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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Power of the Algorithms

Posted by hkarner - 18. April 2018

Date: 17-04-2018
Source: DER SPIEGEL

Pedro Domingos on the Arms Race in Artificial Intelligence

In an interview, best-selling author and machine-learning expert Pedro Domingos discusses the global competition to take the lead in artificial intelligence, the advance of autocrats and the threats modern technology presents to Western democracies.

Interview Conducted by Christoph Scheuermann and Bernhard Zand

It’s a quiet hallway in the computer science department at the University of Washington in Seattle. To the right, young software engineers sit in front of their laptops in the windowless, artificially lit rooms. To the left, computer science professor Pedro Domingos opens the door to his office, which has a view of the massive trees on campus.

Domingos‘ book „The Master Algorithm,“ about the technology of artificial intelligence (AI), made him famous and is also considered a standard reference work. The best-selling book, published in 2015, describes how machines that can learn are changing our everyday lives — from the social networks and science to business and politics and right up to the way modern wars are waged. The book drew praise from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The undead: A compelling look at the flaws in the Chinese economy

Posted by hkarner - 25. März 2018

Date: 24-03-2018
Source: The Economist

But Dinny McMahon’s predictions might yet prove too gloomy

China’s Great Wall of Debt. By Dinny McMahon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 256 pages; $28. Little, Brown; £14.99.

THE zombies that appear in Chinese legends are not quite the same as their Western counterparts. They feast on blood, not brains, and hop about rather than staggering forwards. The differences extend to economics. Chinese officials, like their Western peers, openly fret about zombie companies—insolvent firms kept alive by banks—but are far less willing to kill them off. This small excursion into the world of the undead is one of many gems in Dinny McMahon’s new book, a vivid account of China’s economic problems, from debt to falsified data.

Mr McMahon, a veteran financial correspondent in China, most recently with the Wall Street Journal, wears his knowledge lightly, whether discussing ghost stories or balance sheets. His book, “China’s Great Wall of Debt”, is notable for two reasons. It is one of the clearest and most thorough statements of an argument often made about the country: that its government has relied on constant stimulus to keep growth strong, an addiction that is bound to backfire. Second, he comes closer than any previous writer to covering the Chinese economy as Michael Lewis, the hugely popular author of “The Big Short”, might do. His analysis is informed but accessible, animated by anecdotes and characters, some colourful, some verging on tragic. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Making the Case for Sovereign GDP-Linked Bonds

Posted by hkarner - 20. März 2018

Robert J. Shiller, a 2013 Nobel laureate in economics, is Professor of Economics at Yale University and the co-creator of the Case-Shiller Index of US house prices. He is the author of Irrational Exuberance, the third edition of which was published in January 2015, and, most recently, Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception, co-authored with George Akerlof.

The crises that erupted in countries like Ireland and Greece a decade ago would not have been so severe had their debt been linked to their economic performance. And the same is true today: Investors around the world will continue to accept the risk, given the unlimited upside to investing in entire economies.

LONDON – The time has come for national governments around the world to start issuing their debt in a new form, linked to their countries’ resources. GDP-linked bonds, with coupons and principal that rise and fall in proportion to the issuing country’s GDP, promise to solve many fundamental problems that governments face when their countries’ economies falter. And, once GDP-linked bonds are issued by a variety of countries, investors will be attracted by the prospect of high returns when some of these countries do very well.

This new debt instrument is especially exciting because of its monumental size. Although issues may start out small, they will be very important from the outset. The capitalized value of total global GDP is worth far more than the world’s stock markets, and could be valued today in the quadrillions of US dollars. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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We shall overcome – aber wann?

Posted by hkarner - 13. März 2018

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. His most recent book is Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited: Anti-Globalization in the Era of Trump.

NEW YORK: 1967 – zwei Jahre nach der Explosion der Gewalt in Watts, einem Stadtviertel von Los Angeles – brachen in vielen Städten der USA Unruhen aus: von Newark (New Jersey) bis nach Detroit und Minneapolis im Mittleren Westen. Präsident Lyndon B. Johnson setzte daraufhin eine vom Gouverneur von Illinois, Otto Kerner, geleitete Kommission ein, die die Ursachen untersuchen und Maßnahmen zu ihrer Bekämpfung vorschlagen sollte. Vor fünfzig Jahren dann veröffentlichte die National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (gemeinhin als Kerner-Kommission bekannt) ihren Bericht, der eine drastische Schilderung der Bedingungen in Amerika enthielt, die zu den Ausschreitungen geführt hatten.

Die Kerner-Kommission beschrieb ein Land, in dem Afro-Amerikaner systematischer Diskriminierung ausgesetzt waren, unter einer unzureichenden Bildungs- und Wohnsituation litten und kaum wirtschaftliche Chancen hatten. Für sie gab es keinen Amerikanischen Traum. Grundursache war die „die rassische Einstellung und Verhaltensweise der weißen Amerikaner gegenüber schwarzen Amerikanern. Rassenvorurteile haben unsere Geschichte entscheidend geprägt; sie drohen nun, unsere Zukunft in Mittleidenschaft zu ziehen.“ Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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British institutions may not withstand the authoritarian-populist wave

Posted by hkarner - 10. März 2018

Date: 08-03-2018
Source: The Economist: Bagehot
Subject: It could happen in Britain

IN HIS dystopian novel of 1935, “It Can’t Happen Here”, Sinclair Lewis described the rise of an American Caesar, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip. Buzz easily defeats Franklin Roosevelt for the presidency by promising to make America great again. He then sets about destroying the country’s system of checks and balances, by fomenting fear and unleashing activists, while sensible Americans comfort themselves with the belief that their country is immune to authoritarian takeover.

Donald Trump’s election has propelled Lewis’s novel back onto the bestseller list and provoked a lively debate on the question of “Can it Happen Here?”, the title of a new book edited by Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor and former adviser to Barack Obama. It is time for Britain to engage in a similar debate. The British are even more confident than the Americans about their immunity to extremism. Britain hasn’t had a violent revolution since 1640-60. Rather than rallying to Oswald Mosley’s fascists in the 1930s, the British treated them as figures of fun—black shorts rather than blackshirts, in P.G. Wodehouse’s satire. But the next five years could test Britain’s immune system to the limits. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Why governments have overestimated the economic returns of higher education

Posted by hkarner - 4. März 2018

Date: 02-03-2018
Source: The Economist

Earning a degree is about signalling, and not just learning

AUTOMATION and globalisation have brought drastic changes to Western labour markets. Middle-skilled jobs are disappearing fast. In America, wages for blue-collar workers have been largely stagnant since the 1970s, whereas those for university graduates have soared. Silicon Valley types frequently warn that advances in technology, especially in artificial intelligence, will be devastating for low-skilled workers. One prominent study, by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University, estimated that 47% of jobs in America could be automated over the next two decades. The spectre of mass unemployment, along with increasing levels of income equality, has led many policymakers to see investment in university as crucial for economic prosperity.

Governments have plenty of reason to be bullish about higher education. Perhaps the best piece of evidence they have of the wisdom of investing more in universities is the graduate-wage premium—the difference in wages between those with university degrees and those without. In their book “The Race between Education and Technology”, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University point out that this premium fell during the first half of the 20th century in America as universities expanded enrolment, but started rising sharply around 1980. Although the premium has started to level off in recent years, the fact that university graduates still make around 70% more than non-graduates suggests that demand for skilled workers still far exceeds supply. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Climbing Out of Debt

Posted by hkarner - 2. März 2018

A new study offers more evidence that cutting spending is less harmful to growth than raising taxes

Alberto Alesina, Carlo A. Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi, IMF Blog 1 Mar 2018

Almost a decade after the onset of the global financial crisis, national debt in advanced economies remains near its highest level since World War II, averaging 104 percent of GDP. In Japan, the ratio is 240 percent and in Greece almost 185 percent. In Italy and Portugal, debt exceeds 120 percent of GDP. Without measures either to cut spending or increase revenue, the situation will only get worse. As central banks abandon the extraordinary monetary measures they adopted to battle the crisis, interest rates will inevitably rise from historic lows. That means interest payments will eat up a growing share of government spending, leaving less money to deliver public services or take steps to ensure long-term economic growth, such as investing in infrastructure and education. Servicing debt will become a major burden.

What is the best way to reduce debt to sustainable levels? That question has taken on renewed importance since the global financial crisis of 2008, when government spending to stimulate growth and help the unemployed boosted budget deficits to postwar records. Some economists argue that cutting spending is the best medicine for restoring fiscal health. Others insist, on the contrary, that spending cuts are self-defeating, because they hurt economic growth. They prescribe even more government spending to reinvigorate a flagging economy. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A future perfect: Stephen Pinker’s case for optimism

Posted by hkarner - 23. Februar 2018

Date: 22-02-2018
Source: The Economist

“Enlightenment Now” explains why the doom-mongers are wrong

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. By Steven Pinker. Viking; 576 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £25.

TO ANYONE who reads a newspaper, this can seem a miserable world. Syria is still at war. Another lunatic has gone on a gun rampage in an American school. The tone of political debate can rarely have been as crass and poisonous as it is today.

Front pages are grim for the same reason that Shakespeare’s plays feature a lot of murders. Tragedy is dramatic. Hardly anyone would read a story headlined “100,000 AEROPLANES DIDN’T CRASH YESTERDAY”. Bad things often happen suddenly and telegenically. A factory closes; an apartment block burns down. Good things tend to happen incrementally, and across a wide area, making them much harder to film. News outlets could have honestly reported that the “NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EXTREME POVERTY FELL BY 137,000 SINCE YESTERDAY” every day for 25 years. But readers might get bored. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Die zweifache Bedrohung der liberalen Demokratie

Posted by hkarner - 15. Februar 2018

Dani Rodrik is Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy, Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science, and, most recently, Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.

CAMBRIDGE – Die Krise der liberalen Demokratie wird heute allgemein angeprangert. Donald Trumps Präsidentschaft, das Brexit-Votum im Vereinigten Königreich und die Erfolge anderer Populisten bei den Wahlen in Europa haben die von der „illiberalen Demokratie“ – einer Art autoritärer Politik mit allgemeinen Wahlen, aber wenig Respekt für den Rechtsstaat oder die Rechte von Minderheiten – ausgehende Bedrohung unterstrichen.

Nur eine kleinere Zahl von Analysten freilich hat bislang darauf hingewiesen, dass illiberale Demokratie oder Populismus nicht die einzige politische Bedrohung darstellen. Die liberale Demokratie wird zugleich durch eine Tendenz untergraben, das „Liberale“ auf Kosten des „Demokratischen“ zu betonen. Bei dieser Art Politik werden die Regierenden durch eine Fülle das Spektrum der von ihnen umsetzbaren Politiken begrenzender Fesseln von demokratischer Rechenschaftspflicht abgeschirmt. Bürokratische Gremien, autonome Regulierungsbehörden und unabhängige Gerichte legen Politiken fest, oder diese werden von außen durch die Regeln der Weltwirtschaft erzwungen. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Enlightenment Is Working

Posted by hkarner - 12. Februar 2018

Date: 11-02-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Steven Pinker

Don’t listen to the gloom-sayers. The world has improved by every measure of human flourishing over the past two centuries, and the progress continues, writes Steven Pinker.

For all their disagreements, the left and the right concur on one thing: The world is getting worse. Whether the decline is visible in inequality, racism and pollution, or in terrorism, crime and moral decay, both sides see profound failings in modernity and a deepening crisis in the West. They look back to various golden ages when America was great, blue-collar workers thrived in unionized jobs, and people found meaning in religion, family, community and nature.

Such gloominess is decidedly un-American. The U.S. was founded on the Enlightenment ideal that human ingenuity and benevolence could be channeled by institutions and result in progress. This concept may feel naive as we confront our biggest predicaments, but we can only understand where we are if we know how far we’ve come. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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