June 25, 2013

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs | MIT Technology Review

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs | MIT Technology Review: "­Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years."

I read Brynjolfsson and McAfee's book in 2011 and remain persuaded they are correct in their analysis. This piece in the MIT Technology Review is highly recommended reading and, of course, the hundreds of comments following in are equally insightful. Read the book if you have the inclination.

I am also convinced that nearly all our policy-makers and politicians are clueless about what to do about the job dislocations in the short term. Meanwhile, government policies are driven not by reality, but by perceived political power and gains. Traditional thinking that the Great Recession will end and things will improve for the U.S. based on past history is likely wrong, particularly so Keynesian economics which drives so much government policy and spending which does not produce the same results as previously. The fundamentals have changed.

Some experts argue (Harvard economist Lawrence Katz in this piece argues that this technological upheaval of the past two decades is merely part of a long term trend that began with the Industrial Revolution.) this is just a continuation of the technological progress of mankind

I think we are in a period of profound change driven primarily by advances in software and extremely capable and fast hardware that can mine and capture the value of 'Big Data.' The combination of technologies is creating capacity and capabilities that supplant the need for more and more human labor to produce goods and services that drive the economy.
"W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete."
The wild card of course is that the negative effects of technology on jobs is seen mostly in advanced economies and less so in the underdeveloped world where manual processes prevail. The big question is will these countries and peoples grab the advantages of these advances in technology and raise their living standards or will religious, ethnic and cultural factors retard economic gains and better living conditions?

From the Story:


Economic theory and government policy will have to be rethought if technology is indeed destroying jobs faster than it is creating new ones.

June 21, 2013

Our Broken Social Contract - NYTimes.com

Mr. Edsall aptly captures the arguments that underlie the talking points of today's political class.

Unfortunately, we have no consensus about how to resolve this looming crisis principally because we have no agreement on the root causes.  It's in neither political party's interest to solve the problem because they would lose leverage and power by agreement on the factors that are driving the decline in values, income and the common good.

We have become mired in the narcissistic "What's in it for me?" approach to life and unwilling to embrace the 'common good,' assuming we could agree on what that is in today's world.

At bottom, we have the lost the 'glue' that binds a healthy society together.

Our Broken Social Contract - NYTimes.com:
"If these trends continue, and most evidence suggests they will, one of the central ironies of the Obama years will be that a Democratic administration committed to pushing back against the unjust distribution of resources and to the promotion of morally cohesive communities will in fact have overseen an eight-year period of social disintegration, inequality and rising self-preoccupation."

I strongly recommend reading the commentary by David Brooks, The Solitary Leaker, in the New York Times dated June 10, 2013. Brooks provides thoughtful insights into why Snowden acted as he did and the deeper societal problems spotlighted by his actions.

June 9, 2013

TINPOTI: Privacy and Anonymity Have Long Since Disappeared

For more than 10 years I have maintained there is no privacy on the Internet. When a person chooses to enter the electronic age, expectations of privacy and anonymity disappear. Yet Americans want to believe otherwise and politicians yammer and stammer, but have little or no control over metadata, thinking that passing laws to restrict access to the content of communications will insure privacy. NOT!
TINPOTI = There Is No Privacy On The Internet
"United States laws restrict wiretapping and eavesdropping on the actual content of the communications of American citizens but offer very little protection to the digital data thrown off by the telephone when a call is made. And they offer virtually no protection to other forms of non-telephone-related data like credit card transactions.
Because of smartphones, tablets, social media sites, e-mail and other forms of digital communications, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data daily, according to I.B.M.
The company estimates that 90 percent of the data that now exists in the world has been created in just the last two years. From now until 2020, the digital universe is expected to double every two years, according to a study by the International Data Corporation.
Accompanying that explosive growth has been rapid progress in the ability to sift through the information.
When separate streams of data are integrated into large databases — matching, for example, time and location data from cellphones with credit card purchases or E-ZPass use — intelligence analysts are given a mosaic of a person’s life that would never be available from simply listening to their conversations. Just four data points about the location and time of a mobile phone call, a study published in Nature found, make it possible to identify the caller 95 percent of the time."