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Monday, February 27, 2017

Universal Basic Income is Welfare

The idea of a universal basic income has found growing support in Silicon Valley as robots threaten to radically change the nature of work.
Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar is the latest tech bigwig to get behind the concept. His philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyar Network, announced Wednesday that it will give nearly half a million dollars to a group testing the policy in Kenya.
Universal basic income is the notion that a government should guarantee every citizen a yearly sum of money, no strings attached. The thinking is that such a program would relieve economic stress as automation technology severely reduces the demand for labor.
Theories along these lines have existed for centuries, but their proponents have never had much luck convincing governments to give them a shot. Thus, the only data on real-world effects come from a few scattered experiments throughout the years.
GiveDirectly is looking to add to that knowledge with one of the biggest trials of a basic income system in history. 
The group recently launched a 12-year pilot program in which it plans to give 6,000 Kenyans regular stipends for the entire duration. Around 20,000 more will receive at least some form of cash transfer.
The Omidyar Network is hoping the study will help advance the debate around basic income from broad theoretical terms to more practical considerations.
"While the discussion has generated a lot of heat, it hasn’t produced very much light," wrote the Omidyar Network's Mike Kubzansky and Tracy Williams in a blog post announcing the pledge. "There is very little research and empirical evidence on how and when UBI could best be used."
Omidyar isn't the only tech mogul backing efforts to take the theory from paper to practice. 
Startup incubator Y-Combinator is in the midst of one such study in the Bay Area, and its president, Sam Altman, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have kicked $10 million towards another research project.
A number of other tests have also cropped up in recent months as universal basic income finds more mainstream acceptance. 
-Patrick Kulp, Mashable  
Your Constructive Comments are Welcome!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Propaganda is Obvious

Because it is excellent, I've cut and pasted from a fascinating- and chilling -article by Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath from  If you wanted reasons to spend less time on line, well here you go.  The full article is at  This is a must read.  Thanks Tom Civiletti for your post.
The upshot:  political, social and economic propagandizers now have the capacity to customize their message to every single individual with an online presence.  They can build a total experience for you, complete with a large group of fake friends, that is emotionally addicting and intellectually manipulative.  They can construct a complete world just for you, solely for the purpose of contolling your decisions.  Which doesn't feel like control at all.
This is why I believe people who run face-to-face businesses like I do will never become extinct.  In fact, now is our time.  We must counteract this powerful, pervasive and unConstitutional manipulation of one another.

At Scout, we’ve been speaking with political strategists, technologists, and machine learning experts about how AI propaganda will spread through society in the near future. We want to work with you, the Scout community, to scenario plan what happens next. Here are some implications to get the conversation started.


Public Sentiment Turns Into High-Frequency Trading
Thanks to stock-trading algorithms, large portions of public stock and commodity markets no longer resemble a human system and, some would argue, no longer serve their purpose as a signal of value. Instead they’re a battleground for high-frequency trading algorithms attempting to influence price or find nano-leverage in price position.
In the near future, we may see a similar process unfold in our public debates. Instead of battling press conferences and opinion articles, public opinion about companies and politicians may turn into multi-billion dollar battles between competing algorithms, each deployed to sway public sentiment. Stock trading algorithms already exist that analyze millions of Tweets and online posts in real-time and make trades in a matter of milliseconds based on changes in public sentiment. Algorithmic trading and ‘algorithmic public opinion’ are already connected. It’s likely they will continue to converge.


Personalized, Automated Propaganda That Adapts to Your Weaknesses
What if President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign didn’t just have the best political messaging, but 250 million algorithmic versions of their political message all updating in real-time, personalized to precisely fit the worldview and attack the insecurities of their targets? Instead of having to deal with misleading politicians, we may soon witness a cambrian explosion of pathologically-lying political and corporate bots that constantly improve at manipulating us.


Not Just a Bubble, But Trapped in Your Own Ideological Matrix
Imagine that in 2020 you found out that your favorite politics page or group on Facebook didn’t actually have any other human members, but was filled with dozens or hundreds of bots that made you feel at home and your opinions validated? Is it possible that you might never find out?

Your Constructive Comments are Welcome!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Will Trump's Killing the Environmental Protection Agency create jobs?

To be perfectly frank, I really don't know if this is a myth or not.  But it's definitely the wrong question.  It's like asking, "If I kill my neighbor, will that create jobs?"  Yes.  It will help create jobs.  For lawyers, prosecuters, judges and corrections officers.

The tobacco industry's lies about the effects of their product created thousands of jobs.  For people who develop, make, sell and use cancer drugs.  For oncology doctors and nurses.  For undertakers and funeral homes.

The relevant question should be, "Will Trump's killing of the EPA have a net benefit to all Americans?"
The resounding answer is, "Of course not".  Any idiot knows it's a bad idea to dump coal mining waste into waterways.  The vast majority of people understand that we no longer need coal nor can we afford to keep burning it if we want our grandchildren to have a place to live.  Finally, economically, if your business has to cause harm in order to survive then you don't reallly have a business, you have a scam.  Those externalized costs are incalculably expensive to the rest of us and should not be allowed.  It's as simple as that.

Good jobs are sustainable jobs.  Let's quit wasting time on living in the past.  Keep in mind, most occupations today did not exist 20 years ago!

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Trump's delay of Fiduciary rules is a good thing.

Well, no, it isn't. But it could be. To get up to speed, here's a good summary of the rules: Yeah, that is a many thousands of words summary.  You should see the whole thing!

In a nutshell, the Dept. of Labor's new rules would have required anyone who gives advice about retirement plans to be held to a fiduciary standard: the investor's welfare must be placed above the interests of both the adviser and his firm. What, you say? Don't they do this already? Um, no.

So how could reversal of this rule possibly be "good"? At least two reasons.

  1. Because it will be a great differentiator between those of us who already submit ourselves to a ficudiary standard and those who do not. And all you have to do is ask, "Are you a legal fiduciary, and, do you hold yourself to a fiduciary standard in all areas of your practice?"
  2. Laws and regulations are great but the #1 most effective consumer protection is smarter more careful consumers.  Spend some time at the Investor Protection Trust (while it still exists).

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