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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Technology
Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:58 am
The disruptive force of technology is killing off older companies earlier and at a much faster rate than decades ago, squeezing employees, investors and other stakeholders, according to a new report.
“The average age of a company listed on the S&P 500 has fallen from almost 60 years old in the 1950s to less than 20 years currently,” a team of Credit Suisse analysts led by Eugene Klerk wrote in a note to investors Thursday.
Average lifespan of an S&P 500 company
Source: Credit Suisse
Increased buyout activity beginning in the 1980s certainly had a hand in shortening that life span, but the increased pace of the disruption by companies like Amazon, Alphabet and Apple today is causing the trend to accelerate even more.
“We argue that disruption is nothing new but that the speed, complexity and global nature of it is,” the report says. “In fact, it is clear that a number of sectors are currently impacted by multiple disruptive forces simultaneously.”
This sea change is playing out in the stock market this year with shares of Apple, Alphabet and Amazon all doubling, and in some cases tripling, the 9 percent return of the S&P 500 in 2017. The Global X Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF, which tracks companies leading the automation of older industries, is up more than 30 percent this year.
Automation is the No. 1 “disruptive force,” the report said.
“Sectors our analysts see as being at the epicentre of disruption include Autos, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Financials and Food Retail,” the report says.
Credit Suisse also highlighted companies in major sectors that the firm views as the most likely to survive any coming disruption.
Aerospace behemoth Boeing ranks among those companies Credit Suisse says will survive a “substantial transformation of the relationship” between manufacturers and suppliers.
Multitrillion dollar financial services firm Allianz is one of the most resilient in the insurance group, according to Klerk and his team. The analysts expect the insurance industry to see automotive premiums revenue cut in half as “automated cars lead to fewer accidents.”
In technology, STMicroelectronics on the hardware side and SAP on the software side are two of Credit Suisse’s picks for companies that will survive disruption. STMicroelectronics should see accelerating growth from “semiconductor content growth” in automobiles, Credit Suisse says. The deepening influence of the cloud puts SAP in position to capitalize from what Credit Suisse said is “one of the most disruptive technologies.”
Not all companies will go bankrupt because of disruption. Rather, the report said, there will be an increase in M&A as more of them team up to compete with the disruptors.
This slow killing of corporate America won’t happen without some big social consequences, the Wall Street firm said.
“Personal wealth creation is likely to become ever more challenging, resulting in more polarised societies. The potential fallout raises uncertainty over economic and corporate profit growth,” it said.
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Posted: at 3:58 am
Customers provide their first impressions about eatsa, a vegetarian restaurant that uses iPads to place orders and holes in the wall to deliver meals as well as with the trend of society as a whole towards less human interaction in daily acivities.
Customers punch in their orders at iPads at eatsa, an automated restaurant in downtown Washington DC, on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.(Photo: Henry Taylor, USAT)
The first thing you notice when you walk into eatsa is the staff. Its almost non-existent. Theres no cash register, no counter where you pick up your order at this highlyautomated restaurant chain. A single worker, sometimes two, mans the floor to answer questions.
Customers can enter and exit, food in hand in under a couple of minutes all without ever interacting with another human being.
Its an increasingly common scene as companies from Amazon to Little Caesars and Uberintroduce more ways to go about daily tasks while avoiding face-to-face contact. On top of email, texting and social media, such technology is undeniably changing society for better, for worseor somewhere in-between.
There are times when people think it serves their purposes, and there are other times when they think its distressing that I dont spend as much time with humans as I might have in the past, says Lee Rainie, director of Internet and technology research at Pew Research.
Research in the area is mixed. On the one hand, its uncovered that those who use technology the most are often the most social people enriching their lives with devices and social media in ways that involve interactions with others. On the other hand, its also found that the mere presence of a smartphone during a conversation decreases the feeling of connectedness with another person.
Carol Mitchell, 69, doesnt own a smartphone. She isnt on Twitter. She regularly turns off her cellphone one of those flip models that make it ridiculously hard to text and only checks in once or twice a day. And things get done. The world doesnt stop going around, she notes.
Still, she uses an iPad, and Facetime connects her with her grandchildren in England. But she misses more frequent contact with former co-workers who now only get together every few months because they connect via email. She blames a lot of the negativity in the world on the technology that shifts us away from in-person contact.
In an email you don’t get the emotional side of it, you don’t get the real feeling for exactly what they meant by whatever they said, she says.
Separated from Mitchell by more than five decades is Zoey Golabek, 15, a rising sophomore at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va. The social butterfly isnt one of the teenagers you hear about in the news. Sure, she Snapchats with at least 10 friendsevery day and uses all the latest messaging apps. But she only texts with one or two people on a daily basis and sounds quite a lot like Mitchell when it comes to social interactions: Zoeyprefers talking in person.
It’s more personal and you know what theyre sayingbecause through text if you were to communicate with someone, you don’t know what they mean by it because there’s no emotion, she says. Sometimes they could be sending an emoji and not really mean it.
Robyn Povich, 52, has seen the effect on her own business.About five years ago, the yoga teacher and mindfulness coach from Chantilly, Va., began fielding requests from some clients who wanted to use Skype for their coaching sessions even though they lived just a short drive away. I had to learn how to work that way with someone who Im not physically seeing whos perhaps having some emotion and how you deal with that, she says.
Customers eat at a center table at eatsa, an automated restaurant in downtown Washington on Aug. 22, 2017.(Photo: Henry Taylor, USA TODAY)
In recent years, more companies have introduced technologies largely devoid of human interaction.
Uber is testing self-driving cars in a handful ofcities. Amazon opened an automated grocery store late last year, still in beta testing, where customers (currently only its employees)can grab items and go no line, no cashier, not even self-checkout lanes. All that’s needed is a smartphone, which tracks the items carted out the door. Earlier this month, Little Caesars unveiled The Pizza Portal, a machine that lets you buy and grab your pie without a cashier.
Little Caesars: Pizza Portal lets customers grab grub, skip human interaction
U-Haul: Self-service option lets customers rent trucks with smartphone
Amazon: There’s no checkout line at this grocery store
Self-driving cars: Cities vie to become hubs
At eatsa on bustling K Street in Washingtonjust blocks from the White House, customers enter the store, walk up to an iPad kiosk and place an order for one of the vegetarian, quinoa-based bowls. Within a couple minutes, theyre taking videos, Snapchats or photos selfies are a regular occurrence as their food, seemingly magically, appears.
Along a wall of cubbies, one lights up with their name. They double tap the screen and the cubby opens. A few customers are so busy documenting the experience that the door closes before they can retrieve their order another need for the employee, who walks the floor wearing a red shirt emblazoned with eatsas design.
The time and cost efficiencies created from the ability to zip in and out of a restaurantor grocery storeand order an item in milliseconds at the push of a button or tell a car where you wantto go without it making a wrong turn are obvious.
But what happens when we cut out those innocuous, fleeting moments with the person behind the counter or in the drivers seat? Allison Pugh, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, says it amounts to placing ourselves in social bubbles that consist only of like-minded people.
These casual interactions are the few cases in which youre interacting with people potentially of a different classor a different raceor a different gender identityor a different nationality or really even more important perhaps, people who think differently, she says. We are walling ourselves off from each other.
Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, a non-profit that studies media and technology, says the situation isnt as dire as some make it sound and actually can enhance our lives.
Everything that eliminates a routine task frees up opportunities to do the things that were uniquely capable of doing, which is thinking and creating and connecting, she says.
In addition, the kinds of connections we can maintain through social media actually increaseour sense of intimacy because we no longer have large gaps of time between seeing someone, Rutledge says.
David Pakman, partner at Venrock, a venture capital firm, says the automated technologies he invests in allow people to spend more time cultivating meaningful connections and relationships, and those connections ones that we depend on each others humanity for, like when you need good advice from a friend wont disappear.
I don’t think that means humans arent interacting with each other I just think they’re drawn to either higher value interactions, more expressive interactions or interactions that involve compassion, understanding, nuance, context, he says.
A customer waits with a cellphone for an order at eatsa, an automated restaurant in downtown Washington on Aug. 22, 2017.(Photo: Henry Taylor, USA TODAY)
Shalini Misra, a Virginia Tech professor who has researched how smartphones negatively impact everyday interactions, says shes already seeing a profound change in her students a generation that hasnt known the world before the Internet.
A student came to her to ask the seemingly easy-to-answer question: How do I talk to another human being. I would love to learn to have a conversation some time, one undergraduate student said to her, Misra recalls. The student adds: Especially, how does one end a conversation.
We cannot consider this technology as a benign object, Misra says. Something is amiss.
Pughs outlook is also not particularly bright.
There is a strong chance that these small decisions we make to limit our interactions with others will lead us to become ever more isolated, she says.
Rutledge, though, says the answer lies in balance, setting boundaries and taking responsibility if we can achieve it.
We all feel perfectly able to not to talk to someone we find insulting or annoying, but we angst over whether we should unfriend someone, she says. We havent translated our ability to set boundaries into this new environment.
That means we need to understand how the human brain works, figure out how to engage in Facebook without it taking up all our timeand understand that technology is extremely compelling, she says.
The really positive outcome will be if people really take that responsibility and establish their own boundaries, and the negative is if people keep expecting other people to solve their problems for them, she says.
Ten years ago, clients came to Povich to find balance in their lives with things such as watching too much TV, dissatisfaction with their jobs or dealing with their marriage ending. Now people are coming to me with comparisons about other peoples lives, how theyre not matching up to what they think they should be accomplishing based on other peoples lives, she says, and theyre basing that judgment on what theyre seeing on Facebook and Instagram.
Mitchell is hopeful she can stay abreast of the technology without being consumed by it. We dont have any choice, were going to have to deal with it as human beings.But Im beginning to wonder if were not all becoming part machine anyway, she says.
Zoeytakes a slightly different approach.
People tend to talk a lot more on social media than in person these days, she says, so when they talk to me way too much on social media I say Im not feeling it, Ill talk to you later.
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Posted: at 3:58 am
A recent piece on Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) presented a case that as the company’s technology lags behind that of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Nvidia Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA), and that it wont be able to compete effectively once the mining spike subsidies. Well, we beg to differ. Lets dive into the details.
The bear thesis was based on the premise that AMD finished in the second place on both the Ryzen and Vega fronts.
First of all, “being second best isnt the problem at all. AMDs success is driven from closing the gap between CPU technologies – it isn’t based on beating Intel’s technology. To that end, the company deployed 14nm process in order to close the technology gap.
In the past, AMDs technology problem stemmed from being on a lagging process node. That problem is now solved amid GlobalFoundries push into advanced processing technologies powered by the likes of Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM).
There is no point to inking pages in discussing the performance of Ryzen, Epyc and Threadripper. There is a lot of material around the web covering the performance aspect. The point is that AMD successfully closed the performance gap between its technology and the technology of Intel. This will lead to market share gains going forward.
The author goes on to discuss Ryzen by comparing it to the failure of Bulldozer. Intel sure does take the crown with single-threaded performance. However, discarding Ryzen just because Bulldozer failed in multi-threading is a faulty argument.
Bulldozer was based on a 32nm process, which went to compete against Intels 22nm Ivy Bridge. Even if Bulldozer had been efficiently designed, node lag would’ve put AMD at a significant disadvantage. Thats the key difference between Bulldozer and Ryzen.
AMD is at parity with Intels process technology, not to mention Jim Keller and the infinity fabric. Note that Jim Keller was also the lead architect for the original Athlon 64. He was also involved in designing Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) A4 and A5 processors. Both Jim Keller and infinity fabric were absent in Bulldozer. That was the reason Bulldozer didnt scale well on multiple cores.
To review, Ryzen isnt anything like Bulldozer. It uses infinity fabric to utilize more cores efficiently. More importantly, AMD’s process technology is at par with Intels offerings. Intel had the edge with its process lead. That lead is now lost. Even the new Coffee Lake processors are based on 14nm process.
All in all, Ryzen cant be compared with Bulldozer at all. The competitive environment is altogether different with factors like level process technology and infinity fabric at play. The author has put forward the argument that multi-threading is AMD’s excuse. This doesn’t seem to be true. AnandTech has the following to say about multi-threading:
“AMD pulls ahead when anything needs serious threads by a large amount, and most of the time the memory arrangement is not as much of an Achilles heel as might be portrayed. If a user has a workload that scales, AMD is bringing the cores to help it scale as wide as possible.
Then, there’s price
“Intels i9-7900X is priced at $999, the exact same level that AMD has pitched its flagship 1950X the latter of which proved almost 50% quicker in the benchmark tests”, notes Techradar.
Another argument put forward by the author was that multi-threading might not be attractive in the consumer market. Well, “more cores at a cheaper price” is a potential selling point for AMD. Apart from enthusiast and gamers, the average consumer will treat this as positive news.
Moreover, AMD isn’t primarily focused on the consumer market. Its devoted to take market share from Intel in the enterprise space. Lisa Su had frequently touted the growth of AMD’s enterprise market. We can see that AMD is being successful in that arena.
China is becoming the playground for AMDs datacenter market. Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY) and JD.com (NASDAQ:JD) followed suit as Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) announced deployment of Epyc in its data centers. Baidu attracts the most traffic from China. JD is 7th in traffic rankings. And everyone knows Tencent as the company that controls most of the Chinese mobile games market. AppAnnie puts Tencent as the No.1 company in terms of its revenue-generating ability.
With all due respect, multi-threading isnt an excuse. Its a real threat to Intels dominance.
According to the AMD bear:
“Vega 64 is such a complete flop, it seriously jeopardizes the company.”
Well, we have several reservations about that. First, Vega cant be a flop even assuming sub-par performance. The cryptocurrency craze is actually driving the demand for AMDs GPU products.
“While management wasn’t specific on how much, the GPU revenue upside was driven by cryptocurrency applications, noted Stifel’s analyst Kevin Cassidy while commenting on the companys second-quarter earnings release.
However, bears are fast to point out that Vega isnt the best mining solution, according to the recent data. Vega 64 mines up to 37 MH/s, as compared to 29MH/s mined by GTX 1070. Despite this lead, power requirements make Vega unfavorable for mining. However, this can change with firmware and mining software updates. Even if Vega stays sub-par in mining, gamers will buy Vega given the unavailability of other cards.
Moreover, Vega 64 matches GTX 1080 in performance. Vega 56 has an ~8% performance advantage over GTX 1070. Price-wise, AMD is a better option. Vega 56 is a $100 cheaper than GTX 1070, and it performs better than the latter.
Power consumption is the bear’s key argument. Gamers usually dont care about power draw. Back in the day, price and performance were the main factors I considered while buying the GeForce 8800 Ultra.
When it comes to gaming cards, the pecking order is price and performance, followed by power.
AnandTech puts it like this:
“Having priced the RX Vega cards aggressively enough that at least on a price/performance basis, theyre competitive with NVIDIA if not enjoying a small lead.”
How is Vega a threat for AMDs business model given the fact that the company generated around 46% of its revenue from the enterprise, embedded and semi-custom segment during the second quarter of 2017? Further, the rest of the revenue isnt just from GPUs. The computing and graphics segment also includes desktop, notebook processors and chipsets. Therefore, even if Vega flops, AMD can still stay a going concern.
Again, Vega isn’t a complete flop, nor does it jeopardize AMDs business.
Another argument against AMD is the burning of cash. The author notes:
“Worse still, AMD lost money last quarter, despite massive demand from currency miners.
Strictly speaking, AMD reported negative cash flow. It didnt lose money in an economic sense. Its accounts receivable balance increased by a staggering $303 million during the first half of 2017, indicating increased demand for the companys products. Therefore, fixating on cash flow might not be fair in the case of AMD.
(Source: AMD Q2 2017 earnings release)
Increased receivable balance indicates healthy demand, which is deducted while calculating cash flows. The company adjusted $303 million in its cash flow statement during the first half of 2017. But this will reverse once debtors pay those receivables. In an economic sense, it wouldnt be right to say that AMD is losing money.
AMD has closed the technology gap, thanks to 14nm process technology and Jim Keller’s designing capabilities. Lagging technology doesnt affect the bull thesis at all, as the thesis was based on narrowing the technology gap. If AMD were to beat Intel, it should be in Intels place in terms of market cap. Anyhow, second best is a moot point as far as the investment thesis is concerned.
Regarding multi-threading, AMD is a serious threat to Intel in the datacenter market. Chinas market is already showing signs of AMD’s product adoption. Ryzen is completely different compared to Bulldozer. Bulldozers failure wont be reflected in Ryzen. Thanks to cryptocurrencies, AMDs GPU side has the time to make amends. The balance sheet is indicative of healthy business coming the companys way.
In effect, AMDs technology does fall short, but not short enough.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: This publication is for informational purpose only and reflects the opinion of Focus Equitys analysts. This opinion doesnt constitute a professional investment advice. Our senior technology analyst compiled this research piece. Focus Equity is a team of analysts that strives to provide investment ideas to the U.S. equity investors.
Morgan Stanley: This next big technology trend could start the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – CNBC
Posted: at 3:58 am
Morgan Stanley said quantum computing will have dramatic implications across several industries during the next decade.
Quantum computers use atomic particles and the laws of physics to perform calculations. They are faster than current computers and will enable much higher computing power, according to Morgan Stanley.
“With more companies moving quantum computers from the lab to commercial activities, we believe widespread quantum computing is about to become a reality and holds the key to double the high-end computing market,” the firm’s research team wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.
“We believe quantum computing could trigger the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution, with far reaching consequences for many sectors where computing power is becoming a limitation for R&D.”
Here are the industries and applications Morgan Stanley said will be most affected by the new computing paradigm:
“Financials, Pharma (drug discovery), Oil & Gas (well data analysis), Utilities (nuclear fusion), Chemicals (polymer design), Aerospace & Defense (plane design), Capital Goods (digital manufacturing and predictive maintenance), Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data search in general.”
The firm said IBM, Google, Microsoft and Nokia Bell Labs currently have the “most credible” quantum computing pipelines.
With faster computing, “classical algorithms, which would take years to solve on a current supercomputer, could take just hours or minutes on a quantum computer,” they said.
The analysts said that, according to IBM, the current size of the high-end computing market is $5 billion to $6 billion per year. Morgan Stanley predicts the market will grow to $10 billion a year in the next decade due to the rise of quantum computing.
“We expect the next 10 years to see a rebalancing favoring commercial vs consumer computing as quantum computers are able to solve many problems that could not be solved up until now,” they wrote.
Posted: at 3:58 am
San Francisco-based Blendis simplifying the process of mortgage applications for both borrowers and lenders, but is looking to expand into other lending products. To do that the company has raised $100 million in new funding led by Greylock, with participation from a bunch of existing investors.
Founded in 2012 by a group of Palantir veterans, Blend builds technology used by multiple big banks to help collect and evaluate information in their mortgage underwriting processes.
By helping banks move their application process online, Blend is able to simplify the user experience and increase completed applications. Furthermore, its infrastructure is instrumental in helping underwriters at financial institutions to keep track of mortgages in process and keep them connected to their clients.
As more banks compete for mortgage business online, Blend has been able to rapidly expand its customer base. In the last 18 months, the company has tripled the number of financial institutions that use its technology, and in 2017 alone Blend has seen more than $30 billion in mortgage applications.
With all that in mind, the company raised another big round of funding, this time from Greylock Partners. Existing investorsEmergence Capital, 8VC, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Nyca Partners all participated in the round, which brings total financing to $166 million.
While the mortgage industry represent a huge portion of the total lending market, Blends technology could be applicable to other lending products as well. While its just dipping its toes into those adjacent markets, its existing reach and customer base means that it could move quickly once it launches new products.
Posted: at 3:58 am
By Melinda Gates By Melinda Gates August 24 at 7:00 AM
When my youngest child was born in 2002, the flip phone was still the coolest piece of tech you could get. Now Im told that all three of my children are part of what demographers are calling iGen.
I spent my career at Microsoft trying to imagine what technology could do, and still I wasnt prepared for smartphones and social media. Like many parents with children my kids age, I didnt understand how they would transform the way my kids grew up and the way I wanted to parent. Im still trying to catch up.
The pace of change is what amazes me the most. The challenges my younger daughter will be facing when she starts high school in the fall are light-years away from what my elder daughter, whos now in college, experienced in 2010. My younger daughters friends live a lot of their lives through filters on Instagram and Snapchat, two apps that didnt even exist when my elder daughter was dipping a toe in social media.
[Teens say theyre addicted to technology. Heres how parents can help.]
But I am optimistic about what smartphones and social media can do for people. I am thrilled to see kids learning on smartphones, doctors using apps to diagnose diseases and marginalized groups such as gay and lesbian students finding support they never had before through social networks.
Still, as a mother who wants to make sure her children are safe and happy, I worry. And I think back to how I might have done things differently. Parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my childrens pockets. Phones and apps arent good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who dont yet have the emotional tools to navigate lifes complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. Its more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.
For other parents trying to decide how to do their job in a way that feels right despite the bewildering array of changes brought on by smartphones and social media, I want to share some of the resources that have helped me and my friends. Hopefully, these tips can spark conversation and help parents become resources for each other.
A new French labour law gives employees the ‘right to switch off’ from email, smartphones and other electronic leashes to preserve off-hours and holiday time. (Reuters)
The Internet is a wonderful thing. It gives kids the freedom to move around in a big world, to experiment, to connect with others. As a parent, though, I know that I am responsible for making sure that my kids are ready for all that freedom and that they know how to keep themselves safe. Heres to staying on top of all the changes social media is bringing to our kids lives, so that we can continue to guide and support them in this fast-changing world.
Melinda Gates is a businesswoman and philanthropist. She is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You can find her on Facebook @Melinda Gates, Twitter @melindagates and Instagram @melindafrenchgates.
FollowOn Parenting on Facebookfor more essays, news and updates. You cansign up herefor our weekly newsletter. We are on Twitter@OnParenting.
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Posted: at 3:58 am
Dutch giant Royal Philips announced plan Thursday to build a health technology center in Tennessee that officials expect will create more than 800 jobs in the Nashville area over the next two years.
“We take great pride in the health care strength here in Middle Tennessee, and this company will only add to that,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “I can’t think of a better company than Philips to complement and support Nashville’s regional health care community.”
Haslam said he had hosted Philips executives at the governor’s mansion and also visited officials in Amsterdam on a recent trade mission to Europe and praised the company’s “depth and talent and commitment.”
Philips plans to consolidate various operations in Tennessee, including customer service, finance, human resources and marketing.
Craig Gruchacz, the head of global business services in North America at Philips, praised state officials for fostering a “health care technology ecosystem” in Tennessee.
“We are eager to share our ideas and our best practices and also learning from other like-minded organizations,” he said.
Gruchacz said the company is scouting sites in the Nashville area and hopes to decide on a location in the coming months.
Founded in 1891, the company started by making carbon filament lamps in a factory in the Netherlands. It became a world leader in the manufacture of light bulbs before branching out into the consumer and medical electronics markets, making everything from X-ray equipment to electric shavers and televisions.
Philips last year spun off its lighting division so it could focus on its future as a health technology provider.
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 3:58 am
By Kristian Hoelscher, Hvard Nygrd and Jason Miklian By Kristian Hoelscher, Hvard Nygrd and Jason Miklian August 24 at 6:00 AM
In a recent episode of the caustic sitcom Silicon Valley,the hard-luck start-up protagonists attend a big technology convention. They stumble across an app called PeaceFare, a game that lets players build peace on their phones by giving virtual money to virtual homeless people or virtual corn to virtual starving villagers. Launched by a rich entrepreneur to help humanity thrive, the lone skeptic Richard snidely asks whethersuch an app should instead be trying to help actual people.
This gag skewers two truisms that tech innovations for peace and conflict resolution dont need to have true social impact to succeed, and most people will only help change the world if it comes without real sacrifice. Thus, it speaks to ongoing controversies. Technology-based approaches to conflict resolution and humanitarian development are admired by policymakers for their promise of bottom-up, quick-fix solutions. Traditional peacebuilding policy involving careful analysis over years or decades is being upended as these disruptive solutions gain traction. Peace and development researchers who want to influence policy debates cant just release findings but have to establish mechanisms for implementation.
Indicators can help shape policy debate
One way to do this is more traditional and doesnt necessarily involve new technologies: building and promotingstatistical indicators. For example, the United Nations ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,made upof 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sets out targets and benchmarks, but doesnt say how to measure them. Formulating the indicators that will measure progress was delegated to a specially appointed Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG), consisting mainly of representatives from National Statistical Offices (NSOs).
Generating this data is hard for governments, since it often involves politically controversial questions. SDG 16 calls for achieving peaceful, just, and inclusive societies measuring this involves answering complicated and controversial questions about governance. SDG indicator 16.1.2 seeks to measure conflict-related deaths in countries by sex, age and cause of death but the United Nations has no formal criteria for defining war, nor resources for collecting such data.
These measurements are tricky because there are profound political disagreements over, for instance, how to classify which kinds of organized violence constitute wars and which do not. There are two reasons for this. If you cant classify it, you cant measure and track it. NSOs are, in any event, more used to estimating administrative statistics such as demographics or economic data than information on conflicts.
In principle, outside institutions such as the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and the Correlates of War project have the right kind of data, but when PRIOand the UNDP hosted a large expert meeting that brought together IAEG members and experts to discuss how to measure conflict, the IAEG resisted the very idea that conflict could be measured. In one way, this doesnt make much sense, becausemost of our statistical measures of GDP and other economic facts are imperfect estimates of underlying phenomena, too. Yet there are also fundamental differences in how conflict researchers, NSOs and nongovernmental organizations collect data, and tricky questions. Should we trust the Bashar al-Assad regimes data on the number of people killed in Syrias conflict? Or that conflict-affected areas such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan can reliably report conflict data?
After pleading their case for several days, scholars finally convinced the IAEG that it was indeed possible to measure war and conflict. The meeting established a shared understanding between academics and NSOs about best practices in measuring armed conflict, and the IAEG probably willaccept the UCDP framework moving forward. Althoughit is still unclear what role the data will play, most conflict scholars consider the fact that it got on the agenda at all to be a major success.
Another example of indicator building is the coalition of 20 NGO and academic organizations to create the SDG 16 Data Initiative. This initiative, which just launched its first global report during the July U.N. High-Level Political Forum, tracks SDG 16s 12 targets to measure not just conflict but a host of governance and liberties issues in a transparent, rigorous and systematic manner, in turn building better peace policy.
Technology can help build peace
Another way is through engaging more directly with technology. Silicon Valley-type questions such as Whats the Uber for peace?’ or Howcan we disrupt conflict with an app? make most peace scholars and practitioners cringe. However, technology start-ups and socially minded firms are leaping into peacebuilding, with the backing of governments and deep-pocketed philanthropic foundations.
There is a lot to be excited about. Compared with traditional ways of shaping peacebuilding policy, tech approaches are more bottom-up, designed to engage with citizens directly as opposed to working through cumbersome bureaucracies or recalcitrant politicians. Solutions such as electronic tracing apps for conflict minerals or crowdsourcing victims experiences to build a knowledge base for truth and reconciliation committees can better help those who need it most.
Yet tech start-ups often launch peacebuilding initiatives without deeply engaging with existing peacebuilding knowledge or worse, dont think that such knowledge is needed. This can mean that they are useless to local communities, or even worse can be repurposed by governments to target the very people that their technology was supposed to help, as when Mexicos government allegedly used anti-terrorism surveillance tools to instead target human rights investigators.
Better collaboration between academics and innovators is possible our recent article outlines five thematic areas where joint efforts between academics and innovators can generate significant value: forecasting political economies of conflict; business and virtual peacebuilding; climate and environmentalism; migration and identity; and urbanization.
IGOs and multilateral donors have all expressed interest in platforms that look to scale up cooperation beyond the local level. The merging of data, innovation, peace scholarship and conflict resolution policy could add solidity to social innovation, help understand its upstream and downstream consequences, and incorporate insights from scholars, entrepreneurs and policymakers in the Global South. This would change the boundaries of peace research, reframe research priorities by merging scholarly, commercial and social value, and show that innovation actors and scholars can act together as peacebuilders.
Peace sciences goal is to understand how we can better contribute to peacebuilding. This implies that we as scholars must recognize how these new forms of communication and knowledge dissemination are influencing the policy world, and be prepared to react and act accordingly.
Kristian Hoelscher, Hvard Nygrd and Jason Miklian are Senior Researchers at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Elements of this post are adapted from the recent article A New Research Approach for Peace Innovation.
This article is one in a series supported by theMacArthurFoundation Research Network on Opening Governancethat seeks towork collaboratively to increase our understanding of how to design more effective and legitimate democratic institutions using new technologies and methods. Neither theMacArthurFoundation nor the Network is responsible for the articles specific content. Other posts in the series can be foundhere
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Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:49 pm
What is happening today with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is how I imagine the dot-com gold rush in the 90s felt.
Since I was too young to experience those years (I was 5 years old), I am paying extra close attention to what is happening today. And for those that don’t realize it yet, Bitcoin and Ethereum are quickly changing the world. Age-old industries are being disrupted, the first (and potentially most foundational industry of all) being money.
Anyone who thinks Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are just a fad falls into the same category of people who thought “that Internet thing” was just a fad back in the 90s. That’s what makes these innovations so interesting is that they seem to be eliciting all the same reactions, meanwhile showing all the same signs of future success. Remember when we thought the concept of sending each other pictures over the Internet was “crazy” and would “never happen?” I swear, I have a family video from the early 90s of my uncle showing my dad his brand new laptop, and making a joke that one day they would press a button and the digital photo would just appear on the other person’s laptop. They both started laughing–as if that would never happen.
And then it happened just a few years later.
That’s what’s happening today with blockchain technology. It’s so dense and do difficult to explain (similar to the concept of the Internet back in the 90s) that it has yet to really become a mainstream topic of consideration. But to those paying close attention, blockchain has all the potential in the world to disrupt some very old, very big industries: banking, big pharma, insurance, voting, and entertainment, to name a few.
Here’s what interests me about blockchain technology and the entertainment industry:
How many times have we heard the infamous case study of a band being signed to a major label, only to sue them (and usually their manager) a few years later after realizing they’d been skimped on millions of dollars in royalties?
That has been happening since the days of Elvis.
What’s interesting about blockchain technology is that, by using what are called “smart contracts,” those contracts are executed on automatically through the blockchain. So, if a band signs to a label and their contract states that they receive 70% of every dollar made, with the label receiving 30%, those distributions happen every time a dollar enters the door–assuming all of this is being done on the blockchain. No more relying on a person to count the dollars. No more trusting other people to deliver on the contract. It all happens on the blockchain, and is validated through math.
The whole idea behind blockchain technology is trust. Transparency. Everything is out in the open, and anything that gets processed through the blockchain can be seen and validated by anyone on the blockchain.
Take that concept, and you can see why this is such threatening technology to such big industries. A lot happens behind closed doors, so to put it all out into the open is groundbreaking, to say the least.
Another way that blockchain technology is impacting the music industry is with royalty distributions on digital platforms.
As it stands, artists are victims of the system. If they want access to the massive user bases on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc., then they have to be OK with getting paid pennies on the dollar for people to listen to their music. What an artist makes on these streaming platforms is nothing compared to what artists in the 90s made on CD sales.
One startup that is looking to tackle this issue with blockchain technology is called OPUS, a streaming platform for artists to upload their music and receive 98% of the revenue. For those that don’t know, 98% is unheard of, and is leagues above what an artist would make selling their music on Apple Music, for example.
The idea behind OPUS is to solve for three massive issues in the music business: revenue share, censorship, and transparency. This is the beauty of using blockchain technology, because all three of those can be delivered on. The revenue share issue is solved by giving artists 98% of all royalties, the censorship issue because the power remains in the artists hands, and the transparency issue because labels can no longer hide money from the artists. And because it is built on the blockchain, none of these parameters can be changed down the road–whereas other services may decide one day to cut the percentage given to artists.
OPUS is currently raising funds through an ICO to continue working toward this vision of artist empowerment.
When you look at the landscape of digital music, I really do believe decentralizing the industry is the next logical step. Even SoundCloud, one of the most popular streaming platforms on the Internet, has reported that they are quickly running out of cash and exploring potential acquisition deals (not so much out of choice, but by necessity) because artists have no way to monetize their audiences. But with something like OPUS, artists still have to do the heavy lifting of marketing their own music, except they’re more handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
Blockchain technology will fundamentally change the way business is done in industries all over the world. I would encourage you to start paying attention now.
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Posted: at 11:49 pm
The Missouri S&T University Police Department is continuing to support the students and staff of the university through their use of new surveillance technology. Doug Roberts, Chief of Police for the Missouri S&T Police Department said the new cameras located around campus are helping them not only by acting as a deterrent for crimes, but by additionally serving as an information source for officers.
This year weve installed several different new security cameras around campus Chief Roberts said, adding that the cameras either prevent crimes from happening or assist us when were investigating them.
The department currently has over 40 cameras installed in key points around the campus, which send a constant feed to the departments office. The footage from these cameras can be accessed from the Chiefs office as well as the main control room, with a large monitor mounted to show the entire campus.
Chief Roberts showed how he can access the cameras from his cell phone, allowing him to monitor the campus while in meetings or when he is occupied with other duties. The technology effectively allows him and other officers to be on patrol at all times. Chief Roberts said this technology goes hand in hand with the universitys new Rave Guardian app in helping students become more in tune with the campus police department.
Weve given students a way to interact with our department by text and by phone, he said. But now were watching them too. So if theyre engaged with us and theres a problem on campus, they can call us, we can zoom in on an image and see whats going on in that area. We can give the officers that are responding real world info and give them directions to be safe.
Chief Roberts said the cameras have already proven their worth in solving bicycle thefts on campus.
Theres bikes that get stolen because its a crime of opportunity he said, giving the example of a bike they recovered on Monday, August 21. Once the department received a report of a stolen bike, Chief Roberts said they were able to pull the footage and see the suspect along with the bike, which was registered as a student bike with he university.
We ended up identifying the suspect because of our surveillance cameras and captured him and the bike, Chief Roberts said. We saw two people going towards Thomas Jefferson Hall, one riding a bike and one not, and then two people, one pushing a bike and one riding a bike coming back. We were able to identify that bike as a student bike.
Chief Roberts said they are looking to install more cameras by the end of the school year to further enhance their ability to monitor the campus, and even provide ways to communicate with students from a distance in the next phase of this new installation.
Pretty soon were going to be putting speakers in the tunnels so we can communicate with peopleif somebodys hurt or if we something suspicious, we can tell them law enforcement is on their way.
The cameras currently in place record for about 386 days, according to Chief Roberts. Placing more cameras in the future will decrease the available memory, but Chief Roberts said the standard for memory is typically around 30 days, so they exceeding that by a significant amount. This footage is also shared with the City of Rolla Police Department as well.
Its the best technology out there right now, Chief Roberts said. Weve done a lot of research. The cameras also create notifications in the office for movement at night, and when someone is loitering in an area, bringing suspicious activity to officers attention.
This is how were going to prevent those bike thefts, this is how were going to investigate thefts that are reported, Chief Roberts said. This has already proven its value. He added they are not relying on yesterdays technology, and are striving to use state of the art equipment to improve campus living.
Chief Roberts said they are looking at bids to implement the next phase of the installation, and will have a plan for further implementation soon.
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