Tag Archives: Social economy

The crisis of expertise

BOOK REVIEW

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, Author: Tom Nichols.
Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Author: Philip Tetlock.

By Tom Nichols – Experts get things wrong all the time.

The effects of such errors range from mild embarrassment to wasted time and money; in rarer cases, they can result in death, and even lead to international catastrophe. And yet experts regularly ask citizens to trust expert judgment and to have confidence not only that mistakes will be rare, but that the experts will identify those mistakes and learn from them.

Day to day, laypeople have no choice but to trust experts. We live our lives embedded in a web of social and governmental institutions meant to ensure that professionals are in fact who they say they are, and can in fact do what they say they do. Universities, accreditation organizations, licensing boards, certification authorities, state inspectors and other institutions exist to maintain those standards.

Science is learning by doing. Laypeople are uncomfortable with ambiguity, and they prefer answers rather than caveats. But science is a process, not a conclusion. Science subjects itself to constant testing by a set of careful rules under which theories can be displaced only by other theories. Laypeople cannot expect experts to never be wrong; if they were capable of such accuracy, they wouldn’t need to do research and run experiments in the first place.

Democracy cannot function when every citizen is an expert … more> https://goo.gl/NpQgga

The end of globalisation as we know it?

By Durukal Gun , Christian Keller, Sree Kochugovindan, Tomasz Wieladek – Modern globalisation has gone well beyond the trade of goods, as technology allowed for transfer of know-how and skills.

Since glottalization began in the middle of the 1800s, it has been through several different cycles. Now it appears to have reached yet another turning point.

Only recently has globalization matched the heights it reached before World War I.

  • First wave of globalization (1850s to 1914)
  • Protectionism (1914 to 1945)
  • Second wave of glottalization (1945 to 1990)
  • Hyperglobalization (1990 to present)

Among the clear beneficiaries of hyperglobalization are the emerging economies, which have become increasingly integrated into more and more complex global value chains. Their role in processing raw materials, and in value-added manufacturing and services has grown rapidly.

The first signs of opposition to hyperglobalisation emerged amid major demonstrations at the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Concerns mounted in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis and subsequent global recession, reflected more recently in public resistance to trade and investment agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Discriminatory protectionist tariffs and trade measures are on the rise. more> https://goo.gl/K54eeK

The world is sitting on a $400 trillion financial time bomb

By Allison Schrager – Financial disaster is looming, and not because of the stock market or subprime loans. The coming crisis is more insidious, structural, and almost certain to blow up eventually.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that by 2050 the world will face a $400 trillion shortfall (pdf) in retirement savings. (Yes, that’s trillion, with a “T”.)

The US will find itself in the biggest hole, falling $137 trillion short of what’s necessary to fund adequate retirements in 2050. It is followed by China’s $119 trillion shortfall.

Much of the massive shortfall is baked into retirement systems; setups in which nobody, neither individuals nor the government, saves enough.

About three-quarters of the projected comes from underfunded promises from governments, with the rest mostly accounted for by under-saving on the part of individuals. more> https://goo.gl/UUisEk

A pioneering computer scientist wants algorithms to be regulated like cars, banks, and drugs

By Katherine Ellen Foley – It’s convenient when Facebook can tag your friends in photos for you, and it’s fun when Snapchat can apply a filter to your face. Both are examples of algorithms that have been trained to recognize eyes, noses, and mouths with consistent accuracy.

Such algorithms are already deeply embedded in many aspects of our lives. They do such things as setting prices on stock markets, flying aircraft on autopilot, calculating insurance risks, finding you an Uber, and devising routes for delivery trucks.

But algorithms make mistakes too, and when they do it can be extremely hard to figure out why—witness the flash crashes on stock markets and the autopilot failure that brought down Air France flight 447 in 2009. more> https://goo.gl/O8inEI

End-times for humanity

BOOK REVIEW

Death of the Posthuman: Essays on Extinction, Author: Claire Colebrook.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Author: Naomi Klein.
Antifragile, Author: Nicholas Taleb.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Author: Mary Wollstonecraft.
The Social Contract, Author: Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

By Claire Colebrook – The panic isn’t merely about civilisational threats, but existential ones. Beyond doomsday proclamations about mass extinction, climate change, viral pandemics, global systemic collapse and resource depletion, we seem to be seized by an anxiety about losing the qualities that make us human.

Social media, we’re told, threatens our capacity for empathy and genuine connection.

How did we arrive at this moment in history, in which humanity is more technologically powerful than ever before, and yet we feel ourselves to be increasingly fragile?

What contemporary post-apocalyptic culture fears isn’t the end of ‘the world’ so much as the end of ‘a world’ – the rich, white, leisured, affluent one. Western lifestyles are reliant on what the French philosopher Bruno Latour has referred to as a ‘slowly built set of irreversibilities’, requiring the rest of the world to live in conditions that ‘humanity’ regards as unlivable.

And nothing could be more precarious than a species that contracts itself to a small portion of the Earth, draws its resources from elsewhere, transfers its waste and violence, and then declares that its mode of existence is humanity as such. more> https://goo.gl/1nriI9

Updates from Aalto University

Solar energy to Otaniemi – campus planning invests in energy efficiency
By Satu Kankaala – Right now, the Aalto University main campus is growing and developing rapidly. Campus planning is investing in energy efficiency, which is an important step in the goal towards an energy self-sufficient Otaniemi ‘According to our report, ground heat and solar energy are the most suitable options for Otaniemi, and we are gradually increasing their use’, tells Satu Kankaala, Head of Workplaces and Sustainability at Aalto CRE.

‘The campus is made unique by several culturally significant locations as well as the nearby nature and conservation area. They also impact what kinds of energy technologies can be used in the properties’, she continues.

According to Kankaala, also financial sustainability, the wellbeing of people working in the spaces, and improving the utilization of the spaces are central aspects of responsible campus development.

About 45% of the energy used for heating and 75% of the energy used for cooling the recently repaired Dipoli comes from geothermal energy. Geothermal energy will comprise about 90% of the heating and up to 95% of the cooling of Väre, which will be finished next year. The electricity consumption of campus buildings has considerably been reduced by measures such as shifting to LED lighting and improving the power management of the computer base. With these energy efficiency measures, the carbon footprint of the buildings has been significantly reduced. more> https://goo.gl/crp3uu

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Our obsession with GDP and economic growth has failed us, let’s end it

BOOK REVIEW

Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth, Author: Lorenzo Fioramonti.

By Lorenzo Fioramonti – The idea that the economic “pie” can grow indefinitely is alluring. The “growth first” rule has dominated the world since the early 20th century. No other ideology has ever been so powerful: the obsession with growth even cut through both capitalist and socialist societies.

But what exactly is growth? Strangely enough, the notion has never been reasonably developed.

For common sense people, there is growth when—all things being equal—our overall wealth increases.

Paradoxically, our model of economic growth does exactly the opposite of what common sense suggests.

Here are some examples. If I sell my kidney for some cash, then the economy grows. But if I educate my kids, prepare and cook food for my community, improve the health conditions of my people, growth doesn’t happen.

If a country cuts and sells all its trees, it gets a boost in GDP. But nothing happens if it nurtures them. more> https://goo.gl/k6G27r

Resisting Authoritarian Populism: Lessons From/For Singapore

By Kenneth Paul Tan – Although a young, small, and multi-ethnic nation-state, Singapore is prosperous, peaceful, and surprisingly influential in the global imagination. But its international image has attracted contradictory reactions.

History presents numerous examples of fragility where liberal democracies are concerned. Political philosophy tells us that diversity—and nearly every society today is diverse—can weaken the  communitarian basis of a society, making it difficult for the state to function well and eroding the trust that binds people to one another and to their institutions.

Without a strong institutional basis, the nation-state can become vulnerable to authoritarian populism, particularly when hit by crisis. Out of a demoralized society, moral and political entrepreneurs, often skillful demagogues, emerge and compete for power by mobilizing a collective sense of victimhood directed against an allegedly corrupt establishment as well as scapegoats such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, and sexual minorities, upon whom the entire blame for all of society’s ills are placed. more> https://goo.gl/8GKyGP

Updates from Chicago Booth

By Robert Shiller – The human species, everywhere you go, is engaged in conversation. We are wired for it: the human brain is built around narratives.

We call ourselves Homo sapiens, but that may be something of a misnomer—sapiens means wise. The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould said we should be called Homo narrator. Your mind is really built for narratives, and especially narratives about other humans. That is why advertisers tend to focus not on a product itself, but rather on somebody doing some human action related to the product.

Narratives are contagious: they spread from one person to another. Some narratives disappear quickly; others can last a long time.

The stock market gives us opportunities to construct narratives. For instance, earlier this year there were narratives around the Dow-Jones Industrial Average eclipsing 20,000 points for the first time in its history.

In reality, that’s absolutely meaningless: the Dow started at 40 points in 1896, but it could have started at 50, or something else. Yet we constructed narratives around this moment.

Why do narratives affect economics? Because when we want to understand a depression or recession, for instance, we have to understand why some people will stop spending. Recessions happen when people stop buying things: they don’t buy a new car; they don’t buy a new house. So why not? They might say they stopped spending because recession struck, but that doesn’t tell me why the recession started. I think the catalysts for events such as that are related to narratives. more> https://goo.gl/hjpU4r

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Updates from GE

Beyond Bitcoin: Digital Currency Among Many Industrial Applications For Blockchain
By Mark Egan & Dorothy Pomerantz – Ben Beckmann works as the lead scientist in the complex systems engineering lab at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. In 2012, he made a seemingly inconsequential wager: He bet one of his colleagues that the electronic currency bitcoin would fail.

Bitcoins started trading for pennies after the currency launched in 2009. Today, you can buy one bitcoin for $2,200. Beckmann lost the bet and took his colleague for a nice meal. “If we had taken the $100 we spent on dinner and invested it in bitcoins at the start, we would be millionaires,” Beckmann laughs.

Losing the bet pushed Beckman to take a closer look at the code behind bitcoin. He and others at GE discovered that the real magic that made it work was a public digital ledger called blockchain that keeps a chronological record of all bitcoin transactions. But the currency is just one blockchain application. The technology could be used for tracking trade, contracts, and even renewable energy.

Maja Vujinovic, technical product manager at GE Digital, is leading a push to explore and develop blockchain across the company. She’s looking at everything from purchase orders and budget reconciliation and parts tracking. “The bank receives a fee for every transaction,” Vujinovic  says. “If we can remove the bank and establish a trust mechanism instead, that will save us a lot of money.” more> https://goo.gl/5XIWo7