Category Archives: Technology and innovation

Government, Not the Private Sector, Leads Innovation

This video, in which economist Mariana Mazzucato discusses her book The Entrepreneurial State, explains how most of what you think you know about innovation is wrong. Innovation is not led by the private sector; it lacks the long term horizons and risk appetite to do so. Instead, the most innovative countries and regions have the state playing a very active role, not just in funding basic research or making sure markets work properly, as in limiting anti-competitive practices that can stymie new entrants. Instead, the state plays an active role along the entire value chain. One result of the wide-spread misperception that the private sectors deserves most of the credit is that businesses are able to skim a disproportionate level of the returns for themselves.

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“The Tragedy of Electronic Medical Records”

Yves here. We’ve written about the pitfalls of electronic health records in the past. One of the surprising reactions is the “dazzled by technology” response of some readers. While there are problems with relying on paper-based records, and electronic records could in fact remedy many of them, a large swathe of the public seems unwilling to hear that what is good in theory may not turn out well in practice.

The sorry fact is that electronic health records, which in theory should reduce errors and allow for more consistent delivery of medical services, were instead designed only with patient billing and control over doctors in mind. As a result, they are if anything worsening medical outcomes. One indicator: as we reported, the latest ECRI Institute puts health care information technology as the top risk in its 2014 Patient Safety Concerns for Large Health Care Organizations report. Note that this ranking is based on the collection and analysis of over 300,000 events since 2009.

This is another example of crapification. Electronic medical records have been implemented, with apparent success, in other economics. For instance, when I lived in Australia from 2002 to 2004, it was normal for doctors to make use of them during patient visits, making entries into the system, and I never got the impression they found it onerous. Here, in New York City, I still see doctors making considerable use of paper records. As the article indicates below, the reason is the US systems are costly, lower productivity, and make doctors less likely to review patient information.

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Tech Underbelly: Indentured Servitude and Bonded Labor in the US

A labor collusion pact with the aim of suppressing pay levels among Apple, Google, Microsoft, Pixar, and others, demonstrated that the idea that Silicon Valley plays fairly is an illusion. But even more unsavory abuses occur further down the food chain. H1-B visa workers, who are generally held in low esteem in the US since they compete with Americans, take a risk when they sign up with labor brokers, even seemingly legitimate ones like Tata Consultancy, part of the giant Tata Group in India.

As the NBC video below, part of a joint investigation with the Center for Investigative Reporting, explains, the most abusive recruiters are body shops, who abuse the H1-B program by bringing in technology graduates when the firm in fact has no job lined up. The Indian immigrants are hostage, kept in guest houses where they are told not to go outside until they find work.

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Adair Turner: The Consequences of Money-Manager Capitalism

Yves here. This is a terrific interview with Lord Adair Turner, former head of the FSA. Most of it focuses on the things missed in contemporary economics, particularly macroeconomics, and how some disciplinary “back to the future” would be desirable. A major topic of discussion is how wealth is becoming as concentrated as it was in the 18th century, and the driver then and now was the disproportionately large role real estate has come to play. Then, it was income-producing agricultural land. Now it is urban property, bid up by domestic and international elites who want to live in particularly prized cities. Turner points out the irony that access to cheap finance for housing, meant to help middle and lower income buyers, has instead contributed to rising wealth inequality. He also describes how the ability of banks and financial markets to supply virtually unlimited amounts of credit, against a limited stock of particularly sought-after locations, has the potential to create tulip-mania type results.

Perhaps due to time constraints, Turner didn’t venture into the views of classical economists, that profiting from land, which they derided as rentier capitalism, was economically unproductive. As Michael Hudson has stressed, they urged heavy taxation of land as the remedy.

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Tom Englehardt Interviews Laura Poitras on Snowden and the Total Information Capture Approach to Surveillance

Yves here. This interview with Laura Poitras is a reminder of how the world has, and more important, hasn’t changed since the explosive revelations made by Edward Snowden less than a year and a half ago. Even though his disclosures produced a great uproar, with demands in the US, UK, and Europe for explanations and […]

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Evil Feedly and Digg: “Social Logins” as Symptoms of Creeping Surveillance State

Your humble blogger is a beached whale as a result of the steady march of police state practices on the Internet. And to calibrate how heinous the underlying situation is, Lambert, who has 20 years of experience as a computer professional, calls my current mess the technology equivalent of being shoved into a minefield without any signs. And as you’ll see below, I’ve already stepped on one mine.

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Lambert Talks With Tim Wu, Net Neutrality Pioneer and NY Lieutenant Governor Candidate

Yves here. Lambert interviewed Tim Wu, who is campaigning with Zephry Teachout to upset politics as usual in New York. Both are running in the New York State primary against Andrew Cuomo and his candidate for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul. The Teachout/Wu campaign against Cuomo has gone from quixotic to the most interesting state race […]

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Ballooning Finance: How Financial Innovation Produces Overgrowth and Busts

Yves here. It’s a welcome surprise to see economists devise a model that delivers generally sensible results. Here, three economists looked at how financial innovation leads to an bloated financial sector as well as greatly increasing the risk of meltdown.

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Utopian Robotics

So the robots take over the social function of providing most everything in the two layers at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiology and safety. Food, water, shelter, warmth; security, stability (for example). We’ve got robot houses, robot servants, robot cars, robot malls, robot servants, robot baristas, robot Walmart greeters, robot drivers, robot security guards, robot financial advisors, robots to make robots….

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Wolf Richter: Goal of Booming ‘Internet of Things’: Monitoring, Sensing, Remote Control – Factory Workers First, You Next

I first heard about what would later be called the Internet of Things in 1991 from Michael Hawley, who happened to be providing support for my NeXT computer. Hawley was then a graduate student at MIT and favorite of Nick Negroponte. (Hawley, who had also worked at NeXT, pointed out that having him do my tech support was tantamount to having Steve Jobs on deck). He later became a professor in the MIT Media Lab

In addition to showing me the coolness of networks (like accessing files on remote computers, which was bleeding edge back then), he was also keen about discussing digital libraries and how his belt buckle would be able to talk to his refrigerator and why that would be useful. I kept quiet about my reservations about my objects having private conversations about me.

The problem with the idea of having even more devices than your smartphone and tablet gathering information for your convenience, of course, is the many ways all that data can be used against you.

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Technology Displacing Jobs: The European Case

Yves here. Some technology enthusiasts predict that as many as 47% of current jobs will be displaced in the next decade. Candidates include not only trucking and bus driving (to be eliminated by self-driving vehicles) but more and more white collar work, as computer get better at the sort of information scanning and analysis that is now done by entry and low-level workers. This post examines different scenarios for how that might play out in Europe.

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FCC Deluged by Net Neutrality Comments Against Web-Killing “Fast Lane” Proposal

Numerous media outlets reported today that the FCC was inundated by last-minute comments on proposed net neutrality rules, and was forced by its server crashing as a result of the volume to extend its deadline to Friday. The agency has received 780,000 comments so far, more than it has ever received on a rule-making, and activists contend the real figure is higher

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Maine Supreme Court Hands Major Defeat to MERS Mortgage Registry

Yesterday, we wrote about a major loss by the electronic mortgage registry, MERS, in a major Federal court case in Pennsylvania. MERS suffered an additional blow via an important adverse decision in the Maine Supreme Court, against Tom Cox, the attorney who first made robosigning a national issue.

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