Globetrotting: news from around the world – February/March 2018

Offshoring in the services sector has been shown to boost jobs in the home country, while business activity is near all-time highs in the eurozone.

EMPLOYMENT

Can offshoring shore up employment?

Offshoring in the services sector has been found to have no effect on unemployment in the home country, reports the US Daily Review. In fact, it actually boosts jobs.

 

A study by researchers from Warwick Business School, the University of Wollongong and Aston University examined the effect of offshoring by nearly 6,000 European multinationals from 1997 to 2016. Rather than looking at the manufacturing sector, it focused on services, which account for about 80% of UK employment.

 

As Nigel Driffield, one of the researchers, explained, claims about job losses due to offshoring played a part in the UK voting for Brexit, so it was “imperative that we have some proper evidence on the issue.” The conclusion: “Not only is there no evidence of a reduction in employment at home, but on the whole offshoring in these sectors led to an increase in employment at home.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook guilt

 

Chamath Palihapitiya

 

Like a growing number of former Facebook employees and investors, Chamath Palihapitiya has become vocal in his criticism of his former employer, saying that social media is “eroding the core foundations of how people behave,” reports Quartz.

 

In a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the former vice-president of user growth at Facebook said he feels tremendous guilt because he helped create tools that are ripping apart the social fabric.

 

Palihapitiya’s advice is to take a “hard break.” With the dopamine-driven feedback loops that it has created, social media is “destroying how civil society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” The fake popularity it creates leaves people vacant and empty, yet causes them to return compulsively to get rid of that same sense of emptiness.

 

BUSINESS

Upswing in the eurozone

 

European Union flag

 

Business activity is near all-time highs in the eurozone, with both demand and price pressures on the rise, reports Reuters.

 

In manufacturing, an IHS Markit survey released in December 2017 showed factories had registered their best month since the survey’s inception two decades ago. They were also building up supplies at their third-fastest recorded rate. The service sector is also buoyant, with the Purchasing Managers’ Index hitting its highest mark since April 2011.

 

AI MUSIC

For a song

An AI system has just composed a five-track black metal music album and those in the know say it’s pretty good, reports Futurism.

 

This kind of music creation is not totally new. George Cope, a professor at the University of Santa Cruz, produced a computer-generated Bach chorale in 2013. But this time the AI invasion has struck closer to home by venturing into popular music.

 

Coditany of Timeness (the title was algorithmically generated) was created by feeding another black metal music album, Diotima by Krallice, into a neural network. Listening to “chunks” of music, the system had to predict what the following section would sound like, until its predictions were valid.

 

Still, this is only imitation. We are not yet at the point where AI can compose something on the level of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.