HUMANITY'S PATHS: A "STAR TREK" UTOPIA OR A "TERMINATOR" DYSTOPIA?
Salon, 2 December 2019
The United States today is more unequal than it has been in generations and more technologically advanced than ever. As the top 1 percent increases its share of the world’s wealth, advances in artificial intelligence are driving new breakthroughs in facial recognition, language translation, and abstract strategy games. While the earnings gap between highly educated workers and the unskilled widens, CRISPR technology lets scientists edit genomes. For robot designers, data analysts, and medical researchers, it can be the best of times. To paraphrase technology entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan, theirs is a future represented by "Star Trek"— a world where technology’s benefits are widely shared. For someone with few skills, few assets, and no job, it can feel like the worst of times. Theirs is a future that can seem like the dystopian one of "Terminator," after a self-aware artificial intelligence realizes that it no longer needs humanity.
Some people argue that inequality is the price we must pay for innovation. They say that we can’t all be billionaires. They assert that if we try to make society more equal by raising the top tax rate, it could deter risk taking and innovation. If we have to choose between having more stuff and distributing it fairly, they conclude that we should go for growth over equity.Read more
STEPHEN JONES MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR WHITLAM
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
LIBERALS PROTECT BANKS FROM SCRUTINY – AGAIN
It appears that the Morrison Government is once again standing between banks and public scrutiny.
Reports this morning indicate that the Liberals will block Labor’s push to recall Westpac before the House of Representatives House Economics Committee after the bank reported 23 million breaches of money laundering laws - almost one breach for every Australian.
The Committee heard from Westpac just a fortnight ago, before this scandal broke. It's vital that the committee gets to the bottom of what Westpac did wrong and how the money moved. If issues around money laundering are not sufficiently addressed, it could have adverse implications for financing of organised crime and terrorism.Read more
MORE STAR TREK THAN TERMINATOR?
Inside Story, 25 November 2019
The most significant consumer innovation of the last decade was announced on 9 January 2007. Despite uneven health, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs took to the stage at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco and unveiled the iPhone. Ten years later, a billion of them had been sold. Today, many think touchscreen smartphones are as necessary as underwear and more important than socks. Yet when Jobs launched his revolutionary phone, many believed it would fail. His counterpart at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, laughed at the device, calling it “a not very good email machine.”
The critics were wrong, and wrong in a major way. As industry insiders, they all paid the price for their poor predictions. Their products would all exit the industry, replaced by the new Apple, of course, but also by Samsung and Huawei. What turns out to be a successful innovation might not seem that way at first. There is a reason for that: innovation is new to the world. If it was obvious, someone would have done it.Read more
Review of Alain de Botton, The School of Life: An Emotional Education
Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 2019
In 1901, 98 percent of Australians told Census-takers that they adhered to a religion. For the vast majority, religion was where we got our notions of what it was to live a ‘good life’. Today, nearly one-third of Australians reports having no religion: seeking wisdom not from the pulpit, but from secular sages.
If there was a high priest of the unbelievers, it would be Swiss-born philosopher Alain de Botton.
Since writing Essays in Love at the age of 23, he has published a dozen books including How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, The Architecture of Happiness, Religion for Atheists, How to Think More About Sex and The News: A User's Manual.Read more
CANADA SHOULD TAKE AN INSURANCE APPROACH TO FUTURE DISRUPTION
Policy Options, 15 November 2019
To help Canadians face the technological disruptions of the future, policy-makers should strengthen our education and economic safety nets.
Poker star Jimmy Chou, who has won more than $1 million playing the game, has a new teacher. Pluribus, a new artificial intelligence program, recently defeated Chou, along with a handful of the world’s best poker players, in six-player no-limit Texas hold’em. The strategy was computed in eight days, at a cost of $144 in cloud server power. As Chou graciously noted, “Whenever playing the bot, I feel like I pick up something new to incorporate into my game.” Playing against humans, Pluribus can win around $1,000 an hour, suggesting that online poker tournaments may soon become a thing of the past.
Six-player Texas hold’em now joins a long list of activities at which computers are superior to humans, including checkers (1995), chess (1997), Jeopardy! (2011), facial recognition (2014) and transcribing a telephone call (2016). It’s been two years since Google’s AlphaGo beat the world champion, Ke Jie, in the game of Go. The performance gap between AlphaGo and Ke is now about as large as the gap between Ke and a keen amateur. If Pluribus and AlphaGo were self-aware, they might look at our prowess in their games the way that we regard the intellectual powers of our pets.Read more
A MORE EQUAL SOCIETY DEMANDS NEW IDEAS
APPS Policy Forum, 18 November 2019
Australia is not doing enough to encourage innovation, but investment in education and support for those institutions that do innovate can create a fairer and more prosperous society, Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh write.
Australia has an innovation problem. Just eight per cent of Australian firms say they produce innovations that are new to the world – down from 11 per cent in 2013. Innovation collaboration is especially woeful.
Across a sample of around 30 OECD nations, Australia ranked fourth-last for the share of large businesses collaborating on innovation, sixth-last in businesses collaborating with suppliers, and second-last in collaboration between businesses and universities.Read more
LIKE IT OR NOT SCOMO, PROTEST MADE AUSTRALIA WHAT IT IS TODAY
Ten Daily, 14 November 2019
In 1960, my father and other Melbourne University students arranged an unauthorised street protest. The police told them they couldn’t march outside the campus. They refused, and walked onto the streets anyway.
Michael Leigh and his friends were protesting the White Australia policy, which was used to restrict non-Europeans from moving to Australia. The spark for the protest had been the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, where 69 civilians, including 10 children, had been killed. The Labor opposition called on the Menzies Government to pass a censure motion against the South African government. Robert Menzies, who had praised the White Australia policy for helping Australia avoid "the kind of problem they have in South Africa", refused to censor the Apartheid regime.Read more
EQUITY CAN BE THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 2019
Returning from maternity leave to the traditional world of law, Carly Stebbing quickly discovered that the profession was not set up to embrace people who wanted to work three days a week. So she co-founded Resolution123, an online employment law advice site. Not only was entrepreneurship more flexible than an office law job – it also led to a startup that matches expert support for people facing unfair dismissal, workplace bullying or underpayment.
In theory, anyone can found a startup. In practice, startup founders aren't typically like Stebbing. They are most likely to be young men from affluent backgrounds. This isn’t just inequitable – it’s also inefficient. Society ends up missing out on the productive talents of potential Marie Curies and Albert Einsteins, just because they grow up in disadvantaged circumstances.Read more
THE VALUE OF FREEING IDEAS, NOT JUST LOCKING THEM UP
The Economist, 8 November 2019
Back in the 1960s, Bob Kearns was an engineer working and lecturing in Detroit. Due to an unfortunate wedding night accident involving a champagne cork, he was legally blind in his left eye. When driving in a Michigan rainstorm, Kearns lamented the inability of his wipers to help him see better. In those days, windshield wipers had two settings—fast and slow—and they were always moving. Kearns’s notion was that it should be possible to have a slower setting, in which the wipers paused briefly between each wipe.
Motivated by his own experience, as well as a long-standing desire to work for a big car company like Ford, Kearns spent years working out a way to make wipers pause. His solution relied on electronics—an unusual and innovative thing in those days. He fitted the mechanism to his own Ford Galaxie with most of the contraption inside a black box and drove it down to Ford to show its engineers. They pored over the car and were impressed. Kearns was then given the details of tests he would need to perform to become a Ford supplier. Those took months of work that Kearns completed in his basement. Ford, however, passed on him being a supplier, though the firm did employ Kearns for a brief period. In the meantime, Kearns filed for a patent on his invention.Read more
THE SCIENCE OF SESAME STREET
New York Daily News, 8 November 2019
Oscar the Grouch gives children permission to feel sad. Big Bird questions everything. Mr. Snuffleupagus is the imaginary friend. Count von Count loves mathematics. Grover embodies self-confidence. Ernie delights in practical jokes. Bert has an utterly different personality to Ernie, but is his best friend nonetheless. Zoe proves that girls can be both dainty and strong. Kermit the Frog is always a gentleman.
Nov. 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the moment when “Sesame Street” first aired on television. But it’s not just a day for nostalgia; it’s also a time when we should recall what a remarkable venture the show is, and the extent to which it is grounded in careful science and hard data.