A new alphabet

A new alphabet

Being an improved alphabet and vocabulary

Relevant to children of our times

A is for Ammo

An Angry young man, Armed with an Assault Weapon

An AR15 or AK47

A is for Ambulances

B is for Bodies


Bullets, Bullets, Bullets

Blood, Bloodshed, Bodies

C is for Children

Children, Cowering in Closets


D is for Death,

Death and the Dead

Dying and Death (plural: Deaths)

E is for Enablers,

and for Evasion (by politicians, of course)

“Now is not the time” they always intone.

F is for Fleeing

Fleeing on Foot, Falling to the Floor

G is for Gore


For Graves and Gravestones

Marking lives cut short

H is for Horror, for Hiding

I is for Injuries

Innocence, lost.

J is for nothing, Justice is not served

K is for Killing

L is for Lobbying, the Legal version of bribery

Lobbyists paying politicians, so Lax Laws Allow Lunacy

L is for Bribery

M is for Mad but armed Men

Mostly Men

Mayhem, for Massacres, for Mass Murders, followed by Moments of Silence

N is for NRA, the trade association that benefits from this.

That bribes the politicians.

No Responsibility At All, they declare

Every time

Every damn time

O is for Open Carry

Okay at school, and Okay at church.

Oddly, not Okay where Old politicians gather

P is for Politicians Praying

for Payments

Q is for Quisling, a politician turned traitor

R is for Rights

The Right to Bear Arms or

The Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Pick one.

S is for Silence, for the Silenced

T is for Tots, and Teenagers, and Terror, and for Thoughts & Prayers

U is for Unbelievable

V is for Violence, for Voices crying out

W is for Wounds, for Whimpering

X is for X-Rays at hospital

Y is for Youth, our hope and our spirit

Youth! Be the change!!

Z: let this be an end.

TEDx talk: the world's largest problems

My TEDx talk's theme was - how to get to a point where the big problems facing the world are being solved, because we've turned solving the into exciting business opportunities. Thus, as with solar, once it becomes affordable it becomes profitable, and once it becomes profitable it becomes inevitable.
The video link is HERE

On taxonomies of capital firms and their emerging roles

What we want from Capitalism

Capitalism is the main tool we have to tackle the world's vast, global scale problems: climate change, economic inequality, hunger, devastated oceans. Can it do the job?

Certainly, if the word "capitalism" is, must be, taken to mean a fully laissez-faire, 'Greed is good' mode, we're in trouble and must find other tools.
So, I'm going to assert that capitalism comes in different flavours, and that in these flavours are perhaps the specific ingredients we need to find ways to optimize capitalism for the monster challenges ahead of us. 

There are robust alternatives to current, US-style laissez-faire, ‘neoliberal’ capitalism. Indeed, at present, it seems that these alternatives can deliver outcomes no less robust in the long term (and perhaps, if China’s recent strides are to be believed - I’m not 100% convinced) even in fast-growth, tech-sector innovation. These alternatives may house the most robust approaches for dealing with social and environmental externalities - and frame also a way to deal with US laissez-faire capitalism: creating a library of plausible cases, in which capital corporations can achieve a balance of market-rate financial outcomes and beneficial missions.

One might even go further, and assert that the growth of mission-focused, capital corporations is essential for the next decades of the economy, society and the environment.

We don't have to accept the laissez faire model as inevitable. History assures us this: not even US capitalism of a few more decades ago, as exemplified by Ford: Henry Ford, no milquetoast shrinking violet, paid his workers FAR MORE than minimum wages. Many companies took similar tacks.

And there's German-style, in which each large corporation has a supervisory board that includes the interests of other stakeholders: the State (e.g. Bavaria); the workers; the customers, etc.


Tech / AI specific and general challenges

The general challenges are well known - that some classes of jobs will be eradicated (or, often, devalued) by AI. Examples: medical diagnoses will go from the work of specialist doctors to AI-led processes where specialist doctors are in a supporting roles.

A specific other concern is this: insofar as AI benefits from network effects (the quality of AI requires exposure to lots of data, which requires a strong AI position, … and thus leadership perpetuates leadership, as has occurred for social media and search), we face also the prospect of creating powerful monopsonies around AI platforms. (So, perhaps not literally a single player being able to control AI for - e.g. medical diagnoses - but a dominant platform with best outcomes for its employees and partners and suboptimal outcomes for others).

The general outcome is similar to that of other technical disruptions from the time of mechanical looms forward: jobs will be lost, and not just for Luddites, but for all. Policies have to deal with broad-scale loss of jobs and broad-scale creation of new opportunities and broad-scale recognition that, at least for as long as the transition takes, not having a great job may just be a fact for millions (hundreds of millions worldwide), not a moral failing. (A coal miner losing his job in Appalachia cannot be greatly faulted for the rise of solar power.)

The specific outcome is that AI’s major developers, the platform leaders, will have market powers that will not have useful analogies in the makers of looms, for example. The emergence of powerful new technologies will likely exacerbate economic inequality.

The role of companies

I’m going to align (mostly) with the idea that free market capitalism is what’s available. But not completely. In the USA of perhaps 20 years ago, US-defined capitalism was very nearly the only thing on the menu. But in 2018, we also get the distinct and powerful models of capitalism as it is practiced in Germany and China (and other places beside). In these countries (and some others) the idea of a large company being able to shirk social responsibilities by shrugging and saying that their only responsibility is to shareholders/ the bottom line / the next quarters’ results, etc., borders on absurd. For Germany and China (etc.) the capital enterprise works in quite tight coordination with government to achieve a combined outcome of financial and social (and other) benefits.

For the Chinese corporation: the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party) has a management team inside and alongside the enterprise’s management, at all (nearly all?) levels. Additionally, the CEO answers to the CCP as well as to the board of directors, etc. On the desk of the CEO of any large Chinese corporation is a special red phone; when it rings, the CEO must answer - it’s Beijing calling, with its explicit instructions. Of course, Beijing tries to muster its economy in line with the dictates of a five-year plan - but the plan encompasses social as well as economic objectives. The red phones are a visible part of the machinery for doing this.

For the large German corporation: the state also has a formal role, but expressed with a lighter hand than that of the CCP for the Chinese corporation. Each large German firm has a dual board structure in which the supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) includes representation of other stakeholders: the state (e.g. Bavaria), employees, financial and social institutions.

I believe Japan’s large Keiretsus had similar (but perhaps informal), smoke-filled-room levels of coordination between big companies and government to achieve non-financial goals.

Canada's democratic-socialist ethos achieves similar outcomes with - it seems - considerable informality. At a dinner with Canadian oilmen, one of them bragged about being ruthless, and crass (by Canuck standards), but that, for them, being Canadian meant that "I am my brother's keeper".

Even within the US, there are other major variants on the capital corporation.

The family- or founder-controlled corporation: Google, but also Ford and Corning (and, of course, private corporations). Each of these retain voting control within a small group of founding investors and their trusts, with the consequence that the firms can hew to a long-term view and largely ignore the pressure of quarterly results and tactically-focused short-term investors.

Somewhat new! The benefit corporation - this is really just a standard, for-profit corporation with a charter: the existence of the charter is both a beneficial mission for the firm and a defense against investors looking to move the firm away from the mission. Yes, many are small, but also there are some large ones: Danone’s US business is one (annual revenues over $6B, over 6,000 employees); others are Method (soaps), Kickstarter, Patagonia, Etsy (which had a 2017 IPO as a public benefit corporation).

The moral is: surely we'd do better to push capital structures toward all those forms which reward social and environmental good, rather than either accepting neoliberal capital or giving up altogether.

Our jobs as men

Our jobs as men - our jobs as men include calling out men who are demeaning to women. The women they demean often must rely on strong allies to support them.
Our jobs as men must include calling out companies whose actions are demeaning to women. The women these firms, institutions and executives demean must often rely on these same companies for their incomes, careers, futures.
Our jobs as men must be to help create the world we want for women. I am not saying this, writing this just as the husband of a brilliant woman whose career has been slowed by less-capable men. I am not writing this because I am friends to women who don't get treated as professionals by insecure men. I am not writing this because I am a father or a brother or a son. Nor in any way because I am a man in relation to women.
Our jobs as men are to stand up for decency because we care about decency.

(adapted from something I originally posted on LinkedIn)

The Good News (Really!) About the US Election

They thought they could get away with it. They were wrong.

This is a note about the good news about this year's vicious, nasty, horrible election, a contest between a deeply flawed candidate and a horrific, nasty demagogue. One source of good news is likely to be a quickening, a strengthening of voices against maltreatment of women. It seems likely to be an ironic outcome to Trump's dangerous misogyny. But that's not my point here.

I am thinking particularly about the revelations about the scandalous behavior of one presidential candidate, the digital ineptness of the other, and about the many revelations of police brutality.

These scandals would not have been exposed in earlier years: what we’re seeing, in part at least, is the power of new digital media hitting powerful men and women not at all prepared for the blinding daylight of their misbehaviors being exposed. It’s not so much that things are worse than before, it’s that they’re being caught on camera and on mike, and being shared worldwide without any possibility of distribution being halted.

So that’s the good news: digital technologies forcing some transparency. (A separate note might deal with the digital dark side, of hacking into the election and its dialogues, from nation states bent on furthering their agendas. But that’s a subject for another day, and perhaps another person.)


This year, in the USA, we’ve seen what appears to be a disastrous peek into the inner workings, musings, and beliefs of our politicians and our police and others. One aspect of this, at least, is a discontinuity: the old guard - powerful men and women in their later years - caught off-guard by the advent of technologies. A decade or two ago, they could have “got away with” their transgressions, but a suite of technologies are making that impossible. Social media (Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat); and ubiquitous means for creating and distributing digital files: smartphones with cameras, for example.

The consequences are that it’s not just in emerging nations (think those upended in the Arab Spring) - it’s here, too. The ubiquity of digital tools and the power of digital media are exposing sins that earlier would have remained hidden behind the doors of the powerful.

You combine that with a rising expectation that the promise of a free society includes the full empowerment of all its participants, not just the wealthy, powerful few, and conflicts are inevitable.


He thought he could get away with it. He was wrong.

Anyone who had really paid attention to Donald Trump during the Republican primary had already heard coarse language that showed utter indifference to lots of groups - the disabled, Mexicans, Muslims - but particularly women. For Trump, the frame for considering his one-time rival Carly Fiorina was not her incompetence, but her looks. “Look at that face! Could anyone considering voting for that face?” And the similar language belittling Megyn Kelly, and a long list of women.

The “grab them by the (genitals)” acknowledgement of his assault on women was far beyond the pale.

But it was of the same cloth as his prior boast that, as the owner of a beauty pageant, he could get away with walking in on young women and girls, naked.

The uproar that has erupted about this lechery was entirely empowered by digital media. Once the video, with Trump well-miked for sound, was in the wild, nothing could stop the rapid, viral spread. 20 years ago, the original file could not have been circulated among media, nor shared in any form other than a clip on a news program or two.

This is most literally true. 25 years ago, Anita Hill reported her sexual harassment from Justice Clarence Thomas. The supporting anecdotes came via the US Mail, slowly and incompletely, taking weeks. This diluted her message, prevented a full expose of Thomas' malfeasance. The past decades have given us so much: email, standardized video file formats, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. And these technologies can and will and must be used to fight abuse in all its forms.

Just as the rapid distribution was a consequence of the new world of digital media, so was what happened next.  In the eyes off many, many women, the Billy Bush / grab-them video became a symbol of the vile bodily insults they’d experienced at the hands (literally) of lecherous, undisciplined, older men. The hashtag #notokay became a pathway for tens of millions of women to express their anger at molestation. A digital river of anger at powerful men abusing vulnerable women and girls.

Donald Trump thought he could get away with it, and digital media made him wrong.

She thought she could get away with it.

In an entirely different way, Hillary Clinton’s transgressions were also exposed. Her private talks given to groups of bankers exposed thoughts not intended to be exposed to the larger public, and thus showed - at best - inconsistencies. An at-best inept episode around the private hosting of government emails and the subsequent erasure of many. An inept episode around the internal dialog within the Democratic National Party.

In the past, these would have remained secret, or available only, again, through small-volume leaks. Now, however, presumably through the work of foreign government malice, secrecy was infeasible, and mass distribution through a strangely partisan Wikileaks turned this from a breached secret into a widespread anti-Hillary campaign.

In many ways the what Wikileaks has shown from Hillary's campaigns emails (like the Billy Bush video) is not at all suprising. It shows how deeply entrenched in the system Hillary really is.

She thought she could get away with it, and she was wrong.

They thought they could get away with it.

One might expect that powerful, well-funded political campaigns, staffed with cohorts of young, computer-literate workers, would have thought through the consequences of the arrival of digital media.

Nobody really expects police forces to be computer literate. And thus the problem: a powerful, macho set of organizations with an arms-linked omerta, but with little preparation for the new world of digital media. The weapons that made their lives different: tiny digital cameras and easy connections to social media.

Until rather recently, cops could beat, taunt, and kill with impunity. Bystanders, if they knew what was good for them, ignored and moved on. Not any more. Now, dozens of cameras surround most urban or suburban scenes. The cameras in the phones of bystanders. The security cameras on nearby stores.  The surveillance cameras another arm of city government may have installed on street lights. Now, a cop goes rogue, much of the time, it’ll be captured on camera and published to Facebook before the weapons go cold.

Of course, many, most, perhaps nearly all police are not thugs gone rogue.

And police are finding that cameras can protect them. Thugs beating or shooting at or throwing things at the police or vandalizing property are now finding also a sea of digital evidence to deal with. Dashboard cameras on cop cars and body cameras worn by the police aren’t just there to show when cops go bad - they also show when thugs (or the mentally ill) go wild.

Neither old fashioned cops nor common street criminals were or are still prepared for the universality of cameras and digital media.

They thought and think still they could and can get away with it, and they’re wrong. The police thought this and powerful politicians thought this, and they're wrong.


The World Bank Gets Behind Universal Access

"An investment in the Internet is an investment in humanity."

When Secretary Kerry spoke these words at the World Bank in Washington DC yesterday, it was both something that Internet insiders have believed for years, for decades even, and something of a turning point in the appreciation that Big Government and Big Development Banks have for the role of the Internet.

As an example, at that session, it was clear that

  • A dig-one policy will be favored: if any infrastructure is to be built, be it water or power or roads or rail, this infrastructure should have an Internet component, and that building a new physical infrastructure should be considered an opportunity to layer in an Internet extension. Building a road? Laying water or sewer or gas pipes? Trench in fiber or add microwave towers at the same time.  This is not a radical idea in telecom, but difficult to implement anywhere - and wonderful to see that development banks are grasping its importance.
  • Internet infrastructure is as vital to any country's economy, any region's vitality, as any other infrastructure. 10 or 20 years ago, Internet was considered by many a secondary idea, along the lines of "yes, but our people need schools, need water ... Internet can wait."

Of course, the devil will be in the details. Almost all aid is in the form of development loans, and their terms are sometimes crafted to benefit the sources more than the recipients. Will IMF and other funding agencies provide some relief on debt caps to allow Internet growth - with the expectation that this will accelerate GDP growth, undergird progress toward the sustainable development goals, and enhance the real wealth of the poor? Will economists who supervise these financial instruments look at the gains in externals as they consider the loans?

The external returns on Internet can include more girls and boys in school, better health outcomes, improved agriculture, bank services for the un-banked, and so on. If one does not include consideration of these externalities, it's difficult to justify Internet expansion, but it's absurd to exclude them. It is one thing to nod to the understanding that each increase by 10% in Internet penetration can boost GDP growth by 1% to 2%. But it's difficult to get from that idea to a business case that bankers will accept as basis for broader loan covenants. Will development banks stick to the old, traditional, Beltway-Bandit vendors, or will they allow and adopt disruptive approaches?

So, with thanks to President Kim and Secretary Kerry. I was privileged to be there as part of the supporting efforts: together, we were able to put a spotlight on the key role of finance ministers and multilateral development banks in accelerating progress towards connectivity and also of the critical role for the technical community, and the linkage between connectivity and advancement of all people.

The work ahead of us includes taking Global Connect to a global endeavor, and truly leveraging the power of Internet technologies to connect and benefit all of humanity.

Technology in Taiwan

Taiwan is the world’s pre-eminent hub for the development and manufacturing of most of the world’s high-tech hardware: computer systems, boards, and components; flat panel displays; digital cameras; smartphones and tablets, along with many key elements of the clean-tech and biotech sectors. The products developed or made by Taiwanese firms include well over 90% of the world’s notebook computers and tablets.  For example: Apple’s Macbook computers are mainly made by Quanta, based in Linkou, near Taipei; today, all iPhones are made by Foxconn/ HonHai Precision or by Pegatron, both also based in the Taipei area.

Facilitating Taiwan’s movement to its position at the pinnacle of development and manufacture of sophisticated devices central to the world’s economy have been substantial, sustained government support programs, particularly from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), and research done at the national labs of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). Today, the country is eager to move up the value chain to become a hub for innovation, and no longer just a center for making products designed elsewhere, with the largest value accruing to firms in other countries.

Recently Taiwan and the United States signed a Joint Statement on Trade Principles for Information and Communication Technology Services. This Statement recognizes the overwhelming importance of the technology sector to the economies of both countries.  It identifies the need to enhance regulatory capacity in support of further growth in this sector.  We agree with that assessment, and we advocate the following policy and position initiatives, all aimed at implementing the goals of the Statement and continuing to move Taiwan forward as a major participant in the global technology ecosystem.

Suggestion 1: Accelerate the adoption of policies and programs to encourage technology-oriented startups.

Over half of Taiwan’s US$300 billion in exports consists of technology products. Yet these sectors are enjoying much faster growth in South Korea and China than in Taiwan. If Taiwan is to enhance or even maintain its competitiveness in the tech sector, it is essential that it be able to encourage and cultivate new startup enterprises as continuous, vibrant sources of new ideas, approaches, and technologies.

Given the strength of its domestic high-tech hardware manufacturing sector – and the presence of some key brand companies such as HTC, Acer, and Asus – Taiwan has the potential to produce a brisk flow of innovative startups, emulating the success of Silicon Valley, Israel, and Singapore, and giving Taiwan the opportunity to position itself as a hub for international entrepreneurship and a gateway to Greater China. Interest by would-be entrepreneurs in creating startups has been increasing, and many graduates from Taiwan’s top universities aspire to create their own enterprises. 

For various reasons, however, tech startups are not flourishing in Taiwan. In fact, investors see the internal obstacles in Taiwan as so severe that they typically counsel entrepreneurs to incorporate the parent company outside of Taiwan, even when their main operations will be located here. For its part, the Taiwan government has recognized both the opportunities and the threats. The Small and Medium Enterprise Administration (SMEA) and other government agencies are actively encouraging entrepreneurship. The Startup Labs and Startup Weekend, partially hosted by the semi-governmental Institute for Information Industry, have fostered incubation of several new firms. Similarly, the government has funded programs at the national universities to encourage innovation.

The Committee believes that revising Taiwan’s Company Law to help meet the specific needs of emerging tech firms and their investors would address some of the existing problems and yield great results. We urge a full discussion of appropriate revisions to the law, including allowing greater sophistication in the issuance of preferred stock, making it easier for a company to offer shares to employees, removing the requirement that a venture fund have a board of directors, eliminating uncertainties about stock-vesting provisions, and establishing an English-name registration system. (See this Committee’s position paper in the 2012 Taiwan White Paper for more details).

We are pleased that following our recommendations on this subject in 2012, MOEA responded positively, arranging for meetings with a Deputy Minister and representatives of the Industrial Development Bureau to exchange views. The Committee now requests continued government support for creating a favorable ecosystem for technology startups, since their growth and success will be crucial to the future of the Taiwanese economy.

Some specific recommendations are:

  1. Ease – and preferably eliminate – the regulatory approval process needed before a startup can bring in funding from outside Taiwan. Taiwan's foreign investment approval (FIA) process was designed generations ago, when Taiwan was poor and foreign currency was scarce. It has achieved its goal. Today, the FIA process only adds to the time and expense of establishing foreign-invested startups, imposing formidable burdens on nascent firms. Further, as Taiwan moves toward a limited partnership structure for venture funds, more foreign investors are likely to be able to invest in Taiwanese tech sectors, since they are often allowed to invest only through limited-partnership mechanisms. The Legislative Yuan acted this May to waive the need for foreign-investment applications for projects valued at US$5 million or less. That is an encouraging start, and we hope that as the new system proves its value, the threshold will be continuously raised in increments.
  2. Relax or eliminate the requirement that a company earn a minimum amount of taxable income in order to renew work permits for its foreign employees. Shareholders of startup companies recognize that it can take an extended period of time for a startup to develop its technology and become profitable, and are normally prepared to fund the company through this period. It would be disastrous for a startup company to lose its foreign managers because Taiwan’s regulations do not allow them to renew their work permits until the company is profitable.

  3. Liberalize regulatory restrictions on venture funds in Taiwan to enable them to qualify more easily for funding from the government and state-owned banks. These regulations are currently so onerous that local venture funds and startups frequently choose to forego investments from these sources so as to gain more flexibility. Besides keeping startups from working with many vital Taiwanese institutions and preventing those institutions from engaging thoroughly with startups, this situation throttles the flow of capital into the Taiwanese entrepreneurial ecosystem and heightens the propensity of startups to seek funding and leadership from outside Taiwan.

  4. Enable international entrepreneurs to obtain “startup visas” to come to Taiwan to establish businesses together with Taiwanese partners, while also creating internship opportunities for international students. Such programs could be modeled on the J1 Visa Program in the United States.

  5. Revise the framework for government investment so as to encourage earlier-stage involvement. MOEA’s efforts to foster Taiwanese innovation by means of evergreen funds (via an ITRI subsidiary, the Industrial Technology Investment Corp.) have been encouraging. The dual missions of the ITIC funds – achieving return on investment while encouraging innovation in Taiwan – are well-thought out and can be easily aligned. However, current rules tend to restrict ITIC to investing in firms that are already doing substantial amounts of business – but at that point, the companies have sources of funding other than venture funds. Support at the startup stage is what is needed.




Will You Buy A(nother) iPhone

Another iPhone is on its way, or perhaps even two models[1]. And this much we already know: you will buy a(nother) iPhone. This matters, both because of the simple statements about this vast market, and because of what it says about innovation and growth in years to come.

Really, and the theme of this piece, there are four basic reasons why most people will end up buying a(nother) iPhone; its Star effect; the learning curve benefits of the iPhone’s position; the virtuous cycle of learning how users interact with their smart phones; and the business model strength. We’ll discuss each of these. Another post will deal with the opportunities to challenge Apple’s market dominance.

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Trading Nations, Fighting Firms (First Notes)

Exxon Mobil, the US oil giant, had recent annual revenues of $438 Billion. It’s Samsung’s apparent goal to become the world’s first company to have an annual revenue topping $1 Trillion. In this context, Exxon Mobil’s annual revenues already exceed the GDP of Nigeria and Belgium (both about $414 Billion). Samsung’s target revenue would exceed the current GDP of all but 16 of the world’s largest economies, and today would fit in between Turkey (16th largest at about $1.1 Trillion) and Iran (17th, $991 Billion).

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When Robots Eat Jobs

Comments on correspondence, via Dave Farber's IP list, about jobs.

In correspondence entitled "Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying Jobs—They Aren't", Robert Atkinson (president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.) asserts that Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Macafee are in error in seeing economic disruption from computers. Brynjolfsson and Macafee see the erosion of employment accelerating as a consequence of Moore''s law - computers are becoming more powerful, more rapidly and thus more able to take over the functions previously reserved for humans in gainful employ.

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Restructuring the Car Industry

The global auto industry seems headed for change on its enormous scale. The changes will be wrenching and difficult and will devastate some players and create major opportunities for others. 

In the 1990s, telecom moved headlong into a decade of transformation that rewrote the rules forever: competition, a change in the underlying technologies, and the migration from narrowband voice to broadband data and from wireline to wireless, and the diffusion from expensive services for the world’s middle class and wealthiest to absolute global ubiquity were the ingredients to this recipe for change.

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Not Even Wrong

Economics today is a respected (for the most part) field of work, which has its own Nobel prizes, professors and specialized departments in every major university, learned journals and lengthy tomes in bookstores, pundits on the television and web, and so on. And much of the area of economics is sensible and necessary, and we have no better tool for analyzing and predicting economic outcomes. But some, perhaps much of this is but a house of cards and we’ll see the end of at least some of the discipline, soon. Or, at very least, we will see swept away the false constructs of a self-infatuated theoretical belief system, to be replaced only with analytics of the biggest of “big data”.

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An Index for Carrots

Carrots, we all know, are bright orange, conical or cylindrical root vegetables. Great in salads, stews, the eponymous cake and divine in the Indian dessert Halva. They are also produced in the USA in a market structure that, if it were something people really cared about, would provoke federal government anti-trust action.80% of all carrots sold in America are produced by two companies. And this provides a nice opportunity to think about market concentration.

The US federal government has a way of determining if a market is too concentrated, if there are too few vendors for it to be a genuinely open, vibrant and competitive marketplace. This is known by the slightly daunting name of the Herfindahl–Hirschman index. The daunting name deceives; it’s actually a very simple way of gauging how concentrated a market is. 

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What is a Car?

Some years ago, I was on a modern bus (an Airporter bus from San Francisco airport to Marin County). As the bus cruised at about 30 miles per hour on a San Francisco city boulevard, the engine suddenly cut out, the lights went out. The driver steered the suddenly powerless bus to the side of the road, and brought the bus to a halt. He pushed open the door and walked around, to the back of the bus. Returning to his seat, he restarted the bus, the lights came on. What had happened? The bus had crashed, he explained, not into another vehicle, but its operating system had failed. He’d gone to the back of the bus to, quite literally, reboot it. (Windows CE, I believe.)

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The Perfect Storm in Global Employment

The changes ahead in work – what it is and does and why it’s done – could well make many of our ideas about work by humans about as relevant in 2040 as the idea of transportation by horses is today in the USA or Europe.

Facing us, in the coming decades, is a new and perfect storm of changes in work, the workforce, the availability and, eventually, the value of work. In the coming decades, the imbalance between the size of the workforce and the scale of available work will grow. Hundreds of millions of would-be-workers will be without work for decades, in countries rich and poor.

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