Friday, August 25, 2017

Are Worker-Owned Cooperatives an Economic Panacea?

Perhaps more employee ownership would improve the performance of companies?

Shareholder value maximization has many issues but the most important one is that it “drains” a large part of the profits from companies both because shareholders control the board of Directors and thereby dictate how the profits are redistributed (to their advantage), and also in a desperate attempt to retain shareholder. Given the ever increasing free flow of capitals, investors can shift their capital allocations continuously to seek the highest return on investment at the lowest risk. This “free market” environment encourages a “race to the bottom” and a skewed allocation of profits between dividend payouts, investments inside the company, and investment in human capital (working conditions, wages…) In an economic system which relies heavily on consumption as the main driver of growth, squeezing human capital investments is tantamount to suicide (and no, credit is no substitute for a decent pay).

Read the whole concept here...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Vikings Lead the Way -- Drone Delivery in Reykjavik

Iceland is never too cold to try new things -- a startup is offering deliveries via the air:

Drone logistics startup Flytrex has teamed up with Iceland's main online retailer, AHA, to launch a courier drone service in Reykjavik. Specifically, it's serving one part of Reykjavik -- robotic fliers carry food across a river in the city, cutting the delivery time from 25 minutes to 4.
Read more here...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

UBI update - rich guys get behind the idea

Richard Branson and other entrepreneurs are supporting further research into universal basic income.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Counter-Point: Robots Are Our Friends

Over at Wired, the author claims robots won't be taking our jobs. The case of SoftBank is referenced, to highlight current anxiety:

In a less anxious world, Pepper might come across as a cute technological novelty. But for many pundits and prognosticators, he’s a sign of something much more grave: the growing obsolescence of human workers. (Images of the doe-eyed Pepper have accompanied numerous articles with variations on the headline “robots are coming for your job.”)

... IMAGINE YOU’RE THE pilot of an old Cessna. You’re flying in bad weather, you can’t see the horizon, and a frantic, disoriented passenger is yelling that you’re headed straight for the ground. What do you do? No question: You trust your instruments—your altimeter, your compass, and your artificial horizon—to give you your actual bearings, and keep flying.

Now imagine you’re an economist back on the ground, and a panic­stricken software engineer is warning that his creations are about to plow everyone straight into a world without work. Just as surely, there are a couple of statistical instruments you know to consult right away to see if this prediction checks out. If automation were, in fact, transforming the US economy, two things would be true: Aggregate productivity would be rising sharply, and jobs would be harder to come by than in the past.... “Low productivity growth does slide in the face of the story we tell about amazing technological progress.”


Monday, August 14, 2017

Hidden Messages in Signs... for Robots Only

The company 3M is helping autonomous cars by encoding hidden messages in road signs.

3M is using its expertise with signs to assist with autonomous car development. The company, which now boasts 90,000 employees, is tucking invisible messages into traffic signs to help self-driving cars figure out where they are.

Read more here...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This offers a visual depiction of the various software development methodologies.

The only thing more difficult than building software for a client, is explaining how software is built to a client.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

UBI vs the Robots

With advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, many people's jobs will be up for grabs. And we are entirely unprepared as exponential advances, most notably in form of artificial intelligence, will eat away employment as humans' primary source of income. There may be an answer, in the form of a direct payment to each of us.

Universal basic income (UBI) is gaining momentum worldwide. Switzerland held a referendum on the introduction of a nationwide UBI (which it rejected) in 2016,1 Finland is currently testing it for some people, and India is considering replacing its welfare state with a UBI.2 The UBI is an unconditional cash payment that flows monthly from the state budget to everybody. It is transferred from public to private accounts throughout an entire lifetime, from birth to death, without any application or preconditions to be fulfilled by the beneficiary. It is supposed to cover the socio-cultural subsistence minimum. However, the determination of this minimum level of subsistence is a political and not an economic decision.

Some suggest work can be divided into a few categories: routine and nonroutine, cognitive and manual. Routine work is the same stuff day in and day out, while nonroutine work varies. Within these two varieties, is the work that requires mostly our brains (cognitive) and the work that requires mostly our bodies (manual). Routine work started to stagnate at the end of the last millennium because some of that work is easily handled by machines.

One approach to machine intelligence is with neural networks, a tool of artificial intelligence. This provides a means for machine learning that can leverage big data -- the data sets being created and standardized. Everything we do is generating data, and lots of data is exactly what machines need in order to learn to learn.When computer code is wrong, it is self-corrected, further improving error detection and expanding the capabilities of the particular a.i. Bigger data sets speed such learning, and lower the error rates. No, this isn't SkyNet: think of robots as technologies, such as machine learning algorithms running on purpose-built computer platforms, that have been trained to perform discrete tasks that currently require humans to perform.

As others have written, "During the Obama administration, a report of the president was published (no longer available at that included a very dire prediction: "There is an 83% chance that workers who earn $20 an hour or less could have their jobs replaced by robots in the next five years. Those in the $40 an hour pay range face a 31% chance of having their jobs taken over by the machines." Clearly, the robots are coming."

Read more here... and here...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why Micro-Services are the "Go to" for Service Oriented Architecture

Within the SOA universe, a micro-service architectural approach means developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with a lightweight mechanism, such as an HTTP API call. Micro-services are built around business processes, with independent and fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management and services may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.

Microservices are designed to be independently deployable, whereas SOA services are often implemented withing a single monolithic environment. SOA is an architectural pattern in which application components provide services to other components -- but those components can belong to the same application. Micro services deconstruct services from apps.

Read more here ...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cloud Computing Moving Front and Center of Federal IT Strategy

For federal agencies, cloud computing is now a lynchpin strategy. But the options are varied: public, private and hybrid cloud deployments. A variety of factors impact the decision to include the Cloud in IT strategy:
-- Compliance with Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) for cloud providers
-- Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) requirements for security
-- Security options for the various cloud models (public, private or hybrid) and provider
-- Designing a cloud migration

Both OSS and cloud computing individually offer potential benefits for federal agencies to improve their efficiency, agility, and innovation, by enabling them to be more responsive to new or changing requirements in their missions and business operations.

One example cited is: " May 2011, the US Department of Veterans Affair (VA) CIO stated to avoid costs, and to find a way to involve the private sector in modernizing Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture (VistA; electronic medical records system), the VA turned to open source. In response, the VA launched the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA) in August 2012 "as a central governing body of a new open source Electronic Health Record (EHR) community".

The approach to move data and applications to the cloud can vary. With critical IT assets in play, the importance of carefully selecting a plan and determining the most appropriate cloud service type and provider, is crucial. Results vary, but with the right support, organizations reap performance, reliability and cost savings from a successful deployment.

Read more here...