A good organization complements its leaders’ weaknesses; a bad one magnifies their flaws. Under President Trump, the entire executive branch of the U.S. government has turned into a feedback loop for the man’s moods and outbursts, as an extraordinary account in The Washington Postmakes clear.
The White House team is on a bipolar roller-coaster that rises and falls with Trump’s state of mind — and we’re all along for the ride. If you’ve ever worked for someone with Angry Boss Syndrome, you know how dysfunctional this can get. The organizational focus narrows down to assessments of the boss’s psyche and efforts to influence it, while everyone scurries to buffer themselves from executive whim and rage.
The mood in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley since the election has been dejected, writes Om Malik (The New Yorker). That’s less about fear of specific changes the new administration will introduce and more a coming to terms with a collective failure in empathy. The inventors of the future — some of them, anyway — are realizing they’ve become seriously disconnected from the occupiers of the present.
Technologists must “try to understand the impact of whiplashing change on a generation of our fellow-citizens who feel hopeless and left behind,” Malik writes. Our “data-driven oligarchies” — Facebook, Google, Amazon, et a. — are creating wonders of technological efficiency. But these engines of change enrich only a tiny sliver of society and actively threaten the livelihoods of a much broader population. And they’re only beginning to wake up to this dilemma.
Guess what? All that populist resistance to free trade seems to be working: The volume of global trade stopped growing in the first quarter of 2016 and actually dropped in the second — marking the first time since the Second World War that trade volume declined during a period of economic growth (The New York Times).
Don’t expect that to change any time soon, writes Binyamin Appelbaum: The Walmart revolution is over, India’s trajectory is different from China’s, and the only thing that’s spreading round the world right now is resistance to lowering trade barriers.
One big problem is that when free trade was riding high, its benefits, in Western democracies at least, went mostly to the very rich. The economy globalized, and all we got was this lousy pay cut! Another problem was that politicians and policymakers oversold trade’s benefits in the first place. Says economist Dani Rodrik: “If the demagogues and nativists making nonsensical claims about trade are getting a hearing, it is trade’s cheerleaders that deserve some of the blame.”
Last week policy shapers from Washington DC traveled to San Francisco to meet with representatives from across Silicon Valley to promote the Blockchain Trust Accelerator. The event was chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Albright currently serves as Chairman of the National Democratic Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes democracy around the world. The initiative is also sponsored by New America, a technology think tank, and by Bitfury, a full-service Blockchain technology company.
Blockchain, the core technology behind Bitcoin, is receiving a lot of attention from the financial sector and beyond (both Debby Hopkins of Citi, and Bruce Aust of Nasdaq mention it in our Shift Dialogs series). Blockchain’s distributed encryption creates a public, audit-able transaction ledger without any intermediaries. The reason why blockchain works for a currency like Bitcoin is because it cannot be manipulated or gamed. In other words, it provides canonical records that cannot be corrupted.
This functionality has captured the imagination of policy makers because of the obvious benefits for tasks like property records, voting, health care records, identity, market clearance, etc. Blockchain can help assure these transactions are done with transparency and without manipulation.
In 2015, I wrote a blog post about how I thought that Bitcoin was similar in many ways to the Internet. The metaphor that I used was that Bitcoin was like email — the first killer app — and that the Bitcoin Blockchain was like The Internet — the infrastructure that was deployed to support it but that could be used for so many other things. I suggested that The Blockchain was to finance and law what the Internet was to media and advertising.