Tag Archives: Business

We Don’t Have Elections

BOOK REVIEW

Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection, Autor: Jacob Silverman.

How tech companies merge with the nation-state
By Jacob Silverman – It should shock no one if Facebook emerges from its latest privacy imbroglio with a meager fine and a promise to do better—even as our elected leaders, whose lack of knowledge of Facebook’s workings reflected their advanced age, tut-tutted that this time Facebook has to do better.

The canon of American regulatory practices tends toward the ceremonial, with extreme deference shown toward corporations that may one day hire former regulators. Senator Lindsey Graham even invited Zuckerberg to submit possible regulations—an example of regulatory capture so blatant that “corruption” doesn’t even seem like the proper word.

Playing along, Zuckerberg expressed an openness to regulation, though he asked for a light touch, which, barring another data spillage, he should expect.

Beyond a few mild critiques, Congress’s overriding opinion of Zuck seems to be that he was a classic American success story, and perhaps—in his cunning acquisition of ungodly riches on the backs of others’ labor—he is.

To better understand Silicon Valley’s politics, we might return to the nation-state metaphor and consider technology companies as recently ascendant great powers. Endowed with impressive resources, making themselves known in assorted global capitals, their CEOs are greeted in the manner of heads of state. Their vast offshore cash reserves resemble sovereign wealth funds, whose investments have the power to shape politics. more>

Capitalism Redefined

BOOK REVIEW

Theory of Value, Author: Gerard Debreu.
The Origin of Wealth, Author: Eric Beinhocker.

By Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker – For everyone but the top 1 percent of earners, the American economy is broken.

Since the 1980s, there has been a widening disconnect between the lives lived by ordinary Americans and the statistics that say our prosperity is growing. Despite the setback of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy more than doubled in size during the last three decades while middle-class incomes and buying power have stagnated. Great fortunes were made while many baby boomers lost their retirement savings. Corporate profits reached record highs while social mobility reached record lows, lagging behind other developed countries.

These facts don’t just highlight the issues of inequality and the growing power of a plutocracy. They should also force us to ask a deeper set of questions about how our economy works—and, crucially, about how we assess and measure the very idea of economic progress.

How can it be that great wealth is created on Wall Street with products like credit-default swaps that destroyed the wealth of ordinary Americans—and yet we count this activity as growth?

Likewise, fortunes are made manufacturing food products that make Americans fatter, sicker, and shorter-lived. And yet we count this as growth too—including the massive extra costs of health care.

Global warming creates more frequent hurricanes, which destroy cities and lives. Yet the economic activity to repair the damage ends up getting counted as growth as well.

Great debates rage about whether to raise or lower interest rates, or increase or decrease regulation, and our political system has been paralyzed by a bitter ideological struggle over the budget. But there is too little debate about what it is all for.

Hardly anyone ever asks: What kind of growth do we want? What does “wealth” mean? And what will it do for our lives? more>

Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work


Barclays – Humans have often had a cautious relationship with new technology, particularly when it causes widespread disruption in the workforce. Yet historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but rather have led to the creation of new opportunities. Farriers and saddlemakers were hit hard when cars replaced horse carriages, but the petrol stations, mechanics, motels and related industries that sprung up created new, yet different, types of jobs.

More recently, the smartphone is a great example of technological advances creating new forms of work. Twenty years ago, mobile app developer was not a job; today, millions of such developers are at work around the world.

One of the most influential economists of all time, David Ricardo, flip-flopped on the issue. In 1821, he stated that while was a general good, he was now more worried about the substitution effect on labor. And the discussion was not always academic – the Luddite movement was an early example of workers resorting to violence to protest the use of technology in textile factories.

As the decades passed, the Industrial Revolution led to a visible, massive improvement in living standards. But the debate – on how technology affects work and whether it is an unequivocal positive – continued to wax and wane.

Machine learning represents a fundamental change. It is a subset of the much-abused term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and is grounded in statistics and mathematical optimization. The computer is fed vast data sets and a few general parameters to point it in the right direction. Then, the machine executes simulations of how biological neurons behave, uses that to recognize recurring sequences in the data, and writes its own rules.

Suddenly, it is no longer limited to applying algorithms that
a human wrote; the machine is designing its own. more (pdf)>

Enlightenment rationality is not enough: we need a new Romanticism | Aeon Ideas

BOOK REVIEW

Enlightenment Now, Author: Steven Pinker.
Modern Prometheus: Editing the Human Genome with Crispr-Cas9, Author: Jim Kozubek.
The Will to Knowledge, Author: Michel Foucault.

By Jim Kozubek – Progress creates the illusion that we are moving toward deeper knowledge when, in fact, imperfect theories constantly lead us astray.

The conflict is relevant in this age of anti-science, with far-Right activists questioning climate change, evolution and other current finds. But is that really bad? Nineteenth-century Romanticism was the first movement to take on the Enlightenment – and we still see its effects in such areas as environmentalism, asceticism and the ethical exercise of conscience.

In our new era of Enlightenment, we need Romanticism again.

With science becoming a brutal game of market forces and patent controls, the skeptics and Romantics among us must weigh in, and we already are. In one study that provides free genome sequencing for newborns, only 7 per cent of parents wanted to take part, suggesting that the public is cautious about how data might be abused by insurers, business and government.

Pinker’s solution to the distortion is investing science with secular humanism, an elastic concept of goodness that plies against financial pressures. But can we depend on technologists for such a benevolent spirit?

Right now, in biotech, only the market rules.

Modern-day Romantics have a right to be concerned about the motives of scientists, if not of science itself. more>

The Failures of Globalism

BOOK REVIEW

Us Vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism, Author: Ian Bremmer.

By Gabrielle Levy – If the six and a half decades that followed the end of World War II were a triumph of globalism, an era of prosperity and peace as the world grew increasingly interconnected, the second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of a new populism that has pushed back.

Convulsions of anger – at corrupt government elites, at the floods of refugees fleeing sectarian conflict, at the loss of jobs as workers are increasingly replaced by automation and artificial intelligence – culminated in the pair of 2016 events, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, that turned conventional wisdom on its head.

The biggest piece, I think, has already happened. When globalism started, after World War II was over, the United States recognized that we never want to have a flight like that again, so we’ve got to do something about it. We’re going to rebuild our former enemies – the Germans, the Japanese – and we’re going to build the United Nations.

More broadly, as it continues, it’s going to be a lot of opposition to the United States sending troops fighting in other people’s battles, like we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria. It’s going to be a lot less support for immigration into the U.S., unless you’ve got a skill set or a lot of money, and we’re already seeing that start to happen.

And it’s possibly going to lead to more trade disputes, certainly in terms of big technology, where, instead of having one global free market, we end up having much more fragmentation of a marketplace with more strategic sectors.

And some of that is because the United States is not willing to promote free multilateral trade organizations, but some of it is because the Chinese are building an alternative system that has no global free trade at all.

It’s all just going to be linked to Beijing. So when you put that all together, you start to see what the future of this world will look like.

Globalization can turn a virtuous cycle into a vicious one – where globalization improves people’s lives, only to raise their expectations. That, in turn, raises frustrations when those expectations are met.

In China, the growing middle class and the rising wages risk threatening the very economic engine – cheap labor – that made that progress possible. Can developing countries avoid this trap? more>

Tech Upheaval Means a ‘Massacre of the Dilberts’

By Fergal O’Brien and Maciej Onoszko – The Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said there are a lot of “routine cognitive jobs,” at risk, in what he termed a “massacre of the Dilberts” — a reference to the satirical American comic strip about office workers.

Technology and the fourth industrial revolution are having untold impact, he said, and it’s going to take huge efforts to make sure workers ultimately benefit. The effect of automation is just one part of the change and examples of the seismic shift can be seen in finance, where many “unglamorous” data entry jobs have already been transformed.

“Get a grip on the scale of the problem. Assess and address,” he said.

Carney added that part of the solution could require major social change, with workers having to extend or return to education in later life to prepare themselves for the new world of labor. He acknowledged that wouldn’t be simple, when many people will have mortgages and other financial responsibilities, and added that up to now not everyone is getting training right. more>

The Labor Market Basis For Populism

By Carl Melin and Ann-Therése Enarsson – All over the world, populist parties and movements are growing ever more strongly, and established parties appear to lack effective strategies to combat this.

Changes in the labor market will not have the same impact on all groups. Routine tasks are more vulnerable to automation and we can see that many low-skilled men, often in jobs that have had a relatively high status and income, are more vulnerable than others. But traditional working-class jobs are not the only ones affected, as digitization and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) are also affecting many white-collar employees.

The trend of increased populism that we have seen over the last decade mirrors what happened during the Great Depression in the 1930s when such movements seized power in countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain, with the disastrous consequences we all know.

The question is: what can be done to counteract a similar trend.

Even if automation may mean that some people lose out, there is no alternative as the new technology is a precondition for old jobs not simply disappearing, but also being replaced by new ones.

What can be done, however, is to reduce people’s anxieties and the personal cost of these changes. On the-job-training and other forms of education are the most important tools, but security in times of change is also about effective unemployment insurance.

Far too many politicians have chosen to respond to populist parties by adopting their world view. Instead of trying to deal with the concerns that are driving people to these kinds of movements, many politicians have often chosen to confirm and reinforce them. more>

This Copyright Dispute Is at the Center of an Education Policy Controversy

By Lindsey Tepe – It’s important to understand how several New York school districts ended up in the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit in the first place. In a way, the conflict between Great Minds and FedEx was set in motion seven years ago, when the state of New York adopted new, more challenging academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math.

To help educators master the new standards, the state undertook an ambitious new project to build an online library of educational resources aligned with those standards. Using a piece of the state’s $700 million federal Race to the Top grant, state leaders requested proposals from curriculum writers across the country interested in developing these resources for every grade level.

States and school districts are rapidly adopting these curricula because of their quality, but need to more fully understand what they can and can’t do with materials.

As more open curriculum options are published across the country, states, districts, and publishers need to make sure that they fully understand copyright, and the terms of the content licenses. It’s good for students when adults share. That’s beyond question. But it’s bad if the adults can’t agree on, or don’t know, the terms of that sharing. more>

Escape the echo chamber

By C Thi Nguyen – Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry.

Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention.

An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side.

An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

Luckily, though, epistemic bubbles are easily shattered. We can pop an epistemic bubble simply by exposing its members to the information and arguments that they’ve missed. But echo chambers are a far more pernicious and robust phenomenon. more>

Are We Master or Machine?

By Junko Yoshida – The two AI leaders are the US and China. In the US, it’s entirely driven by the private sector… Chinese players collect a lot of data driven by a government. Neither reflects our principles and values, says French President.

Most U.S. consumers, swept into the era of Big Data, in a prosperous nation where Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have become the definition of Big Business, don’t readily dwell on the constitutional complexities of personal privacy.

Last Thursday, Emmanuel Macron, president of France, laid out a new strategy for artificial intelligence in his country. The French government will spend 1.5 billion euro ($1.85 billion) over five years to support research in the field, encourage startups, and collect data that can be used and shared by engineers.

Macron’s goal is obvious. France is figuring out that they’ve got to start catching up to the U.S. and China. He wants the best and the brightest in the AI field to come to Paris.

To most American observers, Macron’s economic argument is easy to understand. Where things get tricky for most Americans to comprehend is the French argument on “values.”

This is where Macron introduces “digital sovereignty.” more>