Category Archives: History

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>

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>

Updates from Ciena

VodafoneZiggo is revolutionizing the Netherlands’ digital infrastructure
By Leo-Geert van den Berg – Did you know the Netherlands is Europe’s leading country in internet access, broadband connectivity and internet usage on mobile phones?

A lot of tech companies use the Netherlands as a test bed for new solutions and according to recent reports, we are among the frontrunners in the EU in cloud adoption both for businesses and consumers. When it comes to our networks, we rely on their support on our road to success. Here in the Netherlands, we pride ourselves on being open to try new things.

As the largest fixed broadband provider and second largest mobile operator by subscribers in the Netherlands, VodafoneZiggo is looking to the future, with the goal of moving the Netherlands to a renewed network in 2020 – the ‘network of the future’ –  which supports Gigabit speeds of 1.000 Mbit/s. The goal of this network is to align our mobile and fixed connections even closer, so there is a seamless transition between fixed internet and Wi-Fi.

To make networks faster, scalable, and more reliable, they must be built with the intention of becoming fully virtualized. And, thanks to Ciena’s WaveLogic Ai 400G programmable solution, more>

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Why Brexit Won’t Cure Britain’s Broken Economic Model

By Simon Deakin – The critical thing with Brexit is to think about trade and regulation as being two sides of the same coin. When we talk about international trade we are really asking, which regulatory regime do we want to sign up to?

Inside the single market there is high degree of harmonization and convergence of rules, or what is sometimes called alignment. Regulatory alignment is the condition of frictionless trade in the European single market. It is a uniquely deep international trading arrangement because of the high degree of regulatory compliance that goes with EU membership.

We can’t achieve regulatory autonomy post-Brexit without giving up frictionless trade. So UK policy makers have to think about the consequences of moving away from the single market.

The first impact will be felt in those industries which rely upon regulatory alignment in order to function. For the car industry, and large manufacturers like Airbus, European supply chains will be very negatively affected by regulatory divergence.

That is why it is not surprising to hear that the car companies are going to put their production on hold if there is a prospect of a hard Brexit. They have said that they will pause their production lines for a while to see how their new supply chain arrangements can work. That will have a very serious impact on jobs.

Restrictions on migration from the EU after the transition period ends will not result in more jobs for British workers. The British government is likely to extend bespoke arrangements to allow firms in sectors such as agriculture, hospitality and construction to employ foreign workers outside the scope of British labor laws.

In some sectors, employers faced with rising wage costs are likely to respond by investing in labor-saving technologies, but that while this will improve productivity, it will not lead to net job creation. more>

How Capitalism Actually Generates More Inequality

By Geoffrey M. Hodgson – At least nominally, capitalism embodies and sustains an Enlightenment agenda of freedom and equality.

Typically there is freedom to trade and equality under the law, meaning that most adults – rich or poor – are formally subject to the same legal rules. But with its inequalities of power and wealth, capitalism nurtures economic inequality alongside equality under the law.

Today, in the USA, the richest 1 per cent own 34 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 74 per cent of the wealth. In the UK, the richest 1 per cent own 12 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 44 per cent of the wealth. In France the figures are 24 cent and 62 per cent respectively. The richest 1 percent own 35 percent of the wealth in Switzerland, 24 per cent in Sweden and 15 percent in Canada.

To what extent can inequalities of income or wealth be attributed to the fundamental institutions of capitalism, rather than a residual landed aristocracy, or other surviving elites from the pre-capitalist past? A familiar mantra is that markets are the source of inequality under capitalism. Can markets be blamed for inequality?

In real-world markets different sellers or buyers vary hugely in their capacities to influence prices and other outcomes. When a seller has sufficient salable assets to affect market prices, then strategic market behavior is possible to drive out competitors.

Would more competition, with greater numbers of market participants, fix this problem? If markets per se are to be blamed for inequality, then it has to be shown that competitive markets also have this outcome. more>

The Liberal Conception Of ‘Freedom’ Is Incapable Of Addressing The Problems Of Contemporary Capitalism

By Andrea Lorenzo Capussela – In a forthcoming book, Branko Milanović identifies four ‘troublesome features’ in ‘meritocratic liberal capitalism’.

In its simplest form, liberal theory – equal rights for all citizens, which guarantee their freedom, which is in turn conceived as absence of interference – has no obvious answer to those problems. For if freedom is non-interference, then it is compatible with both inequality and private domination, at least within certain bounds, as neither directly interferes with people’s individual choices.

Indeed, accepting precarious employment is a choice. And as liberals cannot say that Milanović’s four ‘troublesome features’ pose a fundamental challenge to their idea of a good society, their answer is a Ptolemaic one: sets of diverse, if potentially effective remedies such as redistribution, poverty relief, active labor market policies, civic education, and policing fake-news.

For the liberal conception of freedom is not the only conceivable one. Another notion, equally negative, is the republican or neo-roman one, which views freedom as non-domination. If I depend on someone else’s arbitrary will, or am subject to their enormous and unchecked power, I am not free, irrespective of how that power is exercised.

Hence the paradox of the ‘free slave’, frequent in republican literature: liberal theory implies that the slave who has a kind master is free, as she suffers no interference in her choices; republicans object that this depends entirely on the master’s benevolence, which can be revoked at will and may have to be cultivated: domination and unfreedom remain, therefore, and typically lead to self-censorship and a slavish mentality. more>

Platform Work – Breaking Barriers Or Breaking Bad?

By Irene Mandl – In the abstract, platform work is the matching of supply and demand for paid work through an online platform. In practice, most people are likely to have encountered it through big online platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo or Amazon Mechanical Turk. This is a new form employment that began to emerge in Europe about a decade ago. And while it is still small in scale – estimates of the percentage of workers employed by platforms are in single digits – it is growing relentlessly.

New platforms are constantly starting up, changing their business models and sinking into obscurity. But some have gained a solid foothold and look likely to be around for some time to come.

Increasing numbers of workers are attracted to working this way – for some, out of necessity as they have no alternative employment opportunities; for others, it’s an easier way to get work than looking for a standard job. Some use it as a way to earn extra income on the side – perhaps to pay for a holiday or buy a new car. And some do it simply because they enjoy it – like the designers who use it to showcase their creativity online.

Many try it once and never do it again, others do it regularly but not intensively, and a small proportion of Europeans do platform work as their main income source.

It is growing thanks in part to the ever-expanding variety of tasks being mediated through platforms. At one end are the online micro-tasks – click-work – that do not require particular skills, such as tagging photos. At the other are larger projects commissioned from highly skilled professionals.

The tendency of platform work to encroach on existing areas of business has sparked debate in many EU member states and attracted media attention – the backlash of food-delivery riders against platforms like Deliveroo or Foodora or of traditional taxi companies against Uber have been widely reported.

Platform work does not fit into traditional economic and labour market structures, and is challenging the institutions and legislation built around them. Courts in various countries have been asked to decide whether or not this business model creates unfair competition for traditional operators and whether it circumvents labor law. more>

Negative capability

By Paul Tritschler – The unconscious can perform astonishing feats of memory, but it can also play a remarkable role in creativity: sudden insights, solutions and life-enhancing ideas sometimes surface unbidden when the mind is adrift in unconscious reverie. If such chance awakenings are possible, how can you replicate those conditions to become more the author, and less the reporter, of your own meaningful life story? To find that elusive voice, we’ve got to search in the ‘now’, in the moment of true, lived experience that fleetingly exists between past and future. It is within that space that we must seek the locus of personal transformation and change.

But being in the moment, developing an awareness of ‘now’, means gaining control over our thoughts and the unconscious patterning of memory so that they don’t intrude. If we can’t wrestle control over things, then something has gone awry in the master-servant relationship – there is truth in the old aphorism: ‘The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.’

To overcome this complex bind, we must identify how the mind constrains us, and then we must break free. Among the traps of the mind, there is preoccupation with the past (including attachment to intrusive memories) and preoccupation with the future (including continual desire). By definition, these lures are incompatible with being in the moment. We must offload this excess baggage to glimpse what we are and what we might become. more>