Category Archives: How to

Optimizing Thermoelectric Energy Generation

By Elizabeth Montalbano – Deriving energy from the heat electronic devices emit so they can provide their own sustainable sources of power is a Holy Grail for scientists developing power sources for sensors that will drive the future of healthcare devices as well as the Internet of Things.

Researchers in Japan now have come up with a new thermoelectric generator that can convert temperature differences to electricity can be used to power small, flexible devices.

Scientists at Osaka University developed the device in the form of a bismuth telluride semiconductor on a thin, polymer film that weighs less than a paperclip and smaller than the size of an adult fingernail.

However, packed in the tiny device is a maximum output power density of 185 milliwatts per square centimeter, which “meets standard specifications for portable and wearable sensors,” Tohru Sugahara, an associate professor at the university’s Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, in a press statement. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How the Fed plans to pay the country’s bills
By John H. Cochrane – Public attention in the United States during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis has been largely on the disease itself, the massive social and economic shock of the shutdown, and how we can orchestrate a safe reopening. But we also need to pay some attention to the financial side of the current situation, and the Federal Reserve’s immense reaction to it. Whatever one thinks of that reaction, it’s important to understand what the bank did, what beneficial and adverse consequences there are, and how our financial and economic system and policies might be set up better in the future.

We face a severe economic downturn of unknown duration. If it is something other than a V-shaped downturn spanning months rather than years, there will be a wave of bankruptcies, from individuals to corporations, and huge losses all over the financial system. “Well, earn returns in good times and take losses in bad times,” you may say, and I do, more often than the Fed does, but for now this is simply a fact.

Our government’s basic economic plan to confront this situation is simple: the Federal Reserve will print money to pay every bill, and guarantee every debt, for the duration. And, to a somewhat lesser approximation, the plan is also to ensure that no fixed-income investor loses money.

To be clear, my intention here is not to criticize this plan. From a combination of voluntary and imposed social distancing, the economy is collapsing. Twenty million people, more than 1 in 10 US workers, lost their jobs in the first month of the COVID-19 shutdowns. That’s more than the entire 2008–09 recession, all in the course of three weeks. A third of US apartment renters didn’t pay April rent. Run that up through the financial system: most guesses say that companies have one to three months of cash on hand, and then fail.

If you want to know why the Fed hit the panic button, it’s because every alarm went off.

Is the plan really to try to pay every bill?

Yes, pretty much. This is not stimulus. It is “get-through-it-us.” People who lost jobs and businesses that have no income can’t pay their bills. When people run out of cash, they stop paying rent, mortgages, utilities, and consumer debts. In turn, the people who lent them money are in trouble. Businesses with zero income can’t pay debts, employees, rent, mortgages, or utilities either. When they stop paying, they go through bankruptcy, and their creditors get into trouble. If you want to stop a financial crisis, you have to pay all the bills, not just hand out some cash so people can buy food.

And that’s more or less the plan. more>

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Challenges for international institutions during COVID 19

By Erol User – International institutions still represent a compromise between the power capabilities of their participants and the need for relative civilizational interaction between them. Institutions cannot be effective or on their own. It always depends on the ability of states to agree and the presence of objective structural prerequisites.

In the latter half of April, disputes between China and the United States led to the disruption of a tele-meeting by the G20 countries.

Due to the fact that this grouping is considered the most representative and, at the same time, the least binding in terms of decision-making, until recently it was considered the most promising in the context of a crumbling world order and the growth of national egoism.

However, the first round of the most important interstate confrontation of the new era already called into question the very possibility of discussions between the leaders of the 20 most economically and politically important countries of the world. Somewhat earlier, the US government announced that it plans to stop funding the World Health Organisation, where it is the main donor. Washington does not like much at the WHO. But the main thing is that China has so far been able to exert more influence on its work than the United States itself. Donald Trump is trying to correct this imbalance in the ways characteristic of his policymaking. The result is not yet obvious.

Such course of events makes more than relevant the question of the future of international institutions, the most important achievement of international politics in the 20th century.

Mankind went without constant norms and rules for most of its political history. Since the formation of the first states, collectives of individuals have reflected nothing but their own conscience and the strength of other collectives in their actions. In Europe, the role of arbiter was for a short time, less than 1,000 years, played by the Catholic potentate in Rome. The church did not have its own armies, but it did have moral authority. Moreover, the popes’ lack of their own military power, as well as their claim to the universality of spiritual power, did not allow the Holy See to become one of the ordinary states.

Accordingly, the values ​​and rules that Rome tried to impose during the Middle Ages did not directly express anyone’s values ​​or interests. Therefore, they were relatively fair, for the most part. At the beginning of the 16th century, European states became so strong that they became nonplussed with the power of Rome. Over the next 400 years, they lived practically without any institutions embodying the need to follow the rules. As a result of the Thirty Years’ War of 1618 – 1648, at least general rules of conduct appeared, therefore Kissinger in his book World Order defined the Westphalian system as “having not a substantive, but a procedural character.” This was a great achievement for its time, but it was far from an attempt to establish genuine, civilized relations between peoples. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Why US unemployment is even worse than the official numbers say
By Rebecca Stropoli – The COVID-19 crisis has sent the US jobs market reeling. As of April 16, more than 22 million workers had filed unemployment claims since the shutdowns began in March.

But the real unemployment figures are likely higher than reported, suggests research by University of Texas’s Olivier Coibion, University of California at Berkeley’s Yuriy Gorodnichenko, and Chicago Booth’s Michael Weber. Despite catastrophic job losses, an increase in workers dropping out of the labor force altogether may mean the official unemployment rate is misleadingly low, they argue.

To track the pandemic’s effect on unemployment, the researchers used an ongoing survey, conducted by Nielsen, of households that participate in its Homescan panel, studying three key measures typically tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): the unemployment-to-population ratio, the unemployment rate, and the labor-force-participation rate.

During recessions, as the employment-to-population ratio falls, the unemployment rate typically rises, and vice versa. But in more severe recessions, a higher number of discouraged out-of-work people may stop looking for employment. In this case, while the employment-to-population ratio is low, the unemployment rate doesn’t rise at the same rate, as there are fewer people who are an active part of the labor force.

The researchers tracked surveys prior to and during the pandemic. They find that the employment-to-population ratio had fallen by around 7.5 percent in April, which meant almost 20 million jobs had been lost as of April 6, far more than the estimated 16.5 million that had been reported. State governments’ inability to process such a crushing number of claims, coupled with the fact that many workers aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits, may account for the underestimation, the researchers note. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

A CEO’s guide to reenergizing the senior team
In today’s tough and fast-changing environment, CEOs must help their top leaders to work through fear and denial and to learn new rules.
By Derek Dean – When business conditions change as dramatically as they have in the past year, CEOs need to be able to rely on their best leaders to adapt quickly. But what should they do when their strongest executives seem unable to play a new game? The costs—organizational drift, missed opportunities, unaddressed threats—are so big that it’s tempting to replace leaders who are suffering from paralysis. But this is a mistake when, as is often the case, these executives possess valuable assets, such as superior market knowledge, relationships, and organizational savvy, that are difficult to replace.

Before sending promising executives off the field, CEOs should try to help them learn to play by new rules. While part of the task—making a compelling case for change, helping him or her meet new job demands—involves appealing to an executive’s rational side, there’s also frequently an emotional element that is at least as important. Empathizing with the complex emotions executives may be feeling as the assumptions underlying their business approach unravel can be a critical part of overcoming the fear, denial, and learning blocks keeping them stuck.

Helping senior managers swim through this thick stew of challenges is a perennial problem that has become more acute for many organizations over the last year. The credit crunch and global economic slowdown didn’t just cause the unraveling of many business models. They also unsettled the assumptions and confidence of many senior managers. Mopping up the collateral damage in the executive suite is now a mission-critical task for many CEOs and is likely to remain one even when business conditions begin to recover.

Among the many emotions that can influence how executives interpret and respond to events, there’s one worth addressing on its own: plain old white-knuckled fear. In times of rapid change, when the actions that used to lead to success don’t any more, even strong leaders can experience intense, unproductive levels of fear caused by threats to their identity, their reputations, their social standing, and even their basic survival needs of a job and a paycheck. Ironically, leaders with the strongest track records are often more susceptible to fear during tumultuous periods because they have less experience facing adversity than their colleagues with more checkered pasts do. more>

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Updates from Adobe

Ryan Brown Is on the Move
By Terri Stone – Ryan Brown isn’t one for sitting still. Whether he’s running a brand’s creative strategy or running marathons, the art director is always on the move. “It just feels good to learn and grow,” he says.

Brown’s diverse client roster includes everything from Chelsea Football Club to an underwriting company. He’s even been his own customer as the head of brand and creative for the Aaron Lewis Foundation. (Brown founded the charity to honor a friend killed in action in Afghanistan.)

The Londoner is well-versed in brand strategy. “It’s an area I’ve always loved,” Brown says. “If you create a brand that has purpose and is authentic, then you create a believable, trustworthy brand, and there’s something so rewarding about that.” While at Chelsea Football Club, his role expanded from senior designer to being involved in the club’s repositioning worldwide. “It gave me a front row seat on how to create and implement a strategic positioning of a brand on a global scale.”

But Brown takes care not to lose touch with the hands-on work. “One of my skills is that I can support my team by jumping in at any phase of a project if need be, from ideation through artwork,” he says. “I think it helps keep the lines of communications open with the team.” more>

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When machines think for us: consequences for work and place

The one sure way not to forecast the impact of artificial-intelligence technologies is technological determinism.
By Judith Clifton, Amy Glasmeier and Mia Gray – Will artificial intelligence affect how and where we work? To what extent is AI already fundamentally reshaping our relationship to work? Over the last decade, there has been a boom in academic papers, consultancy reports and news articles about these possible effects of AI—creating both utopian and dystopian visions of the future workplace. Despite this proliferation, AI remains an enigma, a newly emerging technology, and its rate of adoption and implications for the structure of work are still only beginning to be understood.

Many studies have tried to answer the question whether AI and automation will create mass unemployment. Depending on the methodologies, approach and countries covered, the answers are wildly different. The Oxford University scholars Frey and Osborne predict that up to 47 per cent of US jobs will be at ‘high risk’ of computerisation by the early 2030s, while a study for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development by Arntz et al asserts that this is too pessimistic, finding only 9 per cent of jobs across the OECD to be

In a new paper, we argue that the impact of AI on work is not deterministic: it will depend on a range of issues, including place, educational levels, gender and, perhaps most importantly, government policy and firm strategy.

First, we challenge the commonly held assumption that the effects of AI on work will be homogeneous across a country. Indeed, a growing number of studies argue that the consequences for employment will be highly uneven. Place matters because of the importance of regional sectoral patterns: industrial processes and services are concentrated and delivered in particular areas. At present AI appears to coinhabit locations of pre-existing regional industry agglomerations.

Moreover, despite globalisation, national and local industrial cultures and working practices often vary by place. Different cultural work practices mean that, once deployed, the same technology may operate distinctly in diverse environments. more>

Updates from McKinsey

To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now
Adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to building operating-model resilience.
By Sapana Agrawal, Aaron De Smet, Sébastien Lacroix, and Angelika Reich – Imagine a crisis that forces your company’s employees to change the way they work almost overnight. Despite initial fears that the pressure would be too great, you discover that this new way of working could be a blueprint for the long term. That’s what leaders of many companies around the globe are finding as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Consider the experience of one pharma company with more than 10,000 sales reps. In February, it switched from an offline model to a 100 percent remote-working one. As the containment phase of the crisis gradually recedes, you might expect remote working to fade as well. However, the company now plans to make a 30 percent-online–70 percent-offline working model permanent, thus leveraging the freshly developed skills of its sales reps.

Even before the current crisis, changing technologies and new ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees need to do them. In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem.

The coronavirus pandemic has made this question more urgent. Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities. This dynamic is about more than remote working—or the role of automation and AI. It’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era.

To meet this challenge, companies should craft a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience. Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.

In this article, we offer six steps leaders can take to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills critical to their recovery business models. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Interactive Tool Helps People See Why Staying Home Matters During a Pandemic
By Brittany Aiello – Social distancing has become one of the most impactful strategies in the battle to contain the spread of COVID-19, and a new interactive modeling tool can help people understand why it is so important to “flatten the curve.” Known as VERA, the artificial intelligence (AI) application was developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to raise awareness about why it matters that individuals distance themselves during an infectious disease outbreak.

Led by College of Computing faculty members Ashok Goel and Spencer Rugaber, and Design & Intelligence Laboratory graduate researchers William Broniec and Sungeun An, the VERA Epidemiology project uses AI techniques to empower users to build their own visual models that simulate the impact of social distancing. The project evolved from earlier National Science Foundation-supported research on a virtual ecological research assistant that enables researchers to explore “what if” experiments about complex ecological phenomena.

The beauty of VERA is that users do not need a background in complex mathematical equations or computer programming to explore it. A high school student interested in finding out what it looks like to “flatten the curve” can log in to VERA and investigate. A parent handling middle school science lessons from home can log in to VERA and demonstrate the reason that it is important that they do lessons from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

How to lead organizations through the COVID-19 crisis
By Gregory D. Bunch and Tom Gaines – Experts say they have no idea how the COVID-19 crisis will play out. Our usual ways of life have been disrupted, and we have all been thrust into a world in which intelligent and reliable predictions are difficult to make. We have been left questioning our basic assumptions, with very little sense of what will happen from day to day, let alone next week or next month.

Many organizations—from big corporations to nonprofits—suddenly find themselves facing existential threats. Facilities have been shut down, supply chains have been disrupted, and demand has collapsed. While this is all officially temporary, many organizations will not make it through the crisis.

The warfare analogy has been used by politicians, public-health officials, and the media, so it makes sense to look to military strategy for a sense of how to navigate. Military thinkers have described the battlefield as a VUCA scenario—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. We—an entrepreneur, and an executive officer with US Army Special Operations Command—have been working to translate these VUCA insights to a civilian setting, to help leaders think strategically during times such as these.

The process Major Gaines followed that night consists of three simple steps: get your people and yourself to safety, put your people to work, and enter your decision space. It’s only when leaders have done these three things that they can begin to focus on strategic thinking. These steps provide the groundwork for effective decision-making.

Strategy involves addressing primary and secondary questions. The first questions for a business to answer in normal times include: How do we grow, and, how do we win? But in moments of existential threat, secondary questions take priority: How do we defend? How do we stay alive so that we can win in the future?

This is a time to focus on defense first. This three-step process can help leaders improve the likelihood that their organizations will survive. Even if you have already taken one or two of the steps on your own, it’s important to keep the whole framework clearly in mind. more>

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