Updates from Autodesk

Autodesk Highlights Next-Gen Storytelling & Collaboration Tools at SIGGRAPH 2017
Autodesk – Leading up to SIGGRAPH 2017, Autodesk released a series of updates for its media and entertainment tools, including Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection, Autodesk Maya, Shotgun, Arnold, Autodesk 3ds Max, and Autodesk Flame. Engineered to streamline and accelerate production on films, TV shows, games and immersive experiences, the new releases include improvements and user-requested enhancements that connect creative workflows and teams, helping them bring engaging stories to life for a worldwide audience.

“The continued growth of AR and VR and steady flow of new productions from Netflix, Amazon and others, mean animation and VFX houses are in more demand than ever. We’re focused on helping our customers create, connect and compute faster and more efficiently so they can balance their increasing project loads with tighter schedules and budgets,” Chris Bradshaw, Senior Vice President, Media & Entertainment, Autodesk, stated. “Everything we’re showing at SIGGRAPH streamlines production and equips artists with the tools to handle nearly any creative scenario.” more> cadinnovation.com

The Psychology of a Nuclear Standoff

By Tom Jacobs – The “nuclear taboo” has held for 70 years for two reasons, according to Jacques Hymans: “the enormity of the decision of use nuclear weapons,” and the unpredictability of the consequences of doing so. Nevertheless, he warns, these are dangerous times.

New nuclear states have always been highly interested in trying to use their weapons as means of compellence, i.e. threats to get some benefit. New leaders have also had such tendencies. This is understandable, because it takes time and experience to accept the counterintuitive reality that the biggest bomb in the world is mostly useless as a military weapon, and therefore also useless as a means of compellence. So, history teaches us that both the U.S. and North Korea at present are liable to try to push their nuclear luck. That makes for a dangerous situation.

The chances are higher that the U.S. will launch first. But this would be a terrible humanitarian catastrophe and the U.S. would lose Asia politically for a hundred years. more> https://goo.gl/CtHxCU

A decade after the crisis’ first tremor, are we ready for another?

By David Wessel – It was 10 years ago, on Aug. 9, 2007, that France’s BNP Paribas suspended withdrawals from three funds that held U.S. mortgages, a move seen in hindsight as the first tremor of the global financial crisis that shook the world economy.

So this seems a good moment to ask if we are ready for the next financial crisis. The short answer is: No.

Dodd-Frank created a way to “resolve” (that is, wipe out the shareholders, convert some debt to equity and sell off the pieces) of any future Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers or AIG so that the Federal Reserve and other agencies don’t have to improvise the way it did in 2008 and we don’t suffer the aftershocks of a Lehman-style bankruptcy. This “orderly liquidation authority” is under assault from Republicans in Congress. My bet is that it will survive, but we really won’t know how well this new mechanism works until it has been tested.

The politics of responding to an economy-shaking financial crisis are never easy: What’s needed to protect the economy from another Great Depression will never be popular politically because it looks like bailing out the very folks who created the problem in the first place. more> https://goo.gl/btZKrd

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TV’s Ad Apocalypse Is Getting Closer

By Derek Thompson – Before getting to the future, let’s start with the present of television. Pay TV—that is, the bundle of channels one can buy from Comcast or DirecTV—is in a ratings free fall among all viewers born since the Nixon administration.

This has created a business crisis for entertainment companies like Disney. Old Disney’s television strategy was: Focus on making great content and then sell it to distribution companies, like Comcast and DirecTV. This worked brilliantly when practically the entire country subscribed to the same television product.

Thanks to virtuous cycle of bundling, separating content and distribution used to be the obvious play for Disney

But New Disney is looking for a fresh play. Now that young households are cutting the cord, it wants to own both content and distribution.

There aren’t many great examples of legacy media empires successfully transitioning to the digital age without a few disasters along the way, or at least a long period of readjustment. Just look at American newspapers, or the music labels at the beginning of the 2000s. more> https://goo.gl/jfcC64

Updates from Adobe

The Geometric Illustrations of Yo Az
By Charles Purdy – The graphic designer and illustrator Yo Az works in a distinctive geometric style, creating beautiful, intricate vector images based on colorful combinations of shapes.

I started out studying visual communication. For me, the best way to illustrate an advertisement was with a drawing or a photograph. During the course of my studies, I began illustrating posters and flyers—I really enjoyed doing that and seemed good at it, and it became apparent that this was where my future was.

I think that, in general, when someone starts drawing, they first try to copy reality. Then, with time, you try to put on paper what you have in your mind. Also, I think the way I use Adobe Illustrator has shaped the way I draw—I’ve evolved by using Illustrator. I think more in terms of geometric shapes and in terms of harmony between different shapes. more> https://goo.gl/gou2oG

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Remaking the Presidency

By Joseph P. Williams – The willingness to buck convention, smash important precedents and use Twitter like a shotgun has historians and analysts considering whether the impulsive CEO president, unbound by political customs and arguably unaware of limits to his authority, has redefined the office for his successor while tailoring it for himself.

“Trump was elected to blow up the office,” says Jeremi Suri, a historian and scholar at The University of Texas-Austin. Mission accomplished, Suri says – but at a price, for the Republican Party, the president’s own legacy and perhaps American democracy.

“You’re going to see something about presidential reforms coming out of this horrible period we’re in right now,” Suri says. Trump, he says, has destroyed “the myth of a true government outsider” running the country, and likely has paved the way for an experienced outsider, like a governor or low-profile congress member, to take his place.

In the next election cycle, “we’re likely to see a full sweep – a new Congress intent on curbing presidential power and recalibrating the checks and balances.”

“The Trump style of the presidency has only resonated with about 30 to 35 percent of the public,” says Jonathan Turley, who notes that a president’s public-approval rating is directly proportional to his or her leverage with Congress. That means Trump is operating at a power deficit, he adds, and therefore “I’m not sure that future presidents would view this administration as a model to replicate.” more> https://goo.gl/Dv7Dwn

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, And Status In The Twenty-first Century

BOOK REVIEW

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century, Author: Ryan Avent.

By Ryan Avent – The digital revolution actually is probably going to be as transformative as the industrial revolution and the big technologies like electricity and steam that we saw then were. I think this transformation has already begun, and ironically, the evidence of that is in the struggles that we’re seeing across lots of countries that workers are facing in terms of limited growth in wages, in terms of rising inequality.

What my book tries to point out though is that in fact the biggest effect is not going to be mass unemployment. The biggest effect of the digital revolution is not going to be massive numbers of workers who just can’t find any work; it’ll be that the work they find ends up being very low-paying, because the displacement effect of these new technologies is so great, and the economy is asked to absorb so many new workers, that that’s just going to put an incredible amount of downward pressure on wages. That’s the real short-run challenge, I think.

.. The difficulty I think, again, comes in deciding who is entitled to a share of that ownership. If you’re socialising the gains, is that limited to citizens of the country, and then are any immigrant workers second-class citizens? If you don’t limit it, then suddenly you probably have social pressure to shut out immigrants, and then that leaves people on the outside of the country all the poorer. more> https://goo.gl/1iz2EU

Why a Consumption Tax May not Make any Sense at All

By Steve Roth – You often hear calls out there — mostly from Right economists but also from some on the Left — for a consumption tax in the U.S. As presented, it’s a super-simple idea: tally your income, subtract your saving, and what’s left is your consumption. You pay taxes on that.

We want to encourage thrifty saving and discourage profligate consumption, so what’s not to like?

Start with a simple pared-down household. The only accounting complication is that they own a house.

How much did this household “save”? Should the interest payments count as consumption? The principal payments almost certainly should not. But what about home maintenance? A new paint job increases your home’s asset value. Should you depreciate that asset value over some years? Or say you buy new appliances for your kitchen: You’re cash out of pocket, but your home is worth more. Are those purchases “consumption”?

This notion of some simple tally of your “saving” starts to look more complicated.

The tuition line raises a particularly vexing question, and brings us back to the second question: what economic effects would we see from a consumption tax, under various accounting and taxation rules? Clearly, if you tax tuition, you discourage education.

And consider more-prosperous families paying for private school. Are those families “consuming” more education than public-school families? Those households would be especially hard hit if tuition counts as taxable consumption — as would those private schools. Is that A Good Thing? more> https://goo.gl/LZSRZd

What Happens When Quantum Physics Meets Cryptography?


By Paulina Gomez – In today’s world of ever-increasing security threats and breaches, encryption is a common technique used to protect critical information from getting into the wrong hands. In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a plaintext message in such a way that only authorized parties can access it. The result of this process is encrypted information, also known as ciphertext. But how is this done exactly? The plaintext message is transformed using an algorithm (or cipher) to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, which is referred to as the key.

Today’s state-of-art secure communications use advanced mathematics to protect in-flight data leveraging highly secure algorithms, such as in Ciena’s WaveLogic Encryption solution. Even though many cryptographic algorithms used today are publicly available, such as the popular Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), they are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time given the computational power of today’s computers. In fact, the keys used in modern cryptography are so large that breaking the AES-256 standard would require “fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion (1018) AES keys per second [and] would, in theory, require about 3×1051 years.”

The field of Quantum Cryptography is an area of security research and development focused on the introduction of new technologies that will offer more resistance to the computing power of quantum computers. Quantum cryptography draws its strength from the unpredictable nature of photons – the smallest particles in the universe. more> https://goo.gl/FTh77p

Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World?

By Robin Wright – “The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me.

“He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ’ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.)

Trump’s policy mistakes, large and small, are taking a toll. “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success, and it depends eighty per cent on the credibility of the President’s word,” John McLaughlin, who worked at the C.I.A. under seven Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and ended up as the intelligence agency’s acting director, told me.

“Trump thinks having a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago bought him a relationship with Xi Jinping. He came in as the least prepared President we’ve had on foreign policy,” McLaughlin added. “Our leadership in the world is slipping away. It’s slipping through our hands.” more> https://goo.gl/Nza7eC