The Subtle Tyranny of Blockchain

The past months have become a new chapter in the evolution of blockchain technology. Ethereum’s fork in the wake of the DAO hacks. Bitcoin’s almost-fork in the wake of the (still unresolved) block size debate. All of this is leading to the growing frustration and even disillusionment of key figures in the crypto-currency community.

I left the Bitcoin community in 2012 for very similar reasons. In 2011, I was part of the group that helped Gavin Andresen design the Pay-to-Script-Hash (P2SH) feature. The design wasn’t very complex, it was backwards-compatible and provided crucial building blocks for improving Bitcoin’s security and performance.

Unfortunately, getting it deployed turned out to be very political. It was easy to extrapolate from this change to more advanced functionality still on the roadmap and get depressed about our chances to make important progress in the future. As the Bitcoin price rose, the number of stakeholders expanded and the amount of money at stake increasingly dominated the technical discussion.

Blockchains are systems of central state

With this context in mind, the recent situation with Ethereum is not surprising in the slightest. As a blockchain grows, the larger and highly vested userbase becomes more and more difficult to shepard. When combined with time pressure (i.e. the 27-day DAO split creation period), something had to give. There wasn’t enough time to get the sort of buy-in and preparation needed to safely hardfork a system like Ethereum.

At the root of the difficulty in updating blockchains is the need to maintain shared state. In any protocol, everyone has to act the same. But in a blockchain like Ethereum, everyone has to think the same. Everyone’s memory (also known as “state” in computer science terms) has to be exactly the same and evolve according to the same rules.

Shared state adds tremendous complexity and that has a big impact on developers: Blockchains are a pain to work with. Everyone who has done it knows what I’m talking about. The fact that blockchain has been largely ignored by major tech companies and embraced by the financial industry is partly because that industry has a relatively high tolerance for arcane and complex systems.

Harmony and consensus are valuable. If we didn’t agree on who is president or how much money is in anyone’s bank account, society would be unable to function. But harmony taken to the extreme becomes a detriment. In the Lego Movie utopia, “everything is awesome” only on the surface. Behind the scenes, there is tremendous diversity and a rapidly changing world, which doesn’t match the established consensus.

So how do we find the right balance between too much consensus and too little?

Xanadu and the Web

I expect that almost everyone is familiar with the World Wide Web. That’s probably where you are reading this very article. What you may not know is that there was a much older project, started all the way back in the 60s called Project Xanadu. Not only had Xanadu been around for longer, it also had a significantly more ambitious feature set than the Web. There would be no broken links in Xanadu and two-way links would be possible as well.

There are many reasons why the Web won in the end, but I believe its stateless architecture was critical to its success. Both Xanadu and the web are decentralized, but the web was much simpler. All it required was a minimal protocol and simple data format. No interaction was needed between websites, which meant that they could evolve independently from each other, and rather than waiting for the Xanadu creators to add a feature, many features that users cared about could be created just by changing a website or a client.

As active participants of the W3C and IETF, we’re always fascinated by the process by which the technology powering the web is updated. For instance, HTTP 2 was implemented under the name “SPDY” by Google who happened to control a number of web servers (Google Search, Gmail, etc.) and clients (Google Chrome). The fact that one corner of the system can be updated and good ideas can eventually spread to the system as a whole has been essential for the Web’s ability to keep pace with technological innovation.

A better way

What can the blockchain industry learn from Xanadu and the world of Web standards? Instead of blindly replacing centralized functions with blockchains, we should be thinking about ways to avoid having those functions be centralized to begin with. We need to build stateless protocols like the Web that can be incrementally improved upon in different corners of the system.

To illustrate what I am talking about, let’s consider the example of payments. Bitcoin is a replacement for existing centralized ledgers like the credit card networks. This is arguably a great idea. But Bitcoin still has a lot of shared rules that participants must agree to. I need to be on board with using proof-of-work as the consensus mechanism. I need to agree to the currency distribution function. I need to be ok with the block size limit. I need to accept the lack of anonymity.

By contrast, in adding one more layer of abstraction, the Interledger Protocol allows me to choose a ledger that has the consensus mechanism, the currency, the performance characteristics and the level of anonymity that I like and still seamlessly transact with someone who has made different choices in each of these categories.

That doesn’t mean that Interledger doesn’t require any agreement —we still need a common data format for instance. However, these choices aren’t going to affect me economically or politically nearly as much, which makes it easier to compromise. And, crucially, we don’t share global state, so at least our thoughts can be — once again — our own.

https://medium.com/@justmoon/the-subtle-tyranny-of-blockchain-91d98b8a3a65

Real Global Unemployment Is 33%, Not 6%

Consider the world’s official figures on some of the major issues facing humanity. According to the United Nations, roughly 793 million people are undernourished; 767 million live in extreme poverty; and 2 billion do not have a safely managed water drinking service.

The global jobs situation? According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), unemployment is only 5.6%. That’s “only” about 260 million people. That feels low considering that for the past decade, Gallup’s World Poll surveys have continued to show that the entire world wants a good job.

The problem lies in how the world defines and measures unemployment. The ILO recommends a broad framework of labor force statistics to national statistics offices worldwide. Most countries collect these data using surveys.

These surveys ask people questions like, “Did you work 30 or more hours in the past week?” Then they ask whether they worked for an employer or themselves. If they aren’t employed, people are asked whether they are looking for work. The resulting data become the official employment statistics for the country.

You might assume that the world’s poorest countries have the highest unemployment rates and the richest countries have the lowest. Not according to the official unemployment figures. Some poorer countries such as Cambodia or Belarus boast some of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.

Rich countries such as France or the greater eurozone have at least three times the rate of unemployment of those poorer countries. In fact, there is no statistical relationship between GDP per capita and unemployment across all countries.

Here is the heart of the problem. Think of subsistence farmers in Africa or people selling trinkets on the street in India. Did they work 30 or more hours in the past week? Absolutely. Though their work is hardly meeting their needs, they still have what global agencies define as work. They are officially self-employed, which means they are not unemployed.

The reason official unemployment figures appear so low in some of these poorer countries is that so many of the truly unemployed are considered self-employed. In the developing world, the self-employed make up roughly 30% of the workforce. This can be confusing because when we hear “self-employed,” terms such as “small-business owner” or “entrepreneur” come to mind.

However, most of those categorized as self-employed in the developing world aren’t small-business owners or entrepreneurs. When you look at who lives on less than $2 a day, the self-employed appear almost identical to the unemployed. This is because most of these self-employed jobs aren’t really jobs.

So, What Is a Good Job?

Let’s consider a real job or a good job — the type of job the whole world wants — as at least 30 hours per week of consistent work with a paycheck from an employer. Based on this definition, 1.4 billion out of the world’s roughly 5 billion adults have a good job.

So who are the other 3.6 billion? About 1 billion people are self-employed; about 300 million work part time and do not want full-time work; about 400 million work part time but want full-time work; 260 million are unemployed; and the rest are out of the workforce. Not all of the self-employed are hopelessly unemployed, but we can conservatively estimate that at least half of them are.

Those 500 million added to the 400 million part-time workers who want full-time work and the unemployed total roughly 1 billion people who are truly unemployed. That figure of about 1 billion, which is just shy of one-third of the entire world’s adult workforce of 3.3 billion, would put global unemployment closer to 33% than to the 5.6% that the ILO estimates.

Measuring Whether People Love or Hate Their Jobs

There is another problem with current jobs metrics: There is no figure that measures the quality of people’s jobs.

I recently spoke with a global economist about measuring the quality of jobs. She told me her organization was hoping to accomplish this using two metrics: pay and benefits. The problem is that neither metric measures whether people love or hate their job. When people have a job they hate, they are more likely than people who do not work at all to rate their lives poorly.

One way to help quantify those intangibles is to ask people about their jobs and their work. Gallup does this through a metric known as employee engagement. Using a short list of questions, we categorize workers into one of three categories: engaged, not engaged or — worst of all — actively disengaged.

People who are engaged at work or, in other words, have a “great job,” can do what they do best, have the equipment to do their jobs effectively, and have a strong sense of mission and purpose in their work.

Gallup asked our engagement questions worldwide and found that between 2015 and 2016, out of the 1.4 billion adults who have good jobs, roughly 16% are engaged. Out of a global workforce of an estimated 3.3 billion adults who are working or looking for work, then, only 7% or 214 million people have a great job. This means about 3 billion people who want a great job don’t have one.

The dream of men and women around the world is to have a good job and, ultimately, a great job. Yet only 214 million people are realizing this dream. Global leaders need to make “great job” creation a top priority. Using better metrics to understand the real jobs situation is a start.

The 2018 Global Great Jobs Briefing is the latest of Gallup’s recent reports on the global workplace. The briefing updates the real jobs situation in 128 countries and shows where the greatest gaps remain between the good and great jobs that people want and need.

It complements the State of the Global Workplace report, which provides countries, leaders and organizations with actionable advice on what they need to close these gaps.

Find out how your country rates on good and great jobs in the 2018 Global Great Jobs Briefing.

Learn what countries, leaders and organizations can do to create great jobs in the State of the Global Workplace report.

Article Written By Jon Clifton, Global Managing Partner, Gallup.

http://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/233459/billion-worldwide-looking-great-jobs.aspx?

Glassdoor’s sale for $1.2 billion shows how desperate we are to find better jobs

From a young age, we’re instructed about the importance of finding fulfillment in work. Many of us spend—at least—eight hours a day at work, so you better do something you love.

Yet most of us are not in love with our jobs, and the near-universal urge to look for fulfillment elsewhere has fueled the rise of a massive job-search industry and the sale of Glassdoor, the fast-growing job review site, for $1.2 billion.

Glassdoor announced on May 8 that it agreed to be purchased by Recruit Holdings, a Japanese HR technology company which also owns Indeed, the world’s largest online job board. Together, they give Recruit a potent array of tools for job seekers, and for employers.

Glassdoor’s employer-review model has proven wildly popular. The site, founded in 2007 and backed by venture capital, now contains more than 40 million reviews of more than 770,000 companies.

Behind its success is the same restless impulse that has led 560 million people to post their profiles on LinkedIn: Even workers with steady, full-time employment want more out of their careers.

At the heart of the jobs industry is society’s inability to efficiently match workers with their ideal careers. In surveys conducted by Gallup in 2015 and 2016, only 16% of workers globally who were in steady employment reported feeling engaged in their jobs. In a world with 3.3 billion adults working or looking for work, only 214 million, or 7%, have a great job—that is, they find their work meaningful and fulfilling.

Sites like Indeed and LinkedIn are working at developing better tools that match job seekers with their ideal jobs, and employers are increasingly turning to assessments powered by algorithms to identify the best fits for their companies.

But until technology can better sort the world of jobs and job seekers, there’s still a lot of opportunity for sites like Glassdoor that can make the job search just a little bit easier.

Read more:
https://work.qz.com/1273518/glassdoor-acquired-job-sites-sale-to-recruit-holdings-for-1-2-billion-shows-how-desperate-we-are-to-find-better-jobs/

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Teach kids creativity. Ultimately, machines will be better at coding

If you want to bring up a kid to be a successful investor or entrepreneur, the current education system says they should be studying STEM subjects, cramming facts and figures, and immersing themselves in coding class. I’ve spent my working life as an entrepreneur and investor – I’ve founded startups, and now invest across Europe for GV (the venture capital investment arm of Google) – but as a father, when I look at the way we’re educating our kids, I think there’s something missing.

Machines are already superintelligent on many axes, including memory and processing speed. Unfortunately, those are the attributes our education system currently rewards, with an emphasis on learning by rote.

It doesn’t make sense to me. Part of my job as an investor is to attempt to predict the future – I need to make bets on the way we’ll be behaving in the next two, five, ten and 20 years. Computers already store facts faster and better than we do, but struggle to perfect things we learn as toddlers, such as dexterity and walking.

We need to rethink the way we teach our children and the things we teach them. Creativity will be increasingly be the defining human talent. Our education system should emphasise the use of human imagination to spark original ideas and create new meaning. It’s the one thing machines won’t be able to do.

We should aim to teach our kids about the power of creativity in every area. Science and maths, which are often considered uncreative, have shaped human history with huge creative leaps. It was creativity that allowed Newton to discover gravity while observing a falling apple as he was thinking about the forces of nature.

Any job that involves repetition, and no creativity, is at risk of disruption – from performing calculations to reviewing forms to sorting machine parts, and eventually driving. Such roles are the easiest for machines to do far more efficiently than us. We should prepare kids for roles that are tougher to automate – roles like artists, caregivers, entrepreneurs or theoretical physicists at the edge of science.

Often these valuable leaps of creativity require base knowledge. Newton would certainly not have been equipped to ‘discover’ gravity without a phenomenal foundation in physics and maths. And as technology accelerates, we will need to learn continuously in order to keep this foundational knowledge.

For this reason, we should no longer expect kids to have only one intense period of education to prepare them for the rest of their lives. They will, and we all, need to learn continuously throughout life. It’s more valuable to help children learn to love learning itself, to celebrate the journey rather than a single destination, than it is to force rote memorisation of information to be regurgitated in an exam and then forgotten.

It’s not even clear that it’s worth teaching kids how to code. Deep machine learning will likely automate the writing of code relatively quickly. While it’s useful to know what comprises languages or algorithms, I suspect most of the latter will be written by machine against a specific human (or eventually machine) query. Creativity is going to be far more important in a future where software can code better than we can.

Similarly, we should continue to value learning other human languages, but as neural nets improve, I expect earbuds will offer real-time translation that’s close to perfect within a decade or so. The real value of learning a second language will be more about understanding how people around the world think — a crucial responsibility for sharing the planet. Instead of glamorising memorisation and rote testing, we must place a greater emphasis on speed of learning, understanding context, being adaptable, and especially on how to frame the right question, whether as a search query, as a citizen in a democracy, or as a complex algorithm.

Machines only ever act on human instructions. Framing questions is therefore our opportunity to succeed or fail: ask a bad question, and you will get a bad answer. Ask a biased question, you will get a biased answer. Critical thinking and media literacy skills that help us to assess information sources should be embedded in school curricula.

We’ve seen the rise of filter bubbles and their effects, such as people socialising less with people unlike themselves. We are creating an empathy gap. The psychologist Carl Rogers said there are as many different perceptions as there are people in the world. And so the most important skill we can instill in our kids is empathy — a sense of shared humanity, and the ability to understand the needs and motivations of others. In an era when confirmation bias pulls us into homogeneous bubbles, it may be the toughest quality to nurture.

Empathy is critical to mitigating the negative impacts of all the technologies we currently rely on. It’s increasingly critical for our kids, who will need empathy to create products and services that are useful and desirable for a world of customers unlike themselves.

The good news is that digital tools can help immensely to free us from rote thinking. But we should not rely on them to dominate how we learn and live. Recently, it’s been reported that some expert technologists limit the time their kids use of digital devices. And it’s not only kids: the designer of the Facebook ‘like’ button revealed that at his request, his assistant installed a parental control on his phone — to stop him from downloading more apps.

I understand this desire to balance out our reliance on too much technology. Let’s take advantage of the remarkable capabilities in technologies we’ve developed — and at the same time, help ourselves and our kids strengthen and enhance our uniquely human qualities.

 Tom Hulme is a general partner at GV, the venture capital arm of Google parent firm Alphabet

Updated 11.04.18, 13:10: The headline of this story has been altered

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/children-coding-education-change-machine-learning-ai-creativity?

What can’t be automated?

What can’t be automated? How do we prepare ourselves for this new age of automation? We have to identify the things that are at core to our humanity. Things that are unique to our experience in the world. Specifically — Creativity and Empathy.

Read more:
https://medium.com/accel-ai/effects-of-automation-retraining-for-the-4th-industrial-revolution-674ceca4a115

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Entrepreneurs networking breakfast talk

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Alnoor Orphanage Fun Day at Jump Around (Video)

Spiritgirl (spiritgirl.co.za) partnered with Swift Momentum recruitment firm (swiftmomentum.com) to take the kids of the Alnoor orphanage to Jump Around Trampoline Park (jumparound.co.za) on Mandela day for a bit of fun with their friends. More details here.

Here is the video of the fun day the kids had with us at Jump Around Trampoline Park:

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Alnoor Orphanage Fundraiser

Spiritgirl (spiritgirl.co.za) partnered with Swift Momentum recruitment firm (swiftmomentum.com) to take the kids of the orphanage to Jump Around Trampoline Park (jumparound.co.za) on Mandela day for a bit of fun with their friends.

Both companies hosted a charity drive on their social media platforms [Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn]. The orphanage desperately need blankets, clothes, uniforms and funds for the children as they’re not funded by the government.
The collection started on Mandela Day on the 18th July and will end on the 18th August. At the end of the charity drive, Swift Momentum & Spiritgirl will drop off all the goods collected and give the kids a yoga class and a wellness workshop at the orphanage centre.

The main aim of ALNOOR ORPHANAGE is to protect vulnerable orphans; HIV/AIDS infected and affected and abused children by providing them with accommodation, education, medical, cultural and basic human needs. There are 47 children between the ages of 6-17 at the orphanage that need any assistance they can get.

nelson-mandela-day-banner-get-involved

#MANDELADAY: A huge HIGH 5 to Lemeez and Leigh who went out of their way to organize a partner for Swift Momentum to make a difference out there on Mandela Day. Jump Around Trampoline Park has come onboard and are sponsoring 47 children from Alnoor orphanage to an afternoon of fun – jump socks included! The beautiful folk from Swift Momentum are throwing in the party packs and more! Our challenge: What are YOU doing on Mandela Day to pay or play? it forward and spread some random kindness?

Swift does the Impi Challenge

What is the Impi Challenge? It’s this thing: https://www.impichallenge.co.za/