Surveillance, ignorance and a chilling effect

The Guardian, not exactly disinterested, publishes a leader on regulating Apple and its competitors. I would argue, Apple is the example of the 5th Industrial Revolution monopoly and we need to learn how to regulate it and is competitors and it is a problem for the US also. The authors  completely miss the fact that there are new forms of oppression, that of surveillance, caused by the datenkraken.

We need new forms of protest and defence even though we’ve know about it forever. It’s for this reason that we established the rights of privacy and free speech as part of the universal declaration of rights.

This quote is important, it establishes commonalities with their predecessors,

All [ the datenkraken] use remarkably few workers to generate their enormous profits. All operate an internal class system, which concentrates power in very few hands. None have any unions worth speaking of. All rely on the unglamorous work being done far from California, usually by subcontractors. All shuffle their profits around the world in an endless game of “Find the lady” with national tax authorities – a factor that should not be overlooked when it comes to asking why they are so immensely profitable. If this is the model of the company of the future, it will have consequences we have not yet learned how to manage.

They finish with,

The downside of the oil-based economy is now obvious all around us. The symptoms of apparently uncontrollable climate change have become undeniable. Cities are choked with polluting traffic while the seas are choked with plastics made from oil. Whole countries have been devastated by oil riches. The digital revolution seems, so far, much more benign. But the loss of trust that social media both causes and exploits may one day be seen as another form of unforgivable pollution.

I think this is weak, the threat is surveillance, ignorance and a chilling effect. …

Perez: cycles, bubbles & golden ages

Carlota Perez in TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTIONS AND FINANCIAL CAPITAL: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages in a, to my mind, successful, attempt to explain Kondratiev Long Waves, creates a theory of cycles of technology and output. I find her arguments, illustrated by powerful historical example to be compelling,  I cannot understand why her theories are not more popular.

She argues that there have since the turn of the 19th Century been five technology revolutions, of motion and textiles, the original British industrial revolution, followed by railways, steel, oil & cars and latterly silicon, computers and the internet.

I came across the ideas a number of years ago and was revising an unpublished blog article which includes a piece about her book and ideas; I made the above collage and thought I’d share it now. … …

Quality of Capital

I just found my copy of David Warsh’s “Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations”. I have promised myself that I would review it but on studying the dust cover, I find it says that the long term paradox of falling costs, is explained by internalising i.e. to the growth process, technological change. Such a simple insight, which from today’s view point seems so obvious. It may have impacted the capitalist economists more than the Marxians. …

Time in the Garden

My mind turns to Gardening Leave, not because I have any outstanding disputes with any of my ex-employers but because there seems to be a lack of clarity as to when and why one might use it if one was an employer.

If someone is on Gardening Leave they remain an employee and may not work for anyone else, although this also depends on the terms of the employment contract. In a world of zero hours contracts, this maybe a part of the law that will be re-examined.

For full time workers though, more and more companies are placing terms in their contracts that if one should, say, invent a new cheese in one’s back garden, then the company claims the exploitation rights. All inventions belong to your employer. It’s unclear if another month, or three months would make much difference though, but protecting the company’s intellectual property remains a motive for delaying people leaving as does getting them off site and off the IT systems.

Another key advantage is that the employee cannot work for a competitor, again, employers often via employment contracts try and restrain people’s ability to compete with them on quitting, but this is fraught with legal risk; keeping them on the books is legally much safer. Many sales staff may find themselves constrained in this way and the strengthened data protection laws will make it harder for them to take their address books with them.

A specific and unusual example of this is where staff of regulatory, political policy or law enforcement organisations leave their job to work for regulated entities. In fact, the public sector has constraints on this, but they have been weakened in time over the decades. The public sector employment contracts nearly all have clauses similar to private sector non-compete clauses but restraining public servants from working with organisations that they had regulatory or procurement relationships with. Despite this many lobbying organisations employ ex-politicians, civil servants and police. (In some ways, the movement in the other direction is more corrupt.)

The final example is where someone has financial or judicially regulated authority within the organisation. It’s usually inappropriate to leave such senior staff in place once they have resigned, and certainly of there are question marks on their remaining commitment. This of course is compounded where a compromise agreement has been signed to avoid the need to undertake disciplinary or redundancy processes. Management need to ensure that they are acting in the interests of the organisation’s stakeholders and protect themselves against a class action.

That’s where the Labour Party finds itself. A huge swath of its senior staff have put in their notice, they remain able to exercise their authority and for some reason are being permitted to work their notice, in some cases it would seem an extended notice.

It should be noted that for the ex-employee, if someone with a full time job, one or three months gardening leave can be a welcome gift. …

Brexit and Labour’s 2017 manifesto

Some Lexiters claim that the EU treaties will inhibit a Labour Government if it tried to implement its 2017 manifesto. It is argued that the single market would inhibit industrial policy and the stability and growth pact would inhibit macro-economic policy. I don’t think this is so and have written up my notes on my wiki.

The single market does not inhibit an industrial policy, and the stability and growth pact has no enforcement mechanism for the UK. (Another opt-out which we will lose if we leave and seek to rejoin). …

Abolish Performance Reviews

I recieved in my inbox an article on Adobe’s experience on abolishing their annual appraisal process. One reason was cost, they calculated it took the equivalent of 40 FTEs to run the process which illustrates the distraction of management time. The article quotes quality guru W. Edwards Deming who says,

It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics.”

They replaced their previous stack ranking system with a more flexible and empowered system, divorcing formal performance from salary/bonus decisions.

It proved to be more popular with managers and staff, with one employee reporting

… that a feeling of relief has spread throughout the company because the old annual review system was “a soul-less and soul crushing exercise.”

One side effect was that involuntary terminations increased but voluntary terminations reduced, It ought to be a happier place to work. …

Sunset, finally?

Sunset, finally?

Simon Phipps comments on Oracle’s decision to close down the SPARC and Solaris business units. He  was close to the politics of Sun’s “Dash to Open” in the mid noughties. My feeling is that Sun had failed before Schwartz was appointed; there was no longer room for differentiated hardware company; Oracle’s failure to monetise the SPARC product line may have been caused by management hubris, but the long term economics  …

Tax Fairness

Tax Fairness

Over the weekend, John McDonnell promised that Income Tax would not rise for most of the country but that a higher rate would be levied on those earning more than £80,000. Tax reform can be pretty technical; and so one needs to look at one or two things without losing sight of the idea that the richer should pay their share. Each tax payer has a personal allowance of £11,500 i.e. the first £11,500 of earnings is not taxed; this is clawed back if one’s income is £100,00 or more by levying a 60% marginal rate on those earning between £100,000 and £121,200. There is probably enough room for a new additional rate between the 40% levied at £42,000 and 60% levied at £100,000 and £80,000 p.a. is a lot of money; only 3% of income earners get that much. It will remain necessary to increase the amount paid by those earning more than £145,000 and redress the regressive nature of National Insurance, which negates much of the 20% band, converting it into a 32% tax burden. Labour’s promise is also that there will be no increase in employee NICs nor in VAT, although again that’s not enough … VAT has to come down from 20%. …