Archive for the ‘economics’ category: Page 112

Mar 15, 2011

Don’t be a Tiger Mom CEO — Celebrate Failure

Posted by in categories: business, economics, philosophy

How important is failure – yes, failure – to the health of a thriving, innovative business? So important that Ratan Tata, chairman of India’s largest corporation, gives an annual award to the employee who comes up with the best idea that failed. So important that Apple, the company gives us the world’s most beautifully designed music players, mobile phones, and tablets, wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t dared to fail. Remember the Apple Newton? Probably not, since it was a flop, but it was a precursor to today’s wildly successful iPad.

In a struggling economic climate, failure is what separates mediocre companies from businesses that break through and astound us with their creativity.

Yet failure has become a scenario to be avoided at all costs for most CEOs. Between fear of losing jobs to fear of rattling investors, business leaders are expected to deliver a perfect track record of product launches and expansion programs. They indirectly instill this attitude in their employees, who lack the confidence to spearhead any corporate initiative that isn’t guaranteed to work.

Call it the Tiger Mom effect: In the business world today, failure is apparently not an option.

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Nov 24, 2010

Singularity Economics

Posted by in category: economics

“Jobs for every American is doomed to failure because of modern automation and production. We ought to recognize it and create an income-maintenance system so every single American has the dignity and the wherewithal for shelter, basic food, and medical care. I’m talking about welfare for all. Without it, you’re going to have warfare for all.”

This quote from Jerry Brown in 1995 echoes earlier fears that automation would cause mass unemployment and displacement. These fears have not materialized, due to surging economic growth, the ability of the workforce to adjust, and the fact that the extent of automation is largely limited to physical, repetitive tasks. This is beginning to change.

In recent years, before the current recession, automation in already well established areas has continued to make productivity improvements. “Robotics and other computer automation have reduced the number of workers on a line. Between 2002 and 2005, the number of auto production workers decreased 8.5 percent while shipments increased 5 percent. Assembly plants now require as little as 15 to 25 labor hours per vehicle.” The result of these productivity gains has been a higher quality, less expensive product.

As machines become smarter, less repetitive “white collar” jobs will become subject to automation. Change will come so rapidly, the workforce will not be able to adjust, with real opportunities for alternative work decreasing. The earlier fears of mass unemployment will become realized. This mass displacement could lay the foundation for civil unrest and a general backlash against technology. The full extent of this change is unlikely to happen for another generation, with strong growth in China and other emerging economies. Regardless of exact timing or mechanism, the fact is that this transition to full automation has already begun, and micro economics dictate that it will continue. The choice between an inefficient, expensive, human labor force and an efficient, cheap, automated labor force is clear at the micro level, which will drive the pace of change.

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Oct 25, 2010

Open Letter to Ray Kurzweil

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, economics, engineering, futurism, human trajectories, information science, open source, robotics/AI

Dear Ray;

I’ve written a book about the future of software. While writing it, I came to the conclusion that your dates are way off. I talk mostly about free software and Linux, but it has implications for things like how we can have driverless cars and other amazing things faster. I believe that we could have had all the benefits of the singularity years ago if we had done things like started Wikipedia in 1991 instead of 2001. There is no technology in 2001 that we didn’t have in 1991, it was simply a matter of starting an effort that allowed people to work together.

Proprietary software and a lack of cooperation among our software scientists has been terrible for the computer industry and the world, and its greater use has implications for every aspect of science. Free software is better for the free market than proprietary software, and there are many opportunities for programmers to make money using and writing free software. I often use the analogy that law libraries are filled with millions of freely available documents, and no one claims this has decreased the motivation to become a lawyer. In fact, lawyers would say that it would be impossible to do their job without all of these resources.

My book is a full description of the issues but I’ve also written some posts on this blog, and this is probably the one most relevant for you to read: https://russian.lifeboat.com/blog/2010/06/h-conference-and-faster-singularity

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Jun 7, 2010

Cell Phones in Timbuktu

Posted by in categories: economics, finance, geopolitics, human trajectories

well-in-an-oasisIt’s easy to think of people from the underdeveloped world as quite different from ourselves. After all, there’s little to convince us otherwise. National Geographic Specials, video clips on the Nightly News, photos in every major newspaper – all depicting a culture and lifestyle that’s hard for us to imagine let alone relate to. Yes – they seem very different; or perhaps not. Consider this story related to me by a friend.

Ray was a pioneer in software. He sold his company some time ago for a considerable amount of money. After this – during his quasi-retirement he got involved in coordinating medical relief missions to some of the most impoverished places on the planet, places such as Timbuktu in Africa.

The missions were simple – come to a place like Timbuktu and set up medical clinics, provide basic medicines and health care training and generally try and improve the health prospects of native peoples wherever he went.

Upon arriving in Timbuktu, Ray observed that their system of commerce was incredibly simple. Basically they had two items that were in commerce – goats and charcoal.

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Oct 16, 2009

Productive Nanosystems and the 2009 Financial Meltdown

Posted by in categories: economics, nanotechnology

At a fundamental level, real wealth is the ability to fulfill human needs and desires. These ephemeral motivators are responsible for the creation of money, bank ledgers, and financial instruments that drive the world—caveat the fact that the monetary system can’t buy us love (and a few other necessities). Technologies have always provided us with tools that enable us to fulfill more needs and desires for more people with less effort. The exponential nanomanufacturing capabilities of Productive Nanosystems will simply enable us to do it better. Much better.

Productive Nanosystems
The National Nanotechnology Initiative defines nanotechnology as technologies that control matter at dimensions between one and a hundred nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. For particles and structures, reducing dimensions to the nanoscale primarily affects surface area to volume ratios and surface energies. For active structures and devices, the significant design parameters become exciton distances, quantum effects, and photon interactions. Connecting many different nanodevices into complex systems will multiply their power, leading some experts to predict that a particular kind of nanosystem—Productive Nanosystems that produces atomically precise products—will dramatically change the world.

Productive Nanosystems are programmable mechanoelectrochemical systems that are expected to rearrange bulk quantities numbers of atoms with atomic precision under programmatical control. There are currently four approaches that are expected to lead to Productive Nanosystems: DNA Origami[1], Bis-Peptide Synthesis[2], Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy[3], and Diamondoid Mechanosynthesis[4]. The first two are biomimetic bottom-up approaches that struggle to achieve long-range order and to increase complexity despite using chaotic thermodynamic processes. The second two are scanning-probe-based top-down approaches that struggle to increase productivity to a few hundred atoms per hour while reducing error rate.[5]

For the bottom-up approaches, the tipping point will be reached when researchers build the first nanosystem complex enough to do error correction. For the top-down approaches that can do error correction fairly easily, the tipping point will be reached when subsequent generations of tip arrays no longer need to be redesigned for speed and size improvements while using control algorithms that scale well (i.e. they only need generational time, synthesized inputs, and expansion room). When these milestones are reached, nanosystems will grow exponentially—unnoticeably for a few weeks, but suddenly they will become overwhelmingly powerful. There are many significant applications foreseen for mature Productive Nanosystems, ranging from aerospace and transportation to medicine and manufacturing—but what may affect us the hardest may be those applications that we can’t foresee.

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May 2, 2009

From financial crisis to global catastrophe

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks

From financial crisis to global catastrophe

Financial crisis which manifested in the 2008 (but started much earlier) has led to discussion in alarmists circles — is this crisis the beginning of the final sunset of mankind? In this article we will not consider the view that the crisis will suddenly disappear and everything returns to its own as trivial and in my opinion false. Transition of the crisis into the global catastrophe emerged the following perspective:
1) The crisis is the beginning of long slump (E. Yudkowsky term), which gradually lead mankind to a new Middle Ages. This point of view is supported by proponents of Peak Oil theory, who believe that recently was passed peak of production of liquid fuels, and since that time, the number of oil production begins to drop a few percent each year, according to bell curve, and that fossil fuel is a necessary resource for the existence of modern civilization, which will not be able to switch to alternative energy sources. They see the current financial crisis as a direct consequence of high oil prices, which brace immoderate consumption. The maintenance is the point of view is the of «The peak all theory», which shows that not only oil but also the other half of the required resources of modern civilization will be exhausted in the next quarter of century. (Note that the possibility of replacing some of resources with other leads to that peaks of each resource flag to one moment in time.) Finally, there is a theory of the «peak demand» — namely, that in circumstances where the goods produced more then effective demand, the production in general is not fit, which includes the deflationary spiral that could last indefinitely.
2) Another view is that the financial crisis will inevitably lead to a geopolitical crisis, and then to nuclear war. This view can be reinforced by the analogy between the Great Depression and novadays. The Great Depression ended with the start of the Second World War. But this view is considering nuclear war as the inevitable end of human existence, which is not necessarily true.
3) In the article “Scaling law of the biological evolution and the hypothesis of the self-consistent Galaxy origin of life”. (Advances in Space Research V.36 (2005), P.220–225” http://dec1.sinp.msu.ru/~panov/ASR_Panov_Life.pdf) Russian scientist A. D. Panov showed that the crises in the history of humanity became more frequent in curse of history. Each crisis is linked with the destruction of some old political system, and with the creation principle technological innovation at the exit from the crisis. 1830 technological revolution lead to industrial world (but peak of crisis was of course near 1815 – Waterloo, eruption of Tambora, Byron on the Geneva lake create new genre with Shelly and her Frankeshtain.) One such crisis happened in 1945 (dated 1950 in Panov’s paper – as a date of not the beginning of the crisis, but a date of exit from it and creation of new reality) when the collapse of fascism occurred and arose computers, rockets and atomic bomb, and bipolar world. An important feature of these crises is that they follow a simple law: namely, the next crisis is separated from the preceding interval of time to 2.67+/- 0.15 shorter. The last such crisis occurred in the vicinity of 1991 (1994 if use Panov’s formula from the article), when the USSR broke up and began the march of the Internet. However, the schedule of crisis lies on the hyperbole that comes to the singularity in the region in 2020 (Panov gave estimate 2004+/-15, but information about 1991 crisis allows to sharpen the estimate). If this trend continues to operate, the next crisis must come after 17 years from 1991 , in 2008, and another- even after 6.5 years in 2014 and then the next in 2016 and so on. Naturally it is desirable to compare the Panov’s forecast and the current financial crisis.
Current crisis seems to change world politically and technologically, so it fit to Panov’s theory which predict it with high accuracy long before. (At least at 2005 – but as I now Panov do not compare this crisis with his theory.) But if we agree with Panov’s theory we should not expect global catastrophe now, but only near 2020. So we have long way to it with many crisises which will be painful but not final. (more…)

Jan 27, 2009

Finding a Cure for Collective Neurosis in the Attention Economy

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, futurism, media & arts

(This essay has been published by the Innovation Journalism Blog — here — Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum — here — and the EJC Magazine of the European Journalism Centre — here)

Thousands of lives were consumed by the November terror attacks in Mumbai.

“Wait a second”, you might be thinking. “The attacks were truly horrific, but all news reports say around two hundred people were killed by the terrorists, so thousands of lives were definitely not consumed.”

You are right. And you are wrong.

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