Current affairs

Jun 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "So, who might seize the throne? Two obvious possibilities are Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and his son Dmitry, the minister of agriculture. Another is Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who deliberately appeared on television hard at work during the crisis, while Putin reportedly flew to safety in Valdai, far from the Kremlin. Then there is Dyumin, as well as Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who controls his own powerful armed force."
Jun 25th 2023
EXTRACT: "......because Prigozhin and his men enjoy the supportof many Russians. For them, Prigozhin is a hero, not a traitor, because he is one of the only public figures who dares to speak the truth about the Kremlin’s incompetent management of the war. And they also see in him a fatherly commander standing up for the soldiers whose lives are being thrown away needlessly by Putin’s clumsy, corrupt generals. People who think this way may well make up a very large part of Russian society. Whether Prigozhin ultimately is imprisoned, executed, or victorious, he will remain an icon for them."
Jun 25th 2023
EXTRACT: "While it might be tempting to conclude that the gut microbes identified as being associated with signs of preclinical Alzheimer’s are also contributing to developing the disease, the study does not provide any evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. However, if a connection can be established, it opens up an exciting possibility that future treatments for Alzheimer’s might target the microbes in our gut."
Jun 18th 2023
EXTRACT: "When it comes to sustainability, however, US fiscal policy receives a low score. Amid the short-term fluctuations, it is often easy to lose sight of the long-term trajectory. Public debt, as a share of GDP, peaked at the end of World War II and then gradually declined until the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s, which led to record deficits. Since then, the debt-to-GDP ratio has steadily risen, almost reaching its 1946 record in 2020. Only during the period 1996-2000, under President Bill Clinton, did this trend temporarily reverse."
Jun 14th 2023
EXTRACT: "It is by no means clear that the latest banking crisis has run its course. There are concerns about the so-called shadow banking system, largely unregulated financial institutions that now make up half of all global financial assets. For example, in the US many people invest in money market funds, which pay higher interest than banks, but provide no deposit insurance."
Jun 9th 2023
EXTRACT: "Given the scale of the ECB’s bond holdings, however, its approach to quantitative tightening (QT) seems downright homeopathic. At the current rate, bringing the asset-purchase program to zero will take roughly 15 years (and this does not even account for the fact that the ECB continues to reinvest all maturing assets purchased under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program). "
Jun 9th 2023
EXTRACT: "Hardly a week goes by without various pioneers in artificial intelligence issuing dire warnings about the technology that they introduced to the world." ---- " I have my doubts. Since the start of my professional life in the 1980s (and of course for much longer), technological progress has repeatedly been held up as a major threat to jobs in key industries such as automobile manufacturing. Yet...."
May 31st 2023
EXTRACT: "In discussions about the implications of artificial intelligence (AI), someone almost always evokes the ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s box. In the modern fairytale version of the story, Pandora is depicted as a tragically curious young woman who opens a sealed urn and inadvertently releases eternal misery on humankind. Like the genie that has escaped the bottle, the horse that has fled the barn, and the train that has left the station, the myth has become a cliché. And yet the actual story of Pandora is far more apropos to debates about AI and machine learning than many realize. What it shows is that it is better to listen to “Prometheans” who are concerned about humanity’s future than “Epimetheans” who are easily dazzled by the prospect of short-term gains. One of the oldest Greek myths, the story of Pandora was first recorded more than 2,500 years ago, in the time of Homer. In the original telling, Pandora was not some innocent girl who succumbed to the temptation to open a forbidden jar. Rather, as the poet Hesiod tells us, Pandora was “made, not born.” Having been commissioned by all-powerful Zeus and designed to his cruel specifications by Hephaestus, the god of invention, Pandora was a lifelike android created to look like a bewitching maiden. Her purpose was to entrap mortals as a manifestation of kalos kakon: “evil hidden in beauty.”
May 31st 2023
EXTRACT: "Specifically, many believe that the arrival of artificial general intelligence (AGI) – an AI that can teach itself to perform any cognitive task that humans can do – will pose an existential threat to humanity. A carelessly designed AGI (or one governed by unknown “black box” processes) could carry out its tasks in ways that compromise fundamental elements of our humanity. After that, what it means to be human could come to be mediated by AGI."
May 29th 2023
EXTRACT: "In his 2018 book Destined For War, political scientist Graham Allison observes that the US and China are headed toward what he called the “Thucydides’ Trap,” a reference to the ancient Greek historian’s account of Sparta’s efforts to suppress the rise of Athens, which ultimately culminated in the Peloponnesian War. A better analogy, however, is the message sent by the Athenians to the inhabitants of the besieged island of Melos before executing the men and enslaving the women and children: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." ---- Allowing China and other authoritarian countries to shape the rules would result in a world order based solely on this “realist” principle. It is a nightmare scenario that the G7 countries and other liberal democracies must strive to prevent. ---- China’s assertions about the decline of the West reveal an underlying anxiety. After all, if liberal democracy is failing, why do Chinese officials consistently express their fear of it? The fact that leaders of the Communist Party of China have instructed rank-and-file members to engage in an “intense struggle” against liberal-democratic values indicates that they view open societies as an existential threat."
May 28th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) decreed that generative AI content must “embody core socialist values and must not contain any content that subverts state power, advocates the overthrow of the socialist system, incites splitting the country or undermines national unity.' ” .... "This implies that the harder the CAC tries to control ChatGPT content, the smaller the resulting output of chatbot-generated Chinese intelligence will be – yet another constraint on the AI intellectual revolution in China. Unsurprisingly, the early returns on China’s generative-AI efforts have been disappointing."
May 20th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Cognitive dissonance occurs when one’s beliefs and actions conflict with each other." .... "This conflict might constrain people from acquiring new information that will increase the existing dissonance" .... "if someone commits wholeheartedly to Trump, they may well experience dissonance as they watch the news from that Manhattan courthouse. But they don’t necessarily stop supporting him. Instead, they might seek yet more information about the “deep state” and how it is persecuting Trump, or preach more about his positive attributes and the witch hunt against him." .... " If so, we can expect to see more conspiracy theories and more proselytising from the hardcore supporters going into 2024 and beyond. Donald Trump may not be finished just yet."
May 11th 2023
EXTRACT: "....the US possesses advantages in developing large language models (LLMs). It benefits from close business-university collaboration, lubricated by a deep-pocketed venture-capital industry. It is no coincidence that ChatGPT came out of the US, and out of Greater Silicon Valley in particular." .... "Developing countries would seem to be at a significant disadvantage in this AI arms race and are at risk of losing their competitive advantage: abundant low-cost labor. Yet AI also holds out the promise of benefits for these countries." .... " however, economic development depends on human development – that is, on the accumulation of human capital. Where developing countries lack the resources, financial and otherwise, to increase significantly their spending on traditional modes of education, AI holds out hope for providing what is missing."
May 2nd 2023
EXTRACT: "The past decade has not been kind to neoliberalism. With 40 years of deregulation, financialization, and globalization having failed to deliver prosperity for anyone but the rich, the United States and other Western liberal democracies have seemingly moved on from the neoliberal experiment and re-embraced industrial policy. But the economic paradigm that underpinned Thatcherism, Reaganomics, and the Washington Consensus is alive and well in at least one place: the pages of the Economist."
Apr 25th 2023
EXTRACT: "Yet there is an important twist for the US: a chronic shortfall of domestic saving casts the economic consequences of conflict with China in a very different light. In 2022, net US saving – the depreciation-adjusted saving of households, businesses, and the government sector – fell to just 1.6% of national income, far below the longer-term 5.8% average from 1960 to 2020. Lacking in saving and wanting to invest and grow, the US takes full advantage of the dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” as the world’s dominant reserve currency and freely imports surplus saving from abroad, running a massive current-account and multilateral trade deficit to attract foreign capital."
Mar 31st 2023
EXTRACT: "Although the EU will have gained more internal stability, its basic character will have changed. Security will be a central concern for the foreseeable future. The EU will have to start thinking of itself as a geopolitical power and as a defense community working closely with NATO. Its identity will no longer be defined mainly by its economic community, its common market, or its customs union. The bloc has already accepted Ukraine as a candidate for future membership, and that decision was driven almost entirely by geopolitical considerations (as was also the case, previously, with Turkey and the West Balkan states)."
Mar 30th 2023
EXTRACT: "As I have long warned, central banks ..... will likely wimp out (by curtailing monetary-policy normalization) to avoid a self-reinforcing economic and financial meltdown, .... "
Mar 30th 2023
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu is simply unfit to be prime minister of Israel. He is a liar, a schemer and a fraud. If he has an ounce of integrity left in him, he should resign and save the country instead of stopping short of nothing, however evil, to save his skin."
Mar 29th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Though Mao Zedong viewed himself as Joseph Stalin’s peer, leading the world’s peasant communists as Stalin led its proletarians, behind closed doors Stalin reportedly called Mao a “caveman Marxist” and a “talentless partisan.” " ----- "Stalin’s behavior enraged Mao." ---- "When ..... Khrushchev, took over as Soviet premier following Stalin’s death in 1953, Mao paid back for Stalin’s disdain – and then some. On his return from his trip to Beijing in 1958, Khrushchev talked incessantly about how unpleasant his experience had been." ---- "Even if Xi did not have the upper hand before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his war of choice in Ukraine, he certainly has it now..." --- "So, when Xi arrived in Moscow ..... he carried himself with an air of superiority, whereas Putin’s expressions appeared strained."
Mar 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "The spectacular collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) – the second-largest bank failure in US history – has evoked memories of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which sparked the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But the current situation is, at least for Germans and other Europeans, more reminiscent of the “founder’s crash” (Gründerkrach) of 1873. Then, as now, an era of cheap credit had fueled a tech boom and then triggered a banking crisis. In those days, the startups were in railroads, electronics, and chemistry, but there were also a large number of financial startups rising with the tide. In both cases, the crisis was rooted in bad accounting rules that turned the financial system into a playground for gamblers."

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