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Paul Krugman Has Been Writing A Lot About The Ominous Threat Posed By Robots

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-krugman-articles-about-robots-2012-12

Paul Krugman

The focus of a few of Paul Krugman’s recent blog posts and his most recent New York Times column is robots and how they are fundamentally changing the U.S. labor market.

The upshot of Krugman’s argument is this: income inequality has been increasing for years in the United States, but one of the major drivers that no one talks about is the increasing use of robotics in manufacturing and other industries to do jobs traditionally done by human laborers.

One conclusion Krugman reaches is that even the highly-paid, highly-skilled workers who have dominated the share of income growth in the U.S. over the past several years will be increasingly affected going forward by the rise of the machines:

About the robots: there’s no question that in some high-profile industries, technology is displacing workers of all, or almost all, kinds. For example, one of the reasons some high-technology manufacturing has lately been moving back to the United States is that these days the most valuable piece of a computer, the motherboard, is basically made by robots, so cheap Asian labor is no longer a reason to produce them abroad.

In a recent book, “Race Against the Machine,” M.I.T.’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue that similar stories are playing out in many fields, including services like translation and legal research. What’s striking about their examples is that many of the jobs being displaced are high-skill and high-wage; the downside of technology isn’t limited to menial workers.

Indeed, we’ve seen this taking shape even on Wall Street, where investment banks like UBS are laying off credit derivatives traders and replacing them with computers that trade off signals generated by internal algorithms.

That example reflects another of Krugman’s assertions: the robotics revolution may be a major driver of increasing income inequality.

Krugman writes in another post:

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.!

Finally, Krugman offers a few alternative explanations for the increasing shift of income distribution toward capital and away from labor that don’t feature robots so prominently. One is the idea that monopoly power – made more ubiquitous by growing business concentration in the United States which allows big producers to control prices more effectively – may be a bigger culprit.

Krugman thus concludes by writing that “the starting point is to realize that there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear, but it’s potentially really important.”

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Monday, December 10th, 2012 news No Comments

Wikipedia Has Figured Out A New Way To Stop Vandals In Their Tracks

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/pending-changes-safeguard-on-wikipedia-2012-12

Wikipedia

In a small but fundamental change to Wikipedia, a tool which protects articles from malicious vandalism while simultaneously permitting good-faith edits has gone live on the English Wikipedia.

When a page under ‘pending changes’ protection is edited by a new user or a user without an account, the edit does not go live until it has been reviewed by a more experienced editor.

Edits made to Wikipedia articles are normally visible immediately.

The new tool is in contrast to the typical means of page protection on the online encyclopaedia, which, in the case of a flurry of vandalism to an article, completely locks it from being edited at all by new users.

Pending changes is already used on the second largest Wikimedia Foundation project, the German Wikipedia, but unlike the English one, on which pending changes can be assigned to and removed from pages that are frequently subjected to unconstructive edits, it’s applied to all articles by default.

This is a significant and long-awaited development. Wikipedia cannot remain the resource that it is if its four million-plus articles – the product of enormous amounts of volunteer time – are fair game.

At last, the burden for dealing with problematic edits is being shifted away from good-faith editors constantly having to challenge them, and onto those who make drive-by and contentious edits, who may now find themselves arguing the case for why their changes should even appear, let alone remain once already published, as they otherwise would.

There is already plenty of evidence within the project that suggests this is the only way forward. More and more experienced editors are inserting FAQ sections in the discussion pages of articles to save themselves fro! m consta ntly dealing with the same questions and disputes, and at the top of the dispute resolution ladder, the Arbitration Committee has a large list of sanctions for various articles and topics, which can be applied to editors who don’t follow the rules.

But some might argue it’s much too little, much too late. Wikipedia has regrettably served as an anonymous platform to libel people, one which appealed to Johann Hari when he used it to describe people he didn’t like as alcoholics, anti-Semites, or homophobes.

Pending changes would not only have made it much more difficult for such edits to get through, but might even have diminished the incentive to make them in the first place if they didn’t appear immediately after submission.

And then there’s the matter of simply getting things right. If pending changes was enabled on all articles, would Lord Justice Leveson have inadvertently labelled a 25 year old Californian student as a founder of The Independent newspaper?

The fact that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone is arguably both the site’s best and worst aspect: without it, it wouldn’t be what it is. But with September 2012 seeing the lowest monthly level of new editors since September 2005, a laissez-faire attitude to content is no longer sustainable. Sharing knowledge is a worthy and appealing undertaking; baby-sitting its potentially fleeting presence in a digital no-man’s land, not so much.

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Monday, December 10th, 2012 news No Comments

It’s An Attack On Microsoft’s Last Line Of Defense (GOOG)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/this-latest-news-from-google-has-to-worry-microsoft-its-an-attack-on-microsofts-last-line-of-defense-2012-12

steve ballmer

Google announced yesterday that it is going to start charging all businesses that want to use Google Apps – Google’s online version of Microsoft Windows.

Previously, Google Apps had been free to use for businesses smaller than 10 people.

This news might mean that Google is sick of flushing money down rat hole and finally wants to cover its cost, despite the reduction in usage this will cause.

But it also might mean Google is about to take Apps development a whole lot more seriously. It might Google is going to start trying to make Google Apps something that all businessess find worth paying for.

If that’s the case, it has to make Microsoft nervous.

Microsoft is in a very precarious place at the moment.

It’s just released a new operating system that’s very different from its old one.

The new operating system forces enterprises and consumers around into a choice: what kind of new OS do they adopt?

In years past, there was really only one choice: Microsoft. 

But now, consumers are bringing their iOS devices and Android devices to work. They’re used to them. They love them. Meanwhile, consumers are not rushing out to buy Microsoft’s new tablet, Surface.

So now, enterprises have three choices: Microsoft, Google, or Apple.

The big advantage! Microso ft has had for years now is that its software suite for doing business, Microsoft Office, is far superior to anything Google or Apple had to offer.

But if Google is going to charge all clients for its Office clone, that might mean it is about to take Apps development a whole lot more seriously.

Maybe Google will finally build a real rival to Microsoft office’s crown jewel, Excel.

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Friday, December 7th, 2012 news No Comments

Olds Are Smoking Less

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/12-to-17-year-olds-are-smoking-less-2012-12

According to new data, youths are smoking less.

From Morgan Stanley’s David Adelman:

Although the causes are somewhat unclear, updated data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) highlights continued and substantial declines in the prevalence of US youth smoking. For example, among 12-17 year olds the incidence of cigarette smoking in the past month declined from 13.4% in 2000, to 8.4% in 2010, to 7.8% in 2011. In the 12-year data set, youth cigarette smoking has essentially declined every year, with most declines statistically significant (including 2011 vs. 2010).

Why has this been happening?

There are many reasons in our view why the secular rate of US cigarette volume decline has increased. We have written about this dynamic extensively, and the multiple – and somewhat related – principal factors likely include: (i) Reduced social acceptability; (ii) Increased prevalence of aggressive indoor smoking bans; (iii) Higher prices and higher excise taxes; (iv) Some shift to other tobacco products, including moist smokeless tobacco, as well as lower-taxed cigarette alternatives (e.g., “pipe-your-own”); (v) Ongoing ethnic shifts toward Asian- and Hispanic Americans, who have a far lower smoking prevalence (as well as substantially lower per capita cigarette consumption among those who smoke); and (vi) The multi-year substantial and continuing decline in youth smoking prevalence. Total youth consumption is modest, but like a python eating a pig, the impact of these demographic dynamics will be visible over an extended period of time as today’s young adult cohort ages. Nine-month year-to-date US cigarette consumption is down ~3%, despite only very modest net pricing.

Here’s a chart showing that trend.  But as Adelman notes, some may just be shifting from smoking to using smokeless tobacco products.

smoking trends

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Friday, December 7th, 2012 news No Comments

Meet Magine, The iPad App That Shows Just How Cool An Apple TV Could Be (AAPL)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-magine-the-ipad-app-that-shows-just-how-cool-an-apple-tv-could-be-2012-11

Magine iPad App

People love TV.

Stats to prove it:

  • About 100 million people pay for cable TV, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
  • The average monthly cable bill was $86 2011, according to NPD. It’s expected to be $123 by 2015 and $200 by 2020.

So, if we’re all in love with TV, why are we excited about the near-certain prospect of an Apple TV?

Mainly because the software for current TVs and set-top boxes is terrible. Cable company software is ugly and hard to navigate.

Impressed with our MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones all of us – including industry insiders like Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, for example – imagine Apple could do a much better job.

Over in Sweden, a startup called Magine (pronounced like Imagine without the “I”) has done more than just dream.

It built a product for iOS and Android, which streams and records 16 Swedish television channels. Sometimes called the “Spotify for TV,” its shows us just how cool Apple TV software could be.

With Magine, your iPad is both a remote and a viewing device. Apple TV will have to work the same way, right?

Instead of hitting the “guide” button on your remote and navig! ating wi th arrows, you can use gestures.

This is how you select a show – by touching it.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Friday, November 30th, 2012 news No Comments

The Windows 8 Sales Data Is In, And It’s Horrible News For Microsoft (MSFT)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-windows-8-sales-data-is-in-and-its-horrible-news-for-microsoft-2012-11

Steve Ballmer facepalmNPD research published some horrible news for Microsoft yesterday.

  • Despite releasing an entirely new operating system on October 22 of this year, Windows PC sales shrank 21% between 10/21 and 11/17 versus the same period last year.
  • Windows 8 tablet sales during that period were “almost nonesistent” – just 1% of all Windows 8 sales.

“It hasn’t made the market any worse, but it hasn’t stimulated things either,” Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD, told the New York Times. “It hasn’t provided the impetus to sales everybody hoped for.”

No kidding.

Yesterday, we reported other bad news:

  • Asus CFO David Chang’s comments that “demand for Windows 8 is not that good right now.”
  • Microsoft cut its order of Surface tablets for the year to two million units, down from four million.

This is a very scary time for Microsoft.

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Friday, November 30th, 2012 news No Comments

US Residents Should Begin Closing Down Their Accounts Immediately

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/intrade-us-residents-should-close-accounts-2012-11

The CFTC is suing popular betting site Intrade.  And now Intrade is telling its customers to start shutting down their accounts.

From Intrade (via TPM):

ATTENTION U.S. CUSTOMERS – IMPORTANT!
We are sorry to announce that due to legal and regulatory pressures, Intrade can no longer allow US residents to participate in our real-money prediction markets.

Unfortunately this means that all US residents must begin the process of closing down their Intrade accounts. We strongly urge you to begin this process immediately:

Step 1: Close out open predictions

You must close out all open predictions before 8:00am GMT (3:00am ET) on December 23, 2012. Instructions on how to close out an open prediction can be found HERE.

If this is not done then by the deadline noted above, Intrade will close out your predictions for you at what we consider to be fair market value as of the daily session close of December 23, 2012.

Fair market value will be determined using current and historical price information, including daily close prices and recent trades. Values will be set at the absolute discretion of Intrade and will not be open for review, discussion or argument – our determination of fair market value is final.

Step 2: Withdraw funds

Please note, no customers will be charged the $4.99 monthly fee due on December 1, 2012.

Members have until December 31, 2012, to withdraw all funds from their account. Instructions on how to request a withdrawal can be found HERE.

To h! elp you receive your funds as quickly and easily as possible, the $20 fee normally charged by Intrade for processing a bank wire withdrawal will be waived. Please be aware however that any fees charged by the sending and receiving bank, plus any intermediary bank the transfer is routed through will NOT be refunded by Intrade.

We understand this announcement may come as a surprise and a disappointment to our US customers, but this in no way signals the end of Intrade in the US. In the near future we’ll announce plans for a new exchange model that will allow legal participation from all jurisdictions – including the US. We believe this new model will further enhance Intrade position as the leading prediction market platform for real time probabilities about future events. We would like to sincerely thank our US customers for their custom, support and loyalty over the years.

For our non-US customers, we will continue to offer real-money prediction markets. In the coming weeks and months we plan to implement a number of improvements to the Intrade website. These include expanding our market categories to include sports, adding more convenient funding options and a new and improved trading interface. We’ll keep you posted on these initiatives as they develop.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at November 26, 2012 20:53:16 UTC
———————————–
To protect yourself from identity theft never give out your Intrade login or password.

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Monday, November 26th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Google Lowers Prices To Try And Kill Amazon’s Cloud (GOOG, AMZN)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-lowers-prices-to-compete-with-aws-2012-11

Google Shailesh Rao

Remember Compute Engine, Google’s Amazon-killer cloud that launched in a “limited preview” this June?

So far it hasn’t exactly knocked Amazon from its pedestal.

So Google’s trying an age-old tactic: lowering prices.

At the time it was announced, Google said it would be faster and cheaper than Amazon’s cloud, offering “50% more power per dollar” – which translated to being 37% cheaper.

But that apparently wasn’t cheap enough, because Google just dropped prices another 5%, Shailesh Rao, director of new products and solutions in the Google Enterprise unit, told InformationWeek

It also added a bunch of new configuration options to make it more in line with all the things Amazon offers.

Rao says that Compute Engine wants to bring more startups onto its cloud. Startups are what propelled Amazon’s cloud services to become the most popular. One reason why startups are wary is because Compute Engine is still in “limited preview.” That’s a fancy way of saying that its still in beta mode.

Google hasn’t committed to a timeline when it’s cloud will leave beta and become a full-fledged service, Rao says.

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Monday, November 26th, 2012 news No Comments

Mayor Bloomberg Calls On AirBnB To Help Sandy Victims Find Housing

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/nyc-airbnb-help-bloomberg-free-housing-sandy-victims-2012-11

airbnb-sandy

When apartment rental site AirBnB started making waves across the U.S. last year, New York City officials were quick to draw a line in the sand –– making it illegal and punishable by as much as $5,000 to rent rooms for longer than 30 days. 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it looks like they’ve agreed to bury the hatchet, at least for now. Mayor Bloomberg announced today his office will support AirBnB’s efforts to put free roofs over the heads of some 40,000 New Yorkers displaced by the superstorm. 

AirBnB had already offered discounted lodging for Sandy survivors, but it’s now created a landing page for entirely free Sandy listings.

By Wednesday afternoon, there were already dozens of listings to choose from.

Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a superstorm when it made landfall in New York and New Jersey early last week, but the damage is far from repaired. Public transit is only now chugging back to full speed, with some downtown areas still without normal service.

But it’s the tens of thousands of residents who lost their homes or were forced to leave in the wake of the storm that have posed the largest problem. Temperatures are dropping each day and with Wednesday’s Nor’easter dumping a pile of unexpected snow and slush on the city, it’s no wonder the city has ramped up its efforts to find these people a safe and warm place to stay. 

For an yone willing to offer up space in their homes to people in need, sign up here.

See Also: What it was like to live in the dark of Manhattans’ projects after Sandy > 

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Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 news No Comments

Obama Gets A Hurricane Sandy Bump, Pulls Back Into A Tie With Mitt Romney

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-hurricane-sandy-bump-wapo-poll-2012-10

Bolstered by his response to Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama gained one point to pull back into a tie with Mitt Romney in the latest Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll.

According to the survey, 78 percent of likely voters polled had positive views of the way that the president has handled the “super storm” – a number that includes two-thirds of Romney’s supporters. In contrast, just 44 percent of those surveyed had a net positive view of how the Republican candidate responded to the storm. 

The chart below breaks down those results: 

wapo abc news poll chart sandy response

It is too early to tell, however, if that support for Obama will affect his overall standing in the race. The results of the four-day tracking survey include only one night of interviews with voters after the storm hit, so we will have to wait for Thursday and Friday’s results to see if the storm has any real effect on the dynamics of the presidential race. 

Overall, Obama and Romney are tied, 49% to 49%, among likely voters. Those numbers are consistent with the rest of the poll’s results, which have shown the race between one point since daily tracking began on October 18. 

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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 news No Comments

Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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