Saturday, April 21, 2018

Marx and the Millennials

Le Monde has an interesting piece on Marx and American Millennials. They note:

Quant à Bernie Sanders, comme le rappelle Jeffrey Isaac, « il ne préconise pas l’abolition de la propriété privée dans les moyens de production, ni l’expropriation des grandes fortunes. Il préconise le démantèlement des grandes banques, la mise en place d’impôts sur le revenu plus progressifs et le subventionnement public des soins de santé et de l’éducation – des choses pour la plupart assez courantes en Europe ». La jeunesse américaine n’est donc probablement pas en train de préparer la révolution, même si Seth Ackerman, de Jacobin, observe malicieusement : « Nos lecteurs et ceux qui se tournent vers le socialisme sont des jeunes gens éduqués, souvent très endettés, qui perdent toutes leurs illusions en arrivant sur le marché du travail. Or Lénine a bien insisté sur l’importance d’une avant-garde éclairée – et précarisée – dans le processus révolutionnaire. »

Marx basically see the world through mid 19th century mercantilism. However so do many Neo-Progressives. However Marx saw the proletariat as compared to the Neo-Progressives who see the "elect" making the decisions for redistribution.

Le Monde does often have great insight especially on American youth. This is worth following. BTW Vox also has an interesting piece as well. As the author notes:

Marx used the labour theory of value to demonstrate that the exploitation of workers is a necessary condition for profits (Yoshihara 2017). The normative term 'exploitation' is justified by the claim that profit arises from a system of domination in which the wealthy, as owners of capital goods, direct the activities and limit the choices of employees (Vrousalis 2013). Domination in this sense could be sustained by an autocratic state acting on behalf of a capitalist class, or through the exercise of market power made possible by limited competition in goodsmarkets. But Marx chose to study a more challenging question: how could the domination of labour by capital take place in a private, perfectly competitive, economy governed by a liberal state? His answer was based on what seems a strikingly modern principal–agent representation of the employer–employee relationship, arising from a conflict of interest over the amount of labour effort performed that could be resolved in an enforceable contract.  Marx stressed that the employer purchases the worker's time on the labour market, not the worker's work. The employee’s supply of effort to the production process is not secured by contract but was rather an “extraction” that “only by misuse could ... have been called any kind of exchange at all” (Marx 1939).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Millennial

The Millennial is now a well known entity, differing from previous versions of Homo sapiens. We have the old Homo sapeiens normalis, and now the Homo sapiens millennalis. How is this new proto-species developing.

They seem to have the same DNA but we may have the first clear example of nature versus nurture in action. This is brilliantly displayed in a brief article in JAMA.

The author remarks on three areas:

Theme 1. As Needed vs Scheduled Engagement. Millennials have grown up with virtually instant communication and information dissemination. Such engagement facilitates quick decision making and expands collaboration networks. Millennials expect accessibility, fast responses, rapid turnaround, and frequent short meetings to ensure clear direction. Senior mentors often balance administrative, clinical, and academic demands with greater structure and less ad hoc availability. Combined, this leads to frustration and stress for both parties....

Theme 2. Flat vs Pyramidal Infrastructure. Millennials embrace collaboration and cognitive diversity more readily than prior generations.3 In some aspects of academic medicine, these attributes will serve them well. For example, team science, multidisciplinary care, and collective leadership are welcomed by millennials who embrace groupthink, in contrast to their senior counterparts. However, flattening social and hierarchical gaps may also lead to conflict. Millennials do not necessarily embrace the siloed communication typical of traditional academic departments. Removing these barriers can cause frustration among older physicians accustomed to hierarchical communication channels and younger physicians who desire broad access to all stakeholders...

Theme 3. Purpose vs Process. For millennials, purpose is paramount. Millennials may derive greater satisfaction from results and implementation over the traditional, well-worn metrics of academic success. Such goals often include strategies that include developing intellectual property, commercialization of products, or launching a health care start-up.

 Millennials are just plain spoiled and have no manners. They also believe they have the right answer to everything and that past experiences count for naught. They truly believe that their opinion often based upon nothing counts equally to the opinion of one skilled in the area of discussion.

So what does this portend. A more level society? Hardly. The millennial culture may be setting itself up for a massive collapse. History counts but it must be the history based on facts, often the hardest part of history. It does not fit the fictional history of the current batch of instructors who have created these millennials.

The JAMA article treats this new species rather kindly. That is how the evolved. Reality may make them extinct.

I am reminded of the discussion in Cassirer on Locke (see Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Princeton U Press, 2009, p 17) where he discusses Locke and reason, the blend of sensation and reflection, namely facts and logic if you will. Millennials have the habit of positing an answer, without factual basis. Such as, "The Pre-money valuation is $5 million." When asked why, the answer is "Because". Because why?  This is the major failing of this sub-species. The basis of a statement is lacking, everyone's opinion is of equal weight, and experience not only does not count but it obscures the truth, whatever that may be. It is as if we are going backwards, to before the Scholastics, where dicta from on high is all that counts.

Yield Curve

The above is the yield curve data as of yesterday. It is truly flattening. Short term rises and long term drops. Greater short term uncertainty and poorer long term prospects.
Just look at the above. We have a much lower spread and an exploding short term rate. Remember that the Interest of Federal debt where 75% is short term, or $3 trillion short term, also explodes as short term rates increase. With the then lowered long term growth prospects and the increased short term costs this is bleak!

The Old Telcos

The two old Telcos, Verizon and AT&T, seems to have mangled their core business model. Let's start with AT&T. Like Verizon it has a great wireless footprint. It is an operating company, namely, it was SBC after all, knows how to lay wires, connect them, install wireless equipment and the like. Now they want Time-Warner content. Their argument is that Time-Warner seems to be dying amidst the growth of Netflix, Amazon and the like, and that AT&T can somehow magically via its bucket truck mentality revitalize this dying entity. The Government using Antitrust laws, something which I became proficient in some 25+ years ago battling against the abuses of the new Telecom Act which just allowed recombination. In reality the Government may be helping AT&T from destroying itself. If indeed the new players can destroy Time Warner's old business model, then why buy it!

Now to Verizon. The bought Yahoo and AOL. Neither were or are winners. Now they are reorganizing but not really. As RECODE notes:

Guru will run day to day operations of our member (consumer) and B2B businesses and will serve as a member of our global executive team helping to set company culture and strategy. Guru will also be an important part of the Verizon work that is helping both Oath and Verizon build out the future of global services and revenue. As more of my time is spread across strategic Oath opportunities and Verizon, I will be leading our global strategy, global executive team, and corporate operations. Guru will be leading our global operating teams including:
  • Engineering & Tech Platforms including DMSComms
  • Data and Research & Marketing
  • Media Brands, Content Factory, and Media Products & MarketingSearch Partnerships
  • Ad Platforms
  • Global Sales & Customer Operations, & Ad Strategy, and & B2B Marketing
  • Membership 
 Yes folks that is his name. I will leave it there. But fundamentally the core of Verizon as that of AT&T is the wireless franchises. Wireless is key to survival. There is limited competition, growth and margins are guaranteed. So why get into a business you neither understand nor are competent at especially when competitors are dominating the market. And your entry was the purchase of two losers.

In my experience and in my opinion, based on watching these folks up close, somehow reality gets blurred. They all too often get enamored with the glitz and get clobbered with reality. Remember folks, you are just a telephone company, it is in your DNA. You drive bucket trucks, climb poles, and string wires. You are not media moguls.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

AI, Cyber Threats and Networks

Nature has an editorial regarding the threats which they fear will come from AI. They note:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to revolutionize this activity. Attacks and responses will become faster, more precise and more disruptive. Threats will be dealt with in hours, not days or weeks. AI is already being used to verify code and identify bugs and vulnerabilities. For example, in April 2017, the software firm DarkTrace in Cambridge, UK, launched Antigena, which uses machine learning to spot abnormal behaviour on an IT network, shut down communications to that part of the system and issue an alert. The value of AI in cybersecurity was $1 billion in 2016 and is predicted to reach $18 billion by 2023. By the end of this decade, many countries plan to deploy AI for national cyberdefence; for example, the United States has been evaluating the use of autonomous defence systems and is expected to issue a report on its strategy next month. AI makes deterrence possible because attacks can be punished. Algorithms can identify the source and neutralize it without having to identify the actor behind it. Currently, countries hesitate to push back because they are unsure who is responsible, given that campaigns may be waged through third-party computers and often use common software. 

The problem is not  primarily the threats it is the fundamental architecture and the users.

First, the architecture uses the Internet. The Internet is a "public toilet". Anyone can use it and you have no idea what you may be exposed to. It was designed that way, as an open network with no security. It is why DoD abandoned the Internet in the late 1980s and went back to its own secure private networks.

Second, workers at companies are all too social. Send them an email and they open it, and then they set loose an attack from an attachment. They look at videos, many of which contain threats. It is estimated that over 90% of the network penetrations are facilitated by employees!

Thus we have a two prong attack strategy; a grossly insecure network and a collection of employees who have no idea what they are doing.

As for AI, after 40+ years of looking at it, I still do not know just what it is other that possibly an adaptive IF, THEN, ELSE set of statements. You can call it whatever you like, neural nets, adaptive processing etc but it still falls back on the primitive three statements.

Thus if one wants a secure network, do not use the Internet. I know it is expensive, but security is that.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Neo Progressives Again

Progressives, like Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson, set the path for the current batch of neo-progressives. As we have noted previously, the progressives, old and new, fundamentally believe in a strong government controlled by a small elite class of people who alone know how to eliminate the "evils" of society as perceived by them. This clan also views any who oppose them as evil incarnate, although they totally reject any religious connotations.

Standing against this clan seeking to mold and control our lives is a small batch o0f individualists. Individualism sprang forth in the fourteenth century as a result of the battles with the Avignon Papacy. The reality struck many who fought that apostate organ that people were not subjects but citizens, that Christians were not the subjects of the Pope but members of a religion wherein salvation was an individual achievement, not something handed down by the Pope and his minions. Regrettably the introduction of Calvinism and Luther which reintroduced the concept of the "chosen" via some form of Augustinian pre-destination, via the construct of "grace", obliterated the initial attempts to promulgate individualism. In a sense these 16th century religious constructs were the basis for progressive ideas of having a select mandate for the many.

But with the development of the United States in the 19th century as noted by de Tocqueville, individualism returned on the Frontier, with free "associations" between people, as they saw fit, not as mandated by some group of the "select". Yet by the early 20th century this concept was obliterated by the likes of Croly, Roosevelt and Wilson. A rather strange collection of egos but all believing in their own rights as a member of the "select"

Individualism is s simple construct. It assumes that all people are equal, under the law, and that the sole purpose of the law is to protect the rights of these individuals. The rights protected are those agreed to under a constitution. Individualism is in abject opposition to Rawls and his clan. The government under an individualistic society is prohibited of prohibited from giving one group an advantage over another and in ensuring that a "clan of the select" cannot "rule" any individual.

The ideas of individualism and progressives are in sharp contrast. Unlike Republicans and Democrats, or Liberals and Conservatives, the core concepts are a reflection of who rules, the people or the "select". Burke was a Conservative, one who saw political evolution in a slow and methodical fashion. Paine, his alter-ego if one might suggest, was in some ways a Progressive, in others an Individualist. I have seen the latter Paine's suggestions as Progressive in nature, yet his work in the early Revolution as Individualistic. The latter work reflects his involvement with the French Revolution, and perhaps the progressive bent is reflective of that "progressive movement".

In the NY Times an author states[1]

The basic premise of liberal politics, by contrast, is the capacity of government to do good, especially in ameliorating economic ills. Nothing structurally impedes compromise between conservatives, who hold that the accumulated wisdom of tradition is a better guide than the hypercharged rationality of the present, and liberals, because both philosophies exist on a spectrum…..Where liberalism seeks to ameliorate economic ills, progressivism’s goal is to eradicate them. Moynihan recognized this difference between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he always supported — as exemplified by his opposition to Clinton-era welfare reform — and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he sympathetically criticized. The New Deal alleviated poverty by cutting checks, something government does competently even if liberals and conservatives argued over the size of the checks. The Great Society partook more of a progressive effort to remake society by eradicating poverty’s causes. The result, Moynihan wrote, was the diversion of resources from welfare and jobs to “community action” programs that financed political activism….But neither liberalism nor conservatism opposes rationality. Conservatism holds that accumulated tradition is a likelier source of wisdom than the cleverest individual at any one moment. It fears the tyranny of theory that cannot tolerate dissent. Liberalism defends constitutionalism. One of the finest traditions of 20th-century liberalism was the Cold War liberal who stood for social amelioration and against Soviet Communism. This genus — including Moynihan, Senator Henry Jackson and the longtime labor leader Lane Kirkland — was often maligned by progressives.

The author has some interesting points but I believe he totally misses the Individualism construct. The most recent example of Progressive "think" is Obamacare. Namely some small group determined how 20% of the economy should be run. In a sense reminiscent to a Soviet Five Year Plan. Regrettably there is no Individualism flag bearer, unless of course you count all of the people making their own choices.