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Some of the best reads of the day:
Which Presidential Candidate Is Winning the Tech Money Race? – Re/code |
Teacher Gets to Keep Job Despite Being Tardy 111 Times in Two Years – Entrepreneur |
Six memos on social mobility you ought to have read – Brookings
The Best Jobs Now Require You To Be A People Person… And that’s better news for women than for men – FiveThirtyEight | “To land a lucrative job today, hard skills in math and engineering, for instance, may not be enough. As technology allows us to automate more technical jobs, new research shows that people skills — communicating clearly, being a team player — matter more than ever. And women appear to be the ones capitalizing on this shift in the workplace.”
“This Girls’ Summer Camp Could Help Change the World of AI – Wired |
Backed by more than forty university professors, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students from the lab, as well as big-name corporate sponsors like Google, the camp aims to remove the Achilles heel of AI research and, indeed, computer science as a whole: there aren’t enough women.
The proportion of bachelor’s degrees in computer science earned by women has actually dropped from 37 percent in 1984 to 18 percent in 2014. That’s a worrying trend for many reasons, including some that aren’t immediately obvious. Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that by 2020, there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than graduating students qualified to fill them. Women and minorities can help fill the gap. […]
This kind of early exposure can make all the difference. According to one study from Google, those who had the opportunity to take an advanced-placement computer science exam were 46 percent more likely to show interest in a computer science major. Sophia Catsambis, a professor of sociology at Queens College, City University of New York, who studies gender and education, says we must ensure that all schools have a strong computer science curriculum, but programs like SAILORS can play a vital role as well—especially in keeping a so-called “summer setback” at bay. “Additional opportunities are needed, especially for disadvantaged students,” Catsambis says.
Opening Pandora’s Dox: The Unintended Consequences of an Internet That Never Forgets – TechCrunch |
The Future of Work: Who Will Thrive, and Who Will Not – Pacific Standard |
To Regulate or Not? EU to Launch Study on Uber – Re/code – “The study will review the regulatory regimes for taxi services in all member states and assess if an EU-wide framework is needed. Currently, taxis and vehicle-with-chauffeur services are regulated at a national level. The study will run in parallel with a case at the European Union’s top court that could set a precedent for legal battles across the continent.” |
Bill That Was Supposed To Limit Police Drone Activity Changed By Lobbyist To Enable Weaponized Drones – TechDirt
Because the U.S. has had birthright citizenship for so long, there is no direct evidence here on its costs or benefits. However, there is evidence from Germany, which in 2000 began offering birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants if at least one parent has legally resided in Germany for at least eight years. Of course, this is not exactly analogous to the issue in the U.S., which concerns parents here illegally. Nevertheless, Germany’s population of legal immigrants from Turkey is in many other ways comparable to our population of Latino immigrants. Both populations have relatively low levels of education, low levels of fluency in the host country language and high fertility rates, for example.
The German experience shows clear benefits from granting birthright citizenship to immigrants’ children. Research by Ciro Avitabile, Irma Clots-Figueras and Paolo Masella shows that children who benefited from the policy had better noncognitive skills and better health outcomes. When they reached secondary school, the children were less likely to be on the lowest academic track. Their mothers began having fewer children, enabling them to devote more resources per child. Further, their parents became more integrated into German society and learned more German.
The main cost of birthright citizenship is the potential fiscal burden posed by the U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants. Unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for virtually all means-tested transfer programs, with the notable exception of the federal child tax credit if they file taxes. But their U.S.-born children are eligible for welfare benefits if their family meets the criteria. However, such children are believed to be less likely than other children to apply for benefits because their families fear that interacting with the government will lead to the parents’ deportation. Eliminating birthright citizenship for unauthorized immigrants’ children therefore may not save as much money as proponents might believe.
Eliminating birthright citizenship is also unlikely to have a large impact on the number of children born here to people who are not legally present in the U.S. The number of “birth tourists” – people who come to the U.S. for the main purpose of giving birth here – is believed to be only about 8,000 a year. The number of children born each year to unauthorized immigrants who live here is much larger, about 300,000 per year, but the evidence from Germany suggests that unauthorized immigrants might actually have more children here if birthright citizenship were eliminated.
Unauthorized immigrants don’t have children here because those children can receive welfare benefits or because they can sponsor their parents for a green card. (The latter can’t even happen until the child is 21 years old, so that would be some impressive patience.) They have children here because they want them to be Americans. The U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants symbolize their parents’ American dreams. They came for the opportunity to work hard and in return have a better life, for themselves and especially for their children.
Donald Trump’s policy views have a high degree of plasticity, even for a politician. But the retrograde version he currently espouses — mass deportation, protectionism, maybe even the gold standard — and the harsh way he espouses them have a foothold in the GOP. Columnist George Will may be correct that each “sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon injures the chances of a Republican presidency.”
And what might that mean, beyond the obvious of probable GOP defeat in November 2016? In the Financial Times today, Labour Party campaign guru and Blairite Peter Mandelson warns of the potential damage if his party makes hard left Jeremy Corbyn its new leader:
It would be a sad and possibly final chapter in the British Labour party’s history. If the leadership election that closes in two weeks’ time is won by Jeremy Corbyn, the current favourite, his policies — printing money, state ownership of major industries, unilateral disarmament and quitting Nato — will make the party unelectable. That would be a very bad outcome for anyone who cares about fairness in our society or Britain’s place in the world. … The Conservative party, which won a majority in May’s general election, is being given a free ride in coming to terms with this modern world. We have to reforge Labour’s tools for creating prosperity and sharing it more widely. The scale of the task is enormous. The price of failure would be immense.
Much the same goes for the possible Trumpification of the GOP, even if Trump himself is not the presidential nominee. Not only is it an electoral loser, but it gives the left-lurching Democrats the upper hand in shaping policy to meet modern economic challenges. As Marco Rubio said on CNBC today:
Part of it is recognizing we’re not dealing with a cyclical economic downturn that we are trying to climb out of. This is a massive economic restructuring. This is a massive shift in the very nature of the economy. It’s akin to the Industrial revolution expect it’s happening faster than the Industrial Revolution. We need policies that allow us to be globally competitive. We need policies that allow us lead on innovation. That is why I’m for tax reform and regulatory reform. We need have to compete with dozens of other markets and economies. We also have to revolutionize what we mean by higher education. The 21st Century new economy is going to produce better paying jobs than the 20th Century economy . But those new jobs will require additional skills that perhaps weren’t required in the past. We do not have a higher education system that delivers those skills or that is affordable for the people who need it the most.
Links and Quotations for August 27, 2015: driverless cars, Ashley Madison passwords, salary transparency, and the wasteful tech of body scanners
News and links from science, tech, and business … with a little philosophy thrown in. Great stuff.
What Driverless Cars Mean for Today’s Automakers – HBR
Businesses may also push automotive manufacturers to align their designs with transportation vendors’ business models — the way Boeing and Airbus ensure that they build planes to be the most profitable investments for their partner airlines. Since cars will be able to take themselves to the mechanic, you can imagine automakers being asked to deliver much more frequent maintenance schedules, designing cars to be tuned up quickly and ensuring that the chance they’re scrapped is next to nil. We might even see car manufacturers take over large maintenance contracts for their cloud transportation customers, ensuring that Uber is always up and running at a standard cost per drive mile.
How The Heavy Hand Of Government Stifles The On Demand Economy – TechDirt
Lessons learned from cracking 4,000 Ashley Madison passwords – ArsTechnica – “Not surprisingly, the passwords Pierce extracted from just the first 6 million entries in the Ashley Madison table look as weak as those from just about any data breach. Here are the top 20 passwords cracked in the highly limited experiment and number of users who chose each one…”
Sharing Salaries In A Spreadsheet Is Not The Way To Pay Transparency – TechCrunch – “Here’s why its a terrible idea … Unless you’re planning to ask everyone to share their resumes and performance evaluations along with their salary, you can’t possibly know all the factors that may have impacted a co-worker’s compensation compared to your own.”
A 21st-Century Migrant’s Essentials: Food, Shelter, Smartphone – NYTimes
“Right now, the traffickers are losing business because people are going alone, thanks to Facebook,” said Mohamed Haj Ali, 38, who works with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital — a major stopover for migrants.
Originally from Syria, Mr. Ali has lived in Belgrade for three years, helping migrants and listening to their stories. At first, he said, most migrants passing through Serbia had paid traffickers for most or all of their trip. But as tens of thousands completed their journeys, they shared their experiences on social media — even the precise GPS coordinates of every stop along their routes, recorded automatically by some smartphones.
For those traveling today, the prices charged by traffickers have gone down by about half since the beginning of the conflict, Mr. Ali said.
Is it ever worth not knowing the truth? – Aeon –
Why might seeking the truth as an end in itself be a good strategy? While we can hypothetically distinguish situations where we’re better off knowing from those in which we’d prefer ignorance, in real life, often it’s hard to tell in advance which case we’re in. If you’re worried about some symptoms and considering going to the doctor, you don’t know whether you’re going to end up in the case where a difficult diagnosis saves your life, or the case in which you learn you’ve got an untreatable disease. In reality, we often have to make decisions about whether to learn the truth or not when there’s uncertainty over what the truth will be.
This puts us at risk of making one of two kinds of error: seeking useless (and even harmful) truths, or failing to seek useful truths. Which of these has the bigger downside? If there’s always going to be some uncertainty, which direction should we try to lean in?
AEI’s Mike Strain has written favorably about expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the idea of new wage subsidy for the long-term unemployed to make them more employable and provide them with a decent paycheck. The latter might be paired with a lower minimum wage for that group. For example: a $4 an hour minimum wage and a $4 wage subsidy. He suggests paying for it by taking some of the dough the federal government spends on the highest-earning households — like through the mortgage interest deduction — and diverting it to this program. Strain: “Society must have as a goal that no one who works full time and heads a household lives in poverty.” Agreed.
A wage subsidy adds dollars-per-hour to the worker’s wage, on a sliding scale that pays the highest subsidy for the lowest wage and phases out to no subsidy as the wage increases. A worker earning $8 per hour might, for instance, receive an additional $2 per hour in his paycheck. And he would receive that for every hour worked, no matter how many hours he worked or how much he eventually earned. For him, the policy appears like the minimum wage has been raised to $10 per hour. But for his employer and co-workers and customers the cost is still $8 per hour. Other workers unwilling to take a job at $8 per hour but willing to at $10 per hour would join the labor force as well.
But wait a second? Why is this an issue for government? Cass:
Consider the median income of working men over age 25, with only a high school diploma, in relation to the poverty line for a family of four. In 1973, that median income would bring a family to more than 200 percent of the poverty line; but in 2013, to only 131 percent. For high school drop-outs, the figures are 171 percent in 1973 and 90 percent in 2013 (Figure 2). In other words, a working high school graduate in 2013 was in worse position to support his family than was a high school drop-out in the 1970s. And a working high school drop-out in 2013 was likely mired in poverty despite his employment. …
One response to these challenges is simply to accept them: Living standards have improved across the income distribution. Efforts to distort the market wage are inherently inefficient. Social programs exist precisely to help those unable to earn a sufficient income. And investment in education will improve skill levels and productivity over time. Such acceptance is a mistake because it leaves unused the most effective weapon in the antipoverty arsenal. Low wages do not only—or even primarily—produce poverty through the obvious and static mechanism that earning less money leads one to have less money. Of greater concern are the dynamic ways in which low wages grease the flywheel of long-term and intergenerational poverty. Low wages leave individuals who work with insufficient resources to invest in their future and that of their children. Low wages discourage entry into the workforce and the formation of stable families
In theory, wage supports thus offer a unique opportunity to break America’s negative cycle of poverty, family and community breakdown, and low human-capital development. Transferring resources directly to the working poor, thereby encouraging more poor people to work, is an intervention that better leverages what government can do effectively. Social programs ask government to build strong families and communities in destitute neighborhoods.
My pals Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore rightly take Donald Trump to task for his plan to slap a new tariff on Chinese imports. To them it sounds like a Hooveresque replay of Smoot Hawley and the Great Depression. As it happens, Derek Scissors recently had this to say on trade as a mechanism for spreading Chinese economic weakness abroad, via a Q&A with Foreign Policy magazine:
Foreign Policy: If and when a China-led recession happens, how might it differ in its particulars from previous global recessions — that is, what might a “recession with Chinese characteristics” look like?
Derek Scissors: Weaker Chinese growth has already pounded commodities producers and unnerved asset markets but not triggered a global recession, since the ensuing lower prices simultaneously help commodities buyers. Financial contagion is unlikely since China is largely cut off from the rest of the world financially, due to its closed capital account.
The way China triggers a global GDP recession is to try to export [particular] problems. This is happening in steel, for example. If trade intervention occurred, it would expand China’s trade surplus further, cutting into rest-of-world GDP. It would also intensify the deflationary pressure China has exported for the past 15 years, which has been beneficial at some points but is harmful now.
A recession with Chinese characteristics thus looks like one we’ve feared off and on since the 1930s: deflation triggered by beggar-thy-neighbor behavior. It wouldn’t be as sharp as the Depression but would have multiple similarities: a major producer (United States then, China now) reacts to a bubble popping by trying to squeeze gains out of its trade partners. Seeing as they are already running large deficits with this large and suddenly irresponsible actor, the trade partners show no hesitation in retaliating. And off we go — though again, not in the same devastating fashion as the 1930’s.
Now toss a protectionist President Trump into the mix …
In my recent The Week column, “Why China will never be as rich as America,” I addressed some of the big challenges facing China’s economy. Particularly this one: “But it is actually China that is increasingly favoring state intervention over market reforms as the path to greater national prosperity.” In recent testimony, AEI’s Derek Scissors outlined what a market reform agenda might look like:
1) State intervention into the economy brought China to this point. More state action, such as interest rates cuts or yet more infrastructure spending, will not reverse it. Reversal requires a resumption of market reform. … And a reforming, thriving China can still be achieved. But strong words are hardly enough. Neither the reforms implemented to date nor those promised will reverse stagnation. In fact, the reform re-start praised by many was fundamentally flawed from the outset. Greater labor mobility could mitigate aging’s blow to growth by letting the right workers move freely to the right jobs. China still discourages labor mobility by denying education, pension and other benefits to those living and working in the ‘incorrect’ place. Pledged changes to this system retain many barriers between rural and urban areas until 2020 and keep the most popular urban centers cordoned off to those born elsewhere. This may be due to continued fear of labor migration breeding social instability. If so, the Party will restrict labor markets indefinitely despite China aging.
2) Reform could sharply increase the value of China’s natural resources, along the same lines as in the U.S. China has the shale to vitalize its energy industry and curb import dependence. But this would require mimicking the American model at least in part, involving private ownership of rural land, an end to the state’s energy monopoly, and legal protection of innovators. The reform platform and actions to date show no progress in any of these areas. It is true that outright environmental damage is being reduced but this translates to less harm to future growth, rather than a boost.
3) There has been some market reform in finance. The most important element is the issuing of bank licenses to private companies. While interest rate liberalization wins headlines, it has little value when so much of the financial system still must follow the Party’s orders. What is needed is the truly commercial, not political, lending that can only come from independent institutions. The licenses could bolster the return on capital, and thus growth. It could take decades for private banks to substantially erode the state’s 90 percent share of banking assets; all the while, unsound lending will be creating a colossal amount of debt. Much more radical action is necessary. One possibility is allowing money to leave the country freely, which would pressure financial institutions to be more responsible or lose assets. For this to greatly improve financial efficiency, however, liberalization must be total. Fearing rapid and heavy capital outflow, the Party has to now always opted for only partial liberalization.
4) The state sector is the clearest area of reform failure. The Party’s pledges here go in precisely the wrong direction. Rather than shrinking the state sector to make room for private competition, they call for private investment in SOEs and state-led projects. This is essentially an attempt at a private bailout of the public sector’s mistakes. Further, rather than being allowed to fail or be sold off, SOEs are being merged with each other to get even bigger. There is no sign of the market being given a decisive role in the corporate sector, quite the opposite. This error affects innovation. Beijing sees super-large SOEs as offering advantages in competition overseas. But faced with no competition at home, these firms have no reason to innovate. Chinese consumers will therefore continue to be discouraged by inferior products and prices and the state giants will progressively lose ground overseas, no matter their size. Only private Chinese firms, forced to compete both at home and overseas, will succeed fully. If reform does not include a smaller state sector, innovation will be stunted.
Hey, this is good news, right? Kind of? From the NYTimes: “After a three-day rout that erased nearly $3 trillion in value from stocks globally, markets other than China’s on Tuesday showed signs that selling pressures were easing.” But given swooning, churning financial markets — including an 11% correction in US equities — some economic impact would not be surprising. And Goldman Sachs gives its best take on what that impact might be:
Financial conditions have tightened sharply in recent days. Our financial conditions index (GSFCI) has tightened about 50 basis points (bp) since mid-August alone and is about 90bp tighter since mid-June, reaching the tightest level in five years.
We update our estimated GDP growth impulse from changes in financial conditions. Assuming no further shocks to financial markets, we estimate that the impulse to growth on a year-on-year basis will worsen from around -0.5 percentage points (pp) over the past year to about -0.8pp by the end of the year. In a “benign” scenario (in which financial conditions reverse all their recent tightening) the estimated drag peaks at 0.6pp, while the negative impulse rises to around 1.1pp in an “adverse” simulation (in which the recent tightening intensifies).
Although our analysis points to a significant growth drag from financial conditions over the next year, much of this is already baked into our forecasts, which include a sizable drag on growth from net exports. In addition, our estimates ignore the sharp decline in the price of oil in recent weeks, which would be expected to provide meaningful offset to the implied growth drag from the GSFCI.
Worth a read, definitely:
Jeff Bezos Says The New York Times’ Amazon Expose Got It All Wrong – TechCrunch
Inc. 5000 2015: The Fastest-Growing Private U.S. Companies – Inc.
The Gig Economy Is Real If You Know Where to Look – Harvard Business Review |
First, there are clear growth surges in nonemployer firms in each of the two industries associated with passenger ground transit between 2010 (when Uber launched in San Francisco) and 2013, and in the two industries linked with traveler accommodation from 2009 (the year AirBnB opened). … Second, we do not see declines in payroll employment in the same industries during this period. Instead, we actually see increases in all four—particularly in the passenger ground transit sectors. … Finally, these figures suggest that the trend toward contractors over payrolled employees in the taxi and limousine industry was going on in San Francisco long before Uber’s arrival. If the employment security of drivers is truly the issue, perhaps the debate has to expand beyond concern over platforms like Uber.
This is what happens when a Gig Economy devotee goes full time – FastCompany
These Uncanny Valley robots will really creep you out – Wired UK – “Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori devised the concept of the ‘uncanny valley’ in 1970. It’s the point at which a robot is made to appear so human-like — if not quite human enough — that it inspires feelings of uneasiness and revulsion in we mere mortals. In other words, humanoid robots really give us the creeps. … sit back and try to relax (or, at least, not squirm in too much horror) as you watch our round up of these mesmerisingly uncanny androids.”
The Failure Of Google Plus Should Be A Reminder That Big Companies Very Rarely Successfully ‘Copy’ Startups – Techdirt
Air Traffic Control Is Getting A Much-Needed Upgrade – TechCrunch – “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is readying the rollout of a new suite of systems called NextGen, which represents the first real integration of 21st century technologies into the air traffic control system.”
Tech’s Enduring Great-Man Myth – MIT Technology Review –
The idea of “great men” as engines of change grew popular in the 19th century. In 1840, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle wrote that “the history of what man has accomplished in this world is at bottom the history of the Great Men who have worked here.” It wasn’t long, however, before critics questioned this one–dimensional view, arguing that historical change is driven by a complex mix of trends and not by any one person’s achievements. “All of those changes of which he is the proximate initiator have their chief causes in the generations he descended from,” Herbert Spencer wrote in 1873. And today, most historians of science and technology do not believe that major innovation is driven by “a lone inventor who relies only on his own imagination, drive, and intellect,” says Daniel Kevles, a historian at Yale. Scholars are “eager to identify and give due credit to significant people but also recognize that they are operating in a context which enables the work.” In other words, great leaders rely on the resources and opportunities available to them, which means they do not shape history as much as they are molded by the moments in which they live. […]
The problem with such portrayals is not merely that they are inaccurate and unfair to the many contributors to new technologies. By warping the popular understanding of how technologies develop, great-man myths threaten to undermine the structure that is actually necessary for future innovations.
Eventually, liberals/progressives/Democrats might stop using the “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes” factoid. This is a two “Pinocchio” claim, according to the Washington Post, by the way. I also recommend this critical note from my AEI colleagues Andrew Bigg and Mark Perry, which concludes, “Once education, marital status and occupations are considered, the ‘gender wage gap’ all but disappears.” And now we have this new study from the New York Fed, which also finds a relatively tiny gap:
Among recent college graduates as a whole, women earn about 97 cents on the dollar compared with men. That said, within this group, women tend to out-earn men in a number of college majors, sometimes by a substantial margin. We find these early career patterns fascinating, in part because they seem to present counter examples to the well-established male wage premium, but mostly because it is not entirely clear why we observe these patterns. To the extent that a wage premium for one gender represents discrimination, it may be that discrimination can occur in favor of either men or women, depending on college major, at least among recent college graduates. By mid-career, however, any wage premium earned by women completely disappears. As we grapple with the issue of gender pay equity, it is vital that we continue to examine these trends in more detail so that we can better understand their sources.
And why does that small gap apparently grow to 15 points by mid-career, in favor of men? Again, from the study:
There are a number of possible explanations as to why the gender pay gap is fairly small for recent college graduates, but grows for mid-career workers. First, to the extent that male earnings premiums represent discrimination against women, it is possible that such discrimination becomes more widespread as men and women approach mid-career. Another possibility is that pay differences arise for reasons related to raising a family. When we look at the outcomes of young college graduates, this group primarily contains single people without children, while the mid-career group includes a significant number of men and women with children. Women are more likely than men to spend time out of the labor force to bear and raise children. This interruption in a working career reduces the accumulation of work experience and human capital, which has been shown to have a negative influence on earnings. In addition, some jobs tend to reward long hours and fixed schedules—think surgeons or lawyers. Because raising a family often requires more flexible schedules, those with family responsibilities who have difficulty satisfying time sensitive work demands may face lower wages in these types of jobs. In fact, in jobs where such time demands are largely absent, and more flexibility is possible, the pay gap has been found to be much smaller.