with the purpose of blocking others’ innovations, moving upstream to protect broad future possible inventions. more>

How The Handling Of The Financial After-Crisis Fuels Populism

By Guillaume Duval – Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers people are frequently asking themselves why the crisis has done so much to strengthen populism and nationalism everywhere you go. However, economically and socially, the process that lies behind this development is, unfortunately, all too easy to describe.

During the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, central banks’ rescue of finance continued on an unprecedented scale for ten years with what is called Quantitative easing (QE). The striking effect of this was to send prices of financial assets sky-high and thereby substantially enrich the bankers, speculators and the already rich holders of these assets at levels that are much higher than before the crisis.

At the same time, ordinary people found themselves lastingly out of work on a huge scale. Governments whose own finances deteriorated steeply – not least because of their aid to the financial sector – rushed to cut back on their spending, especially on welfare. Everywhere, classic right-wing governments but also social-liberal left ones as in France adopted deflationary policies to cut the cost of labor and loosen up the labor market rules, thus making ordinary people’s working and living conditions far worse. While cutting again the taxes on the super-rich and corporate earnings to preserve the country’s “attractiveness.”

These public policies – that have put all European countries permanently on the edge of recession and deflation – are also the main reason for the pursuit of the above-mentioned monetary policy that has so significantly increased inequalities. more>

The Tragedy of the Commons: How Elinor Ostrom Solved One of Life’s Greatest Dilemmas

By David Sloan Wilson – As an evolutionary biologist who received my PhD in 1975, I grew up with Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons,” published in Science magazine in 1968. His parable of villagers adding too many cows to their common pasture captured the essence of the problem that my thesis research was designed to solve.

The farmer who added an extra cow gained an advantage over other farmers in his village but it also led to an overgrazed pasture. The biological world is full of similar examples in which individuals who behave for the good of their groups lose out in the struggle for existence with more self-serving individuals, resulting in overexploited resources and other tragedies of non-cooperation.

Is the so-called tragedy of the commons ever averted in the biological world and might this possibility provide solutions for our own species?

Evolutionary theory’s individualistic turn coincided with individualistic turns in other areas of thought. Economics in the postwar decades was dominated by rational choice theory, which used individual self-interest as a grand explanatory principle. The social sciences were dominated by a position known as methodological individualism, which treated all social phenomena as reducible to individual-level phenomena, as if groups were not legitimate units of analysis in their own right. And UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became notorious for saying during a speech in 1987 that “there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.” It was as if the entire culture had become individualistic and the formal scientific theories were obediently following suit. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Looking Back in Time to Watch for a Different Kind of Black Hole
By John Toon – Black holes form when stars die, allowing the matter in them to collapse into an extremely dense object from which not even light can escape. Astronomers theorize that massive black holes could also form at the birth of a galaxy, but so far nobody has been able to look far enough back in time to observe the conditions creating these direct collapse black holes (DCBH).

The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2021, might be able look far enough back into the early Universe to see a galaxy hosting a nascent massive black hole. Now, a simulation done by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology has suggested what astronomers should look for if they search the skies for a DCBH in its early stages.

DCBH formation would be initiated by the collapse of a large cloud of gas during the early formation of a galaxy, said John H. Wise, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Physics and the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics. But before astronomers could hope to catch this formation, they would have to know what to look for in the spectra that the telescope could detect, which is principally infrared.

Black holes take about a million years to form, a blip in galactic time. In the DCBH simulation, that first step involves gas collapsing into a supermassive star as much as 100,000 times more massive than our sun. The star then undergoes gravitational instability and collapses into itself to form a massive black hole. Radiation from the black hole then triggers the formation of stars over period of about 500,000 years, the simulation suggested. more>


Updates from Autodesk

GTXRaster CAD Series: Incorporated into “Full” AutoCAD
GTX – With over 34 years in the Technical Imaging industry, GTX has provided engineering professionals the best Windows® based products in the market to accommodate scanned paper drawings – black and white or color images. GTX will significantly enhance your ability to handle scanned drawings, maps and other raster images and bring them into your modern CAD, EDM or GIS environments.

These new product releases, the GTXRaster CAD 2019 Series*, known as the “AutoCAD for raster” and the windows standalone, GTXImage CAD™ Version 21 Series, are a unique, cost-effective solution for bringing legacy drawings into your digital environment. You can modify and enhance scanned raster archives with the speed and flexibility of both raster and vector editing techniques. Whether your requirement is for raster cleanup, 2D CAD drafting, hybrid raster/vector editing or full automatic raster-to-vector conversion with intelligent text recognition, total flexibility is provided by these product series. more>