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What I’m Reading: December 2018 – Questioning Experts, War Theory, Tech, Innovation, Creativity, and Baseball Trades

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Here are articles I found most interesting in December 2018:

Think Critically About the Wisdom of Experts – MIT Sloan Management Review, 11/26/2018

This is a good, albeit dangerous article. Yes, consumers of information should not blindly believe anyone, to include scientists and researchers. They are human and make mistakes. We should question assumptions, avoid overapplication of theories, etc. However, the author of this article is a professor who understands research and academic rigor. He understands critical thinking and analysis. A big problem in America is that many Americans do not believe even the most well-researched position if it goes against their politics. That is a bigger problem than research bias. Encouraging people to question science opens the door to crackpots and conspiracy theorists.

The Vanishing History Major – Inside Higher Ed, 11/28/2018

Interesting article on the reduction of History majors throughout US universities. I completely agree that financial futures are better with tech or engineering degrees, but it is interesting to see where history majors are decreasing the most. I would also be interested in seeing what type of history majors are decreasing within the major – such as regional or demographic-based history. Also interesting to see that schools in the Midwest have seen the biggest drop in history majors. On one hand, I understand, but on the other, it makes me sad that understanding our history is decreasing.

Are We at War? – Modern War Institute, 12/5/2018

This article summarizes the Modern War Institute’s War Studies Conference in November 2018. Many academics, military personnel, and civilians discussed the latest trends in conflict and how technology and modern social trends are affecting how nations and other groups engage each other. I always wonder how effective these conferences are. Yes, there are smart people talking about their research, but how does it impact the warfighter – the person on the frontlines facing the threat? And deliberating about the semantics of what “war” is or isn’t is irrelevant. It is all conflict – from the local level to the international. The only difference is the amount of funding applied to the problem.

Pearl Harbor and the fallacy of inevitable war: The Thucydides trap – The Hill, 12/7/2018

Interesting article on whether on not war with China is inevitable. If not the US, perhaps someone else in the Pacific region will come in conflict with China. Given that there are a limited amount of resources on Earth, when a country seeks to expand into the territory of another, conflict could occur. But as the author states, clear boundaries and communication is needed to heed conflict. Nations should respect international rule of law, but if they don’t punishment should be applied.

A Cult of Lethality? – Strategy Bridge, 12/14/2018

There is a tendency for militaries to see military solutions as the only solution to threats to national security. This article argues that today’s military leaders need to understand new challenges such as technology before it is too late. Fighting today’s war with yesterday’s tools is a recipe for disaster.

An Army Caught in the Middle Between Luddites, Luminaries, and the Occasional Looney – War on the Rocks, 12/19/2018

A similar article as the above, but focused primarily on the US Army. According to the author, the Army tends not to change until it has to. And instead of getting ahead of competition, it often loses its first battle in the next major conflict. Fortunately, because of the Army’s size, money, and resources, it is able to innovate and seize strategic initiative.

The Will to Fight and the Fate of Nations – War on the Rocks, 12/20/2018

Interesting article that explores the US military’s lack of understanding of the human side of war. While this article also says the military is too dependent on fighting with technology, it says that the military needs to understand the people involved, especially whether they are or are not willing to fight. Sometimes the best weapon is cultural understanding. If a group is not motivated to pick up arms for their common defense, then the US will have to carry the burden alone.

The War-Torn Web – Foreign Policy, 12/19/2018

This is possibly the best geopolitical internet article I have ever read. This article discusses developing “digitalpolitik” – the actions of states to control and influence internet norms. It discusses states that are digital superpowers, digital influencers, consolidators, and projectors. The internet was the grease to globalism and the medium for idea exchange. Digitalpolitik is nations reassuming their power over communications and industry. Also very interesting is the comparison to ancient Chinese warring states.

The semiconductor industry and the power of globalisation – The Economist, 12/1/2018

In-depth look at the semiconductor industry and the forces affecting global technology. Chinese companies, guided by the Chinese government, are fighting for market share of global microchip production and sales from US-based companies. With chip use comes data, and that data can be controlled by Chinese companies, which scares US national interests. Yet by restricting chip use, tech companies may restrict their access to the Chinese billion-person market.

The quantum Y2K moment – Physics World, 12/3/2018

Good primer on quantum computing. Using quantum physics, this new era of computing has the potential to give outputs far faster than any current computer in use. Computer experts are not sure when this new technology will be usable, but quantum computing could be used to crack every code in current use. Fortunately, computer science experts are also devising ways to foil quantum computing codebreaking – what they call a “post-quantum encryption standard” and quantum key distribution. This is super-technical, but quantum physics and cryptography is the future.

U.S. intelligence sounds the alarm on the quantum gap with China – Yahoo News, 12/10/2018

According to US intelligence, Chinese tech companies are ahead of US scientists in the race to build a functioning quantum computer. This has US national security experts fearing Chinese capability to break US codes in banks, hospitals, and government networks. Undefendable quantum computing could seriously affect US national security. The most damning sentence:

“The U.S., unlike China, cannot unilaterally force private companies and citizens to work on certain issues or establish certain security standards.”

The West’s China blind spot – Axios, 12/22/2018

This article cautious readers that perhaps China is not as far advanced in quantum computing as many officials may fear. Not only is tech advances difficult to measure, Chinese propaganda may also be to blame for misleading the West. Overreacting to a misinterpreted threat is almost worst than not being able to defend against a threat.

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually. – Intelligencer, 12/26/2018

A thought exercise exploring different facets of the internet and how so much of the web is illusion. The author discusses an Inversion point when there are more bots and fake users online than real humans. It is not difficult to fake profiles, accounts, hits, page views, and even transactions online. And when the metrics are mostly wrong, no one knows how fake the internet really is.

How Iran’s Propaganda Machine Succeeds in the West – Fair Observer, 12/10/2018

A look at how Iran handles its media channels, academic centers, and surveys and polling. The Iranian Government uses each of these as tools to affect Western perception of Iran. Because there is little contact with Iranian citizens, Western sources can not truly understand the realities behind the Iranian curtain. Also interesting is how Iran’s polling vehicle, Iran Polls, is tied to the University of Maryland, giving the government-led poll increased legitimacy.

The Digital Maginot Line – Ribbon Farm, 11/28/2018

A deep look into the current environment of Information Conflict occurring between the US and various entities. The author, Renee DiResta, brings up good points when they say that the US is behind the power curve and that attempts to regulate platforms, stop bots, or ban accounts is “a wasted effort, a reactive response to tactics from the last war”. Unfortunately, despite all the great insight, there is little in this article that says what the US or US society should do.

Artificial Intelligence in NBA Basketball – Inside Science, 12/28/2018

Good article on how Artificial Intelligence has influenced NBA Basketball. Using AI, players and teams are able to see patterns and notice how they or opponents are acting or reacting. Coaches are also using it to analyze the actions of teams. AI won’t replace players, but it is giving each participant new insight, helping their efficiency on the court.

Why Trading for Top Prospects Is Less of a Win Than MLB Teams Seem to Think – The Ringer, 12/10/2018

Very interesting article on how assets, in this case Minor League Baseball players, are typically overvalued by prospective purchasers. Teams typically have better intelligence on their own assets than other teams. They understand not only the player’s stats, but also their psychological makeup – to include their ability to handle failure. Often, the purchasing team will send proven talent to another team in exchange for talent the acquiring team does not know completely. As this article points out, that gap in intelligence usually costs the acquiring team in future talent and wins.

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