From Voxeu, a new paper on wages and productivity:
"the dispersion [within sectors and countries] of both wages and productivity has been faster at the bottom than at the top,” using data from AUS, AUT, BEL, CHL, DNK, FIN, FRA, HUN, ITA, JPN, NLD, NOR, NZL, SWE.
They conclude: “Using firm-level data, we show that wage dispersion and productivity dispersion have both increased within sectors, and that these two increases are linked. This is particularly evident in sectors that are more open to trade and are more ICT-intensive. As would be expected, wage-setting institutions [in particular, the degree of centralization of wage bargaining] affect the distribution of wages, but our work shows that they also have an indirect effect by affecting the link between productivity and wage dispersion."
Rutgers is going all out to help black students graduate, and it seems to work:
“Rutgers’ Run to the Top program offers free tuition to local community-college graduates and Newark residents whose families make less than $60,000 a year. Since most first-generation college students start at community college, Rutgers-Newark has also made transfer pathways from local community colleges easier, by guaranteeing credit for most majors.
And admissions officers have begun to go to local public schools, churches, and community events to aggressively recruit Newark residents. …
its honors college, the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC), ... opened in 2015. Accepted students get a scholarship that covers housing and a meal plan. Admissions require an essay and two interviews; standardized test scores are not considered. ...
"In 2009, between 800 and 900 student registrations were cancelled because students had not paid their bills, according to administrators. A program called Registration and Recovery Efforts has cut that number by two-thirds. The Business Office identifies students who are behind in payments and puts the word out to faculty advisors, residential advisors and the veterans and disability offices, to name a few. The idea is that people who already have a relationship with a student are in a better position to identify what the problem might be and help solve it before the student has to drop out.” [This kind of program requires a lot of trust; I'd be much more skeptical of informing every university employee a student knows about her financial troubles if this were at a for-profit college.] …
"'You might be returning from prison, and any bump in the road can derail you—a sick child so you miss an assignment; a broken-down car so you need to work more. Maybe you feel disrespected in class by other students or professors. You need people to talk to and to feel like you’re being heard.'
It has become clear to more and more administrators nationwide that emotional issues can be as disruptive as financial ones when it comes to keeping students in college.
Faculty and staff at Rutgers-Newark now have a phone number and email they can use to alert a group of counselors if they think a student might be in trouble. The counseling team is aware that many students won’t seek assistance, so they’ve set up “listening tables” at gathering points on campus. Doctors and counselors are posted in academic building lobbies, student lounges and cafeterias to offer counseling and wellness advice and referrals on stress reduction, healthy relationships, sexual assault and other issues."
German trade surplus stems from policy choices on government spending and firm profits
Wade Jacoby at the Monkey Cage:
"Germany … says that its large surplus and other countries’ deficits are a simple product of differences in competitiveness. … A better explanation, however, would move the focus away from competitiveness to capital flows — large financial flows between countries that reflect policy-driven changes in incomes, consumption, savings and investment. In Germany’s case, a host of labor market, pension, public investment and fiscal policy changes have helped lower the share of national income that goes to labor. This put far more money in the hands of those who save rather than spend. As a result, German domestic consumption has necessarily grown much more slowly than has national income, and lower consumption, by definition, has meant greater savings. Practically, this means firm profits have soared ever higher, and, more recently, government debt has shrunk — both manifestations of these higher savings. Overall, German national savings grew from about 21 percent of German GDP to 28 percent during the period in which its current account went sharply into surplus (2003-2017). Meanwhile, German private investment stagnated, and public investment fell to among the lowest levels in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This means that of the three usual sources of economic growth — consumption, investment and trade — Germany has become disruptively reliant on trade since about 2003. Thus, where German apologists claim that the trade surplus is simply the aggregate result of free consumer choices, it is, in fact, mostly the result of Germany’s capital outflows, which are a result of policy choices, especially those that shift national income from consumers to firms (as profits or capital subsidies) or to government (as budget surpluses)."
Things I liked, Thursday
Periodical reminder that for all the discussions about the decline of white working-class communities, few things trump the hardship of blacks in the rural South: Harpers with tremendous reporting on a TB outbreak in Alabama.
Nicola Twilley, in the New Yorker, on sensory substitution: "What is seeing, after all, if your tongue can do it? Is a person who perceives visual information via the auditory system experiencing sight, sound, or an unprecedented hybrid of the two? ... Some argue that vision is defined by the organ that absorbs the information: anything that does not enter through the eye is not vision, and thus Erik Weihenmayer is feeling, rather than seeing, the rock wall in front of him. Striem-Amit, on the other hand, is one of many neuroscientists who favor a definition of vision that is determined by the source of the stimulus: vision is any processing of information that comes from reflected rays of light."
Bryan Stevenson on the Ezra Klein Show: "The true evil of American slavery was the narrative we created to justify it. ... The North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war. There was no actual accountability. There was no reckoning. ... The failure of that transition means that even today, we're dealing with a narrative of racial difference. ... If there were Hitler statutes all over Germany, I couldn't go there. ... I would not able to make peace with the nation that was still comfortable with the era of German history where Nazis were responsible for the death of millions of Jewish people. ... we don't talk about slavery. We don't talk about lynching. Worse, we've created the counter-narrative that says we have nothing about which we should be ashamed. Our past is romantic and glorious. In my state of Alabama, Jefferson Davis's birthday is a state holiday. ... I think we have to increase our shame"
FT Alphachat with Jeremy Adelman on the life and ideas of Albert Hirschman.
This American Life on Putin's ascent to power, his approval ratings and disinformation.
Fatih Guvenen, Greg Kaplan, Jae Song, and Justin Weidner have another bombshell paper:
"Using panel data on individual labor income histories from 1957 to 2013, we document two empirical facts about the distribution of lifetime income in the United States. First, from the cohort that entered the labor market in 1967 to the cohort that entered in 1983, median lifetime income of men declined by 10%–19%. We find little-to-no rise in the lower three-quarters of the percentiles of the male lifetime income distribution during this period. Accounting for rising employer-provided health and pension benefits partly mitigates these findings but does not alter the substantive conclusions. For women, median lifetime income increased by 22%–33% from the 1957 to the 1983 cohort, but these gains were relative to very low lifetime income for the earliest cohort. Much of the difference between newer and older cohorts is attributed to differences in income during the early years in the labor market. Partial life-cycle profiles of income observed for cohorts that are currently in the labor market indicate that the stagnation of lifetime incomes is unlikely to reverse. Second, we find that inequality in lifetime incomes has increased significantly within each gender group. However, the closing lifetime gender gap has kept overall lifetime inequality virtually flat. The increase within gender groups is largely attributed to an increase in inequality at young ages, and partial life-cycle income data for younger cohorts indicate that the increase in inequality is likely to continue. Overall, our findings point to the substantial changes in labor market outcomes for younger workers as a critical driver of trends in both the level and inequality of lifetime income over the past 50 years.”
I was pretty shocked by how stark these results are. Even after all the other news on inequality trends, this result still feels like a real blow. Some reactions on Twitter (e.g., Russ Roberts here) have emphasized that stagnating standards of living really aren’t plausible, and possibly the way we measure inflation is wrong. The inflation indices are quite probably wrong - hard questions are hard - but I think this view may be misjudging the magnitudes. Say you think we’re massively underestimating how much cheaper everything’s getting, e.g. CPI is off the mark by 2% every year (because it might not do a good job of accounting for new products being introduced and for people switching between the things they buy when prices change). Note that our best estimates suggest CPI is off by around 0.8%. Properly accounting for this might make the decline in median lifetime incomes go away, and you might in fact see a slight increase. But does that really alter your substantive interpretation of the paper? There’s a very real chance a large majority of workers haven’t seen meaningful increases in income in several decades. That feels like a risk worth worrying about, even if it turns out that the trend is slightly positive and not negative. There is uncertainty in empirical work, don't get distracted by the point estimate.
The Long Shadows of Korean History
In the London Review of Book, Bruce Cumings writes:
"After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters …
"In September 1940 an even larger [Japanese] force embarked on a counterinsurgency campaign against Chinese and Korean guerrillas: ‘The punitive operation was conducted for one year and eight months until the end of March 1941,’ Suh writes, ‘and the bandits, excluding those led by Kim Il-sung, were completely annihilated.’ ... A vital figure in the long Japanese counterinsurgency effort was Kishi Nobusuke, who made a name for himself running munitions factories. Labelled a Class A war criminal during the US occupation, Kishi avoided incarceration and became one of the founding fathers of postwar Japan and its longtime ruling organ, the Liberal Democratic Party; he was prime minister twice between 1957 and 1960. The current Japanese prime minister, Abe Shinzo, is Kishi’s grandson and reveres him above all other Japanese leaders. Trump was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Abe on 11 February when a pointed message arrived mid-meal, courtesy of Pyongyang: it had just successfully tested a new, solid-fuel missile, fired from a mobile launcher. Kim Il-sung and Kishi are meeting again through their grandsons. Eight decades have passed, and the baleful, irreconcilable hostility between North Korea and Japan still hangs in the air. …
"The historian Hun Joon Kim found that at least 300,000 people were detained and executed or simply disappeared by the South Korean government in the first few months after conventional war began [in 1950]. My own work and that of John Merrill indicates that somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people died as a result of political violence before June 1950, at the hands either of the South Korean government or the US occupation forces. In her recent book Korea’s Grievous War, … Su-kyoung Hwang documents the mass killings in villages around the southern coast. In short, the Republic of Korea was one of the bloodiest dictatorships of the early Cold War period; many of the perpetrators of the massacres had served the Japanese in their dirty work – and were then put back into power by the Americans. …
"There were two military coups in the South while the US had operational control of the Korean army, in 1961 and 1980. ... South Korea’s stable democracy and vibrant economy from 1988 onwards seem to have overridden any need to acknowledge the previous forty years of history, during which the North could reasonably claim that its own autocracy was necessary to counter military rule in Seoul. It’s only in the present context that the North looks at best like a walking anachronism, at worst like a vicious tyranny."
Tyler Cowan links to this bit from Daniel Knowles:
"Africa is urbanising without globalising. Sixty years ago the whole of sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with a population of more than a million people. Now it has dozens.
But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century, or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises. Africa’s urbanisation is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing. Two thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums."
Maciej Cegłowski strikes again:
"It's not clear that anyone can secure large data collections over time. The asymmetry between offense and defense may be too great. If defense at scale is possible, the only way to do it is by pouring millions of dollars into hiring the best people to defend it. Data breaches at the highest levels have shown us that the threats are real and ongoing. And for every breach we know about, there are many silent ones that we won't learn about for years. ...
"Each of the big five companies, with the important exception of Apple, has made aggressive user surveillance central to its business model. This is a dilemma of the feudal internet. We seek protection from these companies because they can offer us security. But their business model is to make us more vulnerable, by getting us to surrender more of the details of our lives to their servers, and to put more faith in the algorithms they train on our observed behavior. …
"Decisions about how this software works are not under any kind of democratic control. In the best case, they are being made by idealistic young people in California with imperfect knowledge of life in a faraway place like Germany. In the worst case, they are simply being read out of a black-box algorithm trained on God knows what data.
"This is a very colonial mentality! In fact, it’s what we fought our American War of Independence over, a sense of grievance that decisions that affected us were being made by strangers across the ocean. … How is it that some dopey kid in Palo Alto gets to decide the political future of the European Union based on what they learned at big data boot camp? Did we lose a war?
"The lack of accountability … [is] dangerous in a political climate where people are pushing back at the very idea of globalization. There's no industry more globalized than tech, and no industry more vulnerable to a potential backlash. China and Russia show us that the Internet need not be a world-wide web, that it can be subverted and appropriated by the state. By creating a political toolkit for authoritarian movements, the American tech giants may be putting their own future at risk. …
"The circumstances that have given the tech industry all this power will not last long. There is a limited time in which our small caste of tech nerds will have the power to make decisions that shape the world. By wasting the talents and the energies of our brightest people on fantasy role play, we are ceding the future to a more practical group of successors, some truly scary people who will take our tools and use them to advance a very different agenda. …
"Not only did the tech sector fail to build up the communities around it, but it’s left people worse off than before, by pricing them out of the places they grew up. Walk the length of Market Street (watch your step!) in San Francisco and count the shuttered store fronts. Take Caltrain down to San Jose, and see if you can believe that it is the richest city in the United States, per capita. The massive increase in wealth has not connected with a meaningful way with average people’s lives even in the heart of tech country, let alone in the forgotten corners of the country."
Dietrich Vollrath on Baumol’s cost disease, in response to Scott Alexander:
"Alexander goes through education, health, and government services, effectively documenting the cost disease. He crystallizes this by asking the following kind of question. “Which would you prefer? Sending your child to a 2016 school? Or sending your child to a 1975 school, and getting a check for $5000 each year?” ...
"Alexander’s implicit answer to all these questions is that you would choose the the second option; the older level of service plus the cash. Much of the post is spent explaining that the service offered today is of no better quality than the service offered a generation ago. ... Let’s stipulate that the quality of healthcare and education have not changed in a generation ...
"Here’s the question that Baumol implicitly asked himself. What do people spend all that extra money on? They could use it towards a new car or a major appliance, both manufactured goods. ...
"But they might spend that extra five or eight thousand dollars to finally take a well-deserved vacation, meaning it is spent on tourism and hospitality services. Or they may well decide to spend that money sending their kids to a better (and more expensive?) school, or putting them in a full time daycare rather than part-time. …
"From Baumol’s second insight, the demand for these kinds of services is income elastic and price inelastic. Which means that a huge part of the money people get back from Alexander’s thought experiment is plowed right back into education and healthcare. What does that do? It shifts the demand curve out for healthcare and education. And then what happens? The price goes up, and the actual amount of new health care or education acquired is not that large. Moreover, there is no appreciable decline - and there may be an increase - in the share of total GDP accounted for by healthcare and education.
"This is the same outcome Baumol described, even though for him the origin of this was a productivity increase in the goods sector. But the origin of the productivity increase is unimportant, what matters is the structure of demand for services. So long as our demand for services is income elastic and price inelastic, the share of healthcare and education in GDP are going to rise as we get more productive ...
"I think Alexander’s post is one example (of many) taking the “disease” part of “cost disease” too literally. Rising costs in education and healthcare do not always represent a pathology. In a lot of ways we are the victims of our own prosperity and preferences here. There is nothing about Baumol’s analysis that implies living standards are lower or welfare is impaired by the cost disease. Remember that the cost disease is a consequence of productivity improvements in the first place."
Main Driver of Prison Growth is Prosecutors' Willingness to Charge Arrestees with Felonies
John Pfaff at the Monkey Cage:
"The fairly incoherent way we divide responsibility across cities (which run police departments), counties (which elect prosecutors and judges and pay for jails), and states (which fund prisons and whose governors control the parole process) leads to all sorts of moral hazard risks by haphazardly separating cost and benefits. My “favorite” example is that county-elected prosecutors face no limits on how many people they can send to state-funded prison. Prosecutors get all the tough-on-crime credibility from sending people to prison, but their counties bear none of the financial cost. In fact, it’s “cheaper” for county prosecutors to charge someone with a more-serious felony (which sends the defendant to state prison) than with a lesser misdemeanor (which lands the defendant in county-funded jail or probation). Electing prosecutors at the county level also creates a dangerous split in costs and benefits within the county, which helps explain racial disparities in punishment. In more-urban counties, the whiter, more suburban areas have a lot of political power, and they likely play an outsized role in electing the prosecutor, who in turn tends to enforce the law in poorer, more minority urban areas. Those suburbanites feel the benefits of reduced crime but few if any of the costs, which are borne by a population that they are divorced from socially, culturally, economically and geographically, in no small part because of our history of red-lining and other forms of racial exclusion. We should accordingly expect prosecutors to pay too little attention to the costs of aggressive enforcement. …
"At least since crime and arrests started to drop in the early 1990s, the main engine driving prison growth has been an increased willingness on the part of prosecutors to charge more and more arrestees with felony charges. … Between the early 1970s and 1990, as crime rose steadily, the number of prosecutors rose from 17,000 to 20,000; between 1990 and 2008, as crime dropped, we expanded the number of prosecutors by three times as much, to 30,000. There’s no evidence I’ve seen that individual prosecutors are more aggressive today than in the 1990s or even 1970s. We just have a lot more of them who need to justify their positions."
Piketty reminds us:
"Le pays sort d’une récession de dix ans – le produit intérieur brut (PIB) par habitant est, en 2017, inférieur de 5 % à ce qu’il était en 2007 –, avec pour conséquence catastrophique une chute de près de 10 % de l’investissement par étudiant dans l’enseignement supérieur.
Ne l’oublions jamais : la population française est en progression constante (contrairement à celle de l’Allemagne), et le nombre d’étudiants augmente plus rapidement encore. C’est une excellente chose, à condition qu’on y mette les moyens adéquats."
At 10 months, no difference between kids in high and low SES families - by age 2, rich kids score 1/3 SD higher
Via Freddie deBoer’s tremendous new blog on education, a nice summary:
"However, recent evidence from the United States indicates that hereditary factors are not a major constraint for low SES students (Nisbett et al., 2012). For example, Tucker-Drob, Rhemtulla, Harden, Turkheimer, and Fask (2011) found no significant differences between children in high and low SES families on the Bayley Short Form–Research Edition (see, e.g., Andreassen & Fletcher, 2007)—a test of infant mental ability—at the age of 10 months, but by age 2 children in high SES families scored about one third of a standard deviation higher than children in low SES families. Genes accounted for nearly 50% of the variation in mental ability of high SES children but only a negligible share of low SES children’s variation, indicating that the latter are not reaching their full cognitive potential. Rhemtulla and Tucker-Drob (2012) found similar patterns of gene and SES interactions in follow-up tests of mathematics skill at age 4 (but no significant interactions in reading). Fryer and Levitt (2013) found no significant differences on the Bayley Short Form–Research Edition among Hispanic, Asian, Black, and White infants aged 8 to 12 months, although a one standard deviation gap in test scores between Black and White children, which typically differ in SES, has been observed by age 3."
Link to the paper here.
Genes as Inherent Merit
Paige Harden writes:
"Fast-forward to 2017, and nearly everyone, even people who think that they are radical egalitarians who reject racism and white supremacy and eugenic ideology in all its forms, has internalized this “genes == inherent superiority” equation so completely that it’s nearly impossible to have any conversation about genetic research that’s not tainted by it. On both the right and the left, people assume that if you say, “Gene sequence differences between people statistically account for variation in abstract reasoning ability,” what you really mean is “Some people are inherently superior to other people.” Where people disagree, mostly, is in whether they think this conclusion is totally fine or absolutely repugnant. (For the record, and this should go without saying, but unfortunately needs to be said — I fall in the latter camp.) But very few people try to peel apart those ideas. (A recent exception is this series of blog posts by Fredrik deBoer.) The space between, which says, “Gene sequence differences between people statistically account for variation in abstract reasoning ability” but also says “This observation has no bearing on how we evaluate the inherent value or worth of people” is astoundingly small. …
The use of the terms superiority and inferiority is incredibly pervasive in popular discussions about genetic research related to intelligence. And it’s clear why – white supremacy is an ideology that is fundamentally about grading humans on an inferior to superior scale, and white supremacists do talk about genetic research on those terms.
But must genetic research necessarily be interpreted in terms of superiority and inferiority? Absolutely not. To get a flavor of other possible interpretations, we can just look at how people describe genetic research on nearly any other human trait.
Take, for example, weight. Here, is a New York Times article that quotes one researcher as saying, “It is more likely that people inherit a collection of genes, each of which predisposes them to a small weight gain in the right environment.” Substitute “slight increase in intelligence” for “small weight gain” in that sentence and – voila! You have the mainstream scientific consensus on genetic influences on IQ. But no one is writing furious think pieces in reaction to scientists working to understand genetic differences in obesity. According to the New York Times, the implications of this line of genetic research is … people shouldn’t blame themselves for a lack of self-control if they are heavy, and a “one size fits all” approach to weight loss won’t be effective. …”
John Tooby makes an argument I had not seen elsewhere:
“Every human child contains roughly 100 new mutations—genetic changes that were not present in their parents. To be sure, many of these occur in inert regions, or are otherwise “silent” and so do no harm. But a few are very harmful individually; and although the remainder are individually small in effect, collectively they plague each individual with debilitating infirmities.
These recent estimates are striking when one considers how, in an entropy-filled world, we maintained our high levels of biological organization. Natural selection is the only physical process that pushes species’ designs uphill against entropy toward greater order (positive selection), or maintains our favorable genes against the downward pull exerted by mutation pressure (purifying selection). If a species is not to melt down under the hard rain of accumulating mutations, the rate at which harmful mutations are introduced must equal the rate at which selection removes them (mutation-selection balance). This removal is self-executing: Harmful genes cause impairments to the healthy design of the individuals they are situated in. These impairments (by definition) are characteristics that reduce the probability that the carrier will reproduce, and thereby reduce the number of harmful genes passed on. For a balance to exist between mutation and selection, a critical number of offspring must die before reproduction—die because they carry an excess load of mutations. …
Now, along comes the demographic transition—the recent shift to lower death rates and then lower birth rates. Malthusian catastrophe was averted, but the price of relaxing selection has been moving the mutation-selection balance toward an unsustainable increase in genetic diseases. Various naturalistic experiments suggest this meltdown can proceed rapidly. (Salmon raised in captivity for only a few generations were strongly outcompeted by wild salmon subject to selection.) …
No one could regret the victory over infectious disease and starvation now spreading across the planet. But we as a species need an intensified research program into germline engineering, so that the Enlightenment science that allowed us to conquer infectious disease will allow us to conquer genetic disease"
(h/t Scott Alexander)
Pay Attention to the Median
Freddie de Boer argues that there is no shortage of STEM graduates:
“the biggest part of the belief in a STEM shortage results from our cultural obsession with technology and our perpetual belief that it will cure all of our ills. ...
[walking by the quad during one of the big tech job fairs...] “These companies are all trying to get the same 50 students.” This, more than anything, may be the source of the persistent STEM shortage myth: the inarguable value of being a star in a STEM field. There’s little doubt that people at the top of the food chain in computer science or electrical engineering or biomedical engineering, etc., often enjoy fantastic material and economic gain. But this is a banal point: it’s good to be a star. It’s good to be a star engineer in the same way it’s good to be a star musician or a star psychologist or a star writer. What public policy and politics demand is that we pay attention not to stars but to the median person. And the median American is facing a world of stagnant wages, the arbitrary nature of the employment market, and the constant fear of our financial system’s boom and bust cycle."
A while ago, Malcolm Gladwell posed a similar question on his podcast: is it better (for colleges) to focus on the median or on stars? He argues hard in favor of the former. Link here.
Age is the New Class
Yougov reports on the changing demographics dividing Britain:
"The 1992 election the Conservatives lead Labour amongst .. middle class voters by around 30 points, whilst Labour was leading amongst .. working class voters by around 10 percentage points. But today, class would tell you little more about a person’s voting intention that looking at their horoscope or reading their palms. As this campaign starts, the Conservatives hold a 22% lead amongst middle class voters and a 17% lead amongst working class ones.
In electoral terms, age is the new class. ... Labour is 19% ahead when it comes to 18-24 year-olds and the Conservatives are ahead by 49% among the over 65s. Our analysis suggest that the current tipping point – which is to say the age where voters are more likely to favour the Conservatives over Labour – is 34. In fact, for every 10 years older a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around 8% and the chance of them voting Labour decreases by 6% …
While the Conservatives lead amongst all educational groupings, their vote share decrease for every extra qualification a voter has. ... Amongst those with no formal qualifications, the Conservative lead by 35%. But when it comes to those with a degree, the Tory lead falls to 8%"
Kaiser Fung writes:
"The Times article contained another revelation. Uber buys data from a startup called Slice Intelligence, who resells data from Unroll.me. Unroll.me runs a free service that helps people get rid of the clutter of spam in their email boxes - you grant permission to the company to peek into your mailbox, and pull out the unsubscribe links from various email lists. Well, it turns out that this service is a front for corporate espionage. Once inside your mailbox, their code gathers data about your purchases, and sells the data to companies: in this case, Uber buys data from Slice about its competitor, Lyft.
Here is actually one of the unspoken secrets of this "big data" industry. Unroll.me is one of many, many apps that are designed to collect data about our daily lives while fronting to be something else. ...
Again, it appears that the founders, managers or engineers who work for these outfits assume that their customers do not want to be tracked in such a manner because all such operations are hidden from view, and any disclosure is usually buried inside legalese that almost no one ever reads. …
Data sleaze is the data about one's own customers that are obtained secretly by businesses, and then sold to the highest bidders, also in secret transactions. The production of data sleaze is frequently justified by giving services away for "free." However, running a business as a "free service" fronting a profitable espionage operation is a choice made by management teams, not an inevitability. Indeed, many businesses that have a proper revenue model also produce data sleaze."
The Technologist reports:
"Whether it’s your GPS, your smartphone or the smart fridge updating you on your groceries, any gadget will soon be able to speak in the voice of your choice. This is the aim of CandyVoice, a French start-up working on an algorithm with Microsoft. “The technology isn’t very complicated”, says Matthias Althoff at the Technical University of Munich. ... Reading 160 short sentences out loud gives the algorithm enough material to imitate your own voice on different devices. … Tschiatschek worries about the potential for abuse by people who might pretend to be someone else on the telephone. ...
Long-term exposure to transportation noise increases the risk of hypertension, ischaemic heart diseases, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance and annoyance. Studies have shown that noise levels above 65 decibels – think heavy traffic at a distance of 50 to 100 m – increase the risk of stroke by 20–40%. At these levels the risk of heart disease is also 20% higher than for people living in quieter areas. By comparison, a typical conversation takes place at about 60 decibels.
The World Health Organization has calculated that in Western Europe more than one million healthy years of life are lost every year due to traffic noise. This means that long-term exposure to traffic noise is, after air pollution, the main environment-related health stressor, compromising quality of life and indirectly the life expectancy of millions of people across Europe. …
[on cars] At speeds above 50 km/h, tyres rather than engines are the main source of noise. And above 130 km/h, aerodynamic noise dominates."
Tom Powdrill writes:
"Corporate governance reform involving shareholder empowerment no longer looks like progressive policy. From the 1990s onwards a number of influential people on the Left enthusiastically embraced the ideas that shareholders = the public, that shareholder engagement was a new/exciting way to restrain poor corporate behaviour, and that tooling up shareholders could tackle tricky issues like executive pay. I'm not sure quite when this hit the wall, but I think you would struggle to get many people on the Left to get out of bed for this agenda now.
In large part this is due to practical experience. Shareholders, which mainly means asset managers, have been overwhelming uninterested in tackling the scale of executive pay, and unwilling to engage over labour issues. I think we lost a decade - and corporates gained the same - in fiddling about trying to find ways to make asset managers do things they don't want to, and trying to redesign executive pay rather than just constrain it."
And: "What is particularly striking is the disconnect that has developed between technocratic policy wonk opinion and public opinion, and a seeming unwillingness on either side to meet in the middle. I think a lot of mainstream policy people still think that they got nothing much wrong over the past couple of decades, and the public are just too dense to know what's good for them."
At the Milken Institute Review, Nicolas Eberhard writes:
"Regardless of a man’s age, ethnicity or educational attainment, he is much more likely to be out of the workforce if he has served time in prison than if he only has an arrest record — and also much more likely to be out of the labor force if he has an arrest record than if he has never been in trouble with the law.
These relationships do not tell us why men who have been through the criminal justice system fare so much more poorly in the job market. There are multiple possible explanations — discrimination and loss of skills lead the list. But the numbers leave no doubt that America’s unique trends in criminality and criminalization are a critical part of America’s unique contemporary men-without-work problem."
This is my notepad.