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Más sobre el cisne negro

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Más sobre el cisne negro

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)

https://www.infobae.com/opinion/2018/04/20/mas-sobre-el-cisne-negro/

En realidad el problema central de las sociedades consiste básicamente en el deseo irrefrenable de gobernantes por manejar vidas y haciendas ajenas. Por introspección sabemos lo que queremos y, sobre todo, somos también concientes de los cambios que operan en nuestro interior y en el medio que nos rodea. No somos la misma persona hoy que la que fuimos ayer ni seremos la misma mañana, debido a que incorporamos otros conocimientos, otras perspectivas y otras preferencias. Seguimos manteniendo la misma identidad, pero nuestros horizontes no son los mismos si hemos aprovechado el proceso de prueba y error en nuestras vidas. Las circunstancias y las situaciones son permanentemente cambiantes, lo cual nos hace modificar decisiones previas. Esto es lo que precisamente no toman en cuanta los burócratas que pretenden administrar lo que concierne a otros.

La interacción libre y voluntaria entre las partes permite un proceso de win-win en el contexto del óptimo Pareto, esto es, que cada uno de los participantes en una sociedad abierta mejora su posición respecto a la que tenía antes de la transacción. Esto es lo que no entienden llamados líderes del mundo libre como hoy Donald Trump, que ha iniciado una guerra comercial, en verdad un oxímoron, puesto que, como queda dicho, por definición, el comercio apunta a la obtención de ganancias para todas las partes involucradas. Nadie interviene en una actividad comercial si no es con la idea de ganar. La terminología de las así denominadas “guerras comerciales” no figura en los diccionarios fuera de los aparatos estatales que ponen palos en las ruedas.

Como también se ha apuntado, en el contexto del mercado el sistema de precios basado en la propiedad privada trasmite información sobre qué hacer y qué no hacer. En esta situación, los empresarios están incentivados para satisfacer al prójimo al efecto de incrementar su patrimonio, de lo contrario, incurre en quebrantos.

Si los aparatos estatales se inmiscuyen en el mercado, se distorsionan los precios y, por lo tanto, la contabilidad y la evaluación de proyectos también quedan desdibujadas, con lo que la asignación de los siempre escasos recursos se dirige a áreas distintas de las que se hubieran aplicado si no hubiera habido la antedicha intromisión, cosa que se traduce en derroche de capital, que, a su vez, implica una contracción en los salarios e ingresos en términos reales.

En otros términos, la intervención gubernamental en los negocios privados no solo bloquea la referida información, sino que concentra ignorancia en los así llamados planificadores estatales, en lugar de abrir cauce al aprovechamiento del conocimiento siempre disperso y fraccionado. Como ha apuntado Michael Polanyi, cada uno en el spot tiene sus habilidades, a veces “conocimiento tácito” cuando no lo puede explicitar, pero en todo caso ninguno de los operadores en el mercado tiene la visión de conjunto. Como también se ha subrayado desde la escuela escocesa en adelante, este proceso produce un resultado que no ha sido previsto por ninguno de los participantes. Solo en las mentes afiebradas de los megalómanos cabe la posibilidad de improvisar perspectivas omnicomprensivas que intentan manejar, con los resultados catastróficos por todos conocidos.

Antes he escrito sobre lo que a continuación expongo, pero estimo que es del caso reiterar aspectos de lo dicho. De tanto en tanto aparecen libros cuyos autores revelan gran creatividad, que significa verdaderos desafíos para el pensamiento. Son obras que se apartan de los moldes convencionales, se deslizan por avenidas poco exploradas y, por ende, nada tienen que ver con estereotipos y lugares comunes tanto en el fondo como en la forma en que son presentadas las respuestas a los más variados enigmas intelectuales.

Este es el caso del libro de Nassim Nicholas Taleb, titulado El cisne negro, publicado por Paidós en Barcelona (que me recomendó en su momento mi amigo y ex alumno Enrique Pochat). El eje central del trabajo de marras gira en trono al problema de la inducción tratado por autores como Hume y Popper, es decir, la manía de extrapolar los casos conocidos del pasado al futuro como si la vida fuera algo inexorablemente lineal. Lo que se estima como poco probable, ilustrado en este libro con la figura del cisne negro, al fin y al cabo ocurre con frecuencia.

Ilustra la idea con un ejemplo adaptado de Bertrand Russell: los pavos que son generosamente alimentados día tras día. Se acostumbran a esa rutina, la dan por sentada, entran en confianza con la mano que les da de comer hasta que llega el Día de Acción de Gracias en el que los pavos son engullidos y cambia abruptamente la tendencia.

Taleb nos muestra cómo en cada esquina de las calles del futuro nos deparan las más diversas sorpresas. Nos muestra cómo en realidad todos los grandes acontecimientos de la historia no fueron previstos por los “expertos” y los “futurólogos” (salvo algunos escritores de ciencia ficción). Nos invita a que nos detengamos a mirar “lo que se ve y lo que no se ve” siguiendo la clásica fórmula del decimonónico Frédéric Bastiat. Por ejemplo, nos aconseja liberarnos de la mala costumbre de encandilarnos con algunas de las cosas que realizan los gobiernos sin considerar lo que se hubiera realizado si no hubiera sido por la intromisión gubernamental que succiona recursos a que los titulares hubieran dado otro destino.

Uno de los apartados del libro se titula “Suguimos ingnorando a Hayek” para aludir a las contribuciones de aquel premio Nobel en Economía y destacar que la coordinación social no surge del decreto del aparato estatal, sino, como queda dicho, a través de millones de arreglos contractuales libres y voluntarios que conforman la organización social espontánea y que las ciencias de la acción humana no pueden recurrir a la misma metodología de las ciencias naturales, donde no hay propósito deliberado sino reacción mecánica a determinados estímulos.

La obra constituye un canto a la humildad y una embestida contra quienes asumen que saben más de lo que conocen (y de lo que es posible conocer), un alegato contra la soberbia gubernamental que pretende administrar el fruto del trabajo ajeno en lugar de dejar en paz a la gente y abstenerse de proceder como si fueran los dueños de los países que gobiernan. En un campo más amplio, la obra está dirigida a todos los que posan de sabios poseedores de conocimientos preclaros del futuro. Y no se trata de memoria insuficiente para almacenar datos, como ha puntualizado Thomas Sowell, el problema medular radica en que la información no está disponible antes de haberse llevado a cabo la acción correspondiente.

Por su parte, Teleb pone en evidencia los problemas graves que se suscitan al subestimar la ignorancia y pontificar sobre aquello que no está al alcance de los mortales. Es que, como escribe, “la historia no gatea: da saltos” y lo improbable, fruto de contrafácticos y escenarios alternativos, no suele tomarse en cuenta, lo cual produce reiterados y extendidos cementerios ocultos tras ostentosos y aparatosos modelitos matemáticos y campanas de Gauss que resultan ser fraudes conscientes o inconscientes de diversa magnitud, al tiempo que no permite desembarazarse del cemento mental que oprime e inflexibiliza la estructura cortical. Precisamente, el autor marca que Henri Poincaré ha dedicado mucho tiempo a refutar predicciones basadas en la linealidad construidas sobre lo habitual, a pesar de que “los sucesos casi siempre son estrafalarios”.

Explica también el rol de la suerte, incluso en los grandes descubrimientos de la medicina como el de Alexander Fleming en el caso de la penicilina, aunque, como ha apuntado Pasteur, la suerte favorece a los que trabajan con ahínco y están alertas. Después de todo, como también nos recuerda el autor, “lo empírico” proviene de Sextus Empiricus que inauguró, en Roma, doscientos años antes de Cristo, una escuela en medicina que no aceptaba teorías y para el tratamiento se basaba únicamente en la experiencia, lo cual, claro está, no abría cauces para lo nuevo.

El positivismo ha hecho mucho daño a la ciencia al sostener que no hay verdad si no es verificable; a lo que, por una parte, Morris Cohen responde que esa proposición no es verificable y, por otra, Karl Popper ha demostrado que nada en la ciencia es verificable, es solo corroborable provisoriamente que debe estar abierta a posibles refutaciones.

Los intereses creados de los pronosticadores dificultan posiciones modestas y razonables y son a veces como aquel agente fúnebre que decía: “Yo no le deseo mal a nadie, pero tampoco me quiero quedar sin trabajo”. Este tipo de conclusiones aplicadas a los planificadores de sociedades terminan haciendo que la gente se alimente igual que lo hacen los caballos de ajedrez (salteado). Estos resultados se repiten machaconamente y, sin embargo, debido a la demagogia, aceptar las advertencias se torna tan difícil como venderle hielo a un esquimal.

En definitiva, nos explica Taleb que el aprendizaje y los consiguientes andamiajes teóricos se lleva a cabo a través de la prueba y el error, y que deben establecerse sistemas que abran las máximas posibilidades para que este proceso tenga lugar. Podemos coincidir o no con todo lo que nos propone el autor, como que después de un tiempo no es infrecuente que también discrepamos con ciertos párrafos que nosotros mismos hemos escrito, pero, en todo caso, prestar atención al “impacto de lo altamente improbable” resulta de gran fertilidad. Al fin y al cabo, tal como concluye Taleb, cada uno de nosotros somos “cisnes negros” debido a la muy baja probabilidad de que hayamos nacido.

Por último y en tren de no desperdiciar el tiempo, para actualizar nuestras potencialidades en busca del bien y en lo posible evitar sorpresas de nuevos cisnes negros, debemos bucear en nuestros propios interiores. En este sentido, consignamos al margen que también resulta de interés prestar atención a tantos autores que conjeturan sobre lo que ocurre mientras dormimos en cuanto al significado de los sueños, puesto que no es menor el hecho de que durante una tercera parte de nuestra vida no estamos despiertos, por lo que una persona de 75 años ha dormido 25 años. Un tiempo tan prolongado que no justifica desentenderse de lo que allí sucede.

El autor es Doctor en Economía y también es Doctor en Ciencias de Dirección, preside la Sección Ciencias Económicas de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Buenos Aires y es miembro de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias Económicas.

Ilustración: Daniela Martín del Campo

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Utopía de la patria

Revista Nexos VIERNES, 6 DE ABRIL DE 2018, https://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=35483 

Álvaro Ruiz Rodilla
—1989—

“No amo mi patria/ su fulgor abstracto/ es inasible”. En estos versos iniciales de “Alta traición” han fincado su relación con México varias generaciones. El poema citadísimo de José Emilio Pacheco sigue así: “Pero (aunque suene mal)/ daría la vida/ por diez lugares suyos/ cierta gente/ puertos, bosques, desiertos, fortalezas […]”; y desde ahí empiezo: un punto y aparte, o verso de pie quebrado, con el que recordar que los nacionalismos alimentan ideologías nefastas y, peor aun ahora, con ese despertar xenófobo que ha ganado terreno en Estados Unidos y Europa. Aun así, es imposible rechazar el apego al territorio y a su gente. La idea de “México” me lleva primero a pensar en un territorio del pasado, la tierra perdida de la infancia, las plazas y avenidas que vieron nacer a mis padres. El lugar exacto en el laberinto de Borges: la vida a la que llegamos por una puerta de entrada desconocida, al igual que ignoramos la de salida. La otra idea de “México” es menos una sensación y más una construcción intelectual: la historia y la geografía que compartimos, los ingenios de una lengua juguetona, con sus modismos y su música que nos amarra y apacigua, los espejos enterrados de nuestra identidad imaginada, siempre plural y cambiante. Ninguna de esas ideas de México deja de ocuparme y atormentarme, a veces como una mano grotesca y proteica que me aplasta, otras como un paisaje de mar y aire que se abre.

 

         Aunque del país de nuestros padres recibimos, con todos sus bemoles, una clase media más sólida, la transición democrática, universidades de primer nivel y una cultura escéptica ante el legado de la nación revolucionaria, parece que en el México de 2018 todo queda por hacer. Nuestro país es un erial de fosas y desaparecidos, de tierras sin ley en donde ha vuelto la tiranía feudal y el cobro de suelos. La guerra del narco tiene cada vez más las características de una guerra civil. Un poeta que renuncia a sus versos luego del atroz asesinato de su hijo es el símbolo que nos define ahora. Los hijos de México mueren en un campo de batalla inasible. ¿Qué pasará con toda una generación de jóvenes arrastrados por la ola de violencia que levantó esta guerra? ¿Cómo es su presente desesperado, aislado? Al futuro del país lo pueblan sombras errantes y ríos de sangre.

Podremos imaginar, a contracorriente, utopías siempre deseables. Pero ya es una esperanza áspera concebir que quien escoge el camino del trabajo honesto, el cansancio de las más de cuatro horas diarias en transporte público, el riesgo de atravesar zonas feminicidas, de ser asaltada, secuestrada o violada, es un héroe anónimo cotidiano porque resistió al poder avasallador de la violencia, de las redes y el dinero criminales. La altura de nuestras esperanzas, ahí, se reduce. En el horizonte se agolpan los nubarrones del delito institucional y la corrupción eterna. El cielo se cierra sobre islas de miedo, inseguridad y pesimismo. Nuestras expectativas suelen situarse entre dejar de empeorar o resignarse a consignas inútiles y amargas: “todos los políticos son iguales”; “todos roban”.

Es de todos conocida la frase de Oscar Wilde: “Un mapa del mundo que no contenga la isla de Utopía no vale la pena mirarlo siquiera, pues deja por fuera imaginar el único país en que la humanidad siempre desembarca”. Está claro que el XXI no es el siglo del idealismo. Pero vale la pena pensar en ese mapa, no desde la abstracción impuesta sino desde una imaginación serena. Recuerdo un proyecto impulsado, en 2011, por la revista La Vie des Idées: pensar el mundo en 2112. En vez de vaticinar más catástrofes, abrir ventanas de posibilidades. Varios intelectuales imaginaron, entonces, ese mundo futurístico; otros hicieron el ejercicio de ficción retrospectiva: escribir la historia desde el 2112. Techo salarial igualitario a partir del control fiscal y el control ecológico, reducción drástica de presos y cárceles, creación de una Asamblea Ciudadana Rotatoria con elecciones mediante sorteo, revolución de la movilidad urbana mediante el reemplazo del vehículo privado de combustión por transporte público inteligente —personal y masivo— y la reorganización urbana en polos de trabajo y vivienda, etcétera. Se dice fácil, pero lo importante no es la validez de estas ideas —hoy parecen risibles o descabelladas— sino constatar que también, en su época, parecía utópica la abolición de la esclavitud, el sufragio universal, la emancipación de las mujeres, el derecho a la educación o el seguro social. Y, sin embargo, estos principios alimentaron nuestras aspiraciones democráticas durante siglos.

En el México de hoy, todo lo anterior es mucho pedir. La utopía inmediata está más bien en pacificar el país, encontrar a los ausentes o darles sepultura a nuestros muertos. Porque al final —vuelvo a saquear al clásico— “quizá no es tiempo ahora./ Nuestra época nos dejó/ hablando solos”.

 

Álvaro Ruiz Rodilla
Investigador y editor en nexos en línea.

Prediciendo el futuro de largo plazo hacia el 2118

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Predicting the Long-Term Future – 2043, 2118, and 2218

Tomado de: Fast future publishing, https://us10.campaign-archive.com/?u=b2bac6b3fa5b485c0809f5c81&id=b937ebb586 or http://mailchi.mp/fastfuturepublishing.com/2018-12gdpr, 04/06/2018

The team at Fast Future have been doing an exercise to envisage scenarios of what our world might look 25, 100, and 200 years into the future. Here are the outcomes. We’d welcome your thoughts on these scenarios, and your own views on how our world might play out.

2043: How the world might look in 25 years 

Artificial living – artificial intelligence (AI) will permeate our world. The technology will be in use across every aspect of society from healthcare and education to entertainment and financial services. Smart systems could manage our social lives, help us select the ideal partners for dating, marriage, and reproduction, monitor our health in liaison with our doctors, and personalise our education so content is delivered in the way we learn best. The technology will be making legal decisions in court, determining our benefit payments, fact checking politicians, and powering the transport sector.

Smarter money – By combining the power of AI and blockchain, the concept of money could evolve into electronic tokens with far more types of assets tradeable within the one “currency”. For example, we might earn tokens from our employment, as rewards from retailers and airlines, and as micro-credits for completing workplace training or school learning tasks. Instead of simply liking a track from a musician, we could now make a micro-payment to them with a fraction of a token. This evolution from cash and cryptocurrencies towards a universal means of exchange could mean the end of cash and foreign exchange markets.
Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future

Autonomous city centers – Following a widely invoked policy to ban petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles from city centers, the same happened with manually driven cars. An era marked by exponential change has seen changing ideas of asset ownership, radical leaps forward in AI, increasingly efficient electric propulsion units for vehicles, and the emergence of smart city infrastructures. These relatively smooth transitions led to other changes in cities, including the removal of redundant traffic signals and the remodelling of some street intersections.

Autonomous cargo aircraft – While most passengers are sceptical about an autonomous plane ride to their destination in the sun, cargo has no such qualms. While regulations allow the operation of autonomous aircraft for cargo purposes, they are still operated between specialist cargo hub airports, separate from passenger traffic.

Autonomous commuter trains – Overground and subway / metro commuter services are now fully automated in many cities. At busier stations and at peak travel times, train staff supervise the safety of passengers at the station, but the trains themselves are fully autonomous with AI systems driving the train and monitoring passengers. As yet, long distance express trains retain on board crews, although much like civilian aircraft, the drivers’ roles are to supervise the systems and provide on board customer service.

The first 3D printed Moonbase – Following a series of missions to create an autonomous 3D accommodation manufacturing facility on the Moon’s surface, the facility is now ready. The Moonbase will support greater and more extensive autonomous and human exploration of the Moon’s surface and serve as a base for onward missions to deep space.
Steve Wells, COO, Fast Future

Food revolution – Within next 25 year every aspect of the life we know will change. The way we produce our food will change. Fruits and vegetables might be grown in buildings controlled by AI rather than on farms, meat could be cloned, and we might see widespread consumption of 3D printed food.

Asia rising – Looking at the development of the Asian market, is reasonable to expect that within 25 years world economic and industrial leadership will have passed to China and India. The growth of China and other Asian economies will continue to outstrip more developed nations as see Asian nations as the driving force of the world economy rather than the USA and European countries.
Karolina Dolatowska, Researcher, Fast Future

Agricultural disruption – The food chain will undergo a major transformation led by AI, vertical farming and lab grown meat. Hydroponics plants, fruits, and vegetable might change agriculture as we know it, and help revolutionize the food industry. Overpopulation is having major consequences, driving a lack of growing space and food in many parts of the world. The growing global population will force us to find creative solutions. Having AI-controlled hydroponic vertical farms on the sides of buildings might be one of the solutions.

Artificial meat – In-vitro cloned meat could be another future solution to our food supply problems. While lab grown meat may still face many challenges, such as flavour control, it also has many advantages such as less waste, less risk of viruses, reduced space requirements, and lower emissions and environmental impacts among others. These benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages and drawback of traditionally reared livestock. The idea of artificial meat might disturb us, nonetheless this solution seems to be finding its way into our diets.
Helena Calle, Researcher, Fast Future

Water innovation – As climate change continues to alter rainfall patterns worldwide, water may become an increasingly scarce resource. Regions with the financial capital may be able to invest in the latest microfiltration technologies, thus allowing constant recycling of waste water into drinkable water. Desalination plants may be the solution in arid regions along coastlines. Hopefully, as technology improves, and costs fall, the issues associated with desalination, namely high energy usage and residual salt, could be resolved to such a degree that coastal regions all over the world would be able to afford desalination.
April Koury, Researcher, Fast Future

Artificial wombs – within the next 25 years it may be possible to prevent preterm mortality in infants by use of artificial wombs that provide all the conditions required to safely achieve full development and birth of a foetus. This technology would at first be used to save at-risk pregnancies but may over time become a reproductive technology available to consumers interested in having a baby without pregnancy.

Antibiotic failure – Many pathogens are gaining immunity to the antibiotic medicines available today. Without antibiotics, common illness and medical procedures, even pregnancy and childbirth, could become endangering events. In the next 25 years, is it possible that we will experience “the end of antibiotics” (as the World Health Organization put it in 2016)? Fortunately, the microbial threat is being met with advanced drug development, allowing medical researchers to explore new approaches to fight superbugs. New strategies on the horizon range from genetic modification of germs and implantable semiconductors through to the discovery of new antibacterial agents in soil.
Alexandra Whittington, Foresight Director, Fast Future

2118: How the world might look in 100 years 

The world has been transformed by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the emergence of artificial superintelligence (ASI), and the reworking of economic and financial systems using distributed technologies such as blockchain. The majority of people now work on a voluntary basis as all their basic needs are catered for by guaranteed incomes and free universal services such as transport, food, education, and utilities. Old notions such as government have been replaced by community decision making and the community at large now owns the intellectual property for all new advances in science and technology. The community is also a 50% shareholder in every business, with the returns reinvested based on priorities set by the community. You can still work if you want to – but no one has a job, we just play various roles in society, and self-organisation by activities is the way most things get done.

Society leads a far more balanced existence on the planet – only using what we need, managing our resources more sustainably. The focus of education is on maximising the individual’s talents and potential, and with lifespans of 150 years or more now routine, there is plenty of time to try our hand at everything we’d like to do. Wealth has been redistributed with a maximum multiple of ten between the assets of the richest and poorest, but most assets are in public ownership. Education centres such as schools, colleges, and universities have become the gathering centre for the community, where anyone can attend free courses, run 24/7/365 and delivered by anyone who has something to say – either in presence or via a variety of electronic delivery services.
Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future

“A world divided between abundance and automation – where technology has been deployed for the good of society; where products and services are basically free across a numbers of linked nation states and trading / political blocks with reasonably successfully harmonised taxation and regulatory systems – and the rest; states initially side-lined as politically and economically incompatible and a number of disparate nation states struggling to make the transition to the “modern” world, and a source of unrest within their own borders and internationally, have basically divided the world in two.

Colonies on the Moon and Mars are beginning to thrive with corporate governance. Given the colonisation – initially through a moon base staging post to Mars – was established by the private sector rather than the state players involved in the 1960’s and 70’s space race, there was little that governments on earth could do other than hang onto their coat tails as the technology developed came through company R&D activities. Both the Moon and Mars became staging posts for autonomous missions deep into the solar system as the search and commercialisation of other planets gathers pace.”
Steve Wells, COO, Fast Future

2218: How the world might look in 200 years

“In 2218 the natural systems of the earth could be well on their way to rebounding from the brink of collapse. If today’s decision-makers choose to put resources toward avoiding ecological collapse (including strict adherence to carbon policies, and full support for development of renewable energy), the world of 2218 might be a more healthy and balanced place where life can be supported for hundreds of years to come. Some scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking, warn that we have 100 years of life left on this planet. Instead of exacerbating the issues for another 100 years, we could solve the problems we have created on earth which threaten life as we know it. If we take that advice today, and begin repairing things now, we may have a very desirable, functional and safe ecosystem for future generations to enjoy. If we do not, I doubt there will be much to see in 2218”
Alexandra Whittington, Foresight Director, Fast Future

Earth has become part of the Inter-Galactic Federation of Planets (IGFP). The period from 2020-2050 saw a series of inter-related and cascading collapses of the economic, trade, financial, political, environmental, and social systems that had previously steered growth and progress. Advances in technologies such as AI had only served to accelerate dysfunctionality and wealth disparity. After the chaos of systemic failure, the planet gradually moved to adopt open, fairer, and more ecologically sound governance practices. As Earth started to establish a new equilibrium, so members of the IGFP started to make contact and introduce us to their values, ways of life, and advanced science and technology. Earth finally joined the IGFP in 2120 after a prolonged period of transition and adjustment.

In 2018, the New Earth now pursues an ecologically sound path and stewardship of the planet is a core part of the education curriculum alongside community engagement and civic responsibility. Abundance has become a reality, money no longer exists as a means of exchange, but citizens can accumulate credits for their acts of learning and service. Credits can be traded for the rights to visit the most distant of planets or to work on the most community focused initiatives. Manufacturing of goods is largely in the hands of technology, and ownership has been replaced by usership, with sharing a key organising principle across society. Everyone can have a say on every issue, and an elected IGFP governance council serves strict two year time limits to steward through the choices made by citizens.
Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future

Los Precarios languidecen en el peldaño inferior del sistema laboral mundial

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Las 5 mentiras más grandes del capitalismo global

Image: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: CITYSCAPE SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 04 OF 40 FOR PACKAGE ‘NYC – A SEASON IN THE CITY’ SEARCH ‘NYC HERSHORN’ FOR ALL IMAGES – RTX13TBE

15 ene 2017

Los Precariat se pueden dividir en tres otros grupos: los Atavists, que añoran un pasado perdido; Nostalgics (nostálgicos) que esperan en vano un presente, un hogar; y Progressives (progresistas) que esperan un futuro perdido. El último grupo incluye mayormente a los que van a la universidad solo para terminar con muchas deudas y poca esperanza de una carrera o desarrollo personal.

El primer grupo, los Atavists, es el que ha participado del alboroto político al apoyar el Brexit, el triunfo de Donald Trump, la Liga Norte de derecha en Italia, el Frente nacional de Marine Le Pen en Francia, y otros populismos nacionalistas en otros lugares de Europa. Básicamente, en cada lugar que parece ganar la derecha populista.

Pero los Progressives también se han revelado, parándose codo a codo con los gustos de Podemos en España, Bernie Sanders en los EE. UU., Jeremy Corbyn en Gran Bretaña, el Alternativet en Dinamarca y los nuevos movimientos de izquierda en Alemania, Portugal y Escandinavia.

Mientras tanto, las minorías, los inmigrantes y los refugiados que forman parte de los Nostálgicos, están latentes, y con seguridad no podrán seguir mucho más sin esperanza.

La era del odio

Hay claramente mucho odio allí afuera, un gran descontento sobre las élites y el orden establecido que alimenta bastante energía política. Los tres grupos de los Precariat están reaccionando de diferentes maneras al crecimiento de la desigualdad e inseguridad económica de las últimas tres décadas; todos han visto el desmantelamiento del sistema de distribución de ingresos del siglo 20 que vinculó ingresos y beneficios a trabajos.

Por el interés de la competitividad en una economía mundial globalizada, los gobiernos de todas las facetas introdujeron reformas al mercado laboral que promovían flexibilidad pero acentuaban inseguridades de Precariat. Al debilitar las normativas para los bancos y las compañías financieras, permitieron que los financistas tengan más ingresos mientras empujan a los Precariat a mayores deudas. Reforzaron derechos de propiedad de todo tipo: físicos, financieros e intelectuales, que dieron una participación mayor de ingresos y riqueza a los poseedores de activos a expensas de todos los demás. Y otorgaron recortes impositivos para los ricos y subsidios generosos para las empresas, mientras demandaban reducciones en el gasto público para equilibrar presupuestos, cortaban beneficios para los Precariat y bajaban la renta absoluta y relativa.

En cada caso, el argumento era que las medidas impulsarían el crecimiento económico, al agrandar la torta para que todos puedan compartirla. En cambio, casi todas las ganancias han ido a una pequeña élite mundial, que, sin sorprender realmente, ha presionado incluso para obtener más. No hubo compensación alguna.

Y cuanto más se presente este prospecto fraudulento, más enojadas se pondrán todas las partes de los Precariat. Las feas consecuencias políticas deberían estar claras para todos.

No es demasiado tarde para que las democracias liberales presenten reformas transformadoras que respondan a los problemas de los Precariat mientras promueven el desarrollo y el crecimiento económico. Pero hasta ahora solo hubo palabras donde se necesitan acciones. Las élites liberales deben realizar verdaderas concesiones o encontrar los valores que reclaman conservar, tolerancia, libertad, seguridad económica y diversidad cultural, a un gran riesgo, en especial cuando se trata de la ira de los Atavists.

Lo primero que hay que hacer es enfrentar el sistema actual del capitalismo rentista. Aquí es donde una creciente proporción de riqueza va a propietarios de activos ya privilegiados (rentistas), mientras que los ingresos de la mayoría de los trabajos disminuyen de valor. John Maynard Keynes predijo en 1936 que el desarrollo del capitalismo durante el siglo 20 terminaría en “la eutanasia de los rentistas”, cuando la captación de rentas se haga más difícil. La realidad ha mostrado lo contrario. Las empresas y financieras han aprovechado su creciente influencia para inducir a los gobiernos y organizaciones internacionales a que construyan un marco global de instituciones y normativas que permitan a las élites maximizar sus ingresos por rentas.

El capitalismo moderno está basado en cinco mentiras:

1. La primera mentira es el reclamo de que el capitalismo mundial se basa en mercados libres. Sin exagerar, podríamos decir que lo que se ha construido es el sistema de mercado menos libre que se pueda imaginar. Además, la propiedad intelectual resulta ser una de las principales fuentes de ingresos por rentas, a través del poder de mercado creado por la divulgación de marcas (fundamental para una identidad corporativa), derechos de autor, derechos de diseño, indicaciones geográficas, secretos comerciales, y sobre todo, patentes.

Las industrias de alta aplicación de tecnología y conocimientos, que ahora representan más del 30 % de la producción mundial, ganan lo mismo o más en ingresos de renta por derechos de propiedad intelectual como por la producción de bienes o servicios. Esto representa una elección política de los gobiernos alrededor del mundo para otorgar monopolios sobre conocimiento a intereses privados, permitiéndoles restringir el acceso público al conocimiento y elevar el precio de obtenerlo, o de los productos y servicios que representan. No por nada Thomas Jefferson dijo que las ideas no deberían ser sujeto de propiedad.

2. La segunda mentira es que se necesitan fuertes derechos de propiedad intelectual para alentar y recompensar los riesgos de inversión en investigación y desarrollo. Incluso es el público, los contribuyentes normales, que soportan el costo de mucha de esa inversión. Muchas de las vacas lecheras empresariales derivan de la investigación financiada públicamente, en instituciones o universidades públicas, o a través de subsidios y exenciones tributarias. Además, la mayoría de las innovaciones que dieron grandes resultados en ingresos de rentas a las empresas o individuos son el resultado de una serie de ideas y experimentos atribuibles a muchos individuos o grupos que no son recompensados. Y muchas patentes se presentan para bloquear a la competencia o evitar demandas, y no están pensadas para ser explotadas para la producción.

3. La tercera mentira es que el fortalecimiento de los derechos de propiedad es bueno para el crecimiento. Por el contrario, al aumentar la desigualdad y distorsionar los patrones de consumo, se obstaculizó el crecimiento e hizo que el crecimiento existente sea menos sustentable. El crecimiento lento e inestable desarrolla frustración económica para millones, sin mencionar los riesgos políticos que vienen con ella.

4. La cuarta es que los beneficios crecientes reflejan la eficiencia administrativa y un retorno a asumir riesgos. En realidad, el aumento de participación en beneficios ha ido principalmente a aquellos que reciben un ingreso de rentas, en gran parte vinculado con activos financieros.

5. “El trabajo es el mejor camino para salir de la pobreza”. Esta es la quinta mentira, y la más importante políticamente. Para millones de personas entre los Precariat, es una broma pesada.

Guerra a los salarios

Esta es la clave. El sistema de distribución de ingresos se ha deshecho. En toda la OCDE, los salarios reales se han ido estancando durante tres décadas. La parte de ingresos que va al capital ha ido aumentando y es mucho más elevada de lo que solía ser. Y los asalariados con altos ingresos se llevan una mayor participación del ingreso que va al empleo, afectando más a los Precariat.

Tres relaciones económicas ilustran lo que sucede con los salarios. Primero, solía ser el caso de que cuando crecía la productividad, los salarios crecían en paralelo; ahora, en los EE. UU. y en otros lados, los salarios no cambian. Segundo, solía suceder que cuando aumentaban las ganancias, los salarios aumentaban; ahora, los salarios no cambian. Tercero, solía suceder que cuando aumentaba el empleo, los salarios promedio también aumentaban; ahora, los salarios promedio incluso pueden caer, porque los trabajos nuevos pagan menos.

Sin importar cuán duro trabajen los Precariat, enfrentan escasas perspectivas de escapar de una vida de inseguridad económica. Y cuanto más se mantenga esa verdad inconveniente, mayor es el peligro de que escuchen a los populistas autoritarios de cuasiverdad que ofrecen revertir la historia. La única forma de escapar a estas “políticas del infierno” es construir un nuevo sistema de distribución de ingresos apropiado para el siglo 21.

10 tecnologías disruptivas para el 2018

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 Dueling neural networks. Artificial embryos. AI in the cloud. Welcome to our annual list of the 10 technology advances we think will shape the way we work and live now and for years to come.

Every year since 2001 we’ve picked what we call the 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by “breakthrough”? It’s a reasonable question—some of our picks haven’t yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the cusp of becoming commercially available. What we’re really looking for is a technology, or perhaps even a collection of technologies, that will have a profound effect on our lives.

For this year, a new technique in artificial intelligence called GANs is giving machines imagination; artificial embryos, despite some thorny ethical constraints, are redefining how life can be created and are opening a research window into the early moments of a human life; and a pilot plant in the heart of Texas’s petrochemical industry is attempting to create completely clean power from natural gas—probably a major energy source for the foreseeable future. These and the rest of our list will be worth keeping an eye on. —The Editors

3-D Metal Printing

DEREK BRAHNEY

While 3-D printing has been around for decades, it has remained largely in the domain of hobbyists and designers producing one-off prototypes. And printing objects with anything other than plasticsin particular, metalhas been expensive and painfully slow.

Now, however, it’s becoming cheap and easy enough to be a potentially practical way of manufacturing parts. If widely adopted, it could change the way we mass-produce many products.

3-D Metal Printing
  • BreakthroughNow printers can make metal objects quickly and cheaply.
  • Why It MattersThe ability to make large and complex metal ­objects on demand could transform manufacturing.
  • Key PlayersMarkforged, Desktop Metal, GE
  • AvailabilityNow

In the short term, manufacturers wouldn’t need to maintain large inventoriesthey could simply print an object, such as a replacement part for an aging car, whenever someone needs it.

In the longer term, large factories that mass-produce a limited range of parts might be replaced by smaller ones that make a wider variety, adapting to customers’ changing needs.

The technology can create lighter, stronger parts, and complex shapes that aren’t possible with conventional metal fabrication methods. It can also provide more precise control of the microstructure of metals. In 2017, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced they had developed a 3-D-printing method for creating stainless-steel parts twice as strong as traditionally made ones. 

Also in 2017, 3-D-printing company Markforged, a small startup based outside Boston, released the first 3-D metal printer for under $100,000.

Another Boston-area startup, Desktop Metal, began to ship its first metal prototyping machines in December 2017. It plans to begin selling larger machines, designed for manufacturing, that are 100 times faster than older metal printing methods.

The printing of metal parts is also getting easier. Desktop Metal now offers software that generates designs ready for 3-D printing. Users tell the program the specs of the object they want to print, and the software produces a computer model suitable for printing.   

GE, which has long been a proponent of using 3-D printing in its aviation products (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2013: Additive Manufacturing”), has a test version of its new metal printer that is fast enough to make large parts. The company plans to begin selling the printer in 2018. —Erin Winick

Artificial Embryos

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

In a breakthrough that redefines how life can be created, embryologists working at the University of Cambridge in the UK have grown realistic-looking mouse embryos using only stem cells. No egg. No sperm. Just cells plucked from another embryo.

Artificial Embryos
  • BreakthroughWithout using eggs or sperm cells, researchers have made embryo-like structures from stem cells alone, providing a whole new route to creating life.
  • Why It MattersArtificial embryos will make it easier for researchers to study the mysterious beginnings of a human life, but they’re stoking new bioethical debates.
  • Key PlayersUniversity of Cambridge; University of Michigan; Rockefeller University
  • AvailabilityNow

The researchers placed the cells carefully in a three-dimensional scaffold and watched, fascinated, as they started communicating and lining up into the distinctive bullet shape of a mouse embryo several days old.

“We know that stem cells are magical in their powerful potential of what they can do. We did not realize they could self-organize so beautifully or perfectly,” Magdelena Zernicka­-Goetz, who headed the team, told an interviewer at the time.

Zernicka-Goetz says her “synthetic” embryos probably couldn’t have grown into mice. Nonetheless, they’re a hint that soon we could have mammals born without an egg at all.

That isn’t Zernicka-Goetz’s goal. She wants to study how the cells of an early embryo begin taking on their specialized roles. The next step, she says, is to make an artificial embryo out of human stem cells, work that’s being pursued at the University of Michigan and Rockefeller University.

Synthetic human embryos would be a boon to scientists, letting them tease apart events early in development. And since such embryos start with easily manipulated stem cells, labs will be able to employ a full range of tools, such as gene editing, to investigate them as they grow.

Artificial embryos, however, pose ethical questions. What if they turn out to be indistinguishable from real embryos? How long can they be grown in the lab before they feel pain? We need to address those questions before the science races ahead much further, bioethicists say. —Antonio Regalado

Sensing City

SIDEWALK TORONTO

Numerous smart-city schemes have run into delays, dialed down their ambitious goals, or priced out everyone except the super-wealthy. A new project in Toronto, called Quayside, is hoping to change that pattern of failures by rethinking an urban neighborhood from the ground up and rebuilding it around the latest digital technologies.

Sensing City
  • BreakthroughA Toronto neighborhood aims to be the first place to successfully integrate cutting-edge urban design with state-of-the-art digital technology.
  • Why It MattersSmart cities could make urban areas more affordable, livable, and environmentally friendly.
  • Key PlayersSidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto
  • AvailabilityProject announced in October 2017; construction could begin in 2019

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, based in New York City, is collaborating with the Canadian government on the high-tech project, slated for Toronto’s industrial waterfront.

One of the project’s goals is to base decisions about design, policy, and technology on information from an extensive network of sensors that gather data on everything from air quality to noise levels to people’s activities.

The plan calls for all vehicles to be autonomous and shared. Robots will roam underground doing menial chores like delivering the mail. Sidewalk Labs says it will open access to the software and systems it’s creating so other companies can build services on top of them, much as people build apps for mobile phones.

The company intends to closely monitor public infrastructure, and this has raised concerns about data governance and privacy. But Sidewalk Labs believes it can work with the community and the local government to alleviate those worries.

“What’s distinctive about what we’re trying to do in Quayside is that the project is not only extraordinarily ambitious but also has a certain amount of humility,” says Rit Aggarwala, the executive in charge of Sidewalk Labs’ urban-systems planning. That humility may help Quayside avoid the pitfalls that have plagued previous smart-city initiatives.

Other North American cities are already clamoring to be next on Sidewalk Labs’ list, according to Waterfront Toronto, the public agency overseeing Quayside’s development. “San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and Boston have all called asking for introductions,” says the agency’s CEO, Will Fleissig. —Elizabeth Woyke

AI for Everybody

MIGUEL PORLAN

Artificial intelligence has so far been mainly the plaything of big tech companies like Amazon, Baidu, Google, and Microsoft, as well as some startups. For many other companies and parts of the economy, AI systems are too expensive and too difficult to implement fully.

AI for Everybody
  • BreakthroughCloud-based AI is making the technology cheaper and easier to use.
  • Why It MattersRight now the use of AI is dominated by a relatively few companies, but as a cloud-based service, it could be widely available to many more, giving the economy a boost.
  • Key PlayersAmazon; Google; Microsoft
  • AvailabilityNow

What’s the solution? Machine-learning tools based in the cloud are bringing AI to a far broader audience. So far, Amazon dominates cloud AI with its AWS subsidiary. Google is challenging that with TensorFlow, an open-source AI library that can be used to build other machine-learning software. Recently Google announced Cloud AutoML, a suite of pre-trained systems that could make AI simpler to use.

Microsoft, which has its own AI-powered cloud platform, Azure, is teaming up with Amazon to offer Gluon, an open-source deep-learning library. Gluon is supposed to make building neural netsa key technology in AI that crudely mimics how the human brain learnsas easy as building a smartphone app.

It is uncertain which of these companies will become the leader in offering AI cloud services.  But it is a huge business opportunity for the winners.

These products will be essential if the AI revolution is going to spread more broadly through different parts of the economy.

Currently AI is used mostly in the tech industry, where it has created efficiencies and produced new products and services. But many other businesses and industries have struggled to take advantage of the advances in artificial intelligence. Sectors such as medicine, manufacturing, and energy could also be transformed if they were able to implement the technology more fully, with a huge boost to economic productivity.

Most companies, though, still don’t have enough people who know how to use cloud AI. So Amazon and Google are also setting up consultancy services. Once the cloud puts the technology within the reach of almost everyone, the real AI revolution can begin.
Jackie Snow

Dueling Neural Networks

ILLUSTRATION BY DEREK BRAHNEY | DIAGRAM COURTESY OF MICHAEL NIELSEN, “NEURAL NETWORKS AND DEEP LEARNING”, DETERMINATION PRESS, 2015

Artificial intelligence is getting very good at identifying things: show it a million pictures, and it can tell you with uncanny accuracy which ones depict a pedestrian crossing a street. But AI is hopeless at generating images of pedestrians by itself. If it could do that, it would be able to create gobs of realistic but synthetic pictures depicting pedestrians in various settings, which a self-driving car could use to train itself without ever going out on the road.

Dueling Neural Networks
  • BreakthroughTwo AI systems can spar with each other to create ultra-realistic original images or sounds, something machines have never been able to do before.
  • Why It MattersThis gives machines something akin to a sense of imagination, which may help them become less reliant on humans—but also turns them into alarmingly powerful tools for digital fakery.
  • Key PlayersGoogle Brain, DeepMind, Nvidia
  • AvailabilityNow

The problem is, creating something entirely new requires imaginationand until now that has perplexed AIs.

The solution first occurred to Ian Goodfellow, then a PhD student at the University of Montreal, during an academic argument in a bar in 2014. The approach, known as a generative adversarial network, or GAN, takes two neural networksthe simplified mathematical models of the human brain that underpin most modern machine learningand pits them against each other in a digital cat-and-mouse game.

Both networks are trained on the same data set. One, known as the generator, is tasked with creating variations on images it’s already seenperhaps a picture of a pedestrian with an extra arm. The second, known as the discriminator, is asked to identify whether the example it sees is like the images it has been trained on or a fake produced by the generatorbasically, is that three-armed person likely to be real?

Over time, the generator can become so good at producing images that the discriminator can’t spot fakes. Essentially, the generator has been taught to recognize, and then create, realistic-looking images of pedestrians.

The technology has become one of the most promising advances in AI in the past decade, able to help machines produce results that fool even humans.

GANs have been put to use creating realistic-sounding speech and photorealistic fake imagery. In one compelling example, researchers from chipmaker Nvidia primed a GAN with celebrity photographs to create hundreds of credible faces of people who don’t exist. Another research group made not-unconvincing fake paintings that look like the works of van Gogh. Pushed further, GANs can reimagine images in different waysmaking a sunny road appear snowy, or turning horses into zebras.

The results aren’t always perfect: GANs can conjure up bicycles with two sets of handlebars, say, or faces with eyebrows in the wrong place. But because the images and sounds are often startlingly realistic, some experts believe there’s a sense in which GANs are beginning to understand the underlying structure of the world they see and hear. And that means AI may gain, along with a sense of imagination, a more independent ability to make sense of what it sees in the world. —Jamie Condliffe

Babel-Fish Earbuds

GOOGLE

In the cult sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you slide a yellow Babel fish into your ear to get translations in an instant. In the real world, Google has come up with an interim solution: a $159 pair of earbuds, called Pixel Buds. These work with its Pixel smartphones and Google Translate app to produce practically real-time translation.

Babel-Fish Earbuds
  • BreakthroughNear-real-time translation now works for a large number of languages and is easy to use.
  • Why It MattersIn an increasingly global world, language is still a barrier to communication.
  • Key PlayersGoogle and Baidu
  • AvailabilityNow

One person wears the earbuds, while the other holds a phone. The earbud wearer speaks in his or her languageEnglish is the defaultand the app translates the talking and plays it aloud on the phone. The person holding the phone responds; this response is translated and played through the earbuds.

Google Translate already has a conversation feature, and its iOS and Android apps let two users speak as it automatically figures out what languages they’re using and then translates them. But background noise can make it hard for the app to understand what people are saying, and also to figure out when one person has stopped speaking and it’s time to start translating.

Pixel Buds get around these problems because the wearer taps and holds a finger on the right earbud while talking. Splitting the interaction between the phone and the earbuds gives each person control of a microphone and helps the speakers maintain eye contact, since they’re not trying to pass a phone back and forth.

The Pixel Buds were widely panned for subpar design. They do look silly, and they may not fit well in your ears. They can also be hard to set up with a phone.

Clunky hardware can be fixed, though. Pixel Buds show the promise of mutually intelligible communication between languages in close to real time. And no fish required. —Rachel Metz

Zero-Carbon Natural Gas

MIGUEL PORLAN

The world is probably stuck with natural gas as one of our primary sources of electricity for the foreseeable future. Cheap and readily available, it now accounts for more than 30 percent of US electricity and 22 percent of world electricity. And although it’s cleaner than coal, it’s still a massive source of carbon emissions.

A pilot power plant just outside Houston, in the heart of the US petroleum and refining industry, is testing a technology that could make clean energy from natural gas a reality. The company behind the 50-megawatt project, Net Power, believes it can generate power at least as cheaply as standard natural-gas plants and capture essentially all the carbon dioxide released in the process.

Zero-Carbon Natural Gas
  • BreakthroughA power plant efficiently and cheaply captures carbon released by burning natural gas, avoiding greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • Why It MattersAround 32 percent of US electricity is produced with natural gas, accounting for around 30 percent of the power sector’s carbon emissions.
  • Key Players8 Rivers Capital; Exelon Generation; CB&I
  • Availability3 to 5 years

If so, it would mean the world has a way to produce carbon-free energy from a fossil fuel at a reasonable cost. Such natural-gas plants could be cranked up and down on demand, avoiding the high capital costs of nuclear power and sidestepping the unsteady supply that renewables generally provide.

Net Power is a collaboration between technology development firm 8 Rivers Capital, Exelon Generation, and energy construction firm CB&I. The company is in the process of commissioning the plant and has begun initial testing. It intends to release results from early evaluations in the months ahead.

The plant puts the carbon dioxide released from burning natural gas under high pressure and heat, using the resulting supercritical CO2 as the “working fluid” that drives a specially built turbine. Much of the carbon dioxide can be continuously recycled; the rest can be captured cheaply.

A key part of pushing down the costs depends on selling that carbon dioxide. Today the main use is in helping to extract oil from petroleum wells. That’s a limited market, and not a particularly green one. Eventually, however, Net Power hopes to see growing demand for carbon dioxide in cement manufacturing and in making plastics and other carbon-based materials.

Net Power’s technology won’t solve all the problems with natural gas, particularly on the extraction side. But as long as we’re using natural gas, we might as well use it as cleanly as possible. Of all the clean-energy technologies in development, Net Power’s is one of the furthest along to promise more than a marginal advance in cutting carbon emissions. —James Temple

Perfect Online Privacy

MIGUEL PORLAN

True internet privacy could finally become possible thanks to a new tool that canfor instancelet you prove you’re over 18 without revealing your date of birth, or prove you have enough money in the bank for a financial transaction without revealing your balance or other details. That limits the risk of a privacy breach or identity theft.

Perfect Online Privacy
  • BreakthroughComputer scientists are perfecting a cryptographic tool for proving something without revealing the information underlying the proof.
  • Why It MattersIf you need to disclose personal information to get something done online, it will be easier to do so without risking your privacy or exposing yourself to identity theft.
  • Key PlayersZcash; JPMorgan Chase; ING
  • AvailabilityNow

The tool is an emerging cryptographic protocol called a zero-­knowledge proof. Though researchers have worked on it for decades, interest has exploded in the past year, thanks in part to the growing obsession with cryptocurrencies, most of which aren’t private.

Much of the credit for a practical zero-knowledge proof goes to Zcash, a digital currency that launched in late 2016. Zcash’s developers used a method called a zk-SNARK (for “zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument of knowledge”) to give users the power to transact anonymously.

That’s not normally possible in Bitcoin and most other public blockchain systems, in which transactions are visible to everyone. Though these transactions are theoretically anonymous, they can be combined with other data to track and even identify users. Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum, the world’s second-most-popular blockchain network, has described zk-SNARKs as an “absolutely game-changing technology.”

For banks, this could be a way to use blockchains in payment systems without sacrificing their clients’ privacy. Last year, JPMorgan Chase added zk-SNARKs to its own blockchain-based payment system.

For all their promise, though, zk-SNARKs are computation-heavy and slow. They also require a so-called “trusted setup,” creating a cryptographic key that could compromise the whole system if it fell into the wrong hands. But researchers are looking at alternatives that deploy zero-knowledge proofs more efficiently and don’t require such a key. —Mike Orcutt

Genetic Fortune-Telling

DEREK BRAHNEY

One day, babies will get DNA report cards at birth. These reports will offer predictions about their chances of suffering a heart attack or cancer, of getting hooked on tobacco, and of being smarter than average.

Genetic Fortune Telling
  • BreakthroughScientists can now use your genome to predict your chances of getting heart disease or breast cancer, and even your IQ.
  • Why It MattersDNA-based predictions could be the next great public health advance, but they will increase the risks of genetic discrimination.
  • Key PlayersHelix; 23andMe; Myriad Genetics; UK Biobank; Broad Institute
  • AvailabilityNow

The science making these report cards possible has suddenly arrived, thanks to huge genetic studiessome involving more than a million people.

It turns out that most common diseases and many behaviors and traits, including intelligence, are a result of not one or a few genes but many acting in concert. Using the data from large ongoing genetic studies, scientists are creating what they call “polygenic risk scores.”

Though the new DNA tests offer probabilities, not diagnoses, they could greatly benefit medicine. For example, if women at high risk for breast cancer got more mammograms and those at low risk got fewer, those exams might catch more real cancers and set off fewer false alarms.

Pharmaceutical companies can also use the scores in clinical trials of preventive drugs for such illnesses as Alzheimer’s or heart disease. By picking volunteers who are more likely to get sick, they can more accurately test how well the drugs work.

The trouble is, the predictions are far from perfect. Who wants to know they might develop Alzheimer’s? What if someone with a low risk score for cancer puts off being screened, and then develops cancer anyway?

Polygenic scores are also controversial because they can predict any trait, not only diseases. For instance, they can now forecast about 10 percent of a person’s performance on IQ tests. As the scores improve, it’s likely that DNA IQ predictions will become routinely available. But how will parents and educators use that information?

To behavioral geneticist Eric ­Turk­heimer, the chance that genetic data will be used for both good and bad is what makes the new technology “simultaneously exciting and alarming.” —Antonio Regalado

Materials’ Quantum Leap

JEREMY LIEBMAN

The prospect of powerful new quantum computers comes with a puzzle. They’ll be capable of feats of computation inconceivable with today’s machines, but we haven’t yet figured out what we might do with those powers.

Materials’ Quantum Leap
  • BreakthroughIBM has simulated the electronic structure of a small molecule, using a seven-qubit quantum computer.
  • Why It MattersUnderstanding molecules in exact detail will allow chemists to design more effective drugs and better materials for generating and distributing energy.
  • Key PlayersIBM; Google; Harvard’s Alán Aspuru-Guzik
  • Availability5 to 10 years

One likely and enticing possibility: precisely designing molecules.

Chemists are already dreaming of new proteins for far more effective drugs, novel electrolytes for better batteries, compounds that could turn sunlight directly into a liquid fuel, and much more efficient solar cells.

We don’t have these things because molecules are ridiculously hard to model on a classical computer. Try simulating the behavior of the electrons in even a relatively simple molecule and you run into complexities far beyond the capabilities of today’s computers.

But it’s a natural problem for quantum computers, which instead of digital bits representing 1s and 0s use “qubits” that are themselves quantum systems. Recently, IBM researchers used a quantum computer with seven qubits to model a small molecule made of three atoms.

It should become possible to accurately simulate far larger and more interesting molecules as scientists build machines with more qubits and, just as important, better quantum algorithms. —David Rotman

Cómo la realidad aumentada puede hacer mas segura y mejor la operación aeronáutica

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Let’s face it, we all have daydreamed of sitting in a cockpit and roaming the wild, blue yonder. It’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t have been fascinated by aviation at some point in their life. But for all the gratification that flying brings with it, no one can deny that it is also in equal measure, a dangerous thing. Now, for the number of moving parts that make up an aircraft, it is a surprisingly efficient and safe machine. The incredibly high standard to which an aircraft is made and maintained ensures that failure rates become a statistical improbability. No, the real weak link in the chain isn’t a plane’s hydraulics or engines or control surfaces as one might expect, but is in fact the pilot itself.

Current studies point that pilot error accounts for a staggering 85% of all aviation accidents. And while accident rates in commercial aviation have decreased over the past few years, in general, they have remained mostly the same. Accidents in personal flight have actually gone up by 20% in the last decade.

 ar helmet flight

Augmented Reality in General Aviation

With all the numbers, it’s easy to just point the finger at pilots and say they didn’t do their job right. But there is more to it than just that. Richard Collins in his article – Was it Really Pilot Error – Or Was it Something Else? sums up the real problem here very succinctly – “Pilots don’t err on purpose, though, they err because they don’t know better.

Anyone who has flown (or has even tried out a desktop flight simulator) will tell you that flying ain’t easy. Even a glancing look at the controls of a Cessna 172 can confound a student pilot, let alone those of a Boeing 737 which consists of hundreds of switches and dials.

Pilots need to consider a lot of information before making the simplest of decisions and small errors have a way of snowballing out of control. Reading instruments, terrain, and weather to make decisions can get very tedious very fast. Being a pilot myself, I know at first hand how dangerous such a scenario can be.

This is where Augmented Reality (AR) steps in. The problem of pilot error isn’t so much as information not being available, but rather, too much information presented all the time that can lead to analysis paralysis. With AR applications, timely relevant information can be presented to the pilot when it is needed in an intuitive format, so that they can focus on the task at hand.

The idea of using AR in aviation isn’t so far fetched either, in fact, it has already been successfully implemented. Today, every fourth generation onwards fighter jet comes with a standard issue Heads Up Display (HUD) that displays critical navigational, flight, targeting, and mission related information on a piece of glass in front of the pilot. The idea is to ensure the pilot need not keep looking down at the instruments while in the heat of the battle. The fifth generation F-35 Lightning 2 has taken this concept even further by installing a complete AR package within the pilot’s helmet, giving them unprecedented 360 degree situational awareness and even see-thru ability.

Now, while most technologies typically trickle down from military applications to consumer markets, startups such as Aero Glass are also disrupting the traditional aviation landscape. Today, thanks to falling hardware prices and advancements in visualization technologies, AR is finally ready to make its appearance in commercial flying as well, a development that is long overdue. Many car models from Audi, BMW and Toyota have HUDs and it’s easy to find third party add ons for regular cars as well, so it’s definitely due for flight systems.

How AR Can Help Pilots

As stated before, the primary utility of AR in aviation is its ability to overlay relevant information on demand. Today’s AR systems can visualize terrain, navigation, air-traffic, instrument, weather, and airspace information in a 360-degree, 3D overlay that is easy to understand. Here are a few ways in which AR can assist a pilot. The following are shots from a working Aero Glass prototype in action.

AR runway markers can guide pilots during taxiing and taking off.

AR runway markers can guide pilots during taxiing and taking off.

So, let’s say a pilot is getting ready to taxi. Their AR HMD can create a virtual checklist that can help them with their pre-flight checks. Once the check is complete, the HMD can display runway information and guide the pilot to their designated runway. The pilot can even be alerted of other aircraft that are taxiing/landing/taking off.

AR overlays and instructions can be superimposed on runways to make landings easier.

AR overlays and instructions can be superimposed on runways to make landings easier.

Likewise, when the pilot is getting ready to take off or land, the AR system can display a simple corridor overlay to show the appropriate path. This is particularly useful as taking off and landings are the riskiest part of flying. As pilots are closer to the ground, any emergency needs to be addressed quickly. By telling a pilot exactly what needs to be done, an AR system can negate oversights making take-offs and landings simpler and safer.

A corridor overlay can let pilots know when they are going off course.

A corridor overlay can let pilots know when they are going off course.

Finally, an AR system can prove very handy during the cruise phase of the flight as well. Important information including artificial horizons, waypoints, weather updates, flight plans, restricted areas and terrain information can be displayed to provide complete situational awareness.

The display can be customized to a pilot’s preferences and modes can be turned on and off as well. It’s worth noting that a very high degree of precision is required to make this work and even the slightest different in overlay can have drastic (and potentially fatal) consequences.

Check out the below video to see a working Aero Glass prototype in action:

AR Use Cases Beyond Piloting

While the above mentioned uses of AR are quite obvious and well tested, the technology presents opportunities elsewhere as well. Maintenance Repair and Operations (MRO) are another area that can benefit greatly from AR. Training and licensing a technician can be very expensive and time consuming. In the U.S.A., it can take up to 8 years for a maintenance professional to become fully licensed primarily because training is usually hands-on and getting access to equipment can be tough at times.

AR, VR, and Mixed Reality are already proving to be invaluable here. By creating virtual replicas of the actual components, technicians can practice their skills in a safe environment as many times as needed. They can place their hands on virtual parts and work with them just as they would on the real thing. AR/VR based instructions can reduce the amount of time and money required to train a professional, while making training completely accident-free.

An AR follow-me car can guide a driver to their destination.

An AR follow-me car can guide a driver to their destination.

Likewise while HUDs are making appearances in automobiles, they are barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. Wearable AR systems can provide 360-degree situational awareness to drivers just like pilots and help them drive safer. Landmarks, navigational information, and hazards, can all be displayed in front of a driver’s line of sight so that they don’t need to keep taking their eyes off the road.

Some people are of the opinion that automation is the future of both general and military aviation. Autopilot and sensor technology are no doubt making great strides and they will make the skies safer. That being said, technology won’t be replacing the humble pilots anytime soon, error prone as they might be.

Take for instance the case of Flight 1549 (the flight the movie Sully is based on). Heading from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina, the plane experienced a bird strike just 3 minutes after take off which took out both the engines. Finding that he couldn’t turn back, nor could they make it to New Jersey’s Teterboro airport, the pilot decided to ditch the plane in the Hudson river, which he successfully did saving all the 155 people onboard. Now known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” the incident is a reminder that the human element cannot be overlooked as machines cannot make decisions of such nature.

Augmented reality applications such as those being developed by Aero Glass will help pilots of the future avoid costly mistakes and make timely decisions that will save lives. While the technology is still under development, it goes without saying that the enhancements to safety they bring are well worth the time.


Disclosure: This is a guest post by an actual pilot named Ákos Maróy; he is also the founder of Aero Glass. The content in this article was not produced by the UploadVR staff, but was edited for grammar and flow. No compensation was exchanged for the creation of this content.

Sostenibilidad no es suficiente; necesitamos culturas regenerativas

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Sustainability is not enough; we need regenerative cultures

Sustainability alone is not an adequate goal. The word sustainability itself is inadequate, as it does not tell us what we are actually trying to sustain. In 2005, after spending two years working on my doctoral thesis on design for sustainability, I began to realize that what we are actually trying to sustain is the underlying pattern of health, resilience and adaptability that maintain this planet in a condition where life as a whole can flourish. Design for sustainability is, ultimately, design for human and planetary health (Wahl, 2006b).

A regenerative human culture is healthy, resilient and adaptable; it cares for the planet and it cares for life in the awareness that this is the most effective way to create a thriving future for all of humanity. The concept of resilience is closely related to health, as it describes the ability to recover basic vital functions and bounce back from any kind of temporary breakdown or crisis. When we aim for sustainability from a systemic perspective, we are trying to sustain the pattern that connects and strengthens the whole system. Sustainability is first and foremost about systemic health and resilience at different scales, from local, to regional and global.

Complexity science can teach us that as participants in a complex dynamic eco- psycho-social system that is subject to certain biophysical limits, our goal has to be appropriate participation, not prediction and control (Goodwin, 1999a). The best way to learn how to participate appropriately is to pay more attention to systemic relationships and interactions, to aim to support the resilience and health of the whole system, to foster diversity and redundancies at multiple scales, and to facilitate positive emergence through paying attention to the quality of connections and information flows in the system. This book explores how this might be done. [This is an excerpt of a subchapter from Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press, 2016.]

Using the Precautionary Principle

One proposal for guiding wise action in the face of dynamic complexity and ‘not knowing’ is to apply the Precautionary Principle as a framework that aims to avoid, as far as possible, actions that will negatively impact on environmental and human health in the future. From the United Nation’s ‘World Charter for Nature’ in 1982, to the Montreal Protocol on Health in 1987, to the Rio Declaration in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol, and Rio+20 in 2012, we have committed to applying the Precautionary Principle over and over again.

The Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle states: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically” (Wingspread Statement, 1998). The principle puts the burden of proof that a certain action is not harmful on those proposing and taking the action, yet general practice continues to allow all actions that have not (yet!) been proven to have potentially harmful effects to go ahead unscrutinized. In a nutshell, the Precautionary Principle can be summarized as follows: practice precaution in the face of uncertainty. This is not what we are doing.

While high-level UN groups and many national governments have repeatedly considered the Precautionary Principle as a wise way to guide actions, day-to-day practice shows that it is very hard to implement, as there will always be some degree of uncertainty. The Precautionary Principle could also potentially stop sustainable innovation and block potentially highly beneficial new technologies on the basis that it cannot be proven with certainty that these technologies will not result in unexpected future side-effects that could be detrimental to human or environmental health.

Why not challenge designers, technologists, policy-makers, and planning professionals to evaluate their proposed actions on their positive, life-sustaining, restorative and regenerative potential?

Why not limit the scale of implementation of any innovation to local and regional levels until proof of its positive impact is unequivocally demonstrated?

Aiming to design for systemic health may not save us from unexpected side-effects and uncertainty, but it offers a trial and error path towards a regenerative culture. We urgently need a Hippocratic Oath for design, technology and planning: do no harm! To make this ethical imperative operational we need a salutogenic (health generating) intention behind all design, technology and planning: We need to design for human, ecosystems and planetary health. This way we can move more swiftly from the unsustainable ‘business as usual’ to restorative and regenerative innovations that will support the transition towards a regenerative culture. Let us ask ourselves:

How do we create design, technology, planning and policy decisions that positively support human, community and environmental health?

We need to respond to the fact that human activity over the last centuries and millennia has done damage to healthy ecosystems functioning. Resource availability is declining globally, while demand is rising as the human population continues to expand and we continue to erode ecosystems functions through irresponsible design and lifestyles of unbridled consumption.

If we meet the challenge of decreasing demand and consumption globally while replenishing resources through regenerative design and technology, we have a chance of making it through the eye of the needle and creating a regenerative human civilization. This shift will entail a transformation of the material resource basis of our civilization, away from fossil resources and towards renewably regenerated biological resources, along with a radical increase in resource productivity and recycling. Bill Reed has mapped out some of the essential shifts that will be needed to create a truly regenerative culture.

“Instead of doing less damage to the environment, it is necessary to learn how we can participate with the environment — using the health of ecological systems as a basis for design. […] The shift from a fragmented worldview to a whole systems mental model is the significant leap our culture must make — framing and understanding living system interrelationships in an integrated way. A place-based approach is one way to achieve this understanding. […] Our role, as designers and stakeholders is to shift our relationship to one that creates a whole system of mutually beneficial relationships.” — Bill Reed (2007: 674)

Reed named ‘whole-systems thinking’ and ‘living-systems thinking’ as the foundations of the shift in mental model that we need to create a regenerative culture. In Chapters 3, 4 and 5, we will explore these necessary shifts in perspective in some detail. They go hand- in-hand with a radical reframing of our understanding of sustainability. As Bill Reed puts it: “Sustainability is a progression towards a functional awareness that all things are connected; that the systems of commerce, building, society, geology, and nature are really one system of integrated relationships; that these systems are co-participants in the evolution of life” (2007). Once we make this shift in perspective we can understand life as “a whole process of continuous evolution towards richer, more diverse, and mutually beneficial relationships”. Creating regenerative systems is not simply a technical, economic, ecological or social shift: it has to go hand-in-hand with an underlying shift in the way we think about ourselves, our relationships with each other and with life as a whole.

Figure 1 shows the different shifts in perspective as we move from ‘business as usual’ to creating a regenerative culture. The aim of creating regenerative cultures transcends and includes sustainability. Restorative design aims to restore healthy self-regulation to local ecosystems, and reconciliatory design takes the additional step of making explicit humanity’s participatory involvement in life’s processes and the unity of nature and culture. Regenerative design creates regenerative cultures capable of continuous learning and transformation in response to, and anticipation of, inevitable change. Regenerative cultures safeguard and grow biocultural abundance for future generations of humanity and for life as a whole.

Figure 1: Adapted from Reed (2006) with the author’s permission

The ‘story of separation’ is reaching the limits of its usefulness and the negative effects of the associated worldview and resulting behaviour are beginning to impact on life as a whole. By having become a threat to planetary health we are learning to rediscover our intimate relationship with all of life. Bill Reed’s vision of regenerative design for systemic health is in line with the pioneering work of people like Patrick Geddes, Aldo Leopold, Lewis Mumford, Buckminster Fuller, Ian McHarg, E.F. Schumacher, John Todd, John Tillman Lyle, David Orr, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, and many others who have explored design in the context of the health of the whole system.

A new cultural narrative is emerging, capable of birthing and informing a truly regenerative human culture. We do not yet know all the details of how exactly this culture will manifest, nor do we know all the details of how we might get from the current ‘world in crisis’ situation to that thriving future of a regenerative culture. Yet aspects of this future are already with us.

In using the language of ‘old story’ and ‘new story’ we are in danger of thinking of this cultural transformation as a replacement of the old story by a new story. Such separation into dualistic opposites is in itself part of the ‘separation narrative’ of the ‘old story’. The ‘new story’ is not a complete negation of the currently dominant worldview. It includes this perspective but stops regarding it as the only perspective, opening up to the validity and necessity of multiple ways of knowing.

Embracing uncertainty and ambiguity makes us value multiple perspectives on our appropriate participation in complexity. These are perspectives that give value and validity not only to the ‘old story’ of separation, but also to the ‘ancient story’ of unity with the Earth and the cosmos. These are perspectives that may help us find a regenerative way of being human in deep intimacy, reciprocity and communion with life as a whole by becoming conscious co-creators of humanity’s ‘new story’.

Our impatience and urgency to jump to answers, solutions and conclusions too quickly is understandable in the face of increasing individual, collective, social, cultural and ecological suffering, but this tendency to favour answers rather than to deepen into the questions is in itself part of the old story of separation.

The art of transformative cultural innovation is to a large extent about making our peace with ‘not knowing’ and living into the questions more deeply, making sure we are asking the right questions, paying attention to our relationships and how we all bring forth a world not just through what we are doing, but through the quality of our being. A regenerative culture will emerge out of finding and living new ways of relating to self, community and to life as a whole. At the core of creating regenerative cultures is an invitation to live the questions together.

[This is an excerpt of a subchapter from Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press, 2016.]

Prospectiva como una herramienta de inteligencia estratégica – Philippe Destatte

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Foresight as a strategic intelligence tool

Liège, January 19, 2018

PhD2050 (Philippe Destatte)

Rien dans l’univers ne peut résister à l’ardeur convergente d’un nombre suffisamment grand d’intelligences groupées et organisées (Teilhard, 1947)

1. What is foresight, and in what way is it strategic? [1]

 In the form in which we know it today in Europe, foresight represents an encounter and interaction between French and Latin developments, on the one hand, and those in the Anglosphere on the other. In English-speaking countries, the practice of foresight has evolved over time from a concern with military interests (such as improving defence systems) to industrial objectives (such as increasing competitiveness) and societal issues (such as ensuring the welfare of the population or ensuring social harmony). Since the 1960s, its chosen field has shifted from fundamental science to key technologies, then to the analysis of innovation systems, and finally to the study of the entire societal system. Having started out within a single discipline, namely the exact sciences, foresight has become pluridisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, with an openness to the social sciences [2]. In doing so, it has moved considerably closer to the French approach, abandoning many of its earlier forecasting ambitions for a more strategic focus.

The French school of foresight (referred to as la prospective) originates in the thought of the philosopher and entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Deriving from a philosophy of collective action and engagement, it deals with value systems and constructs knowledge for political purposes [3], and has likewise become increasingly strategic in nature through contact with the worlds of international organisations, companies and regional territories [4]. Taking account of the long-term and la longue durée by postulating the plurality of possible futures, adopting the analysis of complex systems and deploying the theory and practice of modelling, foresight generates a strategic desire and willingness in order to influence and affect history. As I have helped to define it in various contexts – European (the Mutual Learning Platform of DG Research, DG Enterprise & Industry, and DG Regional & Urban Policy, supported by the Committee of the Regions) [5], French (the European Regional Foresight College) created under the auspices of the Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness (DATAR) in Paris) [6] or in Wallonia (the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society) [7]– foresight is an independent, dialectical and rigorous process, conducted in a transdisciplinary way and taking in the longer sweep of history. It can shed light on questions of the present and the future, firstly by considering them in a holistic, systemic and complex framework, and secondly by setting them in a temporal context over and beyond historicity. Concerned above all with planning and action, its purpose is to provoke one or more transformations within the system that it apprehends by mobilising collective intelligence [8]. This definition is that of both la prospective and foresight; at any rate it was designed as such, as part of a serious effort to bring about convergence between these two tools undertaken by, in particular, the team of Unit K2 of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, led at the time by Paraskevas Caracostas.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the strategy behind the process of la prospective or foresight – some refer to la prospective stratégique or strategic foresight, which to my mind are pleonasms – is that it does not have a linear relationship with the diagnosis or the issues. Fundamentally, this tool reflects both the long-term issues it seeks to address and a vision of a desirable future that it has constructed with the actors concerned. Its circular process mobilises collective and collaborative intelligence at every step in order to bring about in reality a desired and jointly constructed action that operates over the long term and is intended to be efficient and operational. Foresight watch takes place at every step of this process. I define this as a continuous and largely iterative activity of active observation and systemic analysis of the environment, in the short, medium and long term, to anticipate developments and identify present and future issues with the ultimate purpose of forming collective visions and action strategies. It is based on creating and managing the knowledge needed as input into the process of foresight itself. This process extends from the choice of areas to work on (long-term issues) and of the necessary heuristic, via the analysis and capitalisation of information and its transformation into useful knowledge, to communication and evaluation [9].

2. Foresight and strategic intelligence

The Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC Liège, under the direction of Professor Claire Gruslin, sees strategic intelligence as ‘a mode of governance based on the acquisition and protection of strategic and relevant information and on the potential for influence, which is essential for all economic actors wishing to participate proactively in development and innovation by building a distinctive and lasting advantage in a highly competitive and turbulent environment’ [10].

For its part, the famous Martre Report of 1994, in its definition of economic intelligence, delineated a process fairly similar to that which I mentioned for foresight, likewise including monitoring, heuristics, the examination of issues, a shared vision and the strategy to achieve it, all set in a ‘continuous cycle’:

Economic intelligence can be defined as the set of coordinated actions by which information that is useful to economic actors is sought out, processed and distributed for exploitation. These various actions are carried out legally and benefit from the protection necessary to preserve the company’s assets, under optimal quality, time and cost conditions. Useful information is that needed by the different decision-making levels in the company or the community in order to develop and implement in a coherent manner the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve its objectives, with the goal of improving its position in its competitive context. These actions within the company are organised in a continuous cycle, generating a shared vision of the objectives to be achieved’ [11].

What is of particular interest in the search for parallels or convergences between economic intelligence and foresight is the idea, developed by Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, that the notion of economic intelligence goes beyond documentation, monitoring, data protection or even influence, to become part of ‘a true strategic and tactical intention’, supporting actions at different levels, from the company up to the global, international level[12].

 3. Foresight in strategic intelligence

At the turn of the millennium, as part of the European ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory) programme, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville gathered a series of researchers to examine the idea of strategic intelligence as a methodological vehicle or umbrella for public policy-making. The idea was to recognise and take account of the diversity of methods made available to decision-makers in order to structure and mobilise them to ensure successful policy-making [13]. As Ken Ducatel, one of the coordinators of this discussion, put it, ‘The concept of strategic intelligence not only offers a powerful methodology for addressing (EU) issues, but has the flexibility to connect to other forms of interaction, adapt to new models of governance and open up to technological changes and social developments that are faster than we have ever known before’ [14].

At the time of the REGSTRAT project coordinated by the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Europa Zentrum in 2006, the concept of Strategic Policy Intelligence (SPI) tools – i.e. intelligence tools applied to public policy – had become accepted, in particular among the representatives of the Mutual Learning Platform referred to earlier. As my fellow foresight specialist Günter Clar and I pointed out in the report on the subject of foresight, strategic intelligence as applied to public policy can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. As had become clear during the work, SPI’s tools include foresight, evaluation of technological choices, evaluation, benchmarking, quality procedures applied to territories, and so on. These tools are used to provide decision-makers and stakeholders with clear, objective, politically unbiased, independent and, most importantly, anticipatory information [15].

This work also made it possible to define strategic intelligence as observed in this context. Its content is adapted to the context, with hard and soft sides and a distributed character, underpinned by scale effects, the facilitation of learning, a balance between specific and generic approaches and increased accessibility. Its process is based on demand, the need to mobilise creativity, making tacit knowledge explicit, the evaluation of technological potential, a facilitation of the process and an optimal link with decision-making [16].

From this viewpoint, foresight is clearly one of the tools of strategic intelligence for the use of policy-makers and stakeholders.

 Anticipation, innovation and decision-making

The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission has been involved for some years in forward-looking activities (FLAs) [17], just as the European Institute in Seville had been – as we saw – when it developed strategic policy intelligence (SPI) [18] tools for use in public policy-making[19]. FLAs include all systematic and participatory studies and processes designed to consider possible futures, proactively and strategically, and to explore and map out paths towards desirable goals [20]. This field obviously includes numerous different methods for anticipation of future developments, evaluation of technological choices, ex-ante evaluation, and so on.

In 2001, Ruud Smits, Professor of Technology and Innovation at the University of Utrecht, made three recommendations that he regarded as essential. First, he stressed, it was time to call a halt to the debate about definitions and to exploit the synergies between the different branches of strategic intelligence. Next, he noted the need to improve the quality of strategic intelligence and reinforce its existing sources. Finally, Smits called for the development of an interface between strategic intelligence sources and their users[21]. This programme has yet to be implemented, and our work at GRIS could be seen as reflecting this ambition.

This cognitive approach without a doubt brings us back to the distinction put forward by psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who refers in his book Thinking fast and slow to two cerebral systems. He describes System 1 as automatic, direct, impulsive, everyday, fast, intuitive, and involving no real effort; we use it in 95% of circumstances. System 2, by contrast, is conscious, rational, deliberative, slow, analytical and logical; we only use it 5% of the time, especially to make decisions when we find ourselves in systems that we consider complex[22]. It is at such times that we have to make the effort to mobilise tools suited to the tasks we are tackling.

This question concerns all strategic intelligence tools, including foresight. Not just because the investments to be made in these fields of research are considerable, but because, often, many of us are unaware of the extent of that which we are unable to understand. All too commonly, we think that what we can see represents the full extent of what exists. We confine ourselves to the variables that we are able to detect, embrace and measure, and have a considerable capacity to refuse to recognise other variables. We know that this syndrome of WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’) is devastating: it prevents us from grasping reality in its entirety by making us think that we are in full command of the territory around us and the horizon. As Kahneman puts it, ‘You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as if it were all there is to know’ [23].

This flaw – and there are others – should encourage us to join forces to cross methodological and epistemological boundaries and work to create more robust instruments that can be used to design more proactive and better-equipped public policies.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] A first version of this paper was presented at the Liège Business School on September 28, 2016.

[2] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997.

[3] ‘(…) By applying the principles of intentional analysis associated with phenomenology to the experience of time, Gaston Berger substitutes for the “myth of time” a temporal norm, an intersubjective construct for collective action. His philosophy of knowledge is thus constituted as a science of foresight practice whose purpose is normative: it is oriented towards work on values and the construction of a political project; it is a “philosophy in action”.‘ Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015. Our translation.

[4] On la prospective territoriale, representing an encounter between the principles of foresight and those of regional development, see the reference to the DATAR international conference in March 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014)…, p. 214-215.

[5] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.

http://www.institut-destree.eu/Documents/Reseaux/Günter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[6] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE eds, Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[7] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[8] Ph. Destatte, What is foresight ?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

https://phd2050.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/what-is-foresight/

[9] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[10] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Brussels, August 2016, 64 p.

[11] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission) – La Documentation française, February 1994.

http://bdc.aege.fr/public/Intelligence_Economique_et_strategie_des_entreprises_1994.pdf

[12] ‘The notion of economic intelligence implies transcending the piecemeal actions designated by the terms documentation, monitoring (scientific and technological, competitive, financial, legal and regulatory etc.), protection of competitive capital, and influencing (strategy for influencing nation-states, role of foreign consultancies, information and misinformation operations, etc). It succeeds in transcending these things as a result of the strategic and tactical intention which is supposed to preside over the steering of piecemeal actions and over ensuring their success, and of the interaction between all levels of activity at which the economic intelligence function is exercised: from the grassroots (within companies), through intermediate levels (interprofessional, local), up to the national (concerted strategies between different decision-making centres), transnational (multinational groups) or international (strategies for influencing nation-states) levels.’ H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13. Our translation.

[13] Strategic intelligence can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. (…) Strategic intelligence applied to public policy offers a variety of methodologies to meet the requirements of policy-makers. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission), 1994. – Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[14] Ibidem, p. IV.

[15] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[16] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[17] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/forward-looking_en.html – European forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ssh/docs/european-forward-looking-activities_en.pdf

[18] ‘Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing them together to interact (amongst others to create common ground).’ Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Seville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[19] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[20] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[21] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – see also R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strengthening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds, The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[22] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[23] D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201.

Porqué el mundo está mejorando y posiblemente así continúe?

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Why the World Is Still Getting Better—and That’s Likely to Continue

If you read or watch the news, you’ll likely think the world is falling to pieces. Trends like terrorism, climate change, and a growing population straining the planet’s finite resources can easily lead you to think our world is in crisis.

But there’s another story, a story the news doesn’t often report. This story is backed by data, and it says we’re actually living in the most peaceful, abundant time in history, and things are likely to continue getting better.

The News vs. the Data

The reality that’s often clouded by a constant stream of bad news is we’re actually seeing a massive drop in poverty, fewer deaths from violent crime and preventable diseases. On top of that, we’re the most educated populace to ever walk the planet.

“Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceful era in the existence of our species.” –Steven Pinker

In the last hundred years, we’ve seen the average human life expectancy nearly double, the global GDP per capita rise exponentially, and childhood mortality drop 10-fold.

abundance-infographic-v9-today

That’s pretty good progress! Maybe the world isn’t all gloom and doom.

If you’re still not convinced the world is getting better, check out the charts in this article from Vox and on Peter Diamandis’ website for a lot more data.

Abundance for All Is Possible  

So now that you know the world isn’t so bad after all, here’s another thing to think about: it can get much better, very soon.

In their book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis suggest it may be possible for us to meet and even exceed the basic needs of all the people living on the planet today.

“In the hands of smart and driven innovators, science and technology take things which were once scarce and make them abundant and accessible to all.”

This means making sure every single person in the world has adequate food, water and shelter, as well as a good education, access to healthcare, and personal freedom.

This might seem unimaginable, especially if you tend to think the world is only getting worse. But given how much progress we’ve already made in the last few hundred years, coupled with the recent explosion of information sharing and new, powerful technologies, abundance for all is not as out of reach as you might believe.

Throughout history, we’ve seen that in the hands of smart and driven innovators, science and technology take things which were once scarce and make them abundant and accessible to all.

Napoleon III
Napoleon III

In Abundance, Diamandis and Kotler tell the story of how aluminum went from being one of the rarest metals on the planet to being one of the most abundant…

In the 1800s, aluminum was more valuable than silver and gold because it was rarer. So when Napoleon III entertained the King of Siam, the king and his guests were honored by being given aluminum utensils, while the rest of the dinner party ate with gold.

But aluminum is not really rare.

In fact, aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, making up 8.3% of the weight of our planet. But it wasn’t until chemists Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult discovered how to use electrolysis to cheaply separate aluminum from surrounding materials that the element became suddenly abundant.

The problems keeping us from achieving a world where everyone’s basic needs are met may seem like resource problems — when in reality, many are accessibility problems.

The Engine Driving Us Toward Abundance: Exponential Technology

History is full of examples like the aluminum story.  The most powerful one of the last few decades is information technology. Think about all the things that computers and the internet made abundant that were previously far less accessible because of cost or availability …

Here are just a few examples:

  • Easy access to the world’s information
  • Ability to share information freely with anyone and everyone
  • Free/cheap long-distance communication
  • Buying and selling goods/services regardless of location

Less than two decades ago, when someone reached a certain level of economic stability, they could spend somewhere around $10K on stereos, cameras, entertainment systems, etc — today, we have all that equipment in the palm of our hand.

Now, there is a new generation of technologies heavily dependant on information technology and, therefore, similarly riding the wave of exponential growth. When put to the right use, emerging technologies like artificial intelligenceroboticsdigital manufacturing, nano-materials and digital biology make it possible for us to drastically raise the standard of living for every person on the planet.

abundance-infographic-v9-tools

These are just some of the innovations which are unlocking currently scarce resources:

    • IBM’s Watson Health is being trained and used in medical facilities like the Cleveland Clinic to help doctors diagnose disease. In the future, it’s likely we’ll trust AI just as much, if not more than humans to diagnose disease, allowing people all over the world to have access to great diagnostic tools regardless of whether there is a well-trained doctor near them.
    • Self-driving cars are already on the roads of several American cities and will be coming to a road near you in the next couple years. Considering the average American spends nearly two hours driving every day, not having to drive would free up an increasingly scarce resource: time.

The Change-Makers

Today’s innovators can create enormous change because they have these incredible tools—which would have once been available only to big organizations—at their fingertips. And, as a result of our hyper-connected world, there is an unprecedented ability for people across the planet to work together to create solutions to some of our most pressing problems today.

“In today’s hyperlinked world, solving problems anywhere, solves problems everywhere.” –Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance

According to Diamandis and Kotler, there are three groups of people accelerating positive change.

abundance-infographic-v9-people

  1. DIY Innovators

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the Homebrew Computer Club was a meeting place of “do-it-yourself” computer enthusiasts who shared ideas and spare parts. By the 1990s and 2000s, that little club became known as an inception point for the personal computer industry — dozens of companies, including Apple Computer, can directly trace their origins back to Homebrew.

    Since then, we’ve seen the rise of the social entrepreneur, the Maker Movement and the DIY Bio movement, which have similar ambitions to democratize social reform, manufacturing, and biology, the way Homebrew democratized computers. These are the people who look for new opportunities and aren’t afraid to take risks to create something new that will change the status-quo.

  2. Techno-Philanthropists

    Unlike the robber barons of the 19th and early 20th centuries, today’s “techno-philanthropists” are not just giving away some of their wealth for a new museum, they are using their wealth to solve global problems and investing in social entrepreneurs aiming to do the same.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given away at least $28 billion, with a strong focus on ending diseases like polio, malaria, and measles for good. Jeff Skoll, after cashing out of eBay with $2 billion in 1998, went on to create the Skoll Foundation, which funds social entrepreneurs across the world. And last year, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99% of their $46 billion in Facebook stock during their lifetimes.

  3. The Rising Billion

    Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be 4.1 billion people connected to the internet, up from 3 billion in 2015. This number might even be higher, given the efforts of companies like Facebook, Google, Virgin Group, and SpaceX to bring internet access to the world. That’s a billion new people in the next several years who will be connected to the global conversation, looking to learn, create and better their own lives and communities.In his book, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Pahalad writes that finding co-creative ways to serve this rising market can help lift people out of poverty while creating viable businesses for inventive companies.

The Path to Abundance

Eager to create change, innovators armed with powerful technologies can accomplish incredible feats. Kotler and Diamandis imagine that the path to abundance occurs in three tiers:

  • Basic Needs (food, water, shelter)
  • Tools of Growth (energy, education, access to information)
  • Ideal Health and Freedom

abundance-infographic-v9-path

Of course, progress doesn’t always happen in a straight, logical way, but having a framework to visualize the needs is helpful.

Many people don’t believe it’s possible to end the persistent global problems we’re facing. However, looking at history, we can see many examples where technological tools have unlocked resources that previously seemed scarce.

Technological solutions are not always the answer, and we need social change and policy solutions as much as we need technology solutions. But we have seen time and time again, that powerful tools in the hands of innovative, driven change-makers can make the seemingly impossible happen.


You can download the full “Path to Abundance” infographic here. It was created under a CC BY-NC-ND license. If you share, please attribute to Singularity University.

Image Credit: janez volmajer / Shutterstock.com

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Mirada tendencial al 2030 WEF

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Cuarta revolución industrial
Medium xgbnjuevfyviaoncfgrsfrb5 xzsqu260ghhi2hqmxw
Les pedimos a los expertos de nuestros Consejos Mundiales Futuros que compartieran su opinión acerca del mundo en 2030; y estos son los resultados, desde la muerte de las compras hasta el resurgimiento de los Estados nación.

“Nada me pertenece. No tengo coche. No soy dueña de mi casa. No poseo electrodomésticos ni ropa”, escribe la parlamentaria danesa Ida Auken. En la ciudad de 2030, las compras son un recuerdo lejano; sus habitantes han encontrado la solución de la energía limpia y toman prestado lo que necesitan a pedido.

“China tomó la delantera en 2017 con un mercado para negociar el derecho a emitir una tonelada de CO2, y colocó al mundo en un camino hacia un solo precio del carbono y un poderoso incentivo para abandonar los combustibles fósiles”, predice Jane Burston, directora de Clima y Medioambiente del Laboratorio Nacional de Física del Reino Unido. Paralelamente, Europa se encontró en el centro del comercio de paneles solares baratos y eficientes, ya que los precios de las energías renovables descendieron considerablemente.

Robert Muggah, director de Investigación del Instituto Igarapé, predice que no habrá una sola potencia mundial, sino un puñado de países —entre los que se destacan Estados Unidos, Rusia, China, Alemania, India y Japón— que presentarán tendencias semiimperiales. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo, el papel del Estado se ve amenazado por otras tendencias, que incluyen el crecimiento de las ciudades.

Según Melanie Walker, una médica y asesora del Banco Mundial, el hospital tal como lo conocemos está en vías de desaparición; habrá menos accidentes gracias a los vehículos autodirigidos y grandes avances en medicina preventiva y personalizada. No habrá escalpelos ni donantes de órganos, sino pequeños tubos robotizados y órganos bioimpresos.

Al igual que nuestros abuelos, no utilizaremos la carne como alimento básico, escribe Tim Benton, profesor de Ecología de Poblaciones de la Universidad de Leeds, Reino Unido. No serán la gran agricultura o los pequeños productores artesanales quienes ganen, sino una combinación de ambos, con alimentos preparados rediseñados para ser más saludables y menos dañinos para el medioambiente y nuestro cuerpo.

Los refugiados sirios con formación académica superior habrán alcanzado la mayoría de edad para el año 2030, y defenderán la integración económica de aquellos que han sido forzados a huir del conflicto. Según Lorna Solís, fundadora y directora ejecutiva de la ONG Blue Rose Compass, el mundo necesita estar mejor preparado para las poblaciones en movimiento, ya que el cambio climático desplazará alrededor de 1000 millones de personas.

“Nos olvidamos de los derechos y libertades que refuerzan nuestras democracias a nuestro propio riesgo”, escribe Kenneth Roth, director ejecutivo de Human Rights Watch.

Además, una vez que lleguemos allí, es probable que descubramos evidencia de vida extraterrestre, escribe Ellen Stofan, jefa científica de la NASA. La “gran ciencia” nos ayudará a responder a grandes preguntas sobre la vida en la tierra, así como a abrir aplicaciones prácticas para la tecnología espacial.

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