2018/09/16: non c’è nulla di meglio della incedibile vicenda della Bekaert - dunque - per spiegare i motivi della rottura fra il centrosinistra e la sua base elettorale.
2018/09/14: Con New York abbiamo un laboratorio congiunto di innovazione civica e urbana. Con Berlino lavoriamo sulle politiche abitative e su come regolare le piattaforme della sharing economy, con Parigi sui Fab Labs e l’economia circolare, con Amsterdam abbiamo forti affinità e progetti congiunti come DECODE. In Italia collaboriamo con Milano, Roma e Torino sulle politiche dei dati, sulle piattaforme digitali per la partecipazione democratica e sul software libero. Le altre città vedono Barcellona come modello di una politica innovativa e allo stesso tempo democratica. Abbiamo lavorato anche con il team digitale del governo inglese, che già da alcuni anni ha realizzato una digitalizzazione di successo, e quello estone, che è stato il primo a creare un’identità pubblica digitale. E nel contesto europeo coordino una rete di Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) che si scambiano policy e soluzioni concrete per valorizzare le opportunità e ridurre i rischi del digitale. È fondamentale sperimentare e replicare strategie e progetti, partendo dalle città come laboratorio del futuro digitale che vogliamo, più inclusivo e democratico.
The narrative that government is inefficient and its optimum role should be "limited" to avoid disrupting the market has proven extremely powerful. But this prevailing view of government is wrong; it is more the product of ideological bias than anything else.
2018/08/02: a truly sustainable and ethical future for fashion requires a seismic cultural shift in how humans work together. Not, sadly, a technological one.
2018/09/13: Racist bridges aren’t the only inanimate objects that have had quiet, clandestine control over people.
the residents of Scunthorpe, in the north of England, who were blocked from opening AOL accounts after the internet giant created a new profanity filter that objected to the name of their town.
an automatic hand-soap dispenser that perfectly released soap whenever white hands where placed under it did not recognize as hands those of a Nigerian man.
they discovered that home cooks were less likely to make claims on their home insurance and were therefore more profitable. The most significant item that gives you away as a responsible, house-proud person more than any other was fresh fennel.
there are concerns about this kind of data profiling being used in an exclusionary way: motorbike enthusiasts being deemed to have a risky hobby or people who eat sugar-free sweets being flagged as diabetic and turned down for insurance as a result. A study from 2015 demonstrated that Google was serving far fewer ads for high-paying executive jobs to women who were surfing the web than to men.
searches for “black-sounding names” were disproportionately likely to be linked to ads containing the word “arrest” (for example, “Have you been arrested?”) than those with “white-sounding names.”
2018/09/10: The lack of diversity in Wikipedia biographies of notable individuals extends to women in STEM. Ongoing lack of representation in the largest, most frequently accessed body of knowledge in the world contributes to the silencing of our voices.
“According to Wikipedia, being a notable person is less about to life expectancy, somewhat more about education and economic status, and even more about positions of power.” - Klein and Konieczny, 2018
To help change cultural perceptions of who can contribute to STEM and to inspire the next generation of young scientists and engineers, it is essential that open access platforms, especially Wikipedia, offer a realistic perspective on the diversity of people already working to tackle big global challenges and historical contributions by underrepresented groups. Let’s speed up the process… sixteen more years to achieve gender parity on notable biographies is too long!
What can women and allies in STEM do to accelerate the improvement of Wikipedia as an inclusive, fact-based resource for the global community?
A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere, and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.
For technical nutrients, the circular economy largely replaces the concept of a consumer with that of a user. This calls for a new contract between businesses and their customers based on product performance. Unlike in today’s buy-and-consume economy, durable products are leased, rented or shared wherever possible. If they are sold, there are incentives or agreements in place to ensure the return and thereafter the reuse of the product or its components and materials at the end of its period of primary use.
The power of the inner circle refers to minimizing comparative materials use vis-à-vis the linear production system. The tighter the circle, i.e. the less a product has to be changed in reuse, refurbishment and remanufacturing and the faster it returns to use, the higher the potential savings on the shares of material, labour, energy and capital still embedded in the product, and the associated externalities (such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water and toxicity).
The power of circling longer refers to maximizing the number of consecutive cycles (be it repair, reuse, or full remanufacturing) and/or the time in each cycle. Each prolonged cycle avoids the material, energy and labour of creating a new product or component.
The power of cascaded use refers to diversifying reuse across the value chain.
2018/05/08: Apple has dominated the education market for a generation. However, in recent years, Google seems to be challenging Apple for domination of the education sector. Google is an excellent option for cash-strapped districts.
Chromebooks are substantially less expensive than Apple's laptops.
schools can begin and remain within the Google ecosystem and not face an awkward transition at the beginning of third grade.
Google products show a high degree of compatibility with each other, which makes things much easier for teachers and students.
2018/09/12: In the book, the narrator, a sociologist, describes how a system in which status accorded by birth had been replaced by a society in which the classes are reconstituted in the basic formula, IQ plus Effort = Merit. The belief in a common good and a flourishing civic life is corroded. “If the meritocrats believe…that their advantage comes from their own merits,” Young wrote. “They can feel they deserve whatever they can get.
As Young’s book predicted, opportunities to accrue social capital, the springboard that allows the middle classes to leap ahead, have been drastically reduced for those at the bottom of society even as, contrary to one of Young’s predictions, the rich have grown wealthier with 10% owning 40% of this country’s wealth.
Democracy does not require perfect equality but it does require that citizens share a common life.
Do we want a society in which everything is up for sale? Meritocrats might say, “Yes”. As Young pointed out all those years ago, the ability to buy what it wants when it wants is one way in which the meritocracy proves its “worth” – at least to itself.
2018/09/10: is society incapable of tackling income inequality peacefully?
Walter Scheidel: No, but history shows that there are limits. There is a big difference between maintaining existing arrangements that successfully check inequality (Scandinavia is a good example) and significantly reducing it. The latter requires real change and that is always much harder to do: think of America or Britain, not to mention Brazil, China or India. The modern welfare state does a reasonably good job of compensating for inequality before taxes and transfers. However for more substantial levelling to occur, the established order needs to be shaken up: the greater the shock to the system, the easier it becomes to reduce privilege at the top.
Are we really living in an unfathomable period of wealth inequality, or was the relatively equal society that followed the second world war the real aberration?
Walter Scheidel: When we view history over the long run we can see that this experience was certainly a novelty. We now know that modernisation as such does not reliably reduce inequality. Many things had to come together to make this happen, such as very high income and estate taxes, strong labour unions, and intrusive regulations and controls. Since the 1980s, liberalisation and globalisation have allowed inequality to rise again. Even so, wealth concentration in Europe is nowhere near as high as it was a century ago. America, meanwhile, is getting there, which shows that it all depends on where you look.
measures that worked well in the past may have done so because they were taken in the unique context of massive violent shocks and threats: the world wars and communism. This requires us to be more creative in dealing with inequality. Above all we must think harder about feasibility. It is not enough for economists to come up with recipes to reduce inequality, we also need to figure out how to implement them in an environment that is politically polarised and economically globalised. Both factors limit our scope for intervention.
in practice there will always be losers, and even basic-income schemes can take us only so far. At the end of the day, someone owns the robots. As long as the capitalist world system is in place, it is hard to see how even huge productivity gains from greater automation would benefit society evenly instead of funnelling even more income and wealth to those who are in the best position to pocket these gains.
2018/03/08: In northern Nigeria, thanks to the ingenuity, dedication, and hard work of a local entrepreneur, Habiba Ali, a new solar energy initiative is not only providing her community with a sustainable and affordable source of energy, but is also empowering other women through access to income-generation activates.
There is huge energy poverty in our country and over 89 per cent of this poverty lies in rural areas. There is a need to bring innovation in renewable energy and sustainability to bridge the poverty gap. I believe innovation is only as good as the impact that it makes.
This sentiment echoes IRENA’s research, which shows that off-grid renewables offer a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable way to accelerate the pace of electrification. Expanding the range of appliances powered by off-grid renewables can also encourage income generating activities in rural areas.
Through Sosai, Habiba also created Women of the North for Excellence (the MASI), an initiative where women can become entrepreneurs through leadership in commission-based projects.
One project involves renting out solar dryers for drying peppers and other crops, thereby increasing their shelf life. Nigeria accounts for about 50 per cent of Africa’s pepper production and in rural northern Nigeria as much as 40 per cent of a family’s income can come from harvesting peppers.
Women play a major role in agriculture, and the introduction of solar powered technology will go a long way to improving their economic and social status.
2018/09/17: We can judge the moral fibre of a society by how it treats its least well-off members.
That sounds like a reasonably straightforward idea. But knowing who the poorest people are is not as easy as it sounds. The traditional measure of poverty in the UK has been to consider a household as being in relative poverty if its income is below 60 per cent of the median household income after housing costs.
by counting assets and assessing people’s real needs more effectively around two and a half million people who were in the old poverty measure - in particular many pensioners with assets - are no longer counted as poor. These are replaced by a different set of people - mostly people with disabilities and families with children.
While the overall figures have remained broadly the same, this paints a different picture for UK society.
Statisticians hope that their new measure can command a political consensus so we can at least agree who the poorest are.
2018/09/14: This all suggests that, given the scale and speed of change needed on sustainability, many and perhaps most of today’s major old companies, simply won’t get there. Not because they couldn’t in theory, but because they won’t in practice. They have some combination of products, assets, culture and values that means transitioning is simply too difficult, too expensive in the short term or just isn’t going to happen in time. They will instead be replaced by new companies – a process profoundly beneficial to the economy.
If this is right, it calls into question the very foundation of the global movement for corporate sustainability. We need to have that discussion.
2018/08/18: Brexit is failing simply because it cannot be delivered without seriously hurting UK and the lives of ordinary people.
2018/09/15: data from sensors located in vehicles have an important advantage over traditional data-gathering systems:
Currently, city managers and planners are faced with the challenge of relying on incomplete or out of date information.
A less obvious application of Geotab’s dataset is the ability to spot problems like potholes. Aggregated vertical axis accelerometer data from vehicles can be analyzed in near real-time to indicate areas in need of road maintenance. Other aspects of urban life that can be monitored in this way include areas where cars idle, thus wasting fuel and increasing air pollution, and roads where drivers are searching for parking places. Gathering this kind of data would be expensive using other approaches, but emerges naturally from aggregated traffic flows.
Huge datasets generated by sensors on connected vehicles offer interesting new opportunities for urban analytics. But there are naturally privacy concerns, too. Connected vehicles inevitably track the people who drive them. Analyzing the habits of drivers as revealed by their journeys can expose extremely sensitive information - think of repeated visits to a hospital, or unexpected overnight stays at private houses.
2018/09/15: Then Peer Production sat down and wept, because there were not other worlds for her to conquer
the Irish backstop not only represents the withdrawal treaty’s backbone, but also the key to our future economic status. If the UK rejects any kind of internal sea border for tariffs or regulations, it follows that Northern Ireland will dictate Great Britain’s future status. In the absence of agreed alternatives, a backstop demands a permanent customs union for Northern Ireland – and so the UK must also commit to that possibility.
And if the UK must remain in the whole single market so goods can travel freely on the island of Ireland, that will reveal itself at least implicitly in the withdrawal text. The only alternative is for Great Britain and Northern Ireland to go their separate economic – and ultimately perhaps political – ways. May has already declared that no UK prime minister could allow that, and if she tried, she would remain UK prime minister only a few moments longer.
Consequently Brexit becomes blind only through a government which has its hands tied and still tries to blindfold us. The British people will view this relationship clearly enough: a near-vassal state scenario in which the UK remains in key EU institutions without any meaningful say or vote in them. Such an endgame is loathed by Leavers and Remainers alike.
2018/09/13: A few years ago, corporate sovereignty -- officially known as "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) -- was an indispensable and important element of trade deals. As a result, it would crop up on Techdirt quite often. But the world is finally moving on, and old-style corporate sovereignty is losing its appeal. As we reported last year, the US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, hinted that the US might not support ISDS in future trade deals, but it was not clear what that might mean in practice. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) site has an interesting article that explores the new contours of corporate sovereignty:
The preliminary trade agreement the U.S. recently reached with Mexico may offer a glimpse of what could happen with NAFTA's Chapter 11 [governing ISDS].
A U.S. official said the two countries wanted ISDS to be "limited" to cases of expropriation, bias against foreign companies or failure to treat all trading partners equally.
2'18/09/16: For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.
Growth is also becoming harder to achieve due to declining productivity gains, market saturation, and ecological degradation. If current trends continue, there may be no growth at all in Europe within a decade. Right now the response is to try to fuel growth by issuing more debt, shredding environmental regulations, extending working hours, and cutting social protections. This aggressive pursuit of growth at all costs divides society, creates economic instability, and undermines democracy.
2008/06/30: My point is not to suggest that Elberse is wrong and that I’m right, it’s only to point out that different definitions of what the Long Tail is, from “head” to “tail”, will generate wildly different results.
Anyway, it’s getting late and I just wanted to highlight a few other interesting data points and conclusions from her article:
Much of the paper is about consumer satisfaction in the head vs tail. In the Quickflix data, she says, “customers give lower ratings to obscure titles…it is a myth that obscure books, films and songs are treasured. What consumers buy in Internet channels is much the same as what they have always bought.”
That may be true for the specific example of the Australian DVD data, but it is not clear from the paper why she feels able to extrapolate that to all Internet commerce.
The heaviest DVD renters were the most likely to venture into the tail; light consumers largely concentrated on the hits.
In music, of the 2.4 million digital tracks sold in 2007 in the US (most of them through iTunes) 24% sold only one copy and 91% sold fewer than 100 copies.