Category : Corporations/Corporate Life

(The Hill) Lawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology

Lawmakers are concerned that advances in video manipulation technology could set off a new era of fake news. Now legislators say they want to start working on fixes to the problem before it’s too late.

Technology experts have begun to sound the alarm on the new software, which lets users take existing videos and make high-quality altered video and audio that appears real. The emergence of the technology opens up a new world of hoaxes driven by doctored audio or video, and threatens to shake faith in the media even further.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the most vocal members of Congress on tech issues, painted a grim picture about what the advances could mean for the future of discerning truth in media.

“Since we can’t rely on the responsibility of individual actors or the platforms they use, I fully expect there will be a proliferation of these sorts of fictions to a degree that nearly drowns out actual facts,” Wyden told The Hill.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(BBC) Church of England’s Sports Direct criticism praised

The Church of England still holds a minority stake in tycoon Mike Ashley’s chain, the BBC understands, but continues to engage over key areas of concern.

A spokesman confirmed it sent letters to Sports Direct attacking executive pay and working conditions.

The letters were sent over the last two years, when Sports Direct was dealing with union claims of not treating workers as humans at the Shirebrook headquarters, according to the Press Association.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(C of E) Church Investors group announces a harder line on Annual General Meeting voting policy

The CIG has tightened its voting policy in three main areas:

Executive pay

The CIG will review fairness in the workplace and will withdraw support for remuneration reports where pay ratios are not disclosed, Chief Executive pensions are excessive, or where financial services or pharmaceutical companies do not pay the living wage.

Gender diversity

CIG members will now vote against the re-election of nomination committee chairs where the board has less than 33% women and it will vote against all directors on the nomination committee where less than 25% of board directors are women.

Climate change

CIG members now vote against the re-election of the company chair when a company is making little progress to transition to a low carbon world….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Stewardship, Stock Market, Theology

(NBC) A brief video that will brighten your day–Meet 18-month-old Lucas, The First Gerber Baby With Down Syndrome

Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Media

(NYT) Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Mr. [Roger] McNamee said he had joined the Center for Humane Technology because he was horrified by what he had helped enable as an early Facebook investor.

“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he said. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm.

“This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong,” Mr. McNamee said.

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

(NYT) Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future

There are no shopping carts or baskets inside Amazon Go. Since the checkout process is automated, what would be the point of them anyway? Instead, customers put items directly into the shopping bag they’ll walk out with.

Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket.

The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves — arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won’t say much about how the system works, other than to say it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

Irwin Stelzer–Silicon Valley at the Intersection of Facebook and the iPhone

“Forgive me Lord, for I knew not what I was doing.”

No, not Victor Frankenstein after creating his monster. Instead, Tony Fadell, co-creator of the iPhone; and Chamath Palihapitiya and Roger McNamee, a former Facebook executive and investor, respectively. Even Mark Zuckerberg confesses concern with his creation, although in a round-about way: “Facebook has a lot of work to do”, … and his “personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues.”

We have here a test of whether corporate capitalism is capable of self-reform, or whether politicians around the world will seize this opportunity to expand the regulatory state, here and abroad. So far, self-correction, driven by the profit motive, seems to be the answer to a set of problems that threaten to convert a host of proudly self-styled “disrupters” from heroes to zeroes.

Eleven years ago almost to the day Apple ended decades in which we were tethered to the wires of telephone company monopolies; Facebook has provided two billion people with a news source and a platform on which to display pictures of their cats and for Vladimir Putin to interfere in nations’ elections. Such radical change inevitably creates problems, just as, for example, Detroit’s creation, the mass-produced automobile, brought enormous benefits but also created environmental problems. So it created a demand for regulations galore, from seat belts to regulations on the content and use of gasoline. Now it’s the turn of the creations of Silicon Valley, which might have spawned social problems only now being understood.

Start with Apple, which has already bruised its reputation in some circles by refusing to help the FBI unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, bowing to Chinese censorship in order to retain access to its market, and turning tax avoidance into a (perfectly legal) fine art, becoming the corporate equivalent of David Goodhart’s rootless man from “anywhere,” described in his much-read “The Road to Somewhere.” It is now charged with harming children and producing an iGen (born in 1995 or later) that is “on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades” according to Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. Studies purport to show that opioids are not the only addictive substances available to teens. They also suffer from cell phone addiction that produces “depressive symptoms” (University of Basle), increased risk of suicide (University of San Diego), and poor scholastic performance after sleep-deprived nights on their cell phones.

Then there is Facebook….

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

(Church Times) Bishop Holtam welcomes Government’s campaign against plastic

The ambition behind the Government’s new environmental plans is “terrific”, and shows it to be “caring for God’s creation” the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, has said.

Bishop Holtam, the C of E’s lead bishop on environmental issues, said on Thursday that it was good news that the environment had become a priority, and that there was “a recognition of the state we are in”.

It was “a very significant document”, Bishop Holtam said, and accompanied by a “very significant speech”.

The plan was unveiled by the Prime Minister on Thursday morning. The Government is to introduce a raft of proposals designed to eliminate all avoidable plastic by 2042.

Speaking at the launch of the Government’s new 25-year environmental plan on Thursday, the Prime Minister announced a war on plastic waste, calling it “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(WSJ) Silicon Valley Reconsiders the iPhone Era It Created

A tussle this week between prominent investors and Apple Inc. over iPhone use by young people comes amid a nascent re-evaluation of the smartphone’s social consequences within the industry that spawned it.

The smartphone has fueled much of Silicon Valley’s soaring profits over the past decade, enriching companies in sectors from social media to games to payments. But over the past year or so, a number of prominent industry figures have voiced concerns about the downsides of the technology’s ubiquity.

They include Apple executives who helped create the iPhone and now express misgivings about how smartphones monopolize attention, as well as early investors and executives in Facebook Inc. who worry about social media’s tendency to consume ever more user time, in part by pushing controversial content.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

Today in History

Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(FT) ExxonMobil bows to shareholder pressure, vows to improve disclosure of impact assessment from policies to tackle warming

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil and gas group, will start publishing reports on the possible impact of climate policies on its business, bowing to investor demands for improved disclosure of the risks it faces.

The decision is the biggest success so far for investors who have been pushing companies to do more to acknowledge the threat they face from climate change and from policies that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In a regulatory filing on Monday evening, Exxon said it would introduce “enhancements” to its reporting, including analysis of the impact of policies designed to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2C, an internationally agreed objective.

At Exxon’s annual meeting in May, investors controlling about 62 per cent of the shares backed a proposal filed by a group of shareholders led by the New York state employees’ retirement fund calling for an annual assessment of the impact of technological change and climate policy on the company’s operations.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

([London] Times) Google’s DeepMind robot becomes world-beating chess grandmaster in four hours

“Many have become chess masters; no one has become the master of chess.” So said Siegbert Tarrasch, one of the most eminent players of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 21st century, however, the foe appears at last to have been overcome, and what’s more it was managed in little more than the time between breakfast and lunch.

Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence algorithm taught itself hundreds of years of chess knowledge and tactics and then surpassed all previous human invention in the game — all in four hours. Its AlphaZero program was given the basic rules and worked out unique winning strategies by playing games against itself numerous times, according to details published by New York’s Cornell University. The research has yet to be peer reviewed.

Google’s DeepMind division said that it played 100 games against Stockfish 8, the world-leading specialist software, and won or drew them all, with each program given one minute to ponder each move.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(NR) David French–The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

This is where faith has to trump politics. Defending predators in the Church — or going the extra mile to grant them the benefit of the doubt — for the sake of protecting a political advantage carries with it great costs. The church is already defined in the eyes of a hostile secular culture more by its quest for power than its faithfulness to scripture.

More importantly, this is where faith has to trump fear and uncertainty. We have to understand that there is no way around dependence on God. There is no formula for child-rearing. There is no foolproof guide to a happy marriage. No man can tell you how to secure your health or lead you to wealth. There is no community anyone can build that can protect its members from sin or temptation, and the utopian impulse itself can crack open the door to hell. Roy Moore’s world is a world built on fear. It’s a world that glories in its extremes.

It’s a world that’s destined for ruin, and before it goes down, it will consume and damage the most vulnerable among us — unless we end the cult of the Christian celebrity and the quest for certainty first.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Chasing a new type of Buzz–Big Brewer Makes a Play for Marijuana Beverages

The U.S. distributor of Corona beer is chasing a new type of buzz.

Constellation Brands Inc. has agreed to take a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth Corp. , a Canadian marijuana company, and plans to work with the grower to develop and market cannabis-infused beverages.

Canopy Growth is the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company, with a market valuation of 2.2 billion Canadian dollars on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The C$245 million (US$191 million) deal gives Constellation a toehold in an industry that the brewer expects to be legalized nationwide in the U.S. in the coming years.

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Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Canada, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

(WSJ) What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism’s Future

Five centuries ago this week, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation by hammering his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

His legacy raises questions that resonate for investors today: Can Communist China become a rich country? And does the political swing towards populism threaten economic growth?

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance