Updates from Adobe

Take 10: Zesty
By Terri Stone – As with our previous Take 10 Challenges, we gave the duo ten images and a theme—in this case, the word zesty. True to form, Leta Sobierajski and Wade Jeffree rewrote the challenge rules, rejecting some of the original images and choosing others. “Questioning the brief is always going to lead you to more interesting places,” Jeffree says.

They began the challenge by contemplating the meaning of zesty. “It speaks to energy and food, and we eat a lot and have a lot of energy,” cracks Jeffree. Sobierajski adds, “It resonates with our personalities. It’s a little zingy.”

The designers usually include physical elements in their work, even when the final deliverables are digital. It was clear from their initial sketch that the Take 10 challenge would be no exception.

Sobierajski and Jeffree envisioned a dimensional abstract landscape, taking structural inspiration from Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Oskar Schlemmer, and working with ideas of Cubism, Dada, Bauhaus, and modernism. They identified new Adobe Stock assets that fit their notions of what zesty means; then they moved on to building the abstract shapes out of thick foam core covered in clay. They also designed suits that would render their bodies as abstract as the set. more> https://goo.gl/xPDk95

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Want to strengthen democracy? Exercise your freedom of religion

By Steven Paulikas – If Washington is correct, then the long-term decline of religious participation in America and other democratic countries is one of the root causes for the type of political decay we are experiencing—and the absence of a “national morality” is at the core of this. The first American president was not a religious zealot, but he nonetheless saw religious practice as an essential act of citizenship, especially among those of “refined education.”

There is a multitude of good reasons why Americans are deserting the faith institutions their forebears built, not the least of which is the litany of inexcusable abuses many have suffered in the name of religion. (And to be sure, not every faith group is dedicated to upholding peace and common human dignity.)

But the scale of exodus leaves one to wonder if the abandonment of “organized” religion is not something akin to the type of apathy that led left-leaning people like me to become complacent about our political institutions.

After all, the American state is guilty of just as many sins as religion, and yet there is no movement to abandon our institutions of democracy. more> https://goo.gl/Plgl03

America Needs the World

The U.S. is heading toward a trade war it cannot win.
By Tavis Jules – President Donald Trump ended his address to a joint session of Congress by saying “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

Trump’s job as de facto representative of the world is a byproduct of post-World War II era restructuring that ushered in over seventy years of American dominance and greatness while allowing America to significantly influence and shape educational development priorities, agendas and directives of global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.

Since the 1980s, the mantra of open markets has equated to open educational systems in the name of democratic governance and transition. In line with Washington Consensus principles of deregulated labor markets, privatization of nationalized industries, and openness to trade under the banner of ‘saving’ national education and preparing a new generation of global workers to exploit their untapped capital, governments have been slowly opening their educational markets to all forms of trade and services.

These neoliberal policies crystallized in 1995 when the U.S.-led WTO in its General Agreement on Trade in Services identified education as one of 12 tradable services, under the movement of natural persons. Thus, education became subjected to global trade and commercial rules.

Trump’s congressional message of not knowing the full scope of what his job is or should be, highlights the narrowness which is fed through his policy advisers, who too often apply established models to current circumstances, rather than considering the radical reinterpretations of the issues.

In today’s overly interconnected world, the U.S. is heading towards a trade war it cannot win; America needs the world, but the world does not need America when the emerging and frontier markets show such promise. more> https://goo.gl/6Tyf03

Updates from Chicago Booth

Can we save retirement?
What the US and other countries can learn about social security reform
By Alex Verkhivker – When it comes to pension crises, American workers are not alone. In the United Kingdom, many of the country’s almost 6,000 employer-sponsored, defined-benefit programs are underfunded.

In Greece, Poland, and across the European continent, a demographic mismatch means there are not enough incoming taxes to fund promised payouts.

Privatization is often suggested as a solution to pension crises. Rather than have governments or employers fund workers’ retirements, why not give retirees more control over funding their retirements, with private individual accounts?

Many critics of privatization are quick to point to Chile as a cautionary tale. The Chilean government privatized its pension system in 1980, its secretary of labor and social security inspired by Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom.

In Mexico, money is automatically deducted from workers’ wages and placed in individual accounts. Then individuals choose from a menu of assets in which to invest and work through regulated, professional money managers, each of which offers a single investment product.

But competition did not materialize as the government had hoped it would. Hastings, Hortaçsu, and Syverson looked at where investors lived, which fund managers they invested with, how much money they saved—and earned after fees. They find that while many people expected competition to drive down costs, the average asset-weighted load was a steep 23 percent, and balance fees were another 0.63 percent. Those fees ate away—a lot—at returns. more> https://goo.gl/usSmNP

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Updates from GE

I Machine, You Human: How AI Is Helping GE Build A Powerhouse Of Knowledge
By Tomas Kellner – Every fall, GE Global Research holds a scientific gathering called the Whitney Symposium highlighting the latest scientific trends. Last year the two-day event explored industrial applications of artificial intelligence. We sat down with Mark Grabb and Achalesh Pandey, two GE scientists looking for ways to apply AI to jet engines, medical scanners and other machines.

“We are starting to see significant performance increases from the combination of deep learning and reinforcement learning, where you have a human in the loop correcting the system,” Grabb said. “Once you build a smooth user experience and get the system going, people don’t even know they are correcting the AI along the way.”

At GE, we are writing software like Predix, which is the cloud-based operating system for machines that allows us to connect them to the Industrial Internet. But we also have a tremendous number of domain experts. There’s a lot of physics and domain knowledge that’s required to build good analytics and machine learning models. We have actually built AI systems that help data scientists more quickly and more effectively capture the domain knowledge across all the people inside GE building these models. So AI comes in even in the developing of analytics. more> https://goo.gl/OMZ9TS

What Is Single-Payer Healthcare and Why Is It So Popular?

By Alicia Adamczyk – Single payer—or Medicare for All, as it’s sometimes referred to in the U.S.—is a system in which all healthcare financing is provided by one entity, such as (but not always) the federal government.

All residents receive core coverage regardless of income, occupation, or health status.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the developed world that does not have such a system in place, but in other countries like Canada and England, the care itself is still provided by private organizations and doctors. But that care—everything from hospital visits to prescription drugs to mental health care—is covered for all residents by the state, via taxes determined by the state. In other words, public financing pays for private care.

Healthcare financing in the U.S. is an often complicated web of hospitals, doctors, and other care providers, middlemen like insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and public programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and state-run marketplaces. As many Americans know, it’s incredibly confusing and expensive for most parties involved.

According to Friedman’s report, Americans spend nearly four times as much on billing and insurance-related activities as doctors in Ontario do, where a single entity is in charge of billing and repayments. more> https://goo.gl/hdH62x

The Path to Better Management of Government’s Huge Programs

By Alan Balutis, Dan Chenok, Greg Giddens, Stan Soloway and Jim Williams – The pace of technology is more rapid today. Government, like the commercial sector, has changed its approach to the concept of programs, shifting to a model in which modular steps and agile processes have largely displaced traditional, large-scale “waterfall” strategies. Still, the need for strong program management skills remains central to success.

But, outside of the Department of Defense and a few civilian agencies, program management is not ‘institutionalized’ as an established management discipline.”

  • First, we believe there needs to a clear line of leadership. Program management is a core component of agency success and should be treated and embraced as such.
  • Second, we need to establish clarity of responsibility and accountability for the delivery of program results.
  • Third, with the establishment under PMIAA (Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act) of the program management career field, we must move quickly to design and implement a consistent training and professional development process for program managers, as well as a clear and contemporary set of requirements for hiring them.
  • Change management, a skill critical to driving success in managing complex programs involving multiple stakeholders, should be a key element of this curriculum.
  • Fourth, to help program managers continue to grow and learn, OMB (Office of Management and Budget) should ensure that the Program Management Policy Council created by the statute is set up effectively.

With these building blocks in place, agencies can zero in on what is most important: performance. Programs fail for many reasons, including inadequate governance, meaningless metrics, and insufficient capacity for or willingness to change. Strong program management can help overcome each of those barriers; without it, they are likely to endure. more> https://goo.gl/PHG67A

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Are human rights anything more than legal conventions?

BOOK REVIEW

Human Rights: From Morality to Law, Author: John Tasioulas.
The Law of Peoples, Author: John Rawls.

By John Tasioulas – Philosophers have debated the nature of human rights since at least the 12th century, often under the name of ‘natural rights’. These natural rights were supposed to be possessed by everyone and discoverable with the aid of our ordinary powers of reason (our ‘natural reason’), as opposed to rights established by law or disclosed through divine revelation.

Since the middle of the previous century an elaborate architecture of human rights law has emerged at the international, regional and domestic levels, one that is effective to wildly varying degrees. But, ultimately, this legalistic approach is unsatisfactory.

To begin with, the law does not always bind all those we believe should abide by human rights. For example, some states have not ratified human-rights treaties, or have ratified them subject to wide-ranging exceptions (‘reservations’) that blunt their critical edge. A country such as Saudi Arabia can have a seat on the UN Human Rights Council yet persist in severe forms of gender discrimination.

Moreover, the international law of human rights, like international law generally, almost exclusively binds states. Yet many believe that non-state agents, such as corporations, whose revenues in some instances exceed the GDP of all but the wealthiest nations, also bear grave human-rights responsibilities.

Whether I’m right or not, I am convinced that we cannot sustain our commitment to human rights on the cheap, by invoking only the law or the assumptions of our liberal democratic culture. more> https://goo.gl/AXTYg3

Updates from GE

Octopus And Squid Evolution Is Officially Weirder Than We Could Have Ever Imagined
By Signe Dean – They edit their own genes!

Just when we thought octopuses couldn’t be any weirder, it turns out that they and their cephalopod brethren evolve differently from nearly every other organism on the planet.

In a surprising twist, scientists have discovered that octopuses, along with some squid and cuttlefish species, routinely edit their RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequences to adapt to their environment.

This is weird because that’s really not how adaptations usually happen in multicellular animals. When an organism changes in some fundamental way, it typically starts with a genetic mutation – a change to the DNA.

Those genetic changes are then translated into action by DNA’s molecular sidekick, RNA. You can think of DNA instructions as a recipe, while RNA is the chef that orchestrates the cooking in the kitchen of each cell, producing necessary proteins that keep the whole organism going.

But RNA doesn’t just blindly execute instructions – occasionally it improvises with some of the ingredients, changing which proteins are produced in the cell in a rare process called RNA editing.

When such an edit happens, it can change how the proteins work, allowing the organism to fine-tune its genetic information without actually undergoing any genetic mutations. But most organisms don’t really bother with this method, as it’s messy and causes problems more often that solving them.

“The consensus among folks who study such things is Mother Nature gave RNA editing a try, found it wanting, and largely abandoned it,” Anna Vlasits reports for Wired.

But now it looks like cephalopods didn’t get the memo. more> https://goo.gl/A1TS6O

The $7 Trillion Hazard That Lies Beneath the M&A Boom

By Chris Bryant Tara Lachapelle – The global M&A boom has left a giant footprint on corporate balance sheets, and we’re not just talking about all that debt. Goodwill — the difference between what assets are worth on paper and how much an acquirer paid for them — is also soaring, and that could spell trouble for corporate earnings.

At S&P 500 companies, goodwill has risen by two-thirds over the past decade and accounts for more than one-third of net assets.

In the past two years, takeover targets have sold for a median of 11 times Ebitda — essentially 11 years of profit — whereas the multiple was only about 7-9 times in the years leading up to the recent merger frenzy.

As for who’s sitting on the most absolute goodwill, beer takes the cake. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA’s goodwill doubled to a cool $136.5 billion after its $100 billion takeover of SAB Miller Plc.

Impairments deplete shareholder equity, which makes lenders and bondholders nervous. Companies that financed takeovers with lots debt are particularly exposed. more> https://goo.gl/Ube7e8