Tag Archive: human

Swiss Law instead of Foreign Judiciary?

Is Swiss sovereignty being eroded by foreign judges? The promoters of the “Self-Determination Initiative” argue that Switzerland’s constitution and its laws should take precedence over international treaties. The People’s Party targets the bilateral treaties with the EU and the European Court of Justice in particular, according to political experts. Opponents of the initiative say the rightwing proposal would undermine Switzerland’s international reputation and its role as a reliable trading partner, as well as deal a blow to human rights.

The question of primacy between national and international law has been simmering for years in Switzerland and elsewhere. Human rights are of course international. We use the terminology that they are universal. This is obviously somewhat inconvenient for the government of nation-states, who have traditionally claimed absolute power over their citizens. The extent to which we have international human rights, or a court of international human rights, is necessarily going to interfere with the kind of claims that a national government can make. Additionally, these rights may be inconvenient in relation to what a nation state might intend to do. These rules and standards bestow upon the nation-state — one of the major violators of human rights — the responsibility of protecting human rights. It is called the “paradox of human rights”. International human rights rely on the nation-states to put rights into effect. And yet nation-states are often reluctant to countenance human rights because those human rights will necessarily put a limitation to the kind of power they have as national governments; their state sovereignty. These themes run through all human rights law. They run through the European Convention on Human Rights as much as through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, or any other body of human rights.

It is worth stressing that with the European Convention on Human Rights we are looking at a system where individual petitions can be submitted to a court. As a citizen, I can take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, and the court may award remedies. Hoffman and Rowe (2010) argue that the Convention was an extremely radical innovation. Never before has there been a system of international law which holds states accountable to some superior court in respect of actions against their own citizens. Previous international courts and tribunals were constituted solely to settle disputes between states, or in the case of the Nuremberg tribunal, to try individuals for their own criminal responsibility. Coming back to the so-called Swiss “Self-Determination Initiative”: if my government violates my human rights and has no more obligation to protect them, where can I go?


Image credits: Stan Wayman, extracted from IPTC Photo

[Hoffman, D., & Rowe, J. J. (2010) Human Rights in the UK: An Introduction to the Human Rights Act 1998, Pearson Education]

Welcome to the Machine

“I kind of felt powerless… I do have extensive experience in terms of playing the game of Go, but there was never a case as this as such that I felt this amount of pressure.” (Lee Sedol, after playing against AlphaGo in March, 2016)

McAffee and Brynjolfsson (2017) describe phase two of the second machine age as the time “when science fiction technologies – the stuff of movies, books, and the controlled environments of elite research labs – started to appear in the real world”: winning at Go, diagnosing disease, interacting with people, engaging in creative work. The authors envision three great trends that are reshaping the business world:

Trend

Counterpart

Machines
including AI, boosted by:

      1. Moore’s law
      2. Cloud computing has opened relatively inexpensive computing power required to execute a machine learning project.
      3. An endless supply of data (and GPU‘s to process it). Machine learning systems need to be exposed to many examples in order to perform and improve in their tasks.
Human Mind
According to Kahneman and Egan (2011):

  • System 1: Evolutionary ancient, fast, automatic, intuitive
  • System 2: Evolutionary recent, slow, conscious, and a lot of work

“System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.” [Kahneman, D. and Egan, P. (2011) Thinking, fast and slow (Vol. 1), New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.]

Platforms
that people use to access a product or service, like Uber or AirBnB, but don’t actually produce anything or provide the service to the end customer.
Products and Services
For example, the big gains of electrification (one of the most disruptive technologies ever) came not from simple substitution of steam engines, but from the redesign of the production process itself. The process lens typically reveals many tasks that can be eliminated, or as Hammer and Champy (1993) put it, obliterated. According to Grant (2010) a firm increases attention to process innovation as it seeks to reduce costs and improve product reliability. The tendency over time for product life cycles has become compressed (p. 275).
The Crowd
e.g. GE’s FirstBuild, a “co-creation community that is changing the way products come to market”.
Organisational Capabilities
Prahalad and Hamel (1990) coined the term “core competences” to distiguish those capabilities fundamental to a firm’s strategy and performance. They also criticised U.S. companies for emphasizing product management over competence management.

Now where does all this leave us? As Haidt (2006) argues, “judgment and justification are two separate processes” of the mind. Judging, performed by System 1, happens almost instantaneously. It is then justified in rational and plausible arguments delivered by System 2:

“This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called ‘confabulation’. Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzinga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self’s behavior. For example, if the word ‘walk’ is flashed to the right hemisphere, the patient might stand up and walk away. When asked why he is getting up, he might say, ‘I’m going to get a Coke’. The interpreter module is good at making up explanations, but not at knowing that it has done so.”
[Haidt, J. (2006) The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom, Basic Books]

At Microsoft, the acronym HiPPO (“Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion”) was created to summarise the dominant decision-making style at most companies.It illustrates the example given above of System 1 and 2 at work. HiPPOs too often destroy value. In a decades-long assessment Tetlock (1984) found that “humanity barely bests chimp” at predicting possible outcomes of politics, economics, and international affair. Today, machine learning – the science of building systems that can detect patterns and formulate winning strategies after shown many examples – is starting to accomplish interesting results. The “science fiction stuff” is just starting now…

A Production Possibilities Frontier

The engine of economic progress must ride on the same four wheels (supply side factors), no matter how rich or poor the country:

  • Human resources (including labor supply, education, discipline and motivation)

Labor inputs include, of course the quantity of workers. However, many economists believe that the quality of labor inputs, the skills, knowledge, and discipline of the labor force, is the single most important element in economic growth. capital goods can be effectively used and maintained only by skilled and trained workers.

Improvements in literacy, health, and discipline, and most recently, the ability to use computers, add greatly to the productivity of labor.

  • Natural resources (including land, minerals, fuels and environmental quality)

The important resources here are, arable land, oil and gas, forests, water, and mineral resources.
But the possession of natural resources is hardly necessary for economic success in the modern world. New York City prospers primarily on its high density service industries. While many countries that have virtually no natural resources, such as Japan, have thrived by concentrating on sectors that depend more on labor and capital than on indigenous resources.

  • Capital formation (including machines, factories and roads)

Tangible capital includes structures like roads, and power plants, and equipment, like trucks and computers. In this regard, some of the most dramatic stories in economic history, often involve the rapid accumulation of capital.
Accumulating capital requires a sacrifice of current consumption over many years. Countries that grow rapidly tend to invest heavily in new capital goods. In the most rapidly growing countries, 10 to 20% of output may go into capital formation. In this regard when we think of capital we must not concentrate only on private sector investment. In fact, many investments are undertaken only be governments, and provide the necessary social overhead capital and infrastructure for businesses to prosper. Roads, irrigation and water projects, and public health measures are important.

Government projects involve external benefits that private firms cannot capture so government is necessary to provide them.

  • Technology (from science and engineering to management and entrepreneurship)

Historically, growth has definitely not been a process of simple replication, adding rows of steel mills, or power plants next to each other. Rather, a never-ending stream of inventions and technological advances led to a vast improvement in the production possibilities of Europe, North America, and Japan. Technological change denotes changes in production processes or the introduction of new products or services.

Technological change is a continuous process of small and large improvements.

While the four supply factors of growth relate to the physical ability of the economy to expand, there are two other factors that are equally important:

  • First, there is the demand factor

To realize its growing production potential, a nation must fully employ its expanding supply of resources. This requires a growing level of aggregate demand.

  • Second, there is the efficiency factor

To reach its production potential, a nation must not only achieve full employment, but also two kinds of economic efficiency. Specifically, a country must achieve productive efficiency. That is, it must use its existing and new resources in the least costly way to produce what it does. And it must also achieve allocative efficiency, meaning that the specific mix of goods and services it produces must maximize society’s well-being.

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