Algorithmic Inequality

Disruptive. One of the attributes that most use to describe in minimalistic terms the potential impact of new and emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs) in society. While its actual meaning can vary from one person to another, disruption is usually linked to dramatic short-term change where old and obsolete technologies, processes and institutions -not to mention people – will be either replaced or purge altogether, all for the best.

Disruption is thus implicitly connected to the concept of progress, especially to its linear version. Here, progress is seen almost like time is in physics: it always goes forward, and it is impossible to go back and say edit the past. Recent research has challenged the linear conception of progress((See for example Amy Allen’s book, The

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Blockchain Technology is not a Monolith

Many observers seem to assume blockchain technology is an immovable monolith. While such assumption does help when trying to explain how the technology works to the general public, this is indeed not the case when it comes to describing the actual status of the technology.

Rapid and agile innovation is one of the core traits of blockchains, backed by impressive human talent with substantial financial resources, addressing not only some of its well-known limitations but also enhancing its core functionality. Blockchain technology is evolving rapidly and the best way to take stock, for now, it’s via frequent snapshots. In fact, keeping track of blockchain innovations could quickly become a full-time job. In any event, the monolith is not only moving. It is indeed flying at the speed of light.

Blockchains

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Blockchains: The Patents Are Coming!

Open source is one of the core traits of blockchain technology propelling its rapid adoption and growth. The source code from the most popular platforms such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Hyperledger Fabric is freely available for download by anyone who wants to play with the technology. Granted, users wishing to deploy and use these platforms must have the required technical skills. While average Internet users might not have such capabilities, companies and startups can find internal capacity or hie external expertise to run and manage their preferred blockchain platform.

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has been around for almost three decades. Back in the late 1990s, a war of sorts between FOSS and proprietary software commenced, attracting lots of media attention and generating plenty

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Deconstructing the Gender-Equality Paradox in STEM, Part II

In the previous post, I detailed some issues that could help explain in part the gender-equality STEM paradox.

Recap

These can be summarized as follows:

  1.  The Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) measures gaps not levels. It is thus a relative indicator that takes stock of the gender gap regardless of the level or depth of development.
  2. The four GGGI subindices cannot be larger than 1. Thus, the GGGI does not factor-in cases where women are ahead of men. This is related to the previous point: the aim is to measure gender gaps, not gender levels.
  3. As of 2015, UNESCO STEM data is only available for 59 of the 144 countries included in GGGI. That is, almost 60% of the states are missing in the analysis of the gender-equality STEM paradox. Many low-income and lower-middle income countries

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ICO Update: A Slowdown in Sight?

ICO data for last February is now available and shown in Figure 1 below.


We can immediately see that both the number of ICOs and the total investment volume has decreased. The latter, which amounted to 1.2 billion USD for the month, is 20 percent less than the total for January this year. The same goes for completed ICOs which decreased 21 percent. Among them, only one ICO surpassed 100 million dollars, reaching 150 million. And it managed to distance itself from the runner-up by a cool 100 million.

Figure 2 confirms the decline in total monthly investment but shows that the median declined only slightly or about 1.2%.

Even so, the median investment per ICO is still above 16 million dollars.((The average is much higher but probably not significant as the statistical distribution

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Deconstructing the Gender-Equality Paradox in STEM

A paper on the subject published a couple of weeks ago in the academic journal Psychological Science attracted plenty of attention thanks to some of its surprising conclusions.1 The paper is behind a paywall. Its main finding is that, contrary to all expectations, there is an inverse relation between gender equality and the number of women that graduate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Science (STEM). That is, higher gender-equality is correlated to lower female graduation rates in STEM. And vice-versa. How can this be?

In this post, I will explore the issue in more detail. First, I take a quick glance at the data used by the researchers. I then explore some of the nuances of the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) used to measure gender equality. I conclude with some possible

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. The paper is behind a paywall.

Blockchain Technology and Human Development revisited

I was invited to Canada to discuss my blockchain technology paper. Here are my opening remarks at the panel organized by Government Affairs and IDRC.

Speaking about a seemingly complex subject such as blockchains poses a challenge not only for me but also for you, the audience. More so when the time is scarce. It is probably not the same challenge, however. So perhaps the best way to start this conversation is to take a step back and start with technological innovation. Technological innovation has been around longer than you and me, for sure. But what has changed nowadays is the frequency in which innovation is happening, especially since the dawn of digital computing and electronics.

The Internet is no doubt the best example here. Initially conceived with government support and public

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The Pervasiveness of Efficiency

Were 19th-century slaves working in the US Southern plantations more efficient than the free farmers of the Northern states? This was one of the critical questions two economists, one being a pioneer of cliometrics, studied in a book published in 1974. Based on extensive empirical research and data available at the time, their conclusion was positive and, at least initially, beyond any doubt.

While first reactions to the book were overwhelmingly favorable, criticism soon started to proliferate. Economic historians were the first ones to speak up, going after the definition of efficiency and the way it was calculated. Some argued that efficiency could not be computed adequately in such context. But perhaps the most fundamental issue was the link the book established between the alleged high

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Chasing ICOs (away?)

Recent events seem to suggest the cryptocurrency bubble is finally starting to deflate. Bitcoin, Ethereum and most of their crypto cousins are significantly down while regulators in several countries are finally beginning to take action on the ground. Nobel laureate economists are also speaking up against the digital currency, arguing that the new currency is not capable of fulfilling the three core functions that define money.

Does this mean that ICOs are on the way out?

If we look at the latest ICO data,((Data was obtained from tokendata.io. Sample size includes 1032 ICOs completed by the end of 31 January 2018. 485 or 47% percent did not report any funding. The total number of successful ICOs is thus 547. The DAO ICO is not included as it is considered a failure. Hdac, quoted by some

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An Overview of Blockchain Technology and Digital Identity

Like previous digital technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchain technology (BCT) has been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still in its infancy, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many BCT innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within its distributed network. In general, such identities are pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by the individual. This in principle makes BCT an ideal candidate to propel further innovation in the digital identity sector. The critical question

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