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Family offices are diving into new markets
August 1, 2019 | Financial Times | by Gillian Tett.

Once, property advisers mainly sold malls to developers, retail groups or banks. Now, however, there is rising demand from family offices. The new owner of Water Tower Place was said to have experience acquiring and managing other “trophy quality, grocery-anchored shopping centers” in the US.

As the Fed and other central banks loosen monetary policy, private pools of capital are searching for ever-more innovative ways to earn returns. ....It is not easy to monitor such financial flows with precision, since the family office sector — which is estimated to control almost $6tn in assets — is highly secretive. However, financiers say that a shift is under way. A few decades ago, the sector (like most asset managers) put most of its money in public bond and equity markets, with a smaller allocation to real estate.

Then investing in hedge funds became all the rage. But a survey conducted late last year by UBS bank and Campden Wealth suggests just 5.7 per cent of family office assets now sit in hedge funds, sharply down from recent years. Meanwhile, the allocation to public markets is also falling, with just 28 per cent in equities and 16 per cent in bonds.

At the same time, investments in private equity and real estate have risen to account for 22 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. This trend seems set to intensify.....“Family offices continue to re-evaluate traditional approaches to investing [with] accelerating interest in making direct investments in real estate and operating businesses.”

This means that family offices are no longer just investing in private equity funds (which are already bloated with cash), but increasingly cutting direct deals. ...The more that elite private pools of capital find juicy returns outside public markets, the more this risks fuelling wealth gaps. After all, most non-elite investors remain stuck in public markets and bank deposits, exposed to the vagaries of low interest rates.

This return gap may be going largely unnoticed now, because private markets are so opaque. However, the difference is likely to grow.
family_office  Gillian_Tett  trends  opacity 
10 weeks ago by jerryking
Why is America so bad at information wars?
JULY 18, 2018 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

In his new book Messing With the Enemy, Clint Watts, a former FBI agent, describes this exchange as the first “international-terrorist-versus-counter-terrorist Twitter battle”......One way to make sense of today’s extraordinary cyber battles with the Russians is to look at how jihadi groups developed such campaigns years earlier — not least because this oft-ignored parallel shows how the US government has done a poor job fighting its enemies in cyberspace. “America sucks at information warfare,” Watts laments. “Absolutely sucks.”.....US officials attempted to fight back against Isis’s social media campaigns. Watts reveals that in 2013 while at the FBI — and later as a security consultant — he engaged in a long Twitter duel with American-born terrorist Omar Hammami. Other US intelligence groups tried to develop psychological-operations campaigns to fight the extremists. Some of the experimental techniques used to profile social media users were later deployed in the ad-tech industry by companies such as Cambridge Analytica.

However, the US military was simply too bureaucratic, slow moving and rule-laden to match its enemies. And the country that seemed to learn the most from the social media extremists was Russia: Watts describes how he inadvertently witnessed Russian-backed groups populating American social media from the autumn of 2015 onwards, copying some of the tactics of the Islamists....Watts’s proposed remedy is just as startling: he believes that US government agencies are now so ill-equipped to fight in these type of social media wars that it is time for non-government groups to take the lead instead.....many leading figures in Silicon Valley furtively express similar views. Indeed, some appear to be quietly funding civilian “volunteers” to do exactly what Watts suggests: namely, hunt for ways to counter Russian attacks by infiltrating enemy cyber groups.

Who knows whether this type of grass-roots action will work, or how widespread it might be — everything is deeply murky in the arena of cyberspace and information wars.
Gillian_Tett  information_warfare  U.S.  security_&_intelligence  Twitter  al-Shabab  books  cyber_warfare  Russians  hackers  Russia  disinformation  persuasion  trolls  politics  delegitimization  destabilization  deception  infiltration 
july 2018 by jerryking
AllianceBernstein’s Nashville move threatens New York and London
May 3, 2018 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett 10 HOURS AGO.

AllianceBernstein’s Nashville move is highly symbolic — and revealing — of the current state of finance. It highlights rising cost pressures on traditional asset managers, as investors abandon expensive, actively-run mutual funds for low-fee, passive trackers. The shift also shows how technological disruption is forcing top executives to rethink their assumptions. One obvious factor that has made it easier for a company such as AllianceBernstein to shift its physical headquarters is that the internet makes it possible to trade securities and do research anywhere in the world.

However, another, less-discussed, issue is that as financial services move into cyber space and the sector throws money at technology, companies also need to build digital facilities and hire computer technicians. That is tough to do in New York: competition for digital workers is high and it is hard to build cutting-edge computer hubs in densely packed historic buildings.

There is a third point about boardroom psychology: as executives toss those “d” words around — digital disruption — the conversations allow them to question all manner of taboos, including many that have nothing to do with computers. The idea of leaving a hallowed financial centre thus becomes easier to embrace, as costs keep rising in America’s coastal hubs.
Gillian_Tett  relocation  asset_management  cost_of_living  quality_of_life  Nashville  war_for_talent  digital_strategies  disruption 
may 2018 by jerryking
Why tech titans need an empathy handbook
April 4, 2018 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett
..........if engineers want to be better understood by consumers, they need to learn empathy for mindsets that were different from their own, or hire non-engineers. .....These days, Silicon Valley executives need to relearn these lessons — not only to make their gadgets more user-friendly, but also to create a better social contract to underpin technology in a wider sense. As criticism of the tech sector — in particular, concerns about the power of Silicon Valley — gathers momentum, the response of most of its executives has been very defensive......there is an epistemological angle too. Most of the people running the big tech companies today have come from engineering, computing or mathematical backgrounds. They are used to working by deduction and logical steps, not always prioritising emotion or empathy. They want to assemble the facts before jumping on to a public stage or making a strategic policy decision.

That works well if you are designing code or running a fast-growing team of engineers. After all, one of the striking features of the employee base at places such as Google or Facebook is just how homogenous this tribe tends to be......The problem is that what might seem routine from a software-engineering standpoint is not necessarily normal or acceptable for the wider world, and tech companies are now having to confront angry politicians, journalists and consumer groups, all of whom operate within different frameworks.....Tech executives now need to go further, not just listening to outside voices but actively trying to empathize with and understand them. .......we are all creatures of our own cultural environment, saddled with endless biases and assumptions. But, somehow, those titans of tech need to get a lesson in empathy, and see the world through non-tech eyes.
empathy  Silicon_Valley  engineering  mindsets  Gillian_Tett  empathy_vacuum  homogeneity  Big_Tech  tribes 
april 2018 by jerryking
When algorithms reinforce inequality
FEBRUARY 9, 2018 | FT | Gillian Tett.

Virginia Eubanks, a political science professor in New York, undertakes academic research was focused on digital innovation and welfare claims. ......Last month, she published Automating Inequality, a book that explores how computers are changing the provision of welfare services in three US regions: Indiana, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. It focuses on public sector services, rather than private healthcare insurance, but the message is the same: as institutions increasingly rely on predictive algorithms to make decisions, peculiar — and often unjust — outcomes are being produced. And while well-educated, middle-class people will often fight back, most poor or less educated people cannot; nor will they necessarily be aware of the hidden biases that penalise them....Eubanks concludes, is that digital innovation is reinforcing, rather than improving, inequality. ...What made the suffering doubly painful when the computer programs got it wrong was that the victims found it almost impossible to work out why the algorithms had gone against them, or to find a human caseworker to override the decision — and much of this could be attributed to a lack of resources....a similar pattern is described by the mathematician Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction. “Ill-conceived mathematical models now micromanage the economy, from advertising to prisons,” she writes. “They’re opaque, unquestioned and unaccountable and they ‘sort’, target or optimise millions of people . . . exacerbating inequality and hurting the poor.”...Is there any solution? O’Neil and Eubanks suggest that one option would be to require technologists to sign something equivalent to the Hippocratic oath, to “first do no harm”. A second — more costly — idea would be to force institutions using algorithms to hire plenty of human caseworkers to supplement the digital decision-making.

A third idea would be to ensure that the people who are creating and running the computer programs are forced to think about culture, in its broadest sense.....until now digital nerds at university have often had relatively little to do with social science nerds — and vice versa.

Computing has long been perceived to be a culture-free zone — this needs to change. But change will only occur when policymakers and voters understand the true scale of the problem. This is hard when we live in an era that likes to celebrate digitisation — and where the elites are usually shielded from the consequences of those algorithms.
Gillian_Tett  Cathy_O’Neil  algorithms  inequality  biases  books  dark_side  Pittsburgh  poverty  low-income 
february 2018 by jerryking
‘The Wisdom of Finance’, by Mihir Desai
Review by Gillian Tett

JULY 17, 2017
The Wisdom of Finance offers a thoughtful explanation of how money works that recognises how perverted the industry can be, but which also argues that “there is great value — and there are great values — in finance”.

Desai does this by using a clever and unusual device: literature. Most notably, he explains how money works by citing stories ranging from Chaucer to Jane Austen to the 1988 film Working Girl. He knows that stories are a powerful narrative device. But the wider philosophical point is, Desai argues, that one of the great failings of our modern world is a “chasm” between the arts and science, and between finance and humanities. This prevents financiers from understanding the social context in which they operate. It also means that non-financiers do not understand how finance drives our world, or the fact that money encapsulates and crystallises social patterns and values. “
books  book_reviews  finance  Gillian_Tett  humanities  Mihir_Desai  non-financial  storytelling 
december 2017 by jerryking
What the left can learn from Bannon
August 2017 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

I had a chance to chat with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist until he was ousted last week. I met him inside his so-called war room at the White House and, like most visitors, I was struck by the battle plans that lined his den: white posters laying out his goals, listed by priority and ticked off (or not).....But Bannon was different: he had four small TVs covering a range of news, and at the centre was a fifth, single big screen. That was not tuned to Fox but to CNN, a channel Trump has repeatedly criticised and dismissed as showing “fake news”. The reason? Bannon apparently likes to “watch the enemy”; not for him the cosy option of staying inside the rightwing echo chamber......Bannon is one of the most fascinating figures I’ve met....Never mind the fact that he is whip-smart and widely read, what is also striking is that he seems to have a quasi-anthropological understanding of the power of symbols and ways of defining identity, which he manipulates to advance his goals. No, I don’t like his promotion of economic nationalism. And I recoil with horror from the alt-right movement and its racist ideology......But the consistency of his beliefs is undoubtedly powerful, particularly given that most politicians seem to lack principle or passion these days. And I admire the fact that he has a clear sense of strategy and wants to watch and analyse the entire ecosystem, even if parts of it, such as CNN, represent everything he loathes......Nor was I surprised when Bannon told Financial Times reporters that he loves reading the FT (there are numerous photos of him carrying the paper under his arm). .......while much of the mainstream establishment wrings its hands, they should also ask themselves if they can learn some useful lessons from Bannon. I am not for a moment suggesting that the establishment embrace his views. But Bannon’s decision to monitor the entire media ecosystem is striking. As I have written in previous columns, the American media these days tend to be tribal. Some liberal media consumers, for example, were trapped in such an intellectual echo chamber that they barely knew about the impact of the alt-right before they saw footage of the neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.If Bannon’s critics want to fight back, they badly need to get out of their cocoon, and start clicking on to Breitbart News, watching Fox, reading message groups on Reddit and listening to rightwing radio hosts such as Glenn Beck. If that is too hard, they could take a look at the conservative commentaries on mindingthecampus.com, a website that explores the culture wars being waged at universities.....if you don’t like what is happening today, you do at least need to understand it.
Stephen_Bannon  Gillian_Tett  Breitbart  bigotry  Donald_Trump  chauvinism  Fox_News  Fox_TV  economic_nationalism  echo_chambers  alt-right  discomforts  right-wing 
august 2017 by jerryking
A proven identity offers a path to many freedoms
August 11, 2017 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

Most of us in the west take it for granted that we have an official identity, both in digital life and real life. We usually only think about it if we are worried that somebody is trying to steal it, or that governments are threatening to breach our privacy.

But in the developing world, the idea of having an identity — be that digital or in any other form — is a luxury. It is estimated that some two billion adults around the world do not have a bank account. In emerging markets, some women in particular have no way to independently identify themselves, making it difficult for them to protect their rights, access services or lift themselves out of poverty.

“Large numbers of women are unable to take control of their finances because they lack the basic documentation to open a bank account,” Okonjo-Iweala pointed out, noting that around 42 per cent of adult women in developing countries lack a bank account partly because they have no way to show a bank teller (or anyone else) who they are. 

According to research carried out by ID2020, a public-private project that’s trying to promote digital identifier systems: “Experts estimate that 1.5 ­billion people lack any form of officially recognised identification, and that’s one-fifth of the planet.” These tend to be “women and children from the poorest areas of the world”. The United Nations, meanwhile, has declared that one of its sustainable development goals is to provide everybody on the planet with a legal identity by 2030. 

The good news is that all manner of organisations and groups are now getting involved in the cause. The World Bank, for example, is working with private-sector bodies including MasterCard to create digital identities using credit platforms. Ajay Banga, MasterCard CEO, is a vocal champion of this campaign, particularly for women (partly, a cynic might suggest, because he hopes this will create a future market).

ID2020 is spearheading another non-government initiative, in conjunction with groups such as Accenture and Microsoft. Refugee bodies, including the United Nations Development Programme, are trying to create digital identities for people in camps.
digital_identity  identity  Gillian_Tett  emerging_markets  women  children  Bottom_of_the_Pyramid  low-income  developing_countries 
august 2017 by jerryking
The ever-shifting policies are always grand in this kaleidoscopic new world
June 2017 | Financial Times | by Bachu Biswas

Sir, Gillian Tett (June 17) coined the acronym FUCU, observing that the letters F, U, C and U point to four important cultural shifts among voters in the western world (“fragmentation”, “untrusting”, “customising” and “unstable”). I would argue that her acronym is missing another important letter, and that letter is K, which should be added after the letter C.

The letter K stands for “kaleidoscopic”. The Oxford dictionary describes the kaleidoscope as “a toy consisting of a tube containing mirrors and pieces of coloured glass or paper, whose reflections produce changing patterns when the tube is rotated”. The patterns in today’s politics in the make-believe worlds of Make America Great Again and Brexit are policies that are either big on the nostalgic promises of past glory or economic solutions whose time has passed; but which, when confronted with reality, are often changed instantly, modified or claimed to have been fulfilled by “alternative facts”. The facts reflected in the mirrors of alternative facts create illusions that allow voters to believe whatever they want to believe. And if that belief is not adulatory enough, the political leaders rotate the tube again to create different illusions hoping that the new images will be more favourable.

Promises are short-lived in this world of “FUC(Kaleidoscopic)U” politics, but policies are always grand.

Bachu Biswas
Gillian_Tett  kaleidoscopic  letters_to_the_editor  short-lived  policies  Brexit  politicians 
august 2017 by jerryking
Why the electoral surprises keep on rolling in
June 16, 2017 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

...."I offer up the acronym “FUCU” — not simply because this summarises what many voters think about their leaders (with apologies to anyone who is offended), but because the letters F, U, C and U point to four important trends."

The first letter, “F”, stands for “Fragmentation”. Modern voters are deeply fragmented and polarised in a social, economic and political sense....But what is fascinating about the 21st century is that while our digital technologies create the illusion that humans are hyper-connected, in fact they divide us in subtle ways....Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms enable us to connect — but only with people we actively select.... Furthermore, since these cyber platforms supply news and information, they tend to fuel tunnel vision and polarisation, as extensive research from data scientists shows.

“U”, the acronym’s second letter, stands for “Untrusting”. ...popular trust in mainstream western institutions has crumbled. But what is more interesting is to look at who people do still actively trust.

‘While our digital platforms create the illusion that humans are hyper-connected, in fact they divide us in subtle ways’....A survey conducted by the public relations firm Edelman, for example, shows that public trust in tech companies has stayed sky-high in recent years. And while trust in leaders and “experts” has fallen, it remains high for our peer groups, suggesting that trust is moving from a vertical axis to a horizontal one. So while only 37 per cent of people trust chief executive officers, 53 per cent trust employees; and while only 29 per cent trust government officials, 60 per cent trust “a person like me”.....The third letter in the acronym stands for “Customisation”. This trend is not widely discussed, but it is crucial. As digital technologies have taken hold in recent years, consumers have started to see it as a God-given right that they should be able to organise the world around their personal needs and views, instead of quietly accepting pre-packaged offerings..... these three trends produce an environment that creates an environment that is the last part of the acronym: “Unstable”. A world with a FUCU culture is a place of political cyber flash mobs, in which passion suddenly explodes around a single issue or person, then dies away. It is a place where it is hard to have a sustained conversation about political trade-offs, and where voters and politicians jump across traditional boundaries with dizzying speed, defying labels as they go.
Gillian_Tett  elections  surprises  fragmentation  customization  instability  unpredictability  trustworthiness 
august 2017 by jerryking
Trump and the problem with the new normal
Twenty years ago, Nasa scientists asked the sociologist Diane Vaughan to study the causes of the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. Vaughan responded by developing a concept she called "the norma...
Gillian_Tett  Donald_Trump  NASA  deviance  '80s  normality  White_House  complacency  normalization  tipping_points  normalization_of_deviance  new_normal 
may 2017 by jerryking
‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’ — Cultural Anthropology
Tett, Gillian. "‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, May 16, 2012.

Anthropology can be extremely useful for understanding the contemporary financial world because of all the micro-level communities—or ‘tribes’ to use the cliché term—that are cropping up around the financial system....The event pulled together bankers from all over. They staged formalized rituals with PowerPoint presentations, but also engaged in informal rituals like chitchat in the wings.

As they came together and talked, these bankers were creating a network of ties. But they were also inventing a new language they felt made them distinctive from everyone else. The way they talked about credit was to emphasize the numbers and to quite deliberately exclude any mention of social interaction from the debate and discussion. In the first couple of days I sat there, they almost never mentioned the human borrower who was at the end of that securitization chain. They were also very exclusive. There was a sense that ‘we alone have mastery over this knowledge’....Part two of the CDO gospel was that bankers had had this sudden inspiration that they should stop concentrating credit risk and find ways to scatter it across the system....Looking back there were many elements of securitization that were evidently flawed. The tools bankers were using to disburse risk across the system were themselves very opaque and complex. The very way by which they disbursed risk was actually introducing new risk into the system.......fundamental contradiction at the very heart of the system that almost nobody spotted. Why not? To put it crudely, because there were too few anthropologists, using basic anthropological techniques, trying to understand what was going on. Having an anthropological perspective is very useful. The very nature of anthropology is to try to connect up the dots. That’s something that most modern bureaucrats, most bankers, and most company executives are not able to do, precisely because they’re so darn busy running around in their silos.
Wall_Street  Gillian_Tett  anthropologists  financial_system  securitization  finance  ethnographic  insights  CDOs  connecting_the_dots  cultural_anthropology  anthropology  tribes  silo_mentality 
march 2017 by jerryking
Heed the human factor before judging leaders' achievements | Evernote Web
14 January/15 January 2017 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

Pointing out mistakes is a legitimate part of healthy journalism and civic debate. But as blaming and fingerpointing start to mount, it's worth remembering that people tend to freeze in a crisis, especially when there is a shortage of information. Hindsight is a wonderful thing for an econometric model or history book, but it downplays the human factor. There is a danger in criticizing others' decisions until you've walked in their shoes.
Gillian_Tett  human_factor  empathy  mistakes  human_errors  criticism  blaming_fingerpointing  hindsight  crisis  information_gaps  immobilize  paralyze  psychology  stress_response 
january 2017 by jerryking
Emerging markets offer clue for investors in 2017
December 31/January 1 2017 | Financial Times | by Gillian Tett.

Now (people = politicians = capriciousness/alternatively, unpredictable waves of populism) are shaping events, not established party platforms or policy programmes....the pricing of political uncertainty has moved from being an emerging market phenomenon to an emerged market issue....Is there any way for investors to adapt to this new world? ....(1) Start by abandoning the idea that asset values can be predicted by using neat economic models alone. ...investors urgently need to think about the difference between "risk" (i.e. events that can be predicted with a certain probability) and "uncertainty" (i.e. unknown future shocks). Until now, investors in developed markets have tended to focus primarily on risks and assume that these can be priced (and hedged against). But 2017 is likely to produce uncertainty. That cannot be easily priced or hedge--and investors should recognize this. (2) Investor should also embrace "optionality": the only way to prepare for a world of uncertainty is to stay as flexible and diversified as possible. Now is not the time for investors to put all their eggs in one basket, or bet on just one asset class. Nor is it time for businesses to be locked into rigid business plans: political and geopolitical upheaval could strike almost anywhere. (3) If 2017 does deliver more risk and uncertainty, expect financial markets to be "skittish" about "news" of all types, and not just economic....Bad news for those who despise market volatility (expectation: we're in for volatility like we've never seen before)....Uncertainty can deliver huge opportunity alongside risks..."good" surprises....Surviving 2017 in the developed economies requires that investors use tools beyond those found in the realm of economics: psychology, sociology and political science. Also, talk to successful emerging market investors to find out how they practice their craft.
concentration_risk  Gillian_Tett  emerging_markets  political_risk  unpredictability  Brexit  investors  Donald_Trump  uncertainty  risks  optionality  geopolitics  financial_markets  politicians  volatility  tools  economics  psychology  sociology  political_science  FT  institutions  rule_of_law  Gary_Cohn  populism  indicators  human_factor  assets  asset_values  asset_classes  diversification  dislocations  bad_news 
january 2017 by jerryking
G-zero: the new world order
October 10-11, 2015| FT | Gillian Tett


A few weeks ago, as grim news tumbled out of Syria, I travelled to a pleasant American holiday resort to participate in a conference of (mostly western) pol...
Gillian_Tett  geopolitics  Ian_Bremmer  G-Zero  foreign_policy  Cold_War 
november 2015 by jerryking
The changing face of employment - FT.com
January 30, 2015 12:41 pm
The changing face of employment
Gillian Tett

One widely cited statistic at the World Economic Forum was a projection that automation would end up replacing some 45 per cent of jobs in the US in the next 20 years. And the consensus was that it would be the middle tier of jobs that would disappear. The future of employment — at least according to Davos — is a world bifurcated between low-skilled, low-paid service jobs (say, dog walkers and cleaners) and highly skilled elite roles (computer programmers, designers and all the other jobs that Davos luminaries do). Everything else is potentially vulnerable....What is still critically unclear is how all this investment in infrastructure and training is going to be paid for. Philanthropy? Taxes? It is also unclear how mass access to the internet will recreate those disappearing mid-tier jobs. Given that, it is perhaps no surprise that when I asked a group of Davos grandees for a show of hands on whether income inequality would get worse in the coming years, almost everybody in the room voted “yes” — without hesitation. That is deeply sobering.
Gillian_Tett  WEF_Davos  innovation  middle_class  unemployment  mobile_phones  job_destruction  job_displacement  downward_mobility  hollowing_out  MIT  Erik_Brynjolfsson  automation  Andrew_McAfee 
january 2015 by jerryking
Titans of finance have moved on from the banks
14 Feb. 2014| Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

If the mighty J Pierpont Morgan were reincarnated in New York today, who might he be? Jamie Dimon, the man who is now chief executive of JPMorgan, the ...
Jamie_Dimon  private_equity  Blackstone  regulation  KKR  alternative_investments  moguls  Gillian_Tett 
may 2014 by jerryking
The Lost Art of Finance
15 Mar. 2014| Financial Times | Gillian Tett.


'Back in the days when "money" meant sacks of gold coins, artists had something tangible to paint'

Last month I received a striking request fro...
Gillian_Tett  art  finance  Wall_Street 
may 2014 by jerryking
Look beyond the obvious to understand an artwork
Sir, Gillian Tett (" The lost art of finance ", March 15) rightly argues that a more creative approach to finance would be beneficial and that art can be a useful means of gaining a fresh perspective....
finance  Wall_Street  art  museums  fresh_eyes  letters_to_the_editor  artists  artwork  art_galleries  Gillian_Tett  perspectives  paintings  interpretation  latent  art_appreciation 
may 2014 by jerryking
How should we analyse our lives? - FT.com
January 17, 2014 | FT |Gillian Tett.

“Social physics helps us understand how ideas flow from person to person . . . and ends up shaping the norms, productivity and creative output of our companies, cities and societies,” writes Pentland. “Just as the goal of traditional physics is to understand how the flow of energy translates into change in motion, social physics seems to understand how the flow of ideas and information translates into changes in behaviour.”...The only question now is whether these powerful new tools will be mostly used for good (to predict traffic queues or flu epidemics) or for more malevolent ends (to enable companies to flog needless goods, say, or for government control). Sadly, “social physics” and data crunching don’t offer any prediction on this issue, even though it is one of the dominant questions of our age......data are always organised, collected and interpreted by people. Thus if you want to analyse what our interactions mean – let alone make decisions based on this – you will invariably be grappling with cultural and power relations.
massive_data_sets  social_physics  data_scientists  quantified_self  call_centres  books  data  social_data  flu_outbreaks  Gillian_Tett  queuing 
january 2014 by jerryking
Whatever the weather
Nov. 24, 2012 | The Financial Times News: p10.|Gillian Tett who interviews Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Until now, Taleb says, modern society has generally assumed that people, systems or institutions fell into two camps: either they were fragile (and likely to break when shocks occur) or robust (and thus able to resist shocks without being impacted at all). Taleb insists there is a third category of people, institutions and systems that are resilient in a way we have been unable to articulate: they survive shocks not because they are immovable but precisely because they do change, bending in the face of stress; adapting and learning. This is the quality that he describes as "antifragile". (In the US the book is being published with the rather more explicit subtitle "Things that Gain from Disorder".)

Taleb goes on to explain how this works: while nation-states tend to be fragile (because they are highly dependent on one vision of the nation), city-states tend to be antifragile (because they can adapt and learn from history). Careers that are based on one large employer can be fragile but careers that are flexible and entrepreneurial are antifragile, because they can move with changing times. Similarly, the banking system is fragile, while Silicon Valley is antifragile; governments that are highly indebted are fragile, while those (such as Sweden) which have learnt from past mistakes and refuse to assume too much debt are antifragile. And Switzerland is presented as one of the most antifragile places of all, partly because its decentralised structure allows for plenty of experimentation...Taleb has plenty of advice to offer us on how to become more antifragile. We should embrace unpredictable change, rather than chase after an illusion of stability; refuse to believe anyone who offers advice without taking personal risk; keep institutions and systems small and self-contained to ensure that they can fail without bringing the entire system down; build slack into our lives and systems to accommodate surprises; and, above all, recognise the impossibility of predicting anything with too much precision. Instead of building systems that are excessively "safe", Taleb argues, we should roll with the punches, learn to love the random chances of life and, above all, embrace small pieces of adversity as opportunities for improvement. "Wind extinguishes a candle and energises a fire," he writes. "Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos, you want to use them, not hide from them."
adaptability  adversity  antifragility  books  chaos  city-states  Gillian_Tett  illusions  Nassim_Taleb  overcompensation  personal_risk  randomness  resilience  scheduling  self-contained  skin_in_the_game  slack_time  surprises  trauma  uncertainty  unpredictability 
november 2012 by jerryking
The price of admission - FT.com
October 19, 2012 5:03 pm
The price of admission

Gillian Tett By Gillian Tett
admissions  Gillian_Tett  Ivy_League  Oxford  elitism  Colleges_&_Universities  SUNY  cutbacks  alumni 
october 2012 by jerryking
FT.com / Comment & analysis / FT Columnists - Manufacturing is all over the place
By Gillian Tett

Published: March 18 2011

if you peer into the trade statistics, there is another, more subtle,
shift under way: the real story behind these “made in” labels is not
just that some items are no longer entirely “American”; instead, the
bigger issue is that they are now produced in so many places, with such
convoluted supply chains, that it is hard to tell where they are “made
in” at all. Take a look, for example, at a fascinating paper recently
produced by the Asian Development Bank, which looks at where an iPhone
is made. In this case, the company – Apple – is American; however,
components for the iPhone are variously assembled in China, Korea,
Taipei, Germany and the US, involving almost a dozen companies which are
hard to pigeonhole with any ethnic label.
manufacturers  globalization  supply_chains  Gillian_Tett  geographic_ingredient_branding 
march 2011 by jerryking
Lunch with Charlie Rose. - By Gillian Tett - Slate Magazine
By Gillian Tett Posted Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011

He is particularly animated about a recent debate he staged on Afghanistan. “My job [on these shows] is just to ask questions, so with Afghanistan you have to ask: ‘Why are we [Americans] there? People say that we are there because of al-Qaeda, but there is no al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, they are in Pakistan! So then you have to say: ‘What are we going to do about Pakistan?’”

So what do you think America should do? I ask, conscious the issue is provoking heated debate. Over the years, Rose has built his career by extracting information from others; he himself never takes political sides on air. And, while it is widely assumed that he holds liberal views, he refuses to back any party – or policy – in public. “I don’t talk about my politics,” he explains. “I am registered as an independent.”

True to form, Rose orchestrates another twist in the conversation and asks how long I have been in New York. I explain that I got my current job 10 months earlier and that it feels “a huge privilege to be here at such a pivotal point in American history and the media”.

He nods enthusiastically. “I cannot imagine anything that I would rather do than have the opportunities I have now, to do interesting things – these opportunities coming out of the economic collapse, new administration, the recent [mid-term] elections, the fact that the Chinese president has come for a state visit ... ”.....So, I observe, you are the anti-Twitter!

He laughs, and explains that what he really wants to do in the next few years is to keep celebrating the concept of “conversation”. He is, for example, thinking of writing a book about “friendship”. He recently started keeping a diary that he hopes will act like an archaeological record of his spoken adventures. One of the reasons why he loves New York, he adds, is that a vast number of bright and ambitious people are crammed into such a small space that they – and their ideas – can constantly collide. And, of course, talk.

His ambitions could run further still. These days Oprah Winfrey is shaking the media world by creating not just a show that bears her name but an entire network too. “It would be wonderful to become what Oprah has become: she is in such a class of her own, as an entrepreneur, as a performer and an icon,” Rose admits. “The idea of building a series of programmes and choosing people that I think have talent to do them would be a very interesting idea. I would love to show that television can have soul, depth and range.”
Charlie_Rose  interviews  profile  Gillian_Tett 
february 2011 by jerryking
FT.com / Comment / Op-Ed Columnists - And the magic word is ...
October 29 2010 | Financial Times | By Gillian Tett.
Innovation can be a powerful totem pole but it is not a magic wand. The
spirit of Google alone cannot “Reboot America!” overnight. That will
require a long, hard slog from politicians and voters alike; it won’t be
glamorous....in practical terms, many innovations have had a dark side.
Innovations in oil exploration have cut the price of oil; but they have
also polluted the Gulf. Meanwhile financial creativity has fuelled the
credit crisis
innovation  Tina_Brown  contradictions  financial_creativity  unintended_consequences  Gillian_Tett  revenge_effects  dark_side 
october 2010 by jerryking
A chance for bankers to refocus their talents
April 6 2009 19:52 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

if finance no longer keeps monopolising the brightest and best workers, some of that talent could be diverted into other, more productive, arenas - for the good of the economy.

Some of those financiers now being "demobbed" - or sacked - have strong science or engineering backgrounds, and are sitting on spare capital. In an ideal world, they would be perfect candidates to support manufacturing, information technology or other high-tech start-ups of the kind that Europe in particular so desperately needs.

America, for its part, is also short of engineers. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers, for example, calculates that while the country needs 100,000 engineering graduates a year, it is only producing some 70,000. The SME itself points out in a new advertising campaign aimed at students: "Engineers create real wealth by solving problems rather than creating 'paper' wealth by playing with the markets."

The public sector in both America and Europe could also benefit from an influx of highly skilled, financially astute managers. Expanding the talent base of the regulators, in particular, would seem one obvious place to start. The non-profit and educational sectors also need more smart, highly skilled workers, particularly (but not exclusively) in places such as the UK.
layoffs  Second_Acts  Gillian_Tett  transferable_skills  the_best_and_brightest  financial_services  engineering  talent  entrepreneur  war_for_talent  finance  manufacturers  banking  redeployments 
april 2009 by jerryking

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