Category Archives: Science

What if Competition Isn’t As “Natural” As We Think?

By John Favini – “The struggle for life,” Darwin deduced, would naturally select those beings whose hereditary mutations made them most fit to a specific environment. Over successive generations, scientists came to see the driving force behind evolution as perpetual competition between discrete individuals, a biological arms race to eat and reproduce in a world of scarcity.

Fast forward a century and a half, and “survival of the fittest”—the expression social theorist Herbert Spencer coined to sum up Darwin’s thinking—is as much a cultural cliché as it is a scientific theory. Hell, your worst colleague at the office might even offer it as a justification for his one-upmanship. More than just a cliché, though, the supposed naturalness of competition has played a central role in substantiating the laissez-faire variety of capitalism the majority of the American political spectrum has championed for the past four or so decades.

Indeed, any non-market-based solution to social issues usually falls prey to claims of utopianism, of ignoring the fundamental selfishness of the human species. Advocates for welfare programs, for instance, often run up against criticism that their policy proposals fail to understand to importance of “losing,” that they lessen the stakes of the competition innate to human social life.

Similarly, collectively owned spaces or institutions (like communal land trusts or co-ops) are often presumed short-lived or inefficient, doomed to suffer the “tragedy of the commons” as the innate self-interest of each member leads to an overuse of collective resources—a thesis that has been debunked again and again since its first articulation by Garrett Hardin in 1968.

To put it simply, we have let Darwinism set the horizon of possibility for human behavior. Competition has become a supposed basic feature of all life, something immutable, universal, natural.

Yet new research from across various fields of study is throwing the putative scientific basis of this consensus into doubt. Mind you, there have always been people, scientists and otherwise, who conceived of life outside a Darwinian paradigm—the idea of evolutionary biology is and has been a conversation among a mostly white and male global elite. Yet, even within centers of institutional power, like universities in North America, competition’s position as the central force driving evolution has been seriously challenged recently. In fact, criticisms have been mounting at least since biologist Lynn Margulis began publishing in the late ’60s

Put simply, life is beginning to look ever more complex and ever more collaborative. All this has fractured Western biology’s consensus on Darwin. In response to all these new insights, some biologists instinctively defend Darwin, an ingrained impulse from years of championing his work against creationists. Others, like Margulis herself, feel Darwin had something to offer, at least in understanding the animal world, but argue his theories were simplified and elevated to a doctrine in the generations after his passing.

Others are chartering research projects that depart from established Darwinian thinking in fundamental ways—like ornithologist Richard Prum, who recently authored a book on the ways beauty, rather than any utilitarian measure of fitness, shapes evolution. Indeed, alongside the research I have explored here, works by scientists like Carl Woese on horizontal gene transfer and new insights from epigenetics have pushed some to advocate for an as-yet-unseen “Third Way,” a theory for life that is neither creationism nor Neo-Darwinian evolution. more>

Updates from Ciena

Expanding business models of managed wave services with Adaptive Networks
It goes without saying that no other method of network transport has ever surpassed the speed and performance that is delivered over optical networks. The many innovations in optical communications form the backbone of the robust, reliable, high capacity networks that connect our world. But what is less talked about are the billions in revenues that stem from innovative business and service models delivered over optical networks as managed connectivity services (aka managed wave services). Ciena’s Niloufar Tayebi details what can happen to evolve managed wave services in the era of Adaptive Networks.
By Niloufar Tayebi – Let’s step back in time to take a snap-shot of what service interfaces have previously thrived in managed wave service offers. In a managed wave service, the service provider is able to offer a wide range of client service interfaces: Ethernet, SONET/SDH, DWDM, storage area networking (SAN) interfaces and more.

For these managed wave services, the client is handing off an interface that is required to transport payload connecting two data centers in complete transparency without protocol conversion. This is done by either using a dedicated wavelength over DWDM or through the use of OTN containers (aka ODU).

With the growth of traffic and cost-per-bit declining, client interfaces are now evolving to higher bit rates – as happened with the evolution from SONET/SDH clients to 10Gbps clients – but also expanding in client protocols that supported 10Gbps, such as ODU-2 and 10GE.

One natural path for evolving a managed wave service is to continue the path of offering higher rate, with more emphasis on 100GE and ODU-4 client interfaces. Today it is common to look at a managed wave service and see 100GE and ODU-4 /100Gbps clients supported. With the ongoing reduction of cost-per-bit and higher rate transport, offering managed wave services at higher than 100Gbps client support also makes economic and technical sense.

Ciena’s market intelligence and global consulting teams have been tracking the market size of managed wave services. Their findings show 10GEoDWDM managed wave services are mature services contributing to 60% of managed wave service offers, while 100GEoDWDM managed wave services are the fastest growing wave services at a 30% CAGR. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts
By Jonathan Woetzel, Dickon Pinner, Hamid Samandari, Hauke Engel, Mekala Krishnan, Brodie Boland, and Carter Powis – After more than 10,000 years of relative stability—the full span of human civilization—the Earth’s climate is changing. As average temperatures rise, climate science finds that acute hazards such as heat waves and floods grow in frequency and severity, and chronic hazards, such as drought and rising sea levels, intensify.

In this report, we focus on understanding the nature and extent of physical risk from a changing climate over the next one to three decades, exploring physical risk as it is the basis of both transition and liability risks.

We estimate inherent physical risk, absent adaptation and mitigation, to dimension the magnitude of the challenge and highlight the case for action. Climate science makes extensive use of scenarios ranging from lower (Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6) to higher (RCP 8.5) CO2 concentrations. We have chosen to focus on RCP 8.5, because the higher-emission scenario it portrays enables us to assess physical risk in the absence of further decarbonization.

In this report, we link climate models with economic projections to examine nine cases that illustrate exposure to climate change extremes and proximity to physical thresholds. A separate geospatial assessment examines six indicators to assess potential socioeconomic impact in 105 countries. We also provide decision makers with a new framework and methodology to estimate risks in their own specific context.

We find that physical risk from a changing climate is already present and growing. Seven characteristics stand out. Physical climate risk is:

Increasing: In each of our nine cases, the level of physical climate risk increases by 2030 and further by 2050. Across our cases, we find increases in socioeconomic impact of between roughly two and 20 times by 2050 versus today’s levels. We also find physical climate risks are increasing across our global country analysis even as some countries find some benefits (such as expected increase in agricultural yields in countries such as Canada).

Spatial: Climate hazards manifest locally. The direct impacts of physical climate risk thus need to be understood in the context of a geographically defined area. There are variations between countries and within countries. more>

Updates from Ciena

The submarine network seascape in 2020
Submarine networks carry over 99% of intercontinental data traffic making it critical infrastructure to be protected and innovated upon at a frantic rate to maintain pace with the approximately 40% bandwidth growth in all submerged corridors of our world. Ciena’s submarine networking expert, Brian Lavallée, highlights key areas for focused innovation throughout 2020.
By Brian Lavallée – There are several key technologies that are the focus of submarine network innovation and will garner a great deal of time, money, resources, and attention in 2020. These technologies will once again allow submarine cable operators to modernize their submerged assets and not only maintain pace with voracious and ongoing growth in bandwidth demand but provide critical competitive differentiation as well. I cover below these key technology innovation areas that I believe will dominate the discussion seascape throughout 2020.

With voracious and ongoing bandwidth growth experienced for many years now, coupled with expanding rollout of 5G services that significantly increase access speeds to content hosted in data centers, cable operators are constantly seeking new ways to increase available bandwidth between continental landmasses for Data Center Interconnection (DCI) purposes – satellite networks need not apply!

Although Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE) has been constantly innovative upon at a frenetic pace for the past decade, the wet plants they connect to have experienced comparatively little innovation – until now. Wet plants leveraging SDM technology offer more fiber pairs than traditional submarine cables, and although SDM cables support less capacity per fiber pair, they have a much higher overall capacity due to far more pairs (12 and higher), which is further enhanced with power-optimized repeater (misnomer for subsea optical amplifier) designs.

As an industry proof point, the first SDM-based submarine cable deployed is the transatlantic Dunant cable, which supports up to 250Tb/s of overall capacity over an aggregate of 12 fiber pairs, which is many more than the traditional 6 to 8 fiber pairs offered on recent submarine cable deployments. more>

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From the Revolution of 2020 to the Evolution of 2050

By Basil A. Coronakis – European societies are already on the move and 2020 will shape the direction that they go in. Within 30 years, in one way or another, the new world’s political condition will be settled.

The potential options for 2050 are numerous, from too extreme to everything in-between. The point is that whichever option is good, as well as whichever is bad, is a question that cannot be given a reply by either science or faith, but only philosophically.

However, since the “kings” of our society, and not the “philosophers”, will decide for the next big social step to take (or not),

Under the circumstances, we stand before two extreme scenarios and cannot say which of the two is the good and which is the bad, as we are all part of the problem. As a result, none of us can have an objective view. Therefore, will consider scenario A and scenario B without qualifying any.

Scenario A, which is likely to be the most probable as our “kings” are far for “adequately philosophizing”, and which although may have huge collateral damage and a generalized social upside-downs, in terms of long-term survival of humankind is not necessarily the worse.

Scenario A ends with an anarchy dominated chaotic social explosion that, when settled, will bring a new social order where the last will be first and the first the last. Of course, this will be the way of the “Parable of the Workers” from Matthew 20-16 in the New Testament but based on nature’s law of selection according to which the strong survives and the week disappear.

Scenario B is rather unlikely as it provides, after a smooth transition, that we will be living in the ideal city by 2050 – the contemporary version of Plato’s Utopia.

The so-called “in the between” will be simply a prolongation of the status quo, which ultimately will lead to scenario A, though with increased collateral damage. more>

Updates from Ciena

How you can accelerate and de-risk your network transformation with Lifecycle Management
Successful network transformation is about delivering the right business outcomes, not just deploying new kit. With effective Lifecycle Management (LCM), you can make sure that your projects are properly aligned to your business needs and – crucially – you can accelerate and de-risk your transformation projects as well, says Robin Hobbs, Director, Services Sales & Strategy for Ciena in EMEA.
By Robin Hobbs – It can seem that most technology vendors just want to sell you equipment and oversee deployment activities until their kit is live in your network. However, their primary concern may not be whether their solution is delivering the business benefits you set out to achieve.

This deployment-focussed approach can leave you at a loss as to how to fine-tune and optimize your environment. That means you may be unable to meet customer SLAs consistently as traffic demands grow, or you may struggle to monetize your network to its fullest potential.

So how can you ensure that you choose the right underlying technologies to support your transformation strategy, and design and build a solution that meets your business needs long term? And how can you operate your upgraded network effectively and optimize its performance and efficiency over time to maximize your competitive advantage and ROI?

To avoid the dangers of ‘short-termism’ in network upgrade strategies, operators are increasingly turning to LCM (Lifecycle Management). This is a systematic, ‘step-based’ approach to network transformation and ongoing management. This approach means you can deliver projects quickly and cost-effectively, while also ensuring the best business outcomes for your organization and your customers.

Crucially, LCM recognizes that network transformation is a journey and one that is cyclical in nature, not just a deployment. This means every step is carefully structured and documented, with no element of your transformation left to chance. Some of the benefits are a faster, lower-risk deployment and migration, improved customer experience based on optimizing network availability and performance, and the ability to continually assess and ‘future-proof’ your network to avoid costly forklift upgrades in the future. more>

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Updates from ITU

Mapping schools worldwide to bring Internet connectivity: the ‘GIGA’ initiative gets going
By Martin Schaaper – Recently, I participated in a training programme to learn ways to identify and map the location of a learning institution and the level of internet connectivity available.

Held in Jolly Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda, the training provided a great learning experience to understand what it takes to put schools on a map, from a technical perspective, and the available tools and software.

The ProjectConnect training was part of GIGA, a unique partnership launched by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technology and UNICEF, the UN Children’s agency. The project aims at mapping the connectivity of all existing schools as a step towards ensuring that every school is connected to fast and reliable internet.

Announced during the UN General Assembly meetings in September 2019, it is the vision of this initiative to ensure that every child is equipped with the information, skills and services they need to shape the future they want in the digital era.

Latest data from ITU indicate that up to 3.6 billion people remain offline, with the majority of the unconnected living in least developed countries where just two out of ten people are online. more>

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Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay

By Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman – Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation report (better known as the “jobs report”) to outline latest state of the nation’s economy. And with it, of late, have been plenty of positive headlines—with unemployment hovering around 3.5%, a decade of job growth, and recent upticks in wages, the report’s numbers have mostly been good news.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Are these jobs any good? How much do they pay? Do workers make enough to live on?

Here, the story is less rosy.

In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on. Their median earnings are $10.22 per hour, and about $18,000 per year. These low-wage workers are concentrated in a relatively small number of occupations, including retail sales, cooks, food and beverage servers, janitors and housekeepers, personal care and service workers (such as child care workers and patient care assistants), and various administrative positions. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Four ways governments can get the most out of their infrastructure projects
Best practices can help governments invest in infrastructure that expands the economy and better serves the public.
By Aaron Bielenberg, James Williams, and Jonathan Woetzel – Infrastructure—for example, transportation, power, water, and telecom systems—underpins economic activity and catalyzes growth and development. The world spends more than $2.5 trillion a year on infrastructure, but $3.7 trillion a year will be needed through 2035 just to keep pace with projected GDP growth.

National, state, and local governments are devoting increased amounts of capital to meet these needs, and for good reason. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that infrastructure has a socioeconomic rate of return around 20 percent. In other words, $1 of infrastructure investment can raise GDP by 20 cents in the long run.

Gains from infrastructure are fully realized, however, only when projects generate tangible public benefits. Unfortunately, many governments find it difficult to select the right projects—those with the most benefit. Furthermore, infrastructure can provide social and economic advantages only when the capital and operating costs can be financed sustainably, either by the revenues a project generates or by the government sponsor. Too many projects become an economic burden and drain on finances when a government borrows money for an undertaking and neither its revenues nor its direct and indirect economic benefits adequately cover the cost.

Our framework includes four key best practices to help modernize decision making for infrastructure and to improve its social and economic impact. Each step is enabled by and contributes to a consistent, fact-based process for identifying and executing infrastructure projects. The first step—ensuring that projects yield measurable benefits—lays the foundation for all the rest.

  1. Develop projects with tangible, quantifiable benefits
  2. Improve the coordination of infrastructure investments to account for network effects
  3. Engage and align community stakeholders to promote inclusive economic and social benefits
  4. Unlock long-term capital

Consistent, transparent assessments are required to determine if infrastructure satisfies the elements of our framework—whether a project offers robust public benefits, is compatible with other projects and appropriately aligned with the community’s objectives, and uses the best long-term financing available. Thus, governments may have to invest in capabilities to evaluate the benefits of projects and commit themselves to transparent evaluations that include the necessary checks and balances.

Governments should assess their institutional capabilities against the framework’s elements, such as mapping current processes to develop infrastructure projects from concept to operation.

Can the government complete a structured quantification of public benefits?

Is there a way to assess the portfolio as a whole in light of the debt-management strategy? more>

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Updates from Siemens

Digitalizing Energy
By John Lusty – Digitalization is transforming the global Energy & Utilities (E&U) industry, and the most exciting part is that it’s happening so differently in each industry sector depending on their unique plans and priorities. That’s because each organization has a slightly different digital legacy and is executing a different business model that is making them a leader in their respective sectors of the market. It’s also because E&U businesses are inherently non-uniform due to mergers and acquisitions, project mindsets, boom and bust business cycles, breakthroughs in technology, and sudden societal or geopolitical shifts that ripple through the global energy economy at the speed of light.

This blog is the first in a new series from Siemens Digital Industries Software, where we’ll discuss trends in digitalization that relate to the Energy & Utilities industry.  At Siemens, we have the privilege of working closely with industry leaders and people from an extensive range of manufacturing sectors with different degrees of digital maturity.  That lets us see what’s working great as well as some things that didn’t go quite as planned.

We’re also the software business unit within Siemens AG, a mega-enterprise of close to 400,000 colleagues that acts as a massive internal customer for our solutions. People usually look at us a little differently, knowing that as a global engineering and manufacturing organization that relies extensively on our software solutions, we truly have “skin in the game” as our supplier.

Much work has been done across the E&U industry to assemble and apply the “digital twin” of assets, projects and facilities to be more efficient, profitable, and operationally excellent. In this blog, we’ll review examples of excellence in these areas and speak with some of the people who made them happen. more>

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