Category Archives: Leadership

Are Internet companies complicit in promoting hateful and harmful content?

By Hany Farid – In 2016, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter announced that they would work together to develop new technology to quickly identify and remove extremism-related content from their platforms. Despite some progress, serious problems remain.

First, we need a fast and effective method to remove content. Once content has been identified, reported, and determined to be illegal or in violation of terms of service, it should be immediately removed (Prime Minister Theresa May is calling for a maximum of two hours from notification to take-down).

Fourth, we need to invest in human resources. While advances in machine learning hold promise, these technologies – as technology companies will admit – are not yet nearly accurate enough to operate across the breadth and depth of the internet. There are more than a billion uploads to Facebook each day and 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute of the day.

This means that any machine-learning based solution will have to be paired with a significant team of human analysts that can resolve complex and often subtle issues of intent and meaning that are still out of reach of even the most sophisticated machine learning solutions. more> https://goo.gl/X2ACdL

It’s Time to Rewrite the Rules of Our Economy

By Tim O’Reilly – Business leaders making decisions to outsource jobs to low-wage countries or to replace workers with machines, or politicians who insist that it is “the market” that makes them unable to require companies to pay a living wage, rely on the defense that they are only following the laws of economics. But the things economists study are not natural phenomena like the laws of motion uncovered by Kepler and Newton.

The political convulsions we’ve seen in the United Kingdom and in the United States are a testament to the difficulties we face. We are heading into a very risky time. Rising global inequality is triggering a political backlash that could lead to profound destabilization of both society and the economy. The problem is that in our free market economy, we found a way to make society as a whole far richer, but the benefits are unevenly distributed. Some people are far better off, while others are worse off.

Why do we have lower taxes on capital when it is so abundant that much of it is sitting on the sidelines rather than being put to work in our economy?

Why do we tax labor income more highly when one of the problems in our economy is lack of aggregate consumer demand because ordinary people don’t have money in their pockets? more> https://goo.gl/2DioyZ

The Coming Software Apocalypse

By James Somers – “When we had electromechanical systems, we used to be able to test them exhaustively,” says Nancy Leveson, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been studying software safety for 35 years. She became known for her report on the Therac-25, a radiation-therapy machine that killed six patients because of a software error. “We used to be able to think through all the things it could do, all the states it could get into.

Software is different. Just by editing the text in a file somewhere, the same hunk of silicon can become an autopilot or an inventory-control system. This flexibility is software’s miracle, and its curse. Because it can be changed cheaply, software is constantly changed; and because it’s unmoored from anything physical—a program that is a thousand times more complex than another takes up the same actual space—it tends to grow without bound. “The problem,” Leveson wrote in a book, “is that we are attempting to build systems that are beyond our ability to intellectually manage.” more> https://goo.gl/XSu4jU

When Even the Simple Stuff Is a Crisis

By Robert Schlesinger – What’s going on? If everyone agrees on these successful programs, why are they stuck in legislative purgatory?

The proximate cause is that the Republican majority got too distracted with its endless, fruitless attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. That consumed their attention through the year and very specifically in the crunch time during which the final deals should have been cut on basically noncontroversial legislation like renewing funding for CHIP and community health centers. But that went by the boards when the GOP dropped everything to push the late, unlamented, half-baked Graham-Cassidy bill.

Uncertainty abounds. And again, we’re talking about noncontroversial stuff here, which speaks to a larger problem with the political system. The failure of this Congress to understand “the need to act responsibly, to reauthorize needed programs without catastrophic disruption … is simply striking,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, who has written extensively on GOP dysfunction (most recently “One Nation After Trump,” with Thomas Mann and E.J. Dionne). more> https://goo.gl/1xQG84

When Wall Street Owns Main Street — Literally

BOOK REVIEW

Makers & Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, Author: Rana Foroohar.

By Rana Foroohar – Made up primarily of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the Inland Empire was at the heart of the subprime mortgage crisis and has yet to fully recover.

In the early 2000s, predatory lenders flocked to the area, offering dicey deals to the largely minority and lower-middle-class white populations who, unable to afford housing on the coast, still craved the American Dream of homeownership. It ended, as it did in so many neighborhoods and cities across America, in tears and massive foreclosures, turning entire cities into ghost towns of derelict properties.

Private equity funds like Blackstone are giant financial institutions that operate largely outside the scrutiny of governmental regulation, since they are officially designated “nonbanks” or “shadow banks”—never mind that many of them are bigger than the better-known institutions that are subject to regulation.

Most people rightly associate private equity with offshore bank accounts (remember Mitt Romney and Bain Capital?), big corporate buyouts in which formerly healthy firms are loaded up with debt and stripped of their assets, mass layoffs, and an utter lack of transparency in their financial dealings.

But these days, the big news about private equity is that it is at the heart of the country’s housing rebound.

Private equity investors have become the single largest group of buyers in the residential housing market, purchasing $20 billion worth of steeply discounted properties between 2012 and 2014 alone and reaping huge rewards as housing prices have slowly risen from their troughs. more> https://goo.gl/P6fcNA

5 Mindsets to Bring Positive Change Across Society

By Raya Bidshahri – To contribute to human progress, it is not enough to be intelligent, resourceful, or well-connected. Those are all factors that play a significant role but aren’t the true driving forces of disruptive innovation. Stimulating positive change at civilization level also requires certain mindsets and ways of thinking.

Here are five mindsets that will allow us to leave a positive mark on humanity.

  1. Curiosity and Critical Thinking
    One of the tragedies of our education system is that it fails to nurture the childlike sense of wonder that we are all born with.
  2. Intelligent Optimism
    Nothing productive will come from blind optimism and ignorance of some of the brutal realities of our world.
  3. Risk-taking
    Paving a new way forward for humanity comes at a cost. More often than not, executing a radically disruptive idea is a risk.
  4. Moonshot Thinking
    Instead of looking to make a 10 percent gain or improvement in a current product or idea, moonshot thinking involves aiming for a 10x improvement of the status quo.
  5. Cosmic Perspective
    We’ve all heard of “thinking big” or ‘big-picture thinking.” Moving beyond that involves having a cosmic perspective.

It’s about asking the right questions, being intelligently optimistic about the future, taking a risk with a moonshot, and maintaining a cosmic perspective. more> https://goo.gl/V2bVjb

The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself

BOOK REVIEW

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness, Authors: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

By Eshe Nelson – Sorry to say it, but you’re not perfect. We like to believe that we are smart, rational creatures, always acting in our best interests. In fact, dominant economic theory these days often makes that assumption.

What was left of this illusion was further dismantled by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, who awarded the Nobel prize in economics to Richard Thaler, an American economist at the University of Chicago, for his pioneering work in behavioral economics, which examines humanity’s flaws—namely, why we don’t make rational economic decisions.

People can make bad economic choices based on something Thaler dubbed the “endowment effect,” which is the theory that people value things more highly when they own them. In other words, you’d ask for more money for selling something that you own than what you would be willing to pay to buy the same thing.

People experience the negative feeling of loss more strongly than they feel the positive sense of a gain of the same size. This is also impact by anchoring: If you are selling an item, your reference point is most likely to be the price you paid for something. Even if the value of that item is now demonstrably worth less, you are anchored to the purchase price, in part because you want to avoid that sense of loss.

This can lead to pain in financial markets, in particular. more> https://goo.gl/eR1B2B

The Chinese dream, the British dream, and the American dream, compared

By Zheping Huang – The world’s major powers might all have dreams, be they British or Chinese, South African or American. But these national dreams contain very different promises to each country’s citizens.

In her speech, May described the British dream as the vision that “life should be better for the next generation.” She said her grandmother, a former domestic servant who ended up having three professors and a prime minister among her grandchildren, was proof that the dream could be real.

But she admitted the dream was out of reach for many people today and promised to fix that. In this incarnation, the British dream isn’t so different than the American dream. One sign the British dream needs fixing? The large numbers of the ruling elite who come from this university and do this degree.

Every supreme leader of the Chinese Communist Party has his favorite political slogan. And so it is with the Chinese Dream for Xi jinping, who proposed the term shortly after he stepped into power in late 2012. Xi initially described the Chinese Dream as the vision of “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

The term “American Dream” was coined by financier-turned-historian James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book The Epic of America. Adams defines it as the vision that everyone in America can climb the ladder if he works hard.

Today, the American dream is somewhat frayed. Only 23% of Americans believe that it is common for someone to start poor, work hard and get rich. more> https://goo.gl/BAooXf

Fanning the Flames of Chaos

President Trump’s cycle is clear: announce a goal, then back off to let others do the work.
By Kenneth T. Walsh – Trump isn’t a detail man. Throughout his careers in business and politics and during his presidency, he has floated above the landscape of specifics and set general directions. He attempts to sell his ideas to the country as a showman with a proclivity for hyperbole that borders on deception and sometimes crosses into falsehood. His goal, above all, is to score a personal victory and crush his opponents.

Now Trump’s it’s-all-about-me approach is being tested as never before as he copes with a new wave of crises, political battles and tragedies.

Trump’s pattern is clear. He dramatically announces a goal, dominating the news and becoming the center of attention, then backs off and leaves working out the details to others. He declares any success as his own achievement and portrays any failure or setback as someone else’s fault. In short, Trump fans the flames and then lets others fight the fire. He may be creating more chaos than he bargained for and fostering an out-of-control atmosphere which makes most Americans very nervous. more> https://goo.gl/y9XmRA

People Don’t Actually Want Equality. They Want Fairness.

BOOK REVIEW

On Inequality, Author: Harry Frankfurt.
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, Author: Paul Bloom.

By Paul Bloom – Bernie Sanders talks about economic inequality all the time, and it’s a message that resonates. You don’t need to be a socialist to worry about the divide between rich and poor in America.

People might be troubled by what they see as unjust causes of economic inequality, a perfectly reasonable concern given how much your income and wealth are determined by accidents of birth, including how much money your parents had, your sex, and the color of your skin.

We are troubled as well by potential consequences of economic inequality. We may think it corrodes democracy, or increases crime, or diminishes overall happiness.

Most of all, people worry about poverty—not that some have less, but rather “that those with less have too little.” more> https://goo.gl/wvLUdU