From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy - "A former academic mathematician and ex-hedge fund quant exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics, with results that cause damage both financially and to the fabric of society. Programmed biases and a lack of feedback are among the concerns behind the clever and apt title of Cathy O'Neil's book: Weapons of Math Destruction." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Kennedy was right - "Much that is valuable is neither tangible nor tradable... Gross domestic product (GDP) is increasingly a poor measure of prosperity. It is not even a reliable gauge of production."* [more inside]
World After Capital by Albert Wenger [Work in Progress; GitHub; GitBook; PDF; FAQ] - "Technological progress has shifted scarcity for humanity. When we were foragers, food was scarce. During the agrarian age, it was land. Following the industrial revolution, capital became scarce. With digital technologies scarcity is shifting from capital to attention. World After Capital suggests ways to expand economic, informational and psychological freedom to go from an industrial to a knowledge society." (previously)
The Future of (Post)Capitalism - "Paul Mason shows how, from the ashes of the recent financial crisis, we have the chance to create a more socially just and sustainable global economy." (previously; via) [more inside]
Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data. [Maclean's Magazine]
Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. A months-long Maclean’s investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
Shared Prosperity, Common Wealth, National Equity and a Citizen's Dividend: Nirit Peled takes a look at social experiments in basic incomes for VPRO Tegenlicht, a Dutch public television documentary series. Starting with a German crowdfunded UBI chosen by raffle -- kind of like the opposite of Le Guin's Omelas (or Shirley Jackson's Lottery in reverse) -- the focus moves on to Albert Wenger who wants to disconnect work from income not only as automation progresses but to accelerate the process. Then it's on to Guy Standing who has conducted basic income experiments in India and Namibia (pdf) and is trying to get one off the ground in Groningen (Utrecht apparently is also a go). Finally, a stop in Alaska to ask some of its residents about their views on the state-owned Permanent Fund. This last part brings to mind the question: just what is wealth anyway? [more inside]
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
Foundation: Public Goods and Options for the Bottom Billions - "Human beings just don't handle the very long run well" and that's where government increasingly comes in... (via) [more inside]
BIG and BOT Policy Proposals (transcript) - "Many of our current economic policies originated during times of scarcity. But now, says investor Albert Wenger, we live in an era of 'digital abundance', when creating new products costs virtually nothing. To adapt to the resulting economic upheavals, we won't need just more tech, says Wenger, but some strong policies. Here he explores two: basic income guarantee and the right to be represented by a bot." [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
The Destruction of Economic Facts - "Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge" (via) [more inside]
The FBI has released their extensive files on US Senator Edward M. Kennedy to the public, covering their relationship with him between 1961 and 1985. The seven files, totaling more than 2,200 pages of documents reveal (among other things,) the perhaps unsurprising news that the late Senator received "scores" of death threats from radical groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, “Minutemen” organizations, and the National Socialist White People’s Party. The release was initiated by a Freedom of Information Act Request from Judicial Watch on May 3, 2010, (Complaint pdf) but the FBI gave the Senator's family the "rare opportunity" to raise objections before releasing the file.
A daily intelligence brief on Iraq, prepared by a private contractor for the U.S. military and companies working in Iraq--SOC-SMG Inc --paints a grim picture of life in Baghdad. The information in large sections of the brief? It came from this blog: Iraq the Model
National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Sometimes, its the unheralded steps, that take you most quickly to your destination. On October 7, 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and their associated domains announced the first release of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Version 0.1. NIEM "establishes a single standard XML foundation for exchanging information between DHS, DOJ, and supporting domains, such as Justice, Emergency Management, and Intelligence." The release of this specification, and the development of the systems that utilize it may actually be the cataylst for more 'progress' in information mining on the individual than most other, well publicized efforts. NIEM Mission: "To assist in developing a unified strategy, partnerships, and technical implementations for national information sharing — laying the foundation for local, state, tribal, and federal interoperability by joining together communities of interest." When you say it like that, it sounds sort of cool!
we may not know where they are - but here's where they've been... An incredible amount of information - current and historical - well indexed and with about a billion options for searching through it. pretty impressive for what is at least unofficially a quasi-federal government site despite protestations to the contrary.
Watch the watchers. Government Information Awareness:A single, comprehensive, easy-to-use repository of information on individuals, organizations, and corporations related to the government of the United States of America.
Information deemed useful to terrorists is disappearing from government Web sites. I know this is old news, but this article details some of the specifics of whas has been happening. "The previous presumption, that publicly-funded information is the rightful property of the public until proven otherwise, has been replaced by the presumption that the public has to prove to a suspicious government that it deserves the information." I understand that as a nation we are hypersensitive now to terrorism, but isn't this just what the terrorists want? The loss of our freedoms to information?
Paging Winston Smith... Not content with mere cynical doublespeak, the Bush Administration is now trying to shape government reports and research to agree with the President's beliefs: an EPA report omits a section on global warming for the first time in six years; the Department of Health and Human Services is being "restructured," eliminating committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views; and at the Department of Education, old studies that contradict the current administration's policies are being removed from the agency's web site. When you add this trend to the administration's "permanent war," I suspect George Orwell is smiling somewhere...
Clinton Holds Online "Fireside Chat" While Being Serviced By White House Intern. The Prez took this "historic occasion" to unveil a new federal web site - firstgov.gov, a sort-of government portal that would link up to all federal web sites. Firstgov.gov will begin a multi-city advertising blitz once it secures $254 million in venture capital funding. And just wait for the IPO.