Category : Blogging & the Internet

(Economist) Facebook and the conglomerate curse

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

Meet the Physicist Who Has Created 1600+ Wikipedia Entries for Important Female & Minority Scientists

Watch it all–hats off to her.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, History, Science & Technology, Women

(Bloomberg) Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk

Americans who are working from home have reclaimed 60 million hours that they used to spend commuting to an office each day. They’re now using that time to get more sleep instead.

That’s the takeaway from a research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey to see what US workers spent their time on when they weren’t stuck on a crowded train or locked in traffic. The main findings: Employees spent fewer total hours working and substantially more on sleep and leisure.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(CT) Robert Tracy McKenzie reviews Bonnie Kristian’s book ‘ Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community’

In sum, we’ve always canceled social transgressors. We’ve always been drawn to simple answers to complex questions. We’ve always been susceptible to emotional manipulation. What is new is the speed with which vast volumes of information—true and false, balanced and distorted—can be generated with such astonishing ease. This trend only magnifies tendencies to which we are already prone. Gradually remade by the devices that mesmerize us, we become less and less willing to listen, less and less tolerant of dissent, less and less able to engage constructively and charitably with others in pursuit of a common good.

In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. Christian observers like Stetzer and Daniel Darling are among those examining how social media is corrupting Christian witness. What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy.

At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. Kristian grieves over the division of churches; the estrangement of families; and, most poignantly, her pain while watching helplessly as a Christian colleague succumbed to the power of “fearmongering falsehoods.” When we can’t agree on basic facts, conversation becomes futile, intimate connection impossible, and real Christian community unattainable. “If we can’t talk to one another,” Kristian asks plaintively, “how do we worship together?”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Unherd) How Turbo-Wokism broke America

So who does control the new American system? The answer isn’t broke woke-ists. It’s the monopolists who own the platforms where the woke-ists live. Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Lorraine Jobs don’t care about mean tweets. They care about the hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, their lavish mansions and private jets, and pursuing rich person hobbies like colonising Mars. Their primary political goal, as a class, is to prevent the state from ever getting strong enough to tax their fortunes, break up their monopolies, or interfere with the supplies of cheap immigrant and offshore labour from which they profit. The more fractured, dejected, and heavily surveilled the America public is, the less likely a strong state is to emerge.

In the contest between the oligarchs and the fading Rooseveltian state, the woke is a useful tool— not an independent power. Its members are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, whose job it is to organise the dispossessed into groups that are narrow, factional, and divided enough that they can’t come together into a force that threatens oligarchical control. Its discontent with the Turbo-Capitalist order can be usefully turned against anyone who refuses to follow the ever-changing party line — beginning with the “deplorables” who are now regularly portrayed as murderous, undemocratic racists and fascists, and extending to JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. The result is a closed circuit in which Turbo-Capitalist oligarchs and Woke activists make common cause against formerly independent institutions like universities, professional associations, and the press. All of these institutions rely on guarantees of individual and collective rights by the state, which the Turbo-Capitalists and the Woke seek to capture and use as an instrument to enforce their own privatised social bargain: everything within the Party, nothing outside the Party, nothing against the Party.

The unprecedented reach of the technologies that the new oligarchy commands has already destroyed the press and replaced it with a government-corporate censorship regime that has no parallel in peacetime America. Combined with what appears to be a healthy appetite for humiliating others, this power does not bode well for the future of social peace in America, or for the health of the next American Republic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Politics in General, Psychology

([London] Times) The Church of England threatens tech giants over child safety

The Church of England has threatened to use its influence as a multimillion-pound investor in companies such as Meta, Google and Amazon to challenge them if they fail to protect children from harmful content.

Investing in big technology firms and social media sites “may not be consistent with Christian values”, the Church said. It has issued a list of demands to the companies it invests in, including a call for “enhanced protections” for children.

It has £10.1 billion in assets and investments across a range of sectors, and already uses its clout as a big-money investor in oil firms to lobby them to step up their efforts to tackle climate change.

Among its 20 biggest equity holdings are Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba, Meta and Alphabet, parent companyt of Google. It does not disclose how much it invests in each.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Church of England, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Wired) The Unsolved Mystery Attack on Internet Cables in Paris

On April 27, an unknown individual or group deliberately cut crucial long-distance internet cables across multiple sites near Paris, plunging thousands of people into a connectivity blackout. The vandalism was one of the most significant internet infrastructure attacks in France’s history and highlights the vulnerability of key communications technologies.

Now, months after the attacks took place, French internet companies and telecom experts familiar with the incidents say the damage was more wide-ranging than initially reported and extra security measures are needed to prevent future attacks. In total, around 10 internet and infrastructure companies—from ISPs to cable owners—were impacted by the attacks, telecom insiders say.

The assault against the internet started during the early hours of April 27. “The people knew what they were doing,” says Michel Combot, the managing director of the French Telecoms Federation, which is made up of more than a dozen internet companies. In the space of around two hours, cables were surgically cut and damaged in three locations around the French capital city—to the north, south, and east—including near Disneyland Paris.

“Those were what we call backbone cables that were mostly connecting network service from Paris to other locations in France, in three directions,” Combot says. “That impacted the connectivity in several parts of France.” As a result, internet connections dropped out for some people. Others experienced slower connections, including on mobile networks, as internet traffic was rerouted around the severed cables.

All three incidents are believed to have happened at roughly the same time and were conducted in similar ways—distinguishing them from other attacks against telecom towers and internet infrastructure.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, France, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) The story of one Kentucky man who built a big house with a bunker, entered politics, and ended up having his giant residence attacked and his daughter killed

Jordan, 32, told her father she had come to feel unsafe at the house. In February of this year, she was hired by a law firm in Lexington and planned to move as soon as possible to an apartment in the city. “She must have sensed that she was being watched,” he said.

Someone had been watching, marking the house’s entry points and taking detailed notes on the family’s movements. Early on the morning of Feb. 22, prosecutors say, the watcher, Shannon V. Gilday, a 23-year-old former soldier who lived in the Cincinnati suburbs, climbed up to a second-floor balcony and began his attack.

“He stood and looked at me without any emotions, like he was programmed,” Mr. Morgan said of the moment he first encountered Mr. Gilday in the foyer. At that point, Jordan was dead.

Now Mr. Morgan was the target.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Children, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Science & Technology, State Government, Violence

(WSJ) Caitlin Macy–The Age of Emotional Overstatement

From the modest, anodyne “Have a nice day” I remember growing up with in the ‘80s, in the last decade a giant lovefest has taken over our day-to-day interactions so thoroughly that to abstain from appending heart emojis to everything that comes your way leaves you feeling sidelined and defensively out of tune. Remember “Mean Girls”—the movie, yes, but also the phenomenon? Nowadays the average teenage selfie post is met with reactions that run the gamut from “Luuuuuv!” to “Beauty!” to heart emojis to “Worship!”

I confess I wasn’t prepared for society to speed its way to the love shack. I’d been on a journey to somewhere else entirely. In college, I majored in classics, a field then populated, even in the U.S., by Oxbridge dons. Giving me notes on a scholarship-application essay I’d written that went on and on about my passion for this and my life’s desire for that, a professor remarked mildly, “Sometimes…less is more.”

His remark stayed with me—and not solely as the mother of all writing tips. The essence of adulthood, I suddenly grasped, was internalizing understatement. It meant sublimating one’s raw, emotional insides to something drier on the outside, something more even-tempered and hence more sophisticated. To put aside childish things, one had to ditch not only the tantrums of the toddler years but the gushing of the early teens.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Economist) Who’s afraid of TikTok? The world’s most exciting app is also its most mistrusted

With its wholesome dancing and lip-syncing videos, TikTok once billed itself as “the last sunny corner on the internet”. Since launching just five years ago the app has brought a warm glow to its 1bn-plus users, as well as an icy dash of competition to the social-media incumbents of Silicon Valley. With its rise, a part of the tech industry that had seemed closed to competition has been cracked wide open.

Yet even as TikTok delights consumers and advertisers, others believe the sunny app has a dark side. ByteDance, its owner, has its headquarters in China, whose government is addicted to surveillance and propaganda—making it a worrying place for a media app to be based. As TikTok’s clout grows and as elections loom in America, there is a brewing bipartisan storm in Congress over its supposed role as a “Trojan horse”.

The hype about TikTok is justified—and so are the concerns. The app has transformed competition in social media. Yet unchecked, it presents a security risk to the Chinese Communist Party’s enemies. Finding a way for TikTok to operate safely in the West is a test of whether global business and the global internet can remain intact as us-China relations deteriorate.

Beneath TikTok’s simple interface lies fearsomely advanced artificial intelligence (ai). Its knack for learning what people like helped TikTok sign up its first 1bn users in half the time it took Facebook. In America the average user spends 50% longer on the app each day than the typical user spends on Instagram. TikTok’s revenues are expected to reach $12bn this year and $23bn in 2024, drawing level with YouTube’s. Young creators are flocking to the app—along with some older ones. This week The Economist joined TikTok (no dancing, we promise).

The effect on competition has been dramatic. In 2020 American trustbusters sued Facebook, now known as Meta, for its alleged dominance of social media. Today such worries look eccentric; Meta has been particularly hard-hit as tech stocks have taken a beating, and the firm is re-engineering its products to mimic TikTok. America often accuses China of copycat capitalism. Now the boot is on the other foot.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Asia, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

A [London] Times article on the new Christian app “glorify”

Both Beccle and Costa understand, nevertheless, that while A-list investors are incredibly helpful, they remain a means to an end. It is the millions of ordinary people looking for meaning and connection that remain their focus. “Everyone’s looking for connection. But a lot of people are getting that connection from the wrong places,” says Beccle. “Because you can jump on your phone and hop on TikTok or Instagram and suddenly you’ve got that superficial connection you think you need, only not to have it as soon as you put your phone away. And so you feel like you have to pick it back up again.”

Both men say they are surprised by the number of people who do not identify as Christian, but who nevertheless find themselves using the app every day. “Increasingly, people are opening themselves up to exploring this side of themselves,” says Costa. He and Beccle hint that the long-term plans for Glorify are grander and more ambitious than simply being a place where users can have some scripture read to them or send prayers to their friends. “The people who have invested in us saw a really big vision. Something gigantic. And they were willing to back that,” says Costa. “We’re very aware of the scale of what we can do. And this is the exciting bit. There’s a crisis of faith in many countries, and it’s spreading. We are reacting to that crisis and breaking down the barriers to provide more access points for people to be able to connect with God.”

Perhaps it will happen. After all, if you can create a piece of technology that manages to unite the Kardashians and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in their praise, then who knows what else you can do? Beccle seems excited. Costa seems amazed to be here at all. It feels, he says, like “an answer to prayer”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

Blog Transition for the Triduum 2022

As is our custom, we aim to let go of the cares and concerns of this world until Monday and to focus on the great, awesome, solemn and holy events of the next three days. I would ask people to concentrate their comments on the personal, devotional, and theological aspects of these days which will be our focal point here. Many thanks–KSH.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Holy Week

We meet online to pray for Ukraine: Kyiv’s Anglicans spread across Europe continue to meet

Before Russia’s invasion, Kyiv had a small but thriving community of Anglicans. Today, members of Christ Church, which used to meet in the German Lutheran church Kyiv’s centre, come together to pray for peace online.

“We try to keep in touch via [the messaging apps] Viber or WhatsApp,” explained church warden Christina Laschenko-Stafiychuk.

“We also try to join Zoom vigil services on Wednesday evenings held by the Diocese in Europe during Lent to pray for Ukraine.”

Since the Russian invasion which began on February 24th, the once vibrant community has been scattered across Europe.

Christina said: “My daughter and I left Kyiv on March 4th. We left on an evacuation train going towards Lviv.

“We then took a train to Chełm in Poland, then on to Warsaw, and finally to Zurich

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer, Ukraine

(Economist) The serious business of being a social influencer

t is a sure sign that a hot trend has reached the mainstream when the tax authorities catch up. This week China promised a tax-evasion crackdown on social-media influencers, who are paid by brands to promote products online to armies of followers. One of the big stars, Viya, a 30-something fashionista known as the live-streaming queen, has already been fined $210m for not declaring her income. The size of that levy shows the sheer scale of the industry, which accounts for 12% of online sales in China. Outside China, influencers are also likely to have an enduring role in e-commerce. For all firms with brands—and together those brands are worth over $7trn—it is time to realise that influencing is more than just a hobby.

The use of personal endorsements used to be about harnessing existing celebrity power. Elizabeth Taylor touted Colgate-Palmolive’s shampoo in the 1950s, and Michael Jordan’s deal in 1984 with Nike revolutionised both basketball and branding. Influencers turn the logic on its head: selling things helps make them more famous. Through curated feeds of clipped videos and filtered photos they offer recommendations to consumers, mingled with glimpses into their daily lives that give their artifice an aura of authenticity. Sometimes they disclose how they are paid. Often they do not.

Initially dismissed as credulous Gen-Z folk who had mistaken posting selfies for having a job, these entrepreneurs have become a big business, boosted further by the e-commerce surge from the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Theology

(Yorkshire Post) New generation of worshippers finds faith through surge in online church services

Research by the Church of England has revealed that more than 9,000 churches – equating to 78 per cent of places of worship – offered Church at Home online, via email, post and telephone during the first lockdown between March and July 2020.

More than 8,000 churches offered livestreamed or pre-recorded services, while more than 5,000 places of worship provided services downloadable from a website or via email.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, claimed last year that the advent of online worship had led to a “digital coming of age”.

The Church of England’s head of digital, Amaris Cole, said: “Online services and worship have provided people with the chance to gather together, regardless of where they are in the country – or in the world – to experience the consoling message of the Christian faith at what has been a difficult and painful time for many.

Read it all.<

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Economist) Disney, Netflix, Apple: is anyone winning the streaming wars?

A teenaged girl who periodically transforms into a giant panda is the improbable star of “Turning Red”, a coming-of-age movie from Disney due out next month. The world’s biggest media company, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, is no adolescent. But Disney is going through some awkward changes of its own as it reorganises its business—worth $260bn—around the barely two-year-old venture of video-streaming.

So far the experiment has been a success. The company’s streaming operation, Disney+, initially aimed for at least 60m subscribers in its first five years, ending in 2024. It got there in less than 12 months, and now hopes for as many as 260m subscribers by that date. Bob Chapek, who took over as chief executive just before the pandemic, is convinced that Disney’s future lies in streaming directly to the consumer, his “north star”. Disney+ is all but guaranteed to be among the survivors of the ruthless period of competition that has become known as the streaming wars.

But doubts are surfacing across the industry about how much of a prize awaits the victors. Every year Disney and its rivals promise to spend more on content. And yet the growth in subscribers is showing signs of slowing. A realisation is setting in that old media companies are pivoting from a highly profitable cable-TV business to a distinctly less rewarding alternative. Amid a bout of market volatility which last week saw Alphabet’s and Amazon’s share prices rise by a tenth or more and Meta’s fall by a quarter, investors are awaiting Disney’s quarterly results on February 9th with some trepidation. So, too, is Mr Chapek, whose contract expires one year from now.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Movies & Television, Science & Technology

(RNS) Streaming online has been a boon for churches, a godsend for isolated

For a small church, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, has a surprising reach.

Most church members live in and around Downingtown, a small town about an hour west of Philadelphia. Some live as far away as Bermuda.

“But that’s one of the beauties that has come out of the pandemic,” Downingtown pastor Ivy Berry said. “We can meet in the sanctuary, but still maintain a worship presence via Zoom and on Facebook Live, so members who may not be able to travel to the sanctuary can still receive the same worship service.”

A report on churches and technology during the pandemic found that by offering online services, churches were able to expand their reach, often connecting with people outside their community or reconnecting with former members who had moved away. Even small congregations that had once struggled to reach outside the walls of the church were able to expand their reach, according to “When Pastors Put on the ‘Tech Hat,” a report from the Tech in Churches research project, led by Heidi Campbell, professor of communication at Texas A&M University.

“With the shift online, churches were shocked to discover the ways that an online service can become a wide-reaching net to whoever is interested in tuning in or watching,” according to researchers. “One pastor described this widening reach and shift as ‘shut-ins being no longer shut out.’”

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Moms in Middle Age: Rarely Alone, Often Online and Increasingly Lonely

Middle age is a crowded time. It’s also a lonely one. Work and family demands leave little time for nurturing friendships, particularly for women.

Pre-pandemic, conversations about loneliness often centered on men, with talk of a “loneliness epidemic.” But during lockdown, Generation X women, who range in age from 41 to 57 years old, reported the sharpest rise in loneliness, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted in the spring of 2020 by the Roots of Loneliness Project, a research organization. And the increase in social isolation reported by women living with children was also greatest among those from Gen X, according to an unpublished portion of the survey shared with The Wall Street Journal.

For women feeling burned out from holding family life and work together, social media has typically been the most convenient place to vent and seek connection. But going online has surfaced feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, many say.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Women

(FT) China launches internet ‘purification’ campaign for lunar new year

China has launched a month-long campaign to clean up online content during next week’s lunar new year festival, in its latest effort to reshape behaviour on the internet.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, has instructed officials to sweep away “illegal content and information” and target celebrity fan groups, online abuse, money worship, child influencers and the homepages of media sites.

The campaign will apply the tradition of cleaning house before the new year, the most important holiday in China, to the internet, envisioning a “purification” of the online world.

The edict is the latest step in Beijing’s clampdown on the entertainment industry as authorities purge content deemed immoral, unpatriotic and non-mainstream from online culture.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, China

(C of E) New ‘cathedral’ of digital worshippers emerges from online broadcasts

Members of a new “cathedral” of online worshippers formed since the first lockdown are to play a key role in the Church of England’s 100th national online service to be broadcast this weekend.

Prayers will be read by people who joined a regular digital worshipping community that grew through YouTube and Facebook broadcasts of national online services.

The first national online service was broadcast from the crypt chapel at Lambeth Palace on Mothering Sunday 2020 as the nation went into lockdown. Since then a service has been broadcast every Sunday – with additional services broadcast over Easter, Advent and Christmas.

The broadcast on Sunday, marking the milestone of the 100th service, will led by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields Dr Sam Wells, with a sermon from Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, who oversees the Church of England’s national online services.

Dr Hamley, who took part in the first online service broadcast in March 2020 from the Crypt chapel of Lambeth Palace, will pay tribute to the work of both the national and local churches in providing online services during the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Happy Boxing Day to all Blog Readers!

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Globalization

Making a Blog Transition for Christmas 2021

We are going to take a break from the Anglican, Religious, Financial, Cultural, and other news until later in the Christmas season to focus from this evening forward on the great miracle of the Incarnation–KSH.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Christmas

(Reuters) Deepfake anyone: AI synthetic media tech enters perilous phase

“Do you want to see yourself acting in a movie or on TV?” said the description for one app on online stores, offering users the chance to create AI-generated synthetic media, also known as deepfakes.

“Do you want to see your best friend, colleague, or boss dancing?” it added. “Have you ever wondered how would you look if your face swapped with your friend’s or a celebrity’s?”

The same app was advertised differently on dozens of adult sites: “Make deepfake porn in a sec,” the ads said. “Deepfake anyone.”

How increasingly sophisticated technology is applied is one of the complexities facing synthetic media software, where machine learning is used to digitally model faces from images and then swap them into films as seamlessly as possible.

The technology, barely four years old, may be at a pivotal point, according to interviews with companies, researchers, policymakers and campaigners.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Photos/Photography, Pornography, Science & Technology

(FA) Sue Gordon and Eric Rosenbach–America’s Cyber-Reckoning: How to Fix a Failing Strategy

A decade ago, the conventional wisdom held that the world was on the cusp of a new era of cyberconflict in which catastrophic computer-based attacks would wreak havoc on the physical world. News media warned of doomsday scenarios; officials in Washington publicly fretted about a “cyber–Pearl Harbor” that would take lives and destroy critical infrastructure. The most dire predictions, however, did not come to pass. The United States has not been struck by devastating cyberattacks with physical effects; it seems that even if U.S. adversaries wanted to carry out such assaults, traditional forms of deterrence would prevent them from acting.

Behind those mistaken warnings lay an assumption that the only alternative to cyberpeace must be cyberwar. But in the years since, it has become clear that like all realms of conflict, the domain of cyberspace is shaped not by a binary between war and peace but by a spectrum between those two poles—and most cyberattacks fall somewhere in that murky space. The obvious upside of this outcome is that the worst fears of death and destruction have not been realized. There is a downside, however: the complex nature of cyberconflict has made it more difficult for the United States to craft an effective cyberstrategy. And even if lives have not been lost and infrastructure has mostly been spared, it is hardly the case that cyberattacks have been harmless. U.S. adversaries have honed their cyber-skills to inflict damage on U.S. national security, the American economy, and, most worrisome of all, American democracy. Meanwhile, Washington has struggled to move past its initial perception of the problem, clinging to outmoded ideas that have limited its responses. The United States has also demonstrated an unwillingness to consistently confront its adversaries in the cyber-realm and has suffered from serious self-inflicted wounds that have left it in a poor position to advance its national interests in cyberspace.

To do better, the United States must focus on the most pernicious threats of all: cyberattacks aimed at weakening societal trust, the underpinnings of democracy, and the functioning of a globalized economy. The Biden administration seems to recognize the need for a new approach. But to make significant progress, it will need to reform the country’s cyberstrategy, starting with its most fundamental aspect: the way Washington understands the problem.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(NYT) The End of a Return-to-Office Date

The executives had a good feeling about Jan. 10, 2022 — the date when DocuSign’s 7,000 employees worldwide would finally come back to work.

This deadline wouldn’t be like that earlier one in May 2020, which was always a fantasy, or August 2020, which was a bit ambitious, or October 2021, a plan derailed by the Delta variant. Fourth time’s the charm.

“Every time we delay this we’re pushing off the inevitable,” said Joan Burke, the chief people officer, in a late November interview. “At some point in time DocuSign is going to be open.”

That some point in time is no longer in January. The Omicron variant interjected. Just as companies from Ford Motor to Lyft have done in the past week, DocuSign postponed again. In place of a new date came the company’s promise to “reassess our plans as 2022 unfolds.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

Gallup Chairman’s blog–Bet on It: 37% of Desks Will Be Empty

I recently asked a team of our advanced analysts to establish an over/under for how many U.S. employees will not be returning to the office full time in the future.

Here are some key facts I learned from them. There are 125 million full-time jobs in America. Of those, right at 50% — or about 60 million — report that their current job can be done remotely working from home. We interviewed a representative sample of them.

The research design included organizations ranging from accounting firms where all employees can work from home (WFH) to construction companies where 10% of employees are in corporate backrooms and can also work remotely. The sample includes everyone from any kind of organization who believes they can do their work from home.

Of those 60 million potential WFH employees, a staggering 30% said they would prefer to “never” come into the office during the week. Ten percent (10%) said they prefer working all five days in the office. The middle 60% want a blend of one to four days per week. The most common preference was two to three days in the office per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die

[Warning: contains difficult subject matter] As Matthew van Antwerpen, a 17-year-old in suburban Dallas, struggled with remote schooling during the pandemic last year, he grew increasingly despondent. Searching online, he found a website about suicide.

“Any enjoyment or progress I make in my life simply comes across as forced,” he wrote on the site after signing up. “I know it is all just a distraction to blow time until the end.”

Roberta Barbos, a 22-year-old student at the University of Glasgow, first posted after a breakup, writing that she was “unbearably lonely.” Shawn Shatto, 25, described feeling miserable at her warehouse job in Pennsylvania. And Daniel Dal Canto, a 16-year-old in Salt Lake City, shared his fears that an undiagnosed stomach ailment might never get better.

Soon after joining, each of them was dead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Psychology, Science & Technology, Suicide, Theology

(The Economist) How to manage the Great Resignation–High staff churn is here to stay. Retention strategies require a rethink

The spike in staff departures known as the Great Resignation is centred on America: a record 3% of the workforce there quit their jobs in September. But employees in other places are also footloose. Resignations explain why job-to-job moves in Britain reached a record high in the third quarter of this year.

Some of the churn is transitory. It was hard to act on pent-up job dissatisfaction while economies were in free fall, so there is a post-pandemic backlog of job switches to clear. And more quitting now is not the same as sustained job-hopping later. As Melissa Swift of Mercer, a consultancy, notes, white-collar workers in search of higher purpose will choose a new employer carefully and stay longer.

But there is also reason to believe that higher rates of churn are here to stay. The prevalence of remote working means that more roles are plausible options for more jobseekers. And the pandemic has driven home the precariousness of life at the bottom of the income ladder. Resignation rates are highest in industries, like hospitality, that are full of low-wage workers who have lots of potentially risky face-to-face contact with colleagues and customers.

Read it all (requires registration).

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

Happy American Thanksgiving to all Blog Readers!

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, History

(Nature) Giant, free index to world’s research papers released online

In a project that could unlock the world’s research papers for easier computerized analysis, an American technologist has released online a gigantic index of the words and short phrases contained in more than 100 million journal articles — including many paywalled papers.

The catalogue, which was released on 7 October and is free to use, holds tables of more than 355 billion words and sentence fragments listed next to the articles in which they appear. It is an effort to help scientists use software to glean insights from published work even if they have no legal access to the underlying papers, says its creator, Carl Malamud. He released the files under the auspices of Public Resource, a non-profit corporation in Sebastopol, California that he founded.

Malamud says that because his index doesn’t contain the full text of articles, but only sentence snippets up to five words long, releasing it does not breach publishers’ copyright restrictions on the re-use of paywalled articles. However, one legal expert says that publishers might question the legality of how Malamud created the index in the first place.

Some researchers who have had early access to the index say it’s a major development in helping them to search the literature with software — a procedure known as text mining. Gitanjali Yadav, a computational biologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, who studies volatile organic compounds emitted by plants, says she aims to comb through Malamud’s index to produce analyses of the plant chemicals described in the world’s research papers. “There is no way for me — or anyone else — to experimentally analyse or measure the chemical fingerprint of each and every plant species on Earth. Much of the information we seek already exists, in published literature,” she says. But researchers are restricted by lack of access to many papers, Yadav adds.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology