Month: June 2018
A committee of MEPs has voted to accept major changes to European copyright law, which experts say could change the nature of the internet.
They voted to approve the controversial Article 13, which critics warn could put an end to memes, remixes and other user-generated content.
Article 11, requiring online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content, was also approved.
One organisation opposed to the changes called it a “dark day”.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs voted by 15 votes to 10 to adopt Article 13 and by 13 votes to 12 to adopt Article 11.
It will now go to the wider European Parliament to vote on in July.
…Article 11 has been called the “link tax” by opponents.
Here is further information. If ever there was a case for Brexit…
For the pointer I thank Saku.
Influential voices in academia and the media contend that democracy is in decline worldwide and threatened in the US. Using a variety of measures, I show that the global proportion of democracies is actually at or near an all-time high; that the current rate of backsliding is not historically unusual; and that this rate is well explained by the economic characteristics of existing democracies. I confirm that breakdowns tend to occur in countries that are poor, have had relatively little democratic experience, and are in economic crisis. Extrapolating from historical data, I show that the estimated hazard of failure in a democracy as developed and seasoned as the US is extremely low — far lower than in any democracy that has ended in the past. Some suggest that undemocratic public attitudes and erosion of elite norms threaten US institutions, but there is little evidence that these factors cause democratic breakdown. While deterioration in the quality of democracy in countries such as Hungary and Poland is itself cause for concern — as is the reversion to authoritarianism in Russia and Turkey — alarm about a global slide into autocracy is inconsistent with current evidence.
The pointer is from the excellent Kevin Lewis.
Via David Siegel:
Not much, but it’s a start. The individual series are:
Coinbase Index https://fred.stlouisfed.org/
Coinbase Bitcoin https://fred.stlouisfed.org/
Coinbase Bitcoin Cash https://fred.stlouisfed.org/
Coinbase Ethereum https://fred.stlouisfed.org/
Coinbase Litecoin https://fred.stlouisfed.org/
Edited, produced, and partly written by Elad Gil, the book is also a series of interviews with Marc Andreessen, Sam Altman, Patrick Collison, Reid Hoffman, Keith Rabois, Naval Ravikant, and others.
Marc Andreessen says:
If you don’t start layering in HR once you’ve passed 50 people on your way to 150, something is going to go badly wrong.
Claire Hughes Johnson (COO of Stripe) says:
When I came into Stripe, I had a similar document. I wrote a document back when I was at Google called, “Working with Claire.” And when I first got to Stripe, I adapted it slightly, but it was pretty relevant. I shared it with everyone who was working with me closely, but I have made it an open document. It spread quite quickly through the organization…I think that founders should write a guide to working with them.
Patrick Collison says:
..the CEO ultimately does not have that many jobs, but I think culture is among them. And it ought not be delegated. Briefly speaking, I think there are five top responsibilities of a CEO: being the steward of and final arbiter of the senior management; being the chief strategist; being the primary external face for the company, at least in the early days; almost certainly being the chief product officer, although that can change when you’re bigger; and then taking responsibility and accountability for culture.
Self-recommending, you can order it here.
Here is the audio and transcript, Elisa is a Professor of English at Harvard, with a specialty in poetry, and also star and driving force behind the new PBS show Poetry in America. Most of all we talked about poetry! Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: Let me express a concern, and see if you can talk me out of it. I’m going to use the word best, which I know many literary critics do not like, but I believe in the concept nonetheless.
In my view, the two best American poets are Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, and they were both a long, long time ago. They were quite early in the literary history of this nation.
Is that a statement about the fame-generating process, a statement about somehow their era was better at generating the best poets because we had a much smaller population, or am I simply wrong in thinking they’re the best American poets?
NEW: I don’t know what to say to you. I revere them. They are the most important poets for me. They invent two ways of being a poet, and two of the ways that so many poets who have followed them also acknowledge.
Would there be Susan Howe, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath? All in different ways, would we have them without Emily Dickinson? I don’t know. I’m not sure I can enter . . . Is it that we’ve lost it? I don’t think that’s it. I don’t think we’ve lost it.
COWEN: I turn to European history, again using the “best” word, but it’s plausible to think Homer and Dante are the two best European poets ever in some regards, and they, too, are each quite early in a particular stage of history. What is it about poetry that seems to generate so many people as at least plausible bests who come at the very beginnings of eras?
NEW: Well, isn’t it that poetry is cumulative, and canons are cumulative, and those who are there first, they’re never superseded — unlike, say, for economists who would say, “Adam Smith is a really smart guy, but it’s not like we go to Adam Smith to understand Bitcoin.” They would say, “No. That knowledge has been superseded.”
In literary knowledge, we continue to learn from our predecessors and also continue to feel awe before the persistence of certain phenomena that they . . . Shakespeare saw that Iago was a slippery-mouthed conniver of a kind we still recognize.
We recognize ourselves. We recognize something enduringly human in these oldest of poets, and then, maybe, we elevate them even more.
COWEN: Is it possible that American English isn’t rich enough? I find if I go to Ireland, or especially to Trinidad, I envy the language they have there. They’re both speaking English. If you think of America today, there’s texting, now a long history of television.
Our language is great for quick communication, number one in the world for science. Now there’s social media. Nineteenth-century American English has longer sentences. It’s arguably more like British English. Isn’t the problem just the language we grow up with around us isn’t somehow good enough to sustain first-rate poets?
NEW: It is. It’s so rich. I love the way it evolves, the way my kids don’t say “whatever” anymore. “Whatever” had such incredible potency. “Epic.” When they started to say “epic” had such potency. When hip-hop artists say, “That’s really ill.”
I love the fertility of slang. I love the way mass culture, and its technological limitations, and then its new breaths does funny things to language. I tell my students about this. I say, “You know the way how in ’30s movies, the women are always sweeping around going, ‘Oh, darling,’ in The Thin Man, and there’s this ‘Hi, honey . . .’” [laughs]
If you watch a ’30s movie, and then you watch a ’50s movie, and you see the plasticity and the ingenuity that human beings put into . . . We don’t say, “Hey, kid.” We don’t call anyone a kid anymore. It sounds really archaic and corny.
Definitely recommended, interesting throughout. We talked about Shaq too. After the conversation ended, Elisa said something striking to me, something like: “I liked this conversation because you didn’t ask me about “the humanities,” you asked me about poetry.”
According to a survey of 167 [South Korean] businesses earlier this month, almost 75 per cent would be prepared to invest in the North if sanctions were lifted. Companies that stand to benefit, such as steel and cement groups, have seen their stock prices soar in recent weeks. Shares in Hyundai Cement rose more than 500 per cent between March and June as detente unfolded on the Korean peninsula.
Much more is going on (FT).
1. The word “cheerio” does not precede 1910, and furthermore it has been obsolete for some time now, and not because it was pushed out by an Americanism.
2. The Brits are correct to insist on “I couldn’t care less,” rather than the American “I could care less.”
3. Americans used to call an umbrella a “bumbershoot,” yet nowadays if they hear the word they often think it is a Britishism. The British slang term is in fact “brolly.”
4. When Americans speak, they prefer “repetitious” over “repetitive,” even though the latter is nine times more common in American text. Perhaps repetitious is more…repetitious.
5. “One-off” is a Britishism that largely has caught on in America.
6. How can they call it “rumpy-pumpy”?
7. “The British use sorry at the rate four times the Americans do.”
All that and more is from the new and fun book The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English, by Lynne Murphy.
…there are incredibly powerful non-state actors who are also competing furiously to develop this technology. All of the 7 most important technology companies in the world–Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu–are making huge investments in AI, from low level frameworks and silicon to consumer products. It goes without saying that their expertise in machine learning leads any state actor at the moment.
As the applications of machine learning grow, the interactions between these companies and different nation states will grow in complexity. Consider for example road transportation, where we are gradually moving towards on demand, autonomous cars. This will increasingly blur the line between publicly funded mass transportation (e.g. a bus) and private transport (a shared Uber). If this leads to a new natural monopoly in road transportation should it be managed by the state (e.g. the call in London for “Khan’s Cars”) or by a British company, or by a multinational company like Uber?
As Mariana Mazzucato outlined in her fantastic book The Entrepreneurial State, states have historically played a crucial role in underwriting long term, high risk research in science and technology by funding either academic research or the military. These technologies are often then commercialised by private companies. With the rise of visionary and wealthy technology companies like Google we are seeing more high risk long term research being funded by the private sector. DeepMind is a prime example of this. This creates tension when the interests of a private company like Google and a state are not aligned. An example of this is the recent interactions between Google and the Pentagon where over 4000 Google employees protested against Google’s participation in “warfare technologies” and as a result Google decided to not renew its contract with the Pentagon. This is a rapidly evolving topic. Only a week earlier Sergey Brin had said that “he understood the controversy and had discussed the matter extensively with Mr. Page and Mr. Pichai. However, he said he thought that it was better for peace if the world’s militaries were intertwined with international organizations like Google rather than working solely with nationalistic defense contractors”.
Here is more of interest from Ian Hogarth, via…whoever it was that sent it to me!
Should there be more publicly funded space exploration? Noa Ovadia recently argued that money should be spent on more pressing needs than space travel. An expert from IBM smacked that argument down pretty convincingly:
It is very easy to say that there are more important things to spend money on, and I do not dispute this. No one is claiming that this is the only item on our expense list. But that is beside the point. As subsidizing space exploration would clearly benefit society, I maintain that this is something the government should pursue.
Oh, did I mention the expert was Dr. Watson?
President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is weathering the latest in a series of political crises that have debilitated his nation since independence in 1960. In that period, Madagascar is the world’s only non-conflict country to have become poorer, according to the World Bank. Its income per head has nearly halved, to about $400.
That is from the excellent David Pilling at the FT. According to one estimate, almost one out of two children is stunted through malnutrition.
1. Rich Lowry on separating families, a contrarian view. Some good points on broader context, but in my view even if he is completely right this is still a major PR disaster for the United States. Nor does the law have to be the way it is. Here is more on the precedents of family separation. This is a longstanding issue.
6. IBM debater (NYT).
The author is Priya Satia, and the subtitle is The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution. Here is one good bit:
In fact, there were so many transitions between peace and war that it is difficult to establish what “normal” economic conditions were. Eighteenth-century Europeans accepted war as “inevitable, an ordinary fact of human existence.” It was an utterly unexceptional state of affairs. For Britons in particular, war was something that happened abroad and that kept truly damaging disruption — invasion or rebellion — at bay. Wars that were disruptive elsewhere were understood as preservationist in Britain…Adam Smith’s complaints about the costs of war, about the “ruinous expedient” of perpetual funding and high public debt in peacetime, staked out a contrarian position; The Wealth of Nations (1776) was a work of persuasion. His and other voices in favor of pacific development grew louder from the margins. By denormalizing war, liberal political economy raised the stakes of the century’s long final wars from 1793 to 1815, which could be stomached only as an exceptional, apocalyptic stage on the way to permanent peace.
In their wake, nineteenth-century Britain packaged their empire as a primarily civilian enterprise focused on liberty, forgetting the earlier collective investment in and profit from the wars that had produced it..
The book offers many points of interest.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
“What have been the really major advances of the past 20 years?” is one of the most common debated questions in my circles. The smartphone is probably nominated most often, while Google, Facebook and fracking have their advocates too. Yet we hardly ever talk about one of the most important developments, perhaps because it raises uncomfortable political issues: the governance technologies and strategies of authoritarian regimes have become much more efficient…
The big innovation in authoritarian governance has been this: subsequent autocratic leaders, most of all in China, have found ways of both liberalizing and staying in power. The good news is that people living under authoritarian governments have much, much better lives than before. The corresponding bad news is that autocracy works better than it used to and thus it is more popular and probably also more enduring. The notion that autocratic government would fade away, either in practice or as an ideological competitor to Western liberalism, simply isn’t tenable any more…
A second development was when authoritarian leaders realized that absolute prohibitions on free speech were counterproductive, and they learned how to manage an intermediate solution. Allowing partial speech rights is useful as a safety valve, it allows major dissidents to be identified and monitored, and absolute speech prohibitions tended to wreck the economy and discourage foreign investment, leading to unpopularity of the government. At the same time, an autocratic government could come down hard on the truly threatening ideas when needed.
Scientific public opinion polling has been another advance in authoritarian states. In 1987, the Economic System Reform Institute of China conducted the first Chinese public opinion survey, a breakthrough event. Under Chairman Mao in contrast, the incentive was to report only the good news. In the 1990s, however, Chinese public opinion surveys boomed and also became much more scientific.
There is much more at the link, one of my more interesting columns as of late.
That is the title of my Bloomberg column, here is my basic proposal:
Let’s take one-tenth of those women and move them from prison to house arrest, combined with electronic monitoring. That would allow for proximity to their children. If the U.S. isn’t plagued by a subsequent wave of violent crime — and I don’t think it will be — let us try the same for yet another tenth. Let’s keep on doing this until it’s obviously not working.
According to one 2010 study, more than 1.1 million men and 120,000 women in U.S. jails and prisons have children under the age of 17.
From 1991 to 2007, the number of children with a mother in prison more than doubled, rising 131 percent. About two-thirds of the women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. Sixty percent of those women have children under the age of 18, and in one survey one-quarter of the prisoners’ children were under the age of 4. Forty-one percent of the women in state prison had more than one child…One estimate suggests that 11 percent of the children of imprisoned mothers end up in foster care.
We can do this.
There is a new NBER working paper on those topics by Klaus Desmet, Avner Greif, and Stephen Parente:
A market-size-only theory of industrialization cannot explain why England developed nearly two centuries before China. One shortcoming of such a theory is its exclusive focus on producers. We show that once we incorporate the incentives of factor suppliers’ organizations such as craft guilds, industrialization no longer depends on market size, but on spatial competition between the guilds’ jurisdictions. We substantiate our theory (i) by providing historical and empirical evidence on the relation between spatial competition, craft guilds and innovation, and (ii) by showing the calibrated model correctly predicts the timings of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Divergence.
From the body of the paper, I found these two sentences especially useful:
First, using city size and location data, we quantify how spatial competition increased in England between 1600 and 1800. Using the same metric, we show that China at the end of the nineteenth century was about 200 years behind England.