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Whither work?

Thursday, 17 November, 2016 0 Comments

“It’s one of the dirty secrets of economics: technology progress does grow the economy and create wealth, but there is no economic law that says everyone will benefit.” — Erik Brynjolfsson

Who he? The Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of the best-selling The Second Machine Age, is he. Brynjolfsson maintains that in the race against the machine, some are likely to win while many are likely to lose. It’s a view that’s gaining traction as pessimism about the role of technology in a globalized economy increases, but Stephen DeWitt is more optimistic.

He’s held senior positions at HP, Cisco and Symantec, but instead of retiring, he became the CEO at Work Market, a rapidly-growing platform that’s reformulating the worker-employer equation. Backed by New York VC Fred Wilson, Work Market helps connect workers with companies that need to get stuff done.

The concept isn’t new. The “gig economy” of Uber and TaskRabbit is familiar to many, but DeWitt believes that this “on demand economy” will include all kinds of work eventually. Millions of people are stuck in jobs that are unnecessary and inefficient, he argues, and points out that by 2030 there will be 3.2 billion skilled workers on earth, all connected to the internet. Will a company filled with full time workers be the ideal model then? Or might the model be an agile core of managers assigning work to a network of workers competing for projects based on their skills, reputations and their ability to deliver results? That could spell the end of unnecessary and inefficient jobs. Or it might lead to a dystopia. We are approaching the crossroads and we’ll have to turn left or right.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” — Peter Drucker

The gig economy


Ten hours of Weightless

Wednesday, 16 November, 2016 0 Comments

The most relaxing song in the world is Weightless by ambient band Marconi Union from Manchester. Who says? Dr David Lewis-Hodgson, chairman of Mindlab International, says. The band produced the song in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy and, according to Dr Lewis-Hodgson:

“The song makes use of many musical principles that have been shown to individually have a calming effect. By combining these elements in the way Marconi Union have has created the perfect relaxing song. It contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50. While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat.”

For those suffering from extreme stress and pressure, here is the ten-hour version.


BMW Vision: selling miles, not cars

Tuesday, 15 November, 2016 0 Comments

How will cars function in the future? What role will cars play in the future? These are the questions BMW is dealing with today because tomorrow is just around the bend and the Bavarian auto maker wants to know if it should brake or accelerate. The idea that an autonomous car would drop you off at work, come back to pick you up in the evening, with all the shopping you ordered neatly arranged on the back seat, still sounds too far-fetched to most, but not to BMW’s engineers.

In their Vision Next 100 scenario, they envisage a world where artificial intelligence powers autonomous vehicles, where traffic jams and are eliminated and the accident rate is reduced to zero. In this increasingly urbanized world, autonomous ride-sharing will be the norm and 90 percent of today’s vehicles will no longer be needed on city streets. Of the current two million cars in New York City, only 200,000 will be needed, for example.

On the face of it, then, the future does not look bright for automobile manufacturers. Why make cars if people won’t need them? Cars will still be produced, of course, because the Ubers of tomorrow will want fleets of them, but it’s the business model that’s going to change. BMW will make its money from selling miles to passengers instead of selling cars to individual customers. Well, that’s how they see tomorrow’s world from the top floors of the BMW Hochhaus in Munich.

BMW


The Revenge of the Deplorables

Monday, 14 November, 2016 0 Comments

Deplorables: Nounified, pluralized form of deplorable, an adjective meaning “lamentable, very sad, grievous, miserable, wretched” and usually used in reference to events, conditions, or circumstances. The adjective is derived from the Latin verb plorare, to weep or bewail.

That definition is provided by “Chief Wordworker” Nancy Friedman on her Fritinancy website and she goes on to explain that the most topical use of the word occurred during remarks by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on 9 September at the LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City.

That was then. Now, Bloomberg View columnist Clive Crook is writing that the “Deplorables” are having a moment. Snippet:

“If you can’t manage genuine respect for the people whose votes you want, at least try to fake it. However, forgive me if I go further. It really ought to be possible to manage some actual respect. The complaints that Trump is addressing deserve better than to be recast in caricature then dismissed with contempt… Elite opinion admits of only one answer: People are more stupid and bigoted than we ever imagined. Without denying that there’s plenty of stupidity and bigotry to go around, I think it’s more a matter of elite incompetence. Elite opinion heard the rebels’ complaints, but instead of acknowledging what was valid, it rejected the grievances in every particular and dismissed the complainers as fools or worse. The elites weren’t deaf. They were dumb.”

And blind, too.


In His Own Words: Bob Dylan paints

Sunday, 13 November, 2016 0 Comments

“I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past. That you have to master the idioms of your own time before you can have any identity in the present tense.” So writes Bob Dylan, the recent Nobel laureate in Literature, in the introduction to Bob Dylan, The Beaten Path, an exhibition of his landscapes at the Halcyon Gallery in London. The exhibition is on view until Sunday, 11 December.

Bob Dylan


Matt Oczkowski is the Trump data king

Saturday, 12 November, 2016 2 Comments

From Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight to The New York Times’ The Upshot to the Clinton campaign’s own numbers crunchers, it seemed a formality that Hillary would win the White House. Why, even last Friday, her campaign manager Robby Mook was rejoicing in the so-called “Clinton coalition” of early voters he believed were leading her campaign to victory. Matt Oczkowski saw a different picture.

Note the name: Matt Oczkowski. He’s the Director of Product for president-elect Donald Trump’s data team, Cambridge Analytica, and he’s the man wot won it, in many ways. While the triumphant pollsters and the sycophantic pundit were unable and unwilling to comprehend anything but a Clinton win, Oczkowski kept modelling and his data suggested a different outcome. During the final 10 days of the campaign, he detected subtle changes in his polling. Then, when early voting stats started coming in, his team saw a decrease in black turnout, an increase in Hispanic turnout and an increase in turnout among those over 55. Oczkowski reworked his models and saw Trump’s path to power take shape. In the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin, the rural vote told the story. “The amount of disenfranchised voters who came out to vote in rural America has been significant,” Oczkowski told CBS. The rest is history.


In Flanders Fields

Friday, 11 November, 2016 0 Comments

During the Second Battle of Ypres, a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2 May 1915 by a German artillery shell that landed near his position. The Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae conducted the burial service and it is believed that he began to write the poem In Flanders Fields later that evening.

poppy Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in many countries to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Fighting formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”. Inspired by Major McCrae’s poem, the custom of wearing a remembrance poppy at the “eleventh hour” to commemorate military personnel who have died in all wars began. It continues to this day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Major John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

Losses during the Second Battle of Ypres are estimated at 69,000 Allied troops, against 35,000 German, the difference in numbers being explained by the Germans’ innovative use of chlorine gas.


How Blockchain Will Change Your Life

Thursday, 10 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Blockchain offers a way to track items or transactions using a shared digital ‘ledger.’ Blocks of new transactions are added at the end of the chain, and encryption ensures that it remains unbroken—tamper-proof and error-free. This is significantly more efficient than the current methods for logging and sharing such information.”

So writes Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, in today’s Wall Street Journal. She says IBM estimate that applying blockchain to global supply chains could generate more than $100 billion in annual efficiencies. “More than 80 leading finance and technology organizations, including IBM, have joined the Linux Foundation Hyperledger, a project aimed at creating an enterprise-grade blockchain framework. More than 600 additional firms have already applied to join the consortium,” she adds.

blockchain

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum has created a new working group on blockchain co-chaired by the former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The goal is to explore how the blockhain “could impact industry, governments and society in the future, and design innovative governance models that ensure that their benefits are maximized and the associated risks kept under control.”

Blockchain resources:

Networking: The Blockchain Linkedin Tech Group
News: Blockchain Tech Report
Bitcoin: Coindesk


The day the dodgy data died

Wednesday, 9 November, 2016 0 Comments

“All of the money poured by a financially challenged media industry into polls and polling analysis was for naught. It profoundly misinformed. It created a compelling and powerful narrative that was the opposite of what was actually happening. There may be few instances, except perhaps under authoritarian regimes, where the media has so successfully propounded a view of events not only of its own making but at such odds with reality. Trump is a simple proof: forget polls—they say what you want them to say.”

Michael Wolff in delicious, righteous form, there. It’s a snippet from Trump Win Exposes Media’s Smug Failures and each observation is a gem:

“The transmutation of political identities has arguably devolved into two parties: the Trump one, the angry retro people, and the Media Party, representing the smug modern people, each anathema to and uncomprehending of the other. Certainly, there was no moment in the campaign where the Media Party did not see itself as a virtuous and, most often, determinative factor in the race. Given this, the chants of ‘CNN sucks’ at Trump rallies should not have been entirely surprising.”


The Making of the President 2016

Tuesday, 8 November, 2016 0 Comments

It has been an extraordinary election campaign in which some of the most selfless and some of the most squalid characters in American public life have played a role. Today is the day when their plans and calculations are subjected to the will of the people in the pageant that’s re-enacted every four years. Here’s how one chronicler captured the spectacular transaction by which a US president is chosen:

“They had begun to vote in the villages of New Hampshire at midnight, as they always do, seven and a half hours before the candidate rose. His men had canvassed Hart’s Location in New Hampshire days before, sending his autographed picture to each of the twelve registered voters in the village. They knew that they had five votes certain there, that their opponent had five votes certain — and that two were still undecided. Yet it was worth the effort. For Hart’s Location’s results would be the first flash of news on the wires to greet millions of voters as they opened their morning papers over coffee. But from there on it was unpredictable — invisible.

By the time the candidate left his hotel at 8.30, several million had already voted across the country — in schools, libraries, churches, stores, post offices. These, too, were invisible. But it was certain that at this hour, the vote was overwhelmingly Republican. On election day America is Republican until five or six in the evening. It is in the last few hours of the day that working people and their families vote, on their way home from work or after supper; it is then, at evening, that America goes Democratic. If it goes Democratic at all. All of this is invisible, for it is the essence of the act that as it happens it is a mystery in which million of people each fit one fragment of a total secret together, none of them knowing the shape of the whole.

The Making of the President What results from the fitting together of these secrets is, of course, the most awesome transfer of power in the world — the power to marshal and mobilize, the power to send men to kill or be killed, the power to tax and destroy, the power to create and the responsibility to do so, the power to guide and the responsibility to heal — all committed into the hands of one man… Yet as the transfer of this power takes place, there is nothing to be seen except an occasional line outside a church or school, or a file of people fidgeting in the rain, waiting to enter the booths. No bands play on election day, no troops march, no guns are readied, no conspirators gather in secret headquarters. The noise and the blare, the bands and the screaming, the pageantry and oratory of the long full campaign fade on election day. All the planning is over, all effort spent. Now the candidates must wait.”

An excerpt there from “The Making of the President 1960” by Theodore H. White. Much has changed since White wrote those words 56 years ago, but the fundamentals remain the same. After more than 200 years, the US system remains the best version of running a complex society yet devised. We hope there will be a winner today who is able to reconcile the red and blue states and we hope that people like Putin will have had no part in choosing the victor.


Google AR and VR: Tango and Daydream

Monday, 7 November, 2016 0 Comments

November is going to be big for Google’s AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) initiatives. Daydream is being promoted as “Simple, high quality virtual reality” and the accompanying headset is made with “lightweight fabric, inspired by what you wear.” The AR system, Tango, which uses computer vision to enable smartphones to detect their position relative to the world around them without using GPS, is now available on Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro phone. With Tango, app developers can create experiences that include indoor navigation, 3D mapping and physical space measurement.

Example: iStaging for Tango. Blurb: “Use augmented reality to combine your favorite home furnishings. Create the decoration of your dreams for your home. And get social — take pictures of your own interior designs and share them with your friends.”