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The Age of Big DataThe term "Big Data" was coined in 2008 and caught on quickly as a blanket term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional data processing applications.
Big data is being generated by everything around us at all times. Every digital process and social media exchange produces it. Systems, sensors and mobile devices transmit it. Big data arrives from multiple sources at high speed, huge volume and variety. To extract meaningful value from big data, requires optimal processing power, analytics capabilities and skills.
Analyzing “big data” is becoming a key competitive advantage, generating waves of productivity growth, innovation and consumer surplus. Every business will have to grapple with the implications. The increasing amount and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia and social media and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth.
McKinsey Research reports that Big Data is now an important factor of production, along with labor and capital. By 2009, every company with more than 1,000 employees, in nearly all sectors in the US economy, already had an average of 200 terabytes of stored data per company.
There are five broad ways in which using big data can create value:
McKinsey predicts that there will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data.
Several issues will have to be addressed to capture the full potential of big data. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability will need to be addressed in a big data world.
Organizations need not only to put the right talent and technology in place but also structure workflows and incentives to optimize the use of big data.
CEO pay jumps - worker pay slumpsMost thinking Americans now foresee a dismal, declining future for this countryÕs working middle class. Previous generations always had the prospect of upward mobility. But today, other than the very rich, working Americans are struggling for the economic growth that was normal and had become accepted in this Òland of opportunityÓ over the past century.
This deep-seated social change raises a profound dilemma: Either business must find ways to expand economic opportunity, or income redistribution will emerge. It's unlikely that most Americans will continue to support an economic system that benefits only a tiny minority. Surveying the gross inequalities, one journalist recently asked: “Are the bread riots finally coming?”
The Economic Policy Institute expects that by 2020, 30% of American workers will hold low-wage jobs that would put them below the poverty level. The combination of high debt and low wages means that some people may have to work until their early 70s.
In the meantime, last year chief executives of the nation's largest companies earned an average of $ 12.3 million in total pay - 354 times more than the typical American worker. Many businesses are hoarding cash rather than distributing income downwards.
The average multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is up 20% since 2009. More than 3 years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers still remain unknown. Mandatory disclosures remain locked in the bowels of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Meantime, some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.
If America really wants to confront its growing class divide, it needs to generate broad-based economic growth, rather than simply feathering the nests of the already rich, privileged and well-connected.
Should the Middle Class Abandon the American Dream?The New York Times recently reported that the American middle class can no longer call itself the richest in the world. Says the NYT, "While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades." America's poorest citizens now lag behind their European counterparts.
Over the past few years, particularly since the bursting of the housing bubble, there have been increasing calls for middle-class Americans to "scale down" from their private homes. Americans would be better off not buying homes and living smaller, for the sake of their own economic situations.
Homeownership in America peaked in 2002 at nearly 70% and has now dropped to 65% in 2013, the lowest level in 15 years. Most analysts agree that home ownership will likely continue to fall in coming years.
Largely unable to invest in the stock market, home ownership has been the one place where middle classes could gain equity. For many, it was the only large investment they could afford. At least, it provided a place to live and offset the rent that had to be paid otherwise.
The long-standing American ideal was, "If you work hard anything is possible". But today, the opportunity for social advancement feels increasingly out of reach for more and more people, and for their children. The distressing trend in the US today is that those in their 20s and 30s are less likely to have a high school diploma than those in their 50s. Still, by die-hard habit, America swaggers along on the world stage with a certainty and sense of moral purpose that no other country can match.
The prolific writer Joel Kotkin suggests that sparking economic growth presents a challenge. It requires a shift in priorities. It is not enough merely to blame the so-called 1%, but to shift the benefits of growth away from the current narrow finance and high-tech sectors, and more towards a broad array of productive enterprise.
The American economy’s capacity for renewal remains much greater than widely believed. Rather than a permanent condition of slow growth, the US could be on the cusp of another period of broad-based expansion, spurred in part by its rapidly growing natural gas and oil production. Cheap and abundant natural gas is luring investment from Europe and Asia and providing good-paying American jobs.
This, along with growth in manufacturing, could spark better times for the middle class, as would the re-igniting of single-family home construction.
If America really wants to confront its growing class divide, it needs to spark such broad-based economic growth, rather than simply feathering the nests of the already rich, privileged and well-connected.
Book - Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas PicketyAn economics book seems to have captivated America’s Main Street, Wall Street and Washington’s trend-minded policymakers overnight. “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by 43-year-old French economist Thomas Piketty recently hit number one on the Amazon best-seller list.
The 685-page tome analyzes hundreds of years of tax records from the US, France, UK, Germany and Japan to prove a simple idea: The rich really are getting richer. Their wealth does not trickle down - it trickles up.
Piketty believes that without major tax policy reform, the inequality gap can only widen. And there's a strong possibility that some kind of global revolution will come - even if its just a revolution in how wealth is considered.
The title that clearly reflects Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” and some of Piketty’s proposals certainly seem Marxist - such as an 80% tax on incomes over $500,000 and an annual 10% wealth tax for large fortunes.
Some influential thinkers believe that a wealth tax is inevitable in the “rich” countries whose governments are increasingly going broke. If properly structured (low rates with no loopholes), a US wealth tax, combined with much lower personal and corporate income tax rates would likely stimulate a growth boom.
The runaway success of Thomas Piketty’s book shows that the wealth tax is generating serious attention. Without any real alternatives, this type of thinking must inevitably capture the hearts and minds of the American people. The unbalanced economies of the world will quickly follow.
7 Billion OthersDuring a visit to Brazil about 3 years ago, we saw an exhibit at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art.
We entered a large room where we were surrounded by video mosaic displays featured on four enormous screens, about 50 feet x 30 feet, with hundreds of faces of people from different countries, with different appearance and dress, all speaking silently. Then one of the videos gets larger and you hear that person talk in their own language, with text below so anyone could follow.
The display was titled, "6 billion Others". It is a moving experience to follow the video testimonies of 6,000 people as each person is asked, “There are 6 billion of us on Planet Earth. What message would you like to share with the Others?”
Their messages are sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes sad, but always touching and moving. You hear and see their laughter, their dreams, their fears, their joys.
The project, launched in 2003, is now “7 Billion Others”. Writes one of the founders, Yann Arthus-Bertrand:
“The time in which one could think only of oneself or of one’s own small community is over. We must find out what it is that links us and the responsibilities that this implies.”
These are questions that have always been asked by Humanity everywhere. Forty-five questions that help us to find out what separates and what unites us.
Here are some of the questions. It’s a good exercise for yourself, to review the questions and reflect on your own answers.
eFeedbackChris Schene posted this on Facebook after reading my comments on Selfish Capitalism. Chris is American and I've decided to publish his comments in their entirety.
"I have worked in Europe and Canada and I do not think much of the US. I'm sorry that my exposure to other countries was so late in my career; I would have emigrated either to Canada or Europe had I been able to make the comparison in my 20's.
"The US is an oppressive police state that treats its poor very badly. We incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than any other country and most of those incarcerated are poor and uneducated.
"The US tolerates poverty because it is indifferent, greedy, lazy and mean spirited. The oligarchs never would have been able to take over if the people had actually taken an interest in our political system. Now, with the Citizen's United supreme Court ruling, corporations are treated as people from a legal perspective.
"Outside of revolution I see no way to take back the power that rightfully belongs to the American people. The really sad thing is that Americans really did have the power, should they have chosen to use it. But they did not and yet they still complain about the results. Most people do not even know the name of their congressman.
"Our political system is bought, packaged and controlled by a very small percentage of the ultra wealthy who have loyalty to no country. Their main goal is to suppress the will of the voters to rig the economic system so it favors their capital over our labor. The children of the wealthy do not serve in the military, yet their families control our country. They end up sending the children of the poor and middle class to die on battle fields, to protect their power and privilege.
"It is a really scary thought that with all the money controlling politics, a foreign power could actually control our election simply by funneling money through corporations."
"Well, the people who experience the loss of loved ones or children converted into bits of flesh deposited on dirt after drones, cruise missiles and night grenade attacks would disagree.
"Imagine being murdered in cold blood because of something you said on a cell phone call or an internet message like this one. As a likely NSA target, I wonder what I ever said or did to justify the many actions taken against me and my employers simply because of my decision to become an investigative journalist and independent scientist.
"I find that many of those who support cold-blooded murder without hope for trial and judicial decision usually are investors in stocks and drive expensive cars - as opposed to the victims that Snowden was attempting to protect via his disclosures."
"If you were a new employee say in a huge Amazon type workplace, you would be handed a pair of Google glasses, as part of the tools for the job
"You could hop on a forklift or walk and the glasses would guide you to the exact location of an item, even pointing to the area that it was on the shelf where the item was stored. No need to know where anything is anymore; no need to have months or years experience in knowing where things were. This makes it far more efficient for the product pickers.
"I don't suppose it will be long before this type of technology is embraced by mainstream Amazon type companies."
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