lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2018

"Permafrost" - Eva Baltasar

PermafrostPermafrost by Eva Baltasar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Me acerque a la primera novela de Eva Baltasar por dos razones. La primera, por encontrarla de modo recurrente en diferentes listas recopilando las mejores obras en prosa publicadas en 2018. La segunda por la motivación del título que figuraba en todos esos listados, estableciendo un paralelismo entre la capa de tierra permanentemente congelada de las zonas árticas con la protección ante el mundo con que se cubre a la protagonista sin nombre de la novela, y al que la autora acude un par de veces a lo largo de la obra. Me pareció crudo realismo adentrarse en centrar una novela en una práctica tan común al ser humano, proteger nuestro yo intimo con un permanente escudo que no terminamos de abrir del todo ni tan si quiera a los que se creen más cercanos.

La autora acumula varios poemarios publicados y el lirismo impregna todas las páginas de la novela. Duele la belleza con la que explora la soledad de la protagonista y sus instintos suicidas, que nacen de sentirse un accidente prescindible en la vida de quienes la rodean. Completan el retrato del personaje la artificialidad que emana en las relaciones familiares de la protagonista y el vacío protector con el que afronta las relaciones de pareja y un recorrido vital imprevisible que roza por momentos el precariado.

La novela es también una excusa para enfrentarnos con lo que aún algunos consideran tabúes sociales alrededor de la figura femenina. Las relaciones lésbicas, la no maternidad por elección o el despertar sexual de las niñas son presentados con un naturalismo que sorprende en forma escrita..

Una obra corta, cuya fuerza y atracción permite leer en una sentada, de abrupto final sin que por ello demande un mayor desarrollo. Al mismo tiempo, abre el apetito por leer la siguiente pieza de la trilogía del mundo femenino que la autora ha abierto con esta obra.

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jueves, 27 de diciembre de 2018

"After the party" - Cressida Connolly

After the PartyAfter the Party by Cressida Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some people say we are living a political period quite similar to the years previous to the II World War. It is easy to draw parallelisms between the fascist parties that emerged in the 20th century with the populist parties and movements that currently are arisen. Certainly, the ideology of both sets of political groups have many points in common, but we tend to pass over the difference of the average bigger success of the nowadays lot. The horror of the war that came after the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini makes us forget that both dictators were the only cases that obtained an unequivocal popular support while the rest of their imitators in other countries rarely achieved neither a real political influence nor institutional representation during the years previous to the war outburst.

There´s a general lack of knowledge of the real history of those fascist parties and who were their members. "After the party" introduce us to the case of the British Union of Fascist (BUF) and its inner life. The thread of the story is the life of Phyllis, a woman that belonged to the british upper medium class who returned to Great Britain in 1938 and entered into the BUF through one of her sisters, more as an imititation game in order to win friends than due to a real convincement . The ideas the sisters declare in the novel are mainly aligned with the pacifist and non-interventionist speech of the party without traces of antsemistism, and their whole "political" activity looks more as an upper class passtime than a real power game.

Even if you hold a strong ideological stance against facism, th figure of Phyllis doesn´t arise strong feeling of rebuff. She seems along the novel as a puppet of destiny who surf on perplexity, particularly at the moment United Kingdom declared war to Germany and she is arrested to be drive to an imprisonement camp with other members of the party while her sisters remained in freedom. Neither she identifies herself as an enemy of her country nor as critical cog of the party who deserves to be imprisoned.

The author manages to build the perfect atmosphere at the different moments of the novel. From the night parties of the upper class to the live in the concentration camps, every scenario looks so a plausible reconstruction of Phyllis environment that contributes to our understanding of the main character of the novel. The structure of the narrative from two different points of view, on one hand as Phyllis´s perspective at the moment of the central plot of the story and on the other hand as her memories, also help us to be impartial on the judgement of Phyllis and her ideas, as well as on her evolution from naivety to cinism.

To sum up, "After the party" is one of those rare novels with an interesting story set on an interesting historical scenario. Both of them contributes to make it a book worthy to read.

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miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2018

Exploring the digital regulatory challenges for the next EU legislation

The legislative period is coming to an end in Europe. Whatever its consequences and impacts in the long and medium term , the las five years will be remember as the starting of the era where regulation of the digital issues became the new normal. Approximately 40 regulatory proposals has been adopted by the EU institutions to build up the so called Digital Single Market, the EU acquis on digital issues has been multiplied by four. 

Nevertheless, there has been tough issues to tackle. Particularly, all the topics regarding digital platforms has been object of intensive debate, and only in the last stretch of the legislative period looks that it is going to be adopted the first comprehensive piece of legal framework regulating the relationship between platforms and business. However, it is light piece of regulation and would almost certainly need a refurbishment in two or three years. 

But new technological disruptions are on the table and will deserve the attention of the EU institutions in the forthcoming five years. AI, blockchain and 5G poses new challenges to tackle. The strategy to face these new issues should be cautious but decided. Firstly, exploring and confirming the issues that deserve a regulatory approach. Secondly, with the design of the appropriate rules to respond to these issues.

On the first place, each category of AI poses a new challenge. In the case of Artificial Narrow Intelligence , it is the transparency of the algorithms that define the intelligence and its behavior according with the social values and legality. Going fast forward to Artificial General Intelligence, it appears the issue of liability. Finally, Artificial Super Intelligence would bring on the table the topic of the assignation of legal personality to machines. Not all these issues will be possible to tackle in the next EU legislative period, of course, but any legislation should take into consideration the big picture.

Secondly, blockchain and the rest of the DLTs have as their main legal gap the compatibility with the the GDPR. It is needed to explore how to combine the development of these technologies with the protection of personal data principles, as the consent ofor handling data, the right to be forgotten or the anonymisation. Besides this transversal issues to blockchain there challenges related with its sectoral applications, as the need for a consumer regulation regarding smart contracts.

Last but not least, 5G may also disrupt some aspects of telco regulation. The main worry that has emerged is the compatibility of the usage of network slicing features with net neutrality regulation, but almost certainly other issues may emerge around the deployment of network infrastructure.

miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2018

EU & Blockchain: The beginning of a beautiful friendship

Blockchain, or more generally speaking, Distributed Ledger Technologies is seen as one of the key enabler technologies for digital transformation of economy and the society. Beyond its usage in criptocurrencies and other financial services, applications are emerged in other areas of the data economy. As a consequence, the European Council pointed in October 2017 this technology as one of the emergent trends that need to be address by the European Union.

After the political support, the European Commission took the usual steps in order to work on exploring the applications of any technology. On one hand, the EC set up an initiative to collaborate with the the private sector called the EU Blockchain Observatory, that aims to identify regulatory challenges related with DLTs and explore their different use cases. On the other, hand, the EC established a group for collaboration with the Member States, called the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP), mainly focused in discovery the application of DLTs in cross-border public services and the specification and implementation of a trusted, secure and resilient European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) to support these services. 

The European Parliament has not been idle while the EC and the Member States were working in the EBPS and the EU Blockchain Observatory. After many working sessions, the Parliament has published in October 2018 a resolution called "Distributed ledger technologies and blockchains: building trust with disintermediation".  The resolution identifies many sectorial applications (energy, transport, healthcare, education, supply chains, creative industry, finances), describes the main elements of the DLT ecosystem (identity & trust, smart contracts, interoperability & standards, security), pushes for DLT public infrastructure, highlights its importance for SMEs (both as a tool for develop business opportunities and a financial mechanism) and concludes with listing policy actions to build up a blockchain-friendly Europe (strengthening skills, case-by-case regulation,  support R&D in the area and best practices exchange). 

So all the pieces are on the table for the next EU legislative period regarding blockchain. It´s time to take advantage of the Digital Single Market to develop an EU DLT policy approach and reap its benefits in the different economic sectors.

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2018

A digital phantom menace

Along the last years, Europe has been accused many times of sgital protectionism, particularly by US private and public actors. It´s  curious that both the current US President Mr. Trump) and the former one (Mr. Obama) has critised at one moment or other some of the policies developed in the Union to build the Digital Single Market. It may has something to do with the surge of lobby spending in Washington by the GAFA.

Although it may be difficult to determine what is digital protectionism, what it is true is the increasing difficulty of the GAFA to do business in Europe. Without being exhaustive, we have seen last year how new data protection rules has entried into force in EU, the finance ministers mulling with the idea of a Digital tax, a review of the audiovisual legal framework that aims to establish new obligations to Netflix-alike services and several antitrust investigations leaded by the European Commission are in different stages of its proceedings.

It would be an endless debate to discuss about the fairness of the above measures. While someone may call it to stifle innovation, others call it a mechanism to level the playing field. What it is true, it is that it is starting to float the idea of a partial or total shut down of GAFA services in Europe. The most clear and recent threat in this sense has come from Google, who has been ambiguous on the possibility to close down Google News in Europe in case the new EU copyright rules includes the so-call link tax. 

We should recognise that for many of us the GAFAs are so ingrained in our daily life that it´s difficult to imagine a life without them. However, it may not be a tragedy for EU it´s total shut down in Europe. As the Sweden example show us, it is possible to survive without, for instance, Amazon services. Furthermore, according with the results of the last DESI, Sweden is the second most digitally advanced country in Europe and 84% of the internet users shop online, well above the EU average and only overcome by UK.

So the menace of the shut down of GAFA service in Europe should not be as bad as it is feared, the Sweden example show us that there is life without digital platforms and also may have some postive effects in the digital performance of a country. The consequences, it the end, may be worst for the GAFAs than EU if the bluff is called.
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