I have written many times about the risks of Brexit, and I keep writing, because the risks are evolving, or at least my understanding of their probability and severity is. I am increasingly concerned that many brexiters underestimate the potential harm that a hard Brexit would cause. Apparently many EU leaders underestimate the harm a no-deal Brexit would do to the rest of the EU too. Any deal, no matter how poor, would enable the transitional arrangements to operate, and some arrangements would surely be made for such things as:
educational and business travel
law-enforcement and intelligence
In a no-deal Brexit, even the arrangements already negotiated would no longer stand.
Those who want no deal ignore the importance of goodwill
When we cross the deadline, we are bound to find things nobody has resolved. In the event of a deal, even a bad one, we can hope that common sense and goodwill would enable both sides to find ways around the difficulties, until they have made more permanent arrangements.
If there is no deal, it is likely that the atmosphere will be different. It is bad now, but could improve if a deal is done. Each side will blame the other for the failure to reach agreement. We can rely on the British tabloids to pour petrol on the flames. It would then be likely that officials on both sides of the Channel, would take a pedantic approach to every situation that falls into a grey area. They could be anyone from police and customs officers to local and national civil servants.
The recent scallop wars show how easily things can go wrong. Perhaps we Britons will find out what a hostile environment is like, when we apply for visas. Think of the Windrush scandal in reverse.
Can those who want no deal do any more harm after Brexit?
Yes! It is possible they have another agenda that is hiding behind Brexit. Am I a conspiracy theorist? No. I usually follow the cock-up theory of history. Of course, that one applies to Brexit too. I will write about this conspiracy risk in another blog.
Several councils in England are using algorithms, which are using data from many sources, within the council and, in some cases, other agencies. This has caused controversy over privacy and misuse of data.
Why are they doing it?
People have designed these algorithms to identify children at risk of abuse. Some councils are using another algorithm to identify children whom criminal gangs are likely to try to recruit. The systems can look at more data in minutes than humans can in days. This will enable social workers to concentrate on high-risk cases with all the data they need to make sensible decisions.
What are the risks?
If councils put so much data together from diverse sources, a hacker could have a feast.
The data councils have tends to be about poorer families. There is a risk that they will not notice at-risk children in better-off families. [That is a risk at present. The use of algorithms doesn’t affect it].
There are questions of the legality and morality of using data for purposes different from those for which it was collected, although any data can be accessed in order to prevent or detect crime.
What are the two big risks?
A council could take a child into care just because an algorithm said they should, perhaps wrongly stigmatising the parents.
Social workers could become so reliant on the system that they ceased using their knowledge, training, experience or common sense.
Do those risks not outweigh the advantages?
The risk that exists at the moment is that a child can slip through the net due to lack of resources, human error or failure to bring together information held by different departments or other bodies. All too often, a child has died despite warning signs, because no one person saw all the signs. Sometimes, a doctor, a policeman and a teacher all had their suspicions, but knew nothing of each other’s concerns. Nobody told the social worker.
Some people rely on ticking boxes without thinking, even using manual systems. A human needs to interpret data, whether you are safeguarding children, investigating a crime or assessing an insurance claim. Used rightly, an algorithm should free social workers from repetitive tasks and allow them to think about the information produced. People should take decisions. Not computers.
What’s this got to do with your business?
Most of us use statistics, and perhaps others should. We can mislead, or be misled, unless we learn how to use them properly. If you haven’t time to go on a course, try reading my little book, aimed at ordinary people, not mathematicians.
Gordon Brown has spoken, on the tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crash, of his fears that another such event could happen sometime soon. Some say he was responsible for the downturn in the first place. I say Gordon Brown did not cause Lehman Brothers to go under. Even George Osborne commends Brown for his handling of the crisis when it occurred.
Why does he expect another crash?
Most governments have not learned the lessons of the last one, or not acted upon them, anyway.
Governments have still not regulated the banks closely enough
Many of the regulations don’t apply to other financial institutions
Some banks are still too big to be allowed to fail
Property prices still affect economies disproportionately
In addition, a lot of people are worried about the economic woes of Turkey: they could be contagious!
How will it compare with the last crash?
It would, in Gordon Brown’s opinion, be worse than the previous one for several reasons.
Governments can’t cut interest rates much more.
They won’t be able to throw such huge sums at the banks.
International cooperation is less likely, given the populist, nationalist politics of many countries.
I haven’t even mentioned the effects of Brexit!
So what’s that got to do with you?
Ask yourself a few questions.
Have you any plans for such a crash?
What did you do last time?
What did others in your industry do?
Did you learn any lessons?
Wouldn’t a crash be as bad for everyone?
No! Some people were better prepared than others last time. Some even saw and took opportunities.
People looked for more low-cost/low-quality products and services.
Investors desired cash more than equities, generally.
It was a good time to buy, if you could afford to wait it out.
Have you a strategy for survival? Perhaps now is the time to produce one. Have a chat with me, if you want an independent opinion.
I have just taken the Heart Age online test that you have probably heard of in the media. My result? Let’s just say I’m moving all my investments into short term. Or I would be if I trusted the results. If I had a dodgy heart, this test result could bring on a coronary!
What factors affect my heart age?
Three big things seem to have driven the results.
An underlying condition, for which I am getting treatment
My cholesterol level
My blood pressure
The results included advice to act to reduce items 2 and 3. There was not a question asking how or even whether my condition is being treated.
Would action on items 2 and 3 help my heart?
The reason for the bad results is that in answer to the relevant questions, I clicked on ‘Don’t know’. I don’t, because I have never been told what the figures mean. Therefore, when I have a routine check-up, I just wait to be told if the figures are up or down and do whatever the doctor or nurse recommends. I am on tablets which keep my cholesterol down, and my blood pressure has always been OK or better. I just don’t know the numbers.
Why does ‘don’t know’ mean heart problems?
That is another thing I don’t know. I assume the system inserts an average result. That implies most people have too much cholesterol and high blood pressure. Or is it just the ones taking the test?
What would make my heart younger?
Better diet and more exercise are the main recommendations. They are things I am already working on. Of course, dietary advice is constantly changing, as is advice about alcohol consumption. The only way to get a more useful picture of the health of your heart, or any other part of you, is to get a proper medical check-up and have a serious conversation with a doctor or other health professional.
Remember, stress is very bad for your heart.
Worrying about your health is bad for you. Don’t worry: just take sensible measures, based on sound medical advice. Also, try to reduce stress at work or in any area of life. A risk management consultation might help you get control of the risks in your business and so reduce some of the causes of stress. Have a word with me. There are various therapies which different people have found useful in managing stress, from massage to hypnosis. Try one.