Tag Archives: Technology

The scholar’s vocation

A century ago, Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatized, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it.
By Chad Wellmon – The university was a modern-day patronage system. Intellectuals had long relied on the powerful and wealthy to provide for their material needs. In return, intellectuals advised princes and kept bureaucracies running efficiently. With the rise of the modern research university in 19th-century Germany, they assumed an even greater social role as members of a community that created knowledge for society at large.

Leipzig University, where Eulenburg taught, was founded in 1409. It began with a few hundred students, and remained roughly that size for centuries. In the 1830s, enrollments began to increase dramatically. As the state started to invest significant financial resources, a modern scholarly infrastructure and a division of intellectual labor emerged. In 1909, Eulenburg noted that although Leipzig University was 500 years old, it had become an ‘industrial operation’ in just the past 50.

The university’s evolution, he added, was a ‘microcosm’ of how life had changed in just a few decades. Modernity showed itself not just in urbanization, industrialization and steam-engine train travel, but also in the remaking of intellectual life. The transformation of the German university had far-reaching effects on the production of trustworthy knowledge. The conditions of intellectual life matter, and at the beginning of the 20th century many of the German cultural elite, especially younger people, felt like they were breaking down.

Weber began with a blunt account of the material conditions of the university. He enumerated the structural problems: terrible teaching, workplace discrimination, the exploitation of the labor force, an arbitrary hiring process, and a businesslike and, thus, uninspired understanding of the scholar’s vocation. The universitas litterarum (the ideal of the university as a corporation of scholars devoted to learning), he concluded, had become a ‘fiction’.

The transformation of the university into a capital-intensive, bureaucratically organised enterprise was not simply an effect of academic specialization. More than a century earlier, Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant had observed how some universities had begun to function as factories and organize themselves around the division of intellectual labor. Weber considered what he called the ‘Americanization’ of German universities – their saturation by the ‘spirit’ of American capitalism – more consequential than specialization. They now required largescale funding. They separated the academic ‘worker from the means of [scholarly] production’ – libraries accumulated unprecedented numbers of books, research institutes stockpiled instruments, and state-appointed bureaucrats controlled access to both. Universities had become ‘state capitalist enterprises’. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Four ways to ensure innovation continues after the crisis
Tools for innovating better and faster, even after the recovery
By Lindsey Lyman – The COVID-19 crisis has prompted inspiring acts of innovation. Companies, governments, entrepreneurs, and citizens have proved how capable humans are of innovating during times of crisis. Responding to the acute public-health pandemic has forced rapid changes in health-care-delivery models. The social-distancing mandates have prompted complete workforces to adopt a virtual work model as well as K–12 school districts and university systems nationwide to figure out how to educate students through distance learning. The slowdown of commerce has pushed small-business owners to transform their business models overnight in an attempt to stay afloat amid economic collapse.

Necessity forces companies to innovate. However, waiting for a crisis is not a sustainable innovation strategy, and certainly no one wants a crisis for the sake of innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a natural experiment that allows us to examine conditions that have prompted innovation and to observe and learn how organizations have responded. The circumstances are dire and the effectiveness of many of these innovations remains unknown. Despite this, it is worth observing what is happening and learning from it. Companies should take note of these lessons and apply them to remain innovative, whether in the midst of a crisis or in a position of strength.

Extreme examples of innovation have surfaced from the COVID-19 crisis. In one well-documented example, Wuhan’s Huoshenshan Hospital, a specialty field hospital, was built in just over a week to treat the outbreak. Although this is a great testament to human ability, it does not provide a blueprint for sustainable innovation. The financial burden and other costs—among them, structural and safety concerns and suspect labor practices—do not justify building a hospital at this speed under normal circumstances.

However, other tools used to fight the COVID-19 outbreak can and should become a replicable part of corporate innovation practices. Here are four of them. more>

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Updates from Adobe

Finding Beauty in the Details
By Charles Purdy – Based in Stuttgart, Germany, photographer Johannes Bauer focuses his camera on details that other people might overlook. Approaching still-life, product, and architecture photography with the sensibility of an abstract artist, he uses his camera and a strong graphic-design sensibility to change a viewer’s perspective on everyday objects.

“Often, people describe my work as looking like something between photography and a 3D render,” says Bauer. “They think they’re looking at a computer-generated image—which isn’t true; there’s no 3D render involved. But I play with this sort of aesthetic.”

Bauer came to his love of capturing textures early in his photography career—he was studying graphic design when he had his “first contact” with photography, while working on a class project that involved capturing varied types of materials. “It was interesting to find these ‘micro landscapes’ within a texture,” he says, “to see these deep details you can’t really see with your eye or don’t see if you’re focusing on an entire object.”

This fascination led Bauer to a master’s program in photography at Écal in Lausanne, Switzerland (which he completed just a couple of years ago), and then on to a successful commercial photography career that capitalizes on his fascination with minutiae. As a medium, photography allows him to quickly generate appealing, interesting images—which he says keeps his process inspirational and exciting.

Only two years into his professional career, Bauer says that he’s seen a lot of benefit from creating distinctive work and sharing it on his portfolio site and on Instagram. When he was starting out, he would create projects, by himself or with his friends, and then post the results—as a way to define his style for potential clients: which these days include furniture and houseware companies, jewelry companies, magazines, and more. “It’s really broad,” says Bauer. “It’s sometimes funny—you do one job, and then people approach you because they want similar stuff.” more>

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We must break the cycle of panic and neglect

Health, global security and international stability are inextricably linked. And our globalised, urbanised and at the same time politically fragmented world has never been as prone to pandemics as it is today. Wolfgang Ischinger and Stefan Oschmann present five points that are critical in order to be better prepared for situations like these in the future.
By Stefan Oschmann and Wolfgang Ischinger – The number of coronavirus cases as reported on the website of Johns Hopkins University continues to skyrocket. The International Monetary Fund is preparing the world for a massive recession.

Governments around the world have mobilized incredible sums of money in order to strengthen healthcare systems in the short term and to cushion the economic consequences of the crisis in the long term. Without a doubt, health crises can pose a serious threat to all of humanity, one no less serious than the dangers of atomic weapons, terrorism or the impact of climate change.

The fact that health, security and stability are inextricably linked is not a new realization. The devastating consequences of pandemics – from the plague to the Spanish flu – are a firm part of human history.

Yet they are still being massively underestimated – despite the fact that our globalized, urbanized and at the same time politically fragmented world has never been as prone to pandemics as it is today.

At the moment, the focus is on acute crisis management. How can a lockdown be managed? When and how can a return to normalcy be responsibly permitted? And what exactly will the new normal look like?

These topics are currently being widely discussed, and rightly so. With this article, however, we want to point out that it is also necessary to plan beyond this period. We should urgently think about the following five points:

First: Overall, the global community has not succeeded in breaking the cycle of panic and neglect that characterizes the way in which it responds to pandemics. No doubt, after SARS 2002/03, significant progress was made in the areas of pandemic preparedness, in research and development as well as in vaccine development.

Countries such as China have considerably strengthened their healthcare systems. Yet unfortunately, this was not enough. At the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in 2017, Bill Gates spoke about the sad irony that the global costs of a pandemic massively eclipse the expenditure needed to successfully prevent a global pandemic.

According to Gates, the cost of ensuring adequate pandemic preparedness worldwide is estimated at US$ 3.4 billion a year, while the projected annual loss from a pandemic could run as high as US$ 570 billion.

The amounts being called up right now for global crisis management show that at the time, these estimates were a rather conservative estimate of the potential follow-on costs. One thing is clear: Pandemic preparedness is an absolute must and pays off, not only in financial terms. There is no price as high as the one we are paying right now as a global community. more>

Updates from McKinsey

How payments can adjust to the coronavirus pandemic—and help the world adapt
The challenges are immediate, with long-term implications for global, regional, and local economies—and for the payments industry itself. Here’s what to expect.
By Philip Bruno, Reet Chaudhuri, Olivier Denecker, Tobias Lundberg, and Marc Niederkorn – As the catastrophic human costs of the coronavirus come into clearer focus, so too do the consequences for people’s well-being beyond the immediate imperative to safeguard lives. Taking care of our families and friends, our neighbors and communities, our employees and coworkers comes first. For that reason, companies across industries and geographies have scrambled to establish remote-working conditions—and continue to improve them as the health crisis continues. Those that can, including most banks and financial-services companies, have taken swift action to protect both their customers and their employees.

The next focus of all the professionals involved with the transactions infrastructure must be the stability of systems, for both payments and securities. At this writing, despite the scale of the emergency measures underway, no major outages of core infrastructure have been reported. Payments systems have proved resilient and reliable, as they have in earlier crises. Payments systems and providers, which enable companies and their customers to transfer funds in return for goods and services, continue to enjoy a high level of trust from the general public.

At the same time, we all realize that the economic disruption will be profound and the short-term drop in activity for economies under lockdown will be severe. Quarterly GDP in the second quarter of 2020 could decline by as much as 35 to 40 percent—and the payments industry’s financial outlook reflects that uncertainty in the short term. But the industry’s stability will play an invaluable role in rebooting the global economy, and the potential for innovation can support functioning economies as a “new normal” emerges. Below, we observe how the payments industry can adapt now—and suggest ten fundamental changes to the payments ecosystem that will help all of us find a new normal.

How will the coronavirus crisis affect payments economics?
There is no definitive answer. Much depends on the complex interplay between economic activity, the interest-rate landscape and associated liquidity patterns, and the evolution of individual and collective behavior. Taking these factors into account, we expect revenue growth in global payments to turn negative.

Instead of growing by 6 percent, as projected by our 2019 global payments report, activity could drop by as much as 8 to 10 percent of total revenues, or a reduction of $165 billion to $210 billion—comparable to the 10 to 11 percent revenue reduction in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008–09. more>

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Updates from ITU

UNESCO rallies international organizations, civil society and private sector partners in a broad Coalition to ensure #LearningNeverStops
By Clare O’Hagan – At a time of when 87% of the world’s student population is affected by COVID-19 school closures, UNESCO is launching a global education coalition to support countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk.

Over 1.5 billion learners in 165 countries are affected by COVID-19 school closures.

“Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Partnership is the only way forward. This Coalition is a call for coordinated and innovative action to unlock solutions that will not only support learners and teachers now, but through the recovery process, with a principle focus on inclusion and equity.”

Since closing schools to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have been deploying distance learning solutions and grappling with the complexity of provisioning education remotely, from delivering content and supporting teachers to providing guidance to families and addressing connectivity challenges. Equity is the paramount concern because closures disproportionately hurt vulnerable and disadvantaged students who rely on schools for a range of social services, including health and nutrition.

“We must speed up the ways we share experience, and help the most vulnerable, whether or not they have internet access”, said Angelina Jolie, UN High Commission for Refugees Special Envoy, who partnered with UNESCO in the establishment of the Coalition. more>

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A green reboot after the pandemic

In addition to threatening millions of lives, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated human societies are capable of transforming themselves more or less overnight—there’s no better time.
By Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Hunter Lovins, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and Kate Raworth – The Covid-19 coronavirus has forced entire countries into lockdown mode, terrified citizens around the world and triggered a financial-market meltdown. The pandemic demands a forceful, immediate response. But in managing the crisis, governments also must look to the long term. One prominent policy blueprint with a deep time horizon is the European Commission’s European Green Deal, which offers several ways to support the communities and businesses most at risk from the current crisis.

Covid-19 reflects a broader trend: more planetary crises are coming. If we muddle through each new crisis while maintaining the same economic model that got us here, future shocks will eventually exceed the capacity of governments, financial institutions and corporate crisis managers to respond. Indeed, the ‘coronacrisis’ has already done so.

The Club of Rome issued a similar warning in its famous 1972 report, The Limits to Growth, and again in Beyond the Limits, a 1992 book by the lead author of that earlier report, Donella Meadows. As Meadows warned back then, humanity’s future will be defined not by a single emergency but by many separate yet related crises stemming from our failure to live sustainably. By using the Earth’s resources faster than they can be restored, and by releasing wastes and pollutants faster than they can be absorbed, we have long been setting ourselves up for disaster.

On one planet, all species, countries and geopolitical issues are ultimately interconnected. We are witnessing how the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China can wreak havoc on the entire world. Like Covid-19, climate change, biodiversity loss and financial collapses do not observe national or even physical borders. These problems can be managed only through collective action that starts long before they become full-blown crises.

The coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call to stop exceeding the planet’s limits. more>

Updates from McKinsey

We’re not going back to the ‘normal’ we had before coronavirus
Our global managing partner Kevin Sneader joined Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday, March 25, to talk live about the business implications of the coronavirus pandemic. The full interview is available now at CNBC.com. You can read all of our material on the crisis at our coronavirus insights page.
By Kevin Sneader – One thing is clear from all the conversations I’ve had: nothing is going to be the same. This is a new normal, a different way of operating.

I think for our clients, they’re worried about their employees, their customers, and cash—in that order. And they are worried about cash. Even in the health care sector, there are providers who are not getting paid right now, and they’re worried about cash flow just as players in several other sectors are.

Another reality they’re all dealing with is that people keep sending them scenarios as to how this could play out. The message we’re hearing is that the scenarios are helpful, but leaders are wondering what’s going to be true across all these scenarios. Because if it’s not going back to the way it was before, what’s the next normal? What’s the way in which we’re going to have to operate?

The reality is that consumer behavior is changing fundamentally, and so much else is changing, and the question is, “will it go back?” I think the answer in many cases is “no.”

If you think about a lot of what’s happened in the last few years, some of it’s going to be reinforced. The shift [to working] online has now been given a boost, and it’s hard to see that being taken back to where it was before.

At the same time, I think one of the biggest shifts will be the way that products reach us. For many years, we and others have been focused on efficiency: how efficiently can I run my supply chain? I think now there’s going to be a lot of conversation about, how resilient is my supply chain? more>

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Updates from ITU

How can we ensure safety and public trust​ in AI for automated and assisted driving?
ITU News – Cars are becoming increasingly automated. Drivers already benefit from a wide range of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), such as lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and blind spot warning, which are gradually becoming standard features on most vehicles.

Today’s automated systems are taking over an increasing amount of responsibility for the driving task. It is expected that soon, sensors will take the place of human impulse, and artificial intelligence (AI) will substitute for human intelligence.

This process is defined through various level steps, from low levels of automation where the driver retains overall control of the vehicle in level 1, to a fully-autonomous system in level 5.

10 years ago, manufacturers predicted many cars on today’s roads would be fully automated, but it still remains a distant future for the automotive industry. At the recent Future Networked Car Symposium 2020 at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, top experts joined a panel entitled ‘AI for autonomous and assisted driving – how to ensure safety and public trust’ to discuss the progress and the prospects for vehicles that drive themselves – and how we might achieve this future. more>

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Updates from Adobe

Jimmie Robinson & the Teenage Heroes of East Oakland
By Jane Selle Morgan – Jimmie started this cover-to-cover practice as a kid, drawing what he saw on television. “I would create one scene,” he remembers, “and then I would create another scene, and I didn’t even know it, but I was creating sequential artwork at the time. I would staple them all together to make my own books.”

Jimmie is a California native who grew up in Oakland, so it tugged his hometown heart strings to learn that advocacy group ​Oakland Kids First was looking to produce an original comic book as part of a statewide initiative. Oakland Kids First wanted a​ fun and visually engaging community resource to communicate complicated issues that continue to oppress and challenge the everyday lives of the people of East Oakland—and the group needed an artist to bring it to life. ​Jimmie applied and was quickly chosen to illustrate the book.

In this ​mini-documentary​, you’ll meet Jimmie and hear about his process, while getting to know more about the perspective of Jimmie, Oakland Kids First, and the four high school kids sharing their experiences while collaborating on the Town Force One Comic Book. more>

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