Category Archives: Leadership

Moral technology

Self-driving cars don’t drink and medical AIs are never overtired. Given our obvious flaws, what can humans still do best?
By Paula Boddington – Artificial intelligence (AI) might have the potential to change how we approach tasks, and what we value. If we are using AI to do our thinking for us, employing AI might atrophy our thinking skills.

The AI we have at the moment is narrow AI – it can perform only selected, specific tasks. And even when an AI can perform as well as, or better than, humans at certain tasks, it does not necessarily achieve these results in the same way that humans do. One thing that AI is very good at is sifting through masses of data at great speed.

Using machine learning, an AI that’s been trained with thousands of images can develop the capacity to recognize a photograph of a cat (an important achievement, given the predominance of pictures of cats on the internet). But humans do this very differently. A small child can often recognize a cat after just one example.

Because AI might ‘think’ differently to how humans think, and because of the general tendency to get swept up in its allure, its use could well change how we approach tasks and make decisions. The seductive allure that tends to surround AI in fact represents one of its dangers. Those working in the field despair that almost every article about AI hypes its powers, and even those about banal uses of AI are illustrated with killer robots.

It’s important to remember that AI can take many forms, and be applied in many different ways, so none of this is to argue that using AI will be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In some cases, AI might nudge us to improve our approach. But in others, it could reduce or atrophy our approach to important issues. It might even skew how we think about values.

We can get used to technology very swiftly. Change-blindness and fast adaptation to technology can mean we’re not fully aware of such cultural and value shifts. more>

Kavanaugh Ethics Complaints Once Again Dodge Ruling In The 10th Circuit

By Steve Denning – The judicial review of multiple ethics complaints against Justice Kavanaugh continued on its Gilbert-And-Sullivan trajectory with a 6-1 decision by the 10th Circuit last Friday that that court does not have jurisdiction to consider the complaints, even though Chief Justice Roberts explicitly requested the 10th  Circuit to assess them.

Some 83 ethics complaints had been filed against Judge Kavanaugh alleging not only false statements under oath during hearings on his nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2004 and 2006, but also, more flagrantly, misconduct at the nomination hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court itself in 2018, including making inappropriate partisan statements and treating senators with disrespect.

The complaints were not made without legal basis. More than 2,400 law professors concluded that during the Senate confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh has “displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court.” Unlike the allegations of lying about events that happened many years ago, there was no question of fact as to whether Kavanaugh’s conduct at the Senate hearings actually took place: it was visible for the whole country to see on national television.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens also stated that Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated bias and is “not fit for the Supreme Court.” Former Justice Stevens, in remarks to retirees in Boca Raton, Fla, declared that Kavanaugh’s statements on September 27 revealed prejudices that would make it impossible for him to do the court’s work. “They suggest that he has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities.” more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Raghuram G. Rajan says capitalism’s future lies in stronger communities
By Raghuram G. Rajan – You have a new book out called The Third Pillar. What is the third pillar?

It is the community. Around the world, there is widespread economic anxiety, domestic political tension, strife between countries, and now talk of a cold war reemerging between the United States and China. Why?

I argue that every time there’s a big technological revolution, it upsets the balance in society between three pillars: the political structure—that is, government or the state; the economic structure—that is, markets and firms; and the sociological, human structure—that is, communities.

When that balance is upset, we see anxiety and conflict, a signal that we’re striving for a new balance.

To really understand capitalism’s success, one has to understand the important role of the community. As it voices its concerns through democracy, the community is critical to maintaining the balance between the state and markets. When the community is appropriately motivated and engaged, it enables liberal market societies to flourish.

Recently, some communities have been weakened significantly while others have sped ahead. Technological change is creating a new meritocracy, but one that is turning out to be largely hereditary, denying opportunities to many. The many, in economically disadvantaged and thus socially dysfunctional communities, could turn their backs on markets. The consequent imbalances could undermine liberal democratic society. more>

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To end poverty, think like a spy

By Paul M. Bisca – For anyone working to end poverty, fragile states call for the ultimate juggling act. Countries in conflict seldom control their territories, and even when most areas are at peace, others may still be engulfed by violence for decades to come.

The intensity of civil wars can ebb and flow, while forcibly displaced people cross borders in search of shelter. Politicians and warlords can shift alliances abruptly and neighboring states often interfere militarily to prop up local proteges.

When geopolitics is not at play, internal disputes over land, water, or other scarce resources can ignite fighting between local populations. To make sense of all these moving parts, even the most knowledgeable experts must look for new ways to comprehend the world.

What can be done?

To better manage the unknown, development professionals might want to take a leaf from the intelligence community book and draw inspiration from how spies try to predict the future. Reduced to its simplest terms, the CIA defines intelligence as “knowledge and foreknowledge of the world around us—the prelude to decisions by policymakers.”

Other definitions emphasize the collection, processing, integration, analysis, and interpretation of available information from closed and open sources.

Development practitioners are not spies, nor should they aspire to be. Further, the idea that project managers and economists should behave like spies is bound to raise eyebrows for professionals driven by the quest for sustainability and equity.

Yet, the methodology of intelligence is well-suited to paint in our minds the interplay of actions, information, and analysis needed to navigate the complex, uncertain, and downright dangerous environments where extreme poverty stubbornly persists.

This approach is not about acting like James Bond, but rather about thinking like him. more>

How Politics Delayed A Boeing Fix And Endangered Public Safety

By Steve Denning – This is an abrupt change for the Trump administration.

Just last night, the Acting Administrator of the FAA, Daniel K. Elwell, had doubled down on keeping the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the air, stating that his agency’s extensive review of “aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX… shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.” Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, after a call with President Trump, had also declared his complete faith in the plane’s safety.

Trust in a crisis depends on truth-telling—something the current administration is not renowned for, with almost 10,000 false or misleading statements from the president alone.

In this case, the FAA statement last night did not disclose that five pilots had already raised serious concerns about the 737 MAX 8 in the federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

Instead, the FAA statement said, “Other nations’ civil-aviation authorities had not provided data to us that would warrant action.” Yet Elwell didn’t have to look to foreign civil aviation authorities for such evidence. There was such evidence, right here at home, as reported in the Dallas Morning News.

The FAA statement also did not disclose that Boeing had already issued an emergency airworthiness directive about the Boeing 737 Max 8 in response to the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia. The directive “was prompted by analysis performed by the manufacturer showing that if an erroneously high single angle of attack (AOA) sensor input is received by the flight control system, there is a potential for repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabilizer.”

Nor did the FAA statement disclose that Boeing and the FAA had been working together for some months to deal with the possibility that the Indonesia crash was caused by a malfunction of its stabilization system.

While it is reassuring the U.S. has finally taken action to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9, the sequence of events points to institutional issues in aviation safety generally. more>

Dignity for drivers: the DGB campaign for ‘fair mobility’

When is a posted worker in Europe not a posted worker? When he’s a truck driver, it seems.
By Martin Stuber and Michael Wahl – ‘A monthly pay of €1,000, no holidays, living separately from their families for two years—the bare figures alone are outrageous,’ the German magazine Stern reported on truck drivers from the Philippines who discovered the ‘wild west’ of Europe’s roads as posted workers for Polish companies. They had to share their driver cabin with a colleague and work, sleep and cook there.

Action on the European level is urgently needed to tackle such cross-border ‘day labor’.

Europe, however, seems to shy away from this solution. European decision makers have failed once again to create new rules on road haulage, in advance of the looming elections to the European Parliament in May. Where some saw too much liberalization, others demanded even more deregulation—and in the end there was no European consensus, neither on posting rules nor on driving and rest times.

Drivers who deliver services on behalf of western-European companies under an eastern-European working contract commonly only benefit from eastern-European minimum wages—around €500 a month. more>

Chief executives’ pay: reversing the race to the top

Eye-watering remuneration for chief executives is economically wasteful as well as socially divisive. Non-profits should pioneer compressed wage hierarchies.
By Alex Bird – As Oxfam reports that the top 1 per cent of the world’s population now own more than the other 99 per cent, it’s time to think about how those at the top of the economic tree can secure such eye-watering salaries, which they parlay into wealth.

Whereas in the past individuals became recognized by their status in the community rather than in cash, and for their philanthropy—such as Carnegie building libraries, or business people supporting the local football team—now driven individuals seek recognition through possessing conspicuous wealth.

This recognition drive is reinforced by remuneration committees, which are the method of setting top salaries recommended in the UK by the Financial Reporting Council. They employ specialist consultants to survey what others are paying, adjust for industry and turnover, and so arrive at a ‘market price’. Any executives earning less than this rate get a rise; anyone earning more is left alone, as their contract locks them in to that salary. Industry rivals see this change, redo their own surveys and the upwards-only merry-go-round progresses.

This, naturally, has led to an increasing disparity between the highest and average earnings. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Purely evidence-based policy doesn’t exist
By Lars Peter Hansen – Recently, I was reminded of the commonly used slogan “evidence-based policy.”

Except for pure marketing purposes, I find this terminology to be a misnomer, a misleading portrayal of academic discourse and the advancement of understanding. While we want to embrace evidence, the evidence seldom speaks for itself; typically, it requires a modeling or conceptual framework for interpretation.

Put another way, economists—and everyone else—need two things to draw a conclusion: data, and some way of making sense of the data.

That’s where modeling comes in. Modeling is used not only to aid our basic understanding of phenomena, but also to capture how we view any implied trade-offs for social well-being. The latter plays a pivotal role when our aim is to use evidence in policy design.

This is intuitive if you think about the broad range of ideas and recommendations surrounding macroeconomic policy and the spirited, sometimes acrimonious way in which they’re debated.

If everything were truly evidence based, to the extent we can agree on the accuracy of the evidence, why would there be such heterogeneity of opinion? The disagreement stems from the fact that people are using different models or conceptual frameworks, each with its own policy implications.

Each of them might be guided by evidence, but policy conclusions can rarely be drawn directly from the evidence itself. more>

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A new generation of young managers is reshaping how we work

By Stephane Kasriel – No matter where you look, so much rapid change is happening that even how companies manage their talent strategy is shifting. Gone are the days of HR managing workforce planning with an Excel spreadsheet. To remain not only competitive but relevant, more companies are turning to detailed workforce plans, and younger generations of managers are much more likely to be putting these plans in place. As they do, and as they ascend to more senior roles, they’re reshaping the future of work.

More than half of younger generation managers polled see future workforce planning as a “top priority” for their departments–nearly three times more than their baby boomer counterparts, according to my company Upwork’s 2019 Future Workforce Report.

Whereas baby boomers are known for keeping their employees close, millennials, who now make up more than half the U.S. workforce, overwhelmingly desire “flexible and fluid” work settings.

Younger generation managers are also more likely to see it as an individual’s right to work remotely. After all, they’ve grown up in the digital era. They do not understand why someone should be tethered to a desk nine-to-five if modern technology frees them to work anytime, anywhere, and from any connected device.

In fact, many believe they are more productive working remotely than they would be in rigid office environments with all of their distractions. more>

When the monsoon goes away

By Sunil Amrith – More than 70 per cent of total rainfall in South Asia occurs during just three months each year, between June and September. Within that period, rainfall is not consistent: it is compressed into a total of just 100 hours of torrential rain, spread across the summer months. Despite advances in irrigation, 60 per cent of Indian agriculture remains rain-fed, and agriculture employs around 60 per cent of India’s population. No comparable number of human beings anywhere in the world depend on such seasonal rainfall.

Both before and after independence, the imperious power of the monsoon troubled India’s rulers. In the first decade of the 20th century, the finance minister in the imperial government declared that ‘every budget is a gamble on the rains’ – a statement that is still quoted regularly in the Indian media.

In the late 1960s, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi said: ‘For us in India, scarcity is only a missed monsoon away.’ The foreboding remains.

The scale of the monsoon system exists far beyond human intervention. If technology could intervene, it was on the landscape, in the form of infrastructure. By the early 20th century, engineers around the world were confident that they could neutralize the risk of climatic variability by constructing dams that would fuse water storage, flood control, irrigation and power generation. India was no exception. more>