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Parlons Futur 05/11/2019 : pourquoi la Chine va bien mal ; Résumé du programme éco d'Elizabeth Warren ; expérience inédite pour détecter l'endroit du cerveau où naît la conscience

Le début de la newsletter à retrouver ici.

Voici les 3 news dont vous trouverez le résumé au format bullet points plus bas :

  • Voyez pourquoi la Chine va bien plus mal que ce que vous pensez
  • Résumé du programme éco d'Elizabeth Warren : celle que les sondages disent gagnante aux primaires démocrates puis face à Trump (The Economist)
  • Une expérience inédite en neuroscience mobilisant 6 labos et 500 patients pour détecter l'endroit du cerveau où se produit la conscience : résumé des 2 grandes théories en lice (dont une défendue par le Français Stanislas Dehaene)
La Chine va bien plus mal que ce que vous pensez (Foreign Affairs)
  • The country’s growth rate has fallen by half since 2008 and is likely to plunge further in the years ahead, as debt, foreign protectionism, resource depletion, and rapid aging take their toll.
  • China’s official gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate has dropped from 15% in 2007 to 6% now —the slowest rate in 30 years. The country’s economy is now experiencing its longest deceleration of the post-Mao era.
  • But many economists believe that China’s true rate is roughly half the official figure.
  • Moreover, GDP growth does not necessarily translate into greater wealth. If a country spends billions of dollars on infrastructure projects, its GDP will rise. But if those projects consist of bridges to nowhere, the country’s stock of wealth will remain unchanged or even decline.
  • To accumulate wealth, a country needs to increase its productivity—a measure that has actually dropped in China over the last decade.
  • Practically all of China’s GDP growth has resulted from the government’s pumping capital into the economy. Subtract government stimulus spending, some economists argue, and China’s economy may not be growing at all.
  • The signs of unproductive growth are easy to spot. China has built more than 50 ghost cities—sprawling metropolises of empty offices, apartments, malls, and airports.
  • Nationwide, more than 20% of homes are vacant. Excess capacity in major industries tops 30% : factories sit idle and goods rot in warehouses. Total losses from all this waste are difficult to calculate, but China’s government estimates that it blew at least $6 trillion on “ineffective investment” between 2009 and 2014 alone.
  • China’s debt has quadrupled in absolute size over the last 10 years and currently exceeds 300% of its GDP (corporate, household and government debt). No major country has ever racked up so much debt so fast in peacetime.
  • Worse still, these 3 assets that once propelled China’s economic ascent are fast turning into liabilities.
    • In the 1990s and early 2000s, the country enjoyed expanding access to foreign markets and technology : Now China is losing access to foreign markets and technology.
    • China was nearly self-sufficient in food, water, and energy resources : now water has become scarce, and the country is importing more food and energy than any other nation, having decimated its own natural endowments.
    • it had the greatest demographic dividend in history, with eight working-age adults for every citizen aged 65 or older : but thanks to the one-child policy, China is about to experience the worst aging crisis in history, because it will lose 200 million workers and young consumers and gain 300 million seniors in the course of three decades.
  • espérons:
    • i. que la Chine ne cherche pas à détourner l'attention de ces problèmes en jouant à fond la carte nationaliste
    • ii. qu'en face les USA et l'Europe parviennt à manier bâton et carotte intelligemment
  • Mais rien n'est moins sûr, comme l'explique Graham Allison dans son livre fascinant Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? à lire absolument, ce n'est pas la première fois qu'on se retrouve dans un tel cas de figure avec une puissance montante qui fait de l'ombre à celle en place :
    • China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war.
  • Comment Graham Allison compare les systèmes américain et chinois :
Résumé du programme éco d'Elizabeth Warren : celle que les sondages disent gagnante aux primaires démocrates puis face à Trump (The Economist)
  • Contrary to Sanders, Ms Warren proclaims herself “a capitalist to my bones”. “I love what markets can do...They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity.” " But only fair markets, markets with rules.”
  • Ms Warren would not just reverse Mr Trump’s tax cuts. She would also impose new taxes on large companies and rich individuals—who would see their taxes rise more steeply than they have for almost a century, reversing a decades-long fall.
  • Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two French economists at the University of California, Berkeley, influenced Ms Warren’s tax policy (cocorico!!)
  • Companies would face an extra 7% tax on all profits above $100m
  • Ms Warren would introduce new payroll taxes (charges sociales) worth nearly 15% on roughly the top 2% of households.
  • Ms Warren promises a 2% annual tax on net worth over $50m, rising to 3% on fortunes above $1bn.
  • Social Security benefits for the elderly, free public college for students and universal child care
  • “Broadly speaking, she pays for what she has proposed,” says Mr Zandi, chief economist at Moody Analytics . The only exception is Medicare for All. “It’s not clear to me how she is going to pay for it all."
  • Medicare for All would get rid of private health insurance, an industry with a market value of $530bn. Her more mainstream rivals for the nomination have started to press the senator on whether the $3trn in annual costs that come with that policy would require her to increase taxes on the middle class. She has not come up with a convincing answer
  • By making the partners who manage and invest in Private Equity funds liable for the debt and pension costs of companies they acquire, they would impose a burden that public companies do not have to shoulder, scaring away institutional investors. "It would in effect shut down their business", say industry bosses.
  • Other companies would also be broken up. She would revive the Glass-Steagall Act, separating banks’ deposit-taking business from their riskier investment activities.
    • (The Economist objects : A big investment bank might be enmeshed in credit markets in such a way as to need a government bail out in a crisis even if it had no deposit-taking arm.)
  • Federal regulators have allowed some giants to gain more power by acquiring potential rivals. Ms Warren would unwind those mergers.
    • Bayer, a huge life-sciences company, would have to sell Monsanto, a seed and chemicals company it acquired in 2018;
    • Facebook would have to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp
    • Online marketplaces with global revenues of more than $25bn would be regulated as “platform utilities”, and stopped from offering their own products and services on the regulated platforms.
    • Google would have to sell its online advertising exchange,
    • Amazon would not be able to sell on its marketplace.
    • (The Economist objects : Dissuading corporate takeovers would limit companies’ ability to change with the times.)
  • In big companies, 40% of board seats would be reserved for workers’ representatives.
    • (The Economist objects : Workers on boards would probably garner higher wages, but that brings other complications. A multinational company might have its headquarters in America but have more staff outside it, says Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago. Why should American workers get a bigger say than those overseas?)
  • All companies with revenues of more than $1bn would need to obtain a federal charter requiring their directors not just to serve their shareholders but also consider the effects of what they were doing, or not doing, on their workers, their suppliers, their neighbours, the environment and so on.
    • State attorneys-general could petition the commerce department to revoke a company’s charter if they felt those norms were repeatedly being flouted.
    • (The Economist objects : Mr Zingales says “Imagine a Trump administration with the power to go after companies in this way,”)
  • Ms Warren wants paid family leave, a $15 federal minimum wage within five years, government investments in training and reforms that will make it easier for people to unionise.
  • She would also ban forced arbitration and non-compete clauses, giving workers more power to challenge their employers and find new jobs.
  • A new uber-agency called the Department of Economic Development would be charged with creating American jobs. Products made possible by taxpayer-funded R&D would have to be made in America.
  • Ms Warren promises to run a government “more actively managing our currency value to promote exports and domestic manufacturing” in response to other countries manipulating their exchange rates.
  • She wants new committees representing consumers, rural areas and each region of the country to be able to delay trade deals that worry them.
    • (The Economist objects : Since every trade deal will worry someone somewhere that sounds like an end to trade deals.)
  • she proposes an “excessive lobbying tax”, rising up to 75% for companies spending more than $5m annually.
    • (The Economist objects : Nevertheless, despite this, her approach creates a lot more direct government investment that firms might lobby for.)
  • The fact that most of the Democratic field is less radical than Ms Warren suggests that, even if her party were to take the Senate and retain the House in 2020, much of her agenda would be watered down. If Republicans retained control of the Senate there would be a lot less she could do.
  • But she would still have some scope to act.
    • The Environmental Protection Agency could reverse regulatory rollbacks set by the Trump administration.
    • The federal government could enforce stricter labour standards, such as a $15 minimum wage in the public sector.
    • Warren appointees to the Federal Trade Commission and the justice department could reverse previously approved mergers and reject new ones, though such actions would probably be challenged in the courts.
    • A National Labour Relations Board in her hands could decide that “misclassification” of workers as independent contractors was a violation of labour law, upending the gig-economy.
    • Her power over trade and tariffs would be comparatively unconstrained.
Une expérience inédite en neuroscience mobilisant 6 labos et 500 patients pour détecter l'endroit du cerveau où se produit la conscience !
  • they will use 3 different types of brain recordings as the participants perform various consciousness-related tests. By adopting functional MRI to spot brain metabolic activity, EEG for brain waves and ECoG (a type of EEG with electrodes directly placed on the brain), the trial hopes to gather enough replicable data to assuage even the most skeptical of opposing fields.
  • the project hopes to tackle nearly 12 top theories of consciousness. But the first 2in the boxing ring are also the most prominent :
  • The GWT describes an almost algorithmic view. Conscious behavior arises when we can integrate and segregate information from multiple input sources—for example, eyes, ears, or internal ruminations—and combine it into a piece of data in a global workspace within the brain. This mental sketchpad forms a bottleneck in conscious processing, in that only items in our attention are available to the entire brain for use—and thus for a conscious experience of it. For another to enter awareness, previous data have to leave.
    • according to Dehaene, brain imaging studies in humans suggest that the main “node” exists at the front of the brain, or the prefrontal cortex, which acts like a central processing unit in a computer. It’s algorithmic, input-output based, and—like all computers—potentially hackable.
  • IIT, in contrast, takes a more globalist view. Consciousness arises from the measurable, intrinsic interconnectedness of brain networks. Under the right architecture and connective features, consciousness emerges. When neurons connect in the “right” way under the “right” circumstances, the theory posits, consciousness naturally emerges to create the sensation of experience.
    • IIT believes this emergent process happens at the back of the brain—here, neurons connect in a grid-like structure that hypothetically should be able to support this capacity. To IIT subscribers, GWT describes a scenario that’s similar to digital computers and zombies—entities that act conscious but don’t truly posses the experience.
  • MAIS, Dr. Anil Seath, a neuroscientist at the University of Sussex in Brighton UK says that the whole trial is too “philosophical.” Rather than unearthing how the brain brings outside stimuli into attention (what he calls the "real problem", he said, the fight focuses more on where and why consciousness emerges (what has been called the "hard problem")
    • Anil Seth est un de ceux qui je trouve ont l'approche la plus pragmatique sur ce problème presque métaphysique qu'est la consience. Il est l'orateur de ce TED talk mémorable Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality (17 min, 6 millions de vues)
    • J'ai résumé ici son article fascinant The real problem : It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be, extraits :
      • So what underlies being conscious specifically, as opposed to just being awake?
      • We know it’s not just the number of neurons involved. The cerebellum (the so-called ‘little brain’ hanging off the back of the cortex) has about four times as many neurons as the rest of the brain, but seems barely involved in maintaining conscious level.)
      • It’s not even the overall level of neural activity – your brain is almost as active during dreamless sleep as it is during conscious wakefulness.
      • Rather, consciousness seems to depend on how different parts of the brain speak to each other, in specific ways.
    • Ce qu'il dit de la théorie IIT :
      • This is an intriguing and powerful proposal, but it comes at the cost of admitting that consciousness could be present everywhere and in everything, a philosophical view known as panpsychism.
      • The additional mathematical contortions needed also mean that, in practice, integrated information becomes impossible to measure for any real complex system.
      • This is an instructive example of how targeting the hard problem, rather than the real problem, can slow down or even stop experimental progress.
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