/blog > author > Phil

BNP_Paribas_London_Trading_Floor

Here’s an interesting headline: Regulators Ask Humans How to Deal With Robot Traders Looks like the robot takeover is proceeding exactly as we predicted. There are just a few little bumps in the road we have to look out for. The rules have, historically, been mostly about preventing people from ripping each other off in ways that were deemed unsporting (insider trading, outright fraud, etc.). Even this wasn’t always necessary: Plenty of unsporting practices have, historically, been punished not with CFTC sanctions but with everybody refusing to trade with you because you’re a jerk. But a market dominated by computers looks a bit different. They’re so fast, and they’re all programmed by like the same 12 guys using the same mathematical models, and they have no emotional intelligence. So much more so than with humans, there’s an alarming chance they’ll all think and do the same thing.** If that thing…

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assembly_line

Michael O. Church takes a look at the world of work and finds a problem potentially as dangerous as the scourge of automation that we have been dutifully tracking here over the past couple of years. In fact, it goes hand in hand with automation to produce an even bleaker outlook than just looking at automation will provide. Per Church, the problem is an employment culture focused on subordination (linked item is not entirely safe for work due to language in the title, and may be offensive to some because of same repeated throughout): Workplace subordination, in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, had major operational efficiencies. Additionally, the destruction it inflicted on human capital was there for poets and philosophers to observe and mourn, but it never threatened to cripple the economy, because its standardization effects outweighed its costs. Assembly-line workers, in truth, didn’t need…

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oldguycallme

Writing at IT World, Eric Bloom has some suggestions for Generation Y employees to help them get noticed by (and possibly make some inroads with) their generation X and Baby Boomer co-workers / superiors. Bloom is very careful to point out how distasteful stereotypes are and makes some seemingly innocuous suggestions: Use the phone Spell words out Be a bit more formal in emails Work hard  None of this is offered as “We need to get things back the way they used to be,” but rather “these are good behaviors to display to a few key individuals in your organization.” What I find most interesting are some of the responses (apparently) from Gen Y readers of the piece: — Speak on Phone – Good luck. Just as you wouldn’t like using text when youstarted out, they don’t like making phone calls. Their numbers are too big and their generation’s preferred…

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economix-unemployment-blog480

At the New York Times Economix blog,  David Leonhardt explores what he calls The Great Shift, which is pretty well summed up by the two charts shown here. We have covered this before but it bears repeating. A change in unemployment rate doesn’t tell you much if the overall working population is changing, too. The decrease in unemployment we are witnessing is more than offset by the size of the labor force. This means that there are fewer people who are “unemployed” and yet no there are no additional people with jobs. The number of people who have a job has remained fairly consistent over the past five years. Leonhardt looks at various possible explanations: a skills gap, weak economic growth, more people on disability, but none of these seem particularly satisfactory explanations. (That last one is probably more a symptom of chronic unemployment than a cause.)   The factor…

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gerdin

Color me shocked: Student loans: New rates make $700 million more for government A new law regulating interest rates on student loans will put more than $700 million in additional profit into the federal government’s bank account in the next 10 years, an analysis shows. In the short term, the law will ease the burden on student borrowers, but over the next decade it will also generate a total of $175 billion in profits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says. Experts say that while the new law was meant to lighten the blow to students’ wallets, it was also bound to be “revenue-neutral,” meaning it would have to generate the same amount of money for the government as the old, higher interest rates would have. A very telling quote from one of the beneficiaries / victims of the new lower interest rates: “If everyone else is making a killing off of us, I’m not the least bit…

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depression

Has the unemployment rate started to move back up? Gallup says it has: According to a daily tracking poll from Gallup, the nation’s unemployment and underemployment rate has jumped significantly in the last month. The latest poll out Wednesday said unemployment was 8.9 percent compared to 7.8 percent a month ago. Gallup also reported the underemployment rate now stands at 17.9 percent . Gallup says its unemployment and underemployment rates are calculated as a percent of the workforce. Daily results reflect 30 day rolling averages based on telephone interviews with about 30,000 adults. Last month, the U S government reported unemployment at 7.4 percent. However, because results are not seasonally adjusted, Gallup says they are not directly comparable to the numbers reported by the U S Burea of Labor Statistics. It will be interesting to see how these numbers jibe with the BLS statistics. Since they aren’t directly comparable, what…

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incubatorschool

We recently  looked at an app that lets kids create their own games. The founder of the Incubator School, which opened last week in Los Angeles, wants to take it up a notch from there. Already on the record telling kids to make games rather than just play them, with her new school Sujata Bhatt wants kids to build a startup around the games they create — or any other sound business idea: Students at the Incubator School will spend the first two years (sixth and seventh grades) learning the principles of entrepreneurship before actually launching businesses in the eighth grade. It’s too early to predict what kinds of ventures the students will launch, but Bhatt exudes confidence that many students already have a natural disposition for entrepreneurship. Teaching kids to build a business may sound exotic and cutting edge, but the truth is that our economy is rapidly changing, and…

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Meeting

From Thomas Frey: There is some cause for alarm in the startup world. On the whole, young companies destroy more jobs than they create. That’s because so many of them fail.  But there is some solace: Young tech companies create many more jobs than they destroy, even taking into account a high failure rate. These are the findings of a new report, “Tech Starts: High-Technology Business Formation and Job Creation in the United States,” co-sponsored and released today by Engine Advocacy and the Kauffman Foundation. The report shows that about half of all young companies fail within their first five years, resulting in the loss of a lot of jobs. Of the companies that survive, however, businesses aged between 1 and 5 years create net job growth. And if those young companies happen to be tech startups? Well, they create a lot more job growth than the rest of the private sector. So is it too…

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MIT

This story needs a follow-up. Two years ago we were surprised (or were we?) to learn that a substantial percentage of first-year students at a fine state university in Indiana had no clear idea why they were there. It was attention-getting enough that we ran a survey on it here, which sparked some interesting discussion. Now here we are two years later and it occurs to me that the question “why go to college?” is more pressing than ever. Check out the whole college is  a bad investment meme. Higher education is not the slam-dunk it once was. Whole books have been written. I can’t help but wonder — how many of those 37% are still at Ball State? And of those remaining, how many have figured out why they are there?Read More…

gun2

Kid I’ve been in this marketing game for a long time and I’ve pretty much seen it all. So you had a promotional event. So some people got shot — look, it happens. The real issue here isn’t that people got shot. People expect to get shot. That’s why they call it a promotional event! But I think you want to work on the numbers. It’s a lot more special if only three or four people get hit. If you ask me, 20 is on the excessive side. But, hey, I’m old school.Read More…