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]
International investors have a private court of appeal even in criminal matters - "A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. [ISDS] operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret." (via) [more inside]
Vitalik Buterin invented the world's hottest new cryptocurrency and inspired a movement — before he'd turned 20 - "I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already." [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]
Elizabeth Warren has a great idea for making Tax Day less painful - "She's taking on TurboTax and other predatory companies." [more inside]
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions -"The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income." (via) [more inside]
Big Pot: the California Democratic party added marijuana legalisation to its party platform - "Earlier this year Founders Fund, a venture capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, led a $75m investment round into Privateer, a private equity group focused on cannabis. It is the biggest single investment in the US cannabis industry to date: 'What Privateer is doing is looking like a Procter & Gamble or a Coca-Cola approach. The real value in the market is going to be having the Coke-calibre brand...' Meanwhile, a distinctly California-style backlash is already growing [and] the US has become an exporter of illegal cannabis to Mexico, as cultivation in the US has increased." [more inside]
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]
Supreme Court rules against gerrymandering - "Ginsburg's opinion is now the law, and I suspect that, in a few decades, this case will be considered one of the most important of the term. Thus far, only California has copied Arizona and created an independent redistricting commission. But with the court's blessing, more states are likely to follow suit. These commissions have been hugely successful thus far, a real boost for representative democracy and a cure for the notoriously stubborn problem of gerrymandering. Had Justice Anthony Kennedy swung away from Ginsburg and aligned with his fellow conservatives, America would be facing down a distressingly undemocratic future."
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]
Scott Aaronson on building a 'PageRank' for (eigen)morality and (eigen)trust - "Now, would those with axes to grind try to subvert such a system the instant it went online? Certainly. For example, I assume that millions of people would rate Conservapedia as a more trustworthy source than Wikipedia—and would rate other people who had done so as, themselves, trustworthy sources, while rating as untrustworthy anyone who called Conservapedia untrustworthy. So there would arise a parallel world of trust and consensus and 'expertise', mutually-reinforcing yet nearly disjoint from the world of the real. But here's the thing: anyone would be able to see, with the click of a mouse, the extent to which this parallel world had diverged from the real one." [more inside]
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
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]
The Control Revolution And Its Discontents - "the long process of algorithmisation over the last 150 years has also, wherever possible, replaced implicit rules/contracts and principal-agent relationships with explicit processes and rules."
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]
With the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act being argued in lower courts, it's probably also worth looking at Vermont's adoption of single-payer health care: "On May 26, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont is expected to sign legislation that will create universal coverage in the state—eventually. Vermont will use subsidies from the Affordable Care Act to help create a Canada-style system. And its system, or so the theory goes, will become so popular and cheap that the rest of America will want to copy it." [more inside]
How two American kids became big-time weapons traders - "Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history." (via; previously on arms contractors)
The Birth of Sharing Law and the Rise of Co-ops - "A new sharing economy is emerging — but how does it fit within our legal system? Time for a whole new field of cooperation law." (via wc)
With the climate bill dead and blame portioned, Ezra Klein asks what happens when congress fails? He concludes that "regulations to reduce carbon emissions are alive and well. The Environmental Protection Agency can attack carbon as a pollutant, and the Obama administration's announcement that efforts to hamstring the EPA will be vetoed suggests that they mean to do exactly that." [more inside]
Too many laws, too many prisoners - Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little. [previously] (via nc)
Prelude to Federation - Like a neocolonial SEZ (or TAZ) Paul Romer, not to be confused with David, posits "less developed countries contract with capitalist nations to set up Hong Kong's for them... that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore)." cf. neocameralism [1, 2, 3] [more inside]
Embracing Illegals: Companies are getting hooked on the buying power of 11 million undocumented immigrants - The Underground Labor Force Is Rising To The Surface [pdf]