News — At The Edge — 9/22by@doch_one

News — At The Edge — 9/22

by Doc HustonSeptember 20th, 2018
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<em>Whether looking at the big picture — </em><strong>neglect for the future</strong><em> — or technologies — </em><strong>surveillance, data manipulation, blockchain, intellectual property</strong><em> — we are failing to see the forest for the trees.</em>
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Whether looking at the big picture —neglect for the future— or technologies —surveillance, data manipulation, blockchain, intellectual property— we are failing to see the forest for the trees.


What happens when American power retreats? ‘The Jungle Grows Back’ —

“[It’s] a common belief that human rights and democracy must prevail because they are noble and good**….[That’s] a dangerous fantasy….**

[WWII] convinced Americans that ‘their way of life could not be safe in a world…dominated by hostile autocratic powers…[yet] forgotten that any hostile autocracy is a threat….Americans have also forgotten that their allies will submit to a Pax Americana only if it seems fair…[and] if it neglects the security of its junior partners, they will drift away.

If America adopts a Hobbesian vision of a brutal, zero-sum world, as Mr Trump seems to, everyone else will, too….’World order is one of those things people don’t think about until it is gone’….

America’s security guarantees…prevented the merciless escalation of a dog-eat-dog world. Post-war Germany and Japan felt safe enough to forsake militarism and concentrate on economic growth…. Even the Soviet Union trusted America enough to give up without a fight.

A common belief holds that world peace can sustain itself…[but] ‘vines and weeds…are constantly working to undermine it’….

[Choice] is between maintaining the liberal world order, with all the moral and material costs that entails, or letting it collapse and courting the catastrophes that must inevitably follow….[A] bleak vision… that, in Mr Trump’s America…[is] almost certain to be scorned.”

Why we don’t prepare for the future —

“Does America adapt by crisis or consensus…or must we be coerced**?….[Crises] and pretend they’re not inevitable…fail[ing] to confront some of the major social, political and economic realities of our time…[because] demand, in the political vernacular, ‘sacrifice’…[so] the country would be better off**….

Had some of these problems been tackled years ago….needed changes would have been modest….[Other] problems have no solutions, only better and worse ways of dealing with imperfection….

[Worse] our political leaders have preferred procrastination…[and] create agendas they know are anathema to their adversaries, prompting each side to vilify the other. Politics focuses increasingly on ‘keeping your base happy,’ as opposed to governing…. Political theater triumphs….Nastiness and polarization increase….Trump is the logical conclusion….

There is a larger point….[Democracies] are creatures of the present….

It’s hard to inflict present pain for uncertain future gain. Our political system makes us vulnerable to distant crises, because we don’t try to anticipate and defuse them…[thereby] lose some control over our future.”

The Future By Default_As most everyone knows, the Hawaiian Islands are a beautiful and magical place. In spending most of my life there I…

Optimistic —

“[Clearly] the future must include a mixture of both optimism and pessimism….

[T]here’s much to be pessimistic about. Our slowly boiling planet; the resurgence of racist nationalism around the global; the worldwide rise of authoritarian demagogues….

[The] tech industry folk, and especially investors, are deeply incentivized to be optimistic….

Panglossianism is not the path of wisdom. But neither is apocalypticism….

For all of capitalism’s flaws, and there are many, it has reduced the number of people living in extreme povertyconnected the planet…made solar/wind power and electric cars both increasingly widespread and increasingly cost-effective, and we’re working hard at replacing most rote human drudgery with robot labor….

Why does optimism about the…seem so rare these days? Partly this is social media’s fault…. Partly it’s that the fruits of the advances…remain so unequally distributed….Optimism is dangerously provocative. It implicitly calls on us to do something, to contribute, to join the spreading wave….

[Pessimism] only calls on us to endure…because in the long run, our new technologies will make everything better…. This is wrong and dangerous and (ironically) spectacularly shortsighted.”

UK’s mass surveillance regime violated human rights law, finds ECHR —

“European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)…[says] state surveillance practices violated human rights law…[as] Edward Snowden [disclosed]….

ECHR focused on three different surveillance regimes:

  1. The bulk interception of communications (aka ‘mass surveillance’);
  2. Intelligence sharing with foreign governments
  3. The obtaining of communications data from communications service providers….

[T]here was insufficient oversight [of]…interception and the filtering; search and selection of intercepted communications for examination; and the safeguards governing the selection of ‘related communications data’ for examination’…[and] insufficient safeguards…of confidential journalistic material….

[But] sharing intelligence with foreign governments did not violate [laws]….

[ECHR] found the UK regime lacked sufficient monitoring to be lawful (but not that bulk collection itself is unlawful by default)….‘Court could not ignore the fact that surveillance regimes have the potential to be abused….

[T]o minimize this risk, the Court has previously identified six minimum safeguards which all interception regimes must have’….

  1. nature of offences…to an interception order;
  2. definition of the categories of people liable to have…communications intercepted;
  3. limit on the duration of interception;
  4. procedure…for examining, using and storing the data obtained;
  5. precautions…taken when communicating the data to other parties;
  6. circumstances in which intercepted data may or must be erased or destroyed….

Police and intelligence agencies need…surveillance powers…but the court has ruled that those threats do not justify spying on every citizen without adequate protections….

[Government] built a surveillance regime more extreme than that of any other democratic nation, abandoning the very rights and freedoms terrorists want to attack…. Excessive surveillance discourages whistle-blowing and discourages investigative journalism.”

Ghost of Christmas Past?_As you read this you are aware of the fact that you are reading. At the same time, you are also aware of many other…

US lawmakers warn spy chief that ‘deep fakes’ are a national security threat —

“[New] reality: creating almost-perfectly faked videos of people saying things they never did… and the power to instantly share it….

US lawmakers are worried…[they] could be used by the enemy to harm national security…part of wider disinformation campaigns…[and] to sway elections….

[Obviously] disinformation has risen…[with] a major effect on those who are none the wiser.

The Blockchain: Boon for Bankers — or Tool for Tyrants? —

“Despite all the grifting, thieving, speculation, and wild price swings…decentralized digital currencies are clearly here to stay….

Small and medium-size businesses are the largest part of our economy…[yet] supported by really…stupid debt, because for most banks the costs of investing in small businesses outweigh the potential returns….[T]here’s a lot of incentive for customers to own equity in a service that they use.

So you could move investment away from debt and toward equity by making the risk and opportunity in a small business more transparent and tradable….[and] equity financing an option…for most small businesses….

[So] blockchain-­future scenarios…could go in three directions_…._

  1. democratization of the financial system…[is] the utopian direction….
  2. more dystopian, where digital money is used for surveillance and control, and people don’t have physical cash….
  3. changing the structure of our financial system…to settle transactions a little faster…[but] mediated through banks….

VCs are investing like it’s ready to produce the next Google or Facebook, even though it is definitely not.

We still need time to build and standardize…without pressure from the established financial industry to conform to its own narrow goals.”

“Article 11 is intended to give publishers and papers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories, allowing them to demand paid licenses. Article 13 requires certain platforms like YouTube and Facebook stop users sharing unlicensed copyrighted material….

[Critics] say these provisions are disastrous….[Article 11] attempts to ‘tax’ platforms like Google News for sharing articles…[and] would be ripe to abuse by copyright trolls….[Article 13] requires that platforms proactively work with rightsholders to stop users uploading copyrighted content…an incredible burden for small platforms, and could be used as a mechanism for widespread censorship….

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee came out…strongly against the directive….

[Supporters] pointing to existing laws and amendments to the directive as proof it won’t be abused…[with] exemptions for sites like GitHub and Wikipedia from Article 13, and exceptions to the ‘link tax’ that allow for the sharing of mere hyperlinks and ‘individual words’ describing articles without constraint….

[I]t will have a huge, disruptive impact on the internet…[and] the web’s biggest tech companies are losing their grip on the internet.”

Google admits changing phone settings remotely —

“The battery saver affects how often apps update…[how] work in the background…[can] delay notifications and stop location services when the device is not in use’….

[Google says] an internal experiment…mistakenly rolled out….

[Personally] I don’t want any app or operating system reversing decisions I’ve made — unless I know why they are doing it. It’s about transparency and consent.”

History has not been kind to countries’ attempts at hoarding intellectual property —

“American counter-intelligence chiefs think that China is running a ‘super-aggressive’ campaign on LinkedIn to recruit experts…[in] an ‘unparalleled’ level of economic espionage….

[U.S. gets] 80% of their market value from intangible assets such as patents and brands…[owning] half of the world’s IP. At the biggest 50 multinationals, 65% of foreign profits come from IP-intensive businesses such as tech and drugs….

WTO rules on safeguarding IP abroad have little bite…[so] many believe…tough, unilateral action by America to enforce its rights abroad….

History is not encouraging. At any point in time an elite group of firms in a particular country are on the frontier of innovation….

[T]he absorption of foreign IP explains 40% of the growth in labor productivity in emerging economies between 2004 and 2014. The incentives for such countries are so powerful that hoarding ideas away from them is like clutching a wet bar of soap….

One channel is contractual relationships, such as foreign direct investment or licensing. Another is persistent theft…that includes reverse-engineering products, tips from suppliers and headhunting experts from rivals….

If USA Inc charged the world $600bn more, and this hit was absorbed by all foreign companies, it would cut total profits outside America by about a tenth. The return on equity of American multinationals abroad (excluding financial firms) would soar from 8% to 14%….

America’s economy is shifting further towards intangibles…and bosses are right that China has misbehaved…. The solution is a global regime that permits the flow of ideas, prohibits theft, offers a framework for pricing IP and sees that rules are enforced….

Sadly, this is exactly the multilateral approach to trade that America has rejected. Not one of its best ideas.”

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May you live long and prosper!Doc Huston