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August 11, 2015

An open letter to Lawrence Lessig

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 2:21 pm

I believe in the power of technology to change the world, and I thought I’d respond to Lawrence Lessig’s unconventional bid for US President. Here is my letter.

The idea of using the Presidential election for a referendum on citizen equality is great. It is a great platform to draw attention to this overall issue. However, how do you plan to achieve citizen equality in a representative democracy? Fiddling around the edges by “getting money out of politics” may be as wishful as people asking for non-proliferation of AI, drones, or big data. Instead, I want to suggest that the mechanism of voting, itself, is the problem.

Put simply, there is good reason to believe that transparent, publicly overseen polling with true random samples is far superior to voting. Voting favors those who get a higher turnout, or special interests who can spin more campaign dollars. It wastes money as people take a day off (why don’t we have an app for this?) and super PACs spend oodles of money on feverish campaigns. If you want one issue, how about replacing voting with polling. Our government should establish a publicly overseen bureau of public opinion, something that can be done gradually and proven out. It would be actually achievable, unlike a reform that the Executive branch could never do on its own.

Polling would actually get people’s opinion, and gradually reduce the need for representatives at all, representatives who bicker and don’t represent their own constituents because they want to get re-elected or sacrifice their campaign promises in order to gain favors for their pet issue. Polling is a far superior tool that is mathematically shown to reveal what the public really favors. If it was in place, we would have long ago put in place reforms that 90% of Americans favor, such as ending the war on drugs, sensible gun control, etc. And we’d get a government that really represents the American people.

Replace voting with polling. That will achieve true, mathematically proven, citizen equality.

December 18, 2014

A response to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:34 pm

I recently called into a libertarian radio show to discuss my views, and after the call, one of the hosts, Christopher Cantwell, wrote a very thoughtful piece discussing what I said. This is my response to that. As he rightly pointed out, it’s difficult to solve anything meaningful in a 5-10 minute phonecall to a radio show, and so I think this format is much better for that sort of thing.

My overall point of view is this: people maintain lots of different types of organizations. A state is an organization, and so is a city, a company, a co-op, and so forth. These organizations have to be run somehow. The government of a state is analogous to the management team of a co-op: the state “owns” the land, the government is set up to manage the organization.

In a co-op, people may vote for a board, which then votes in policies, which may not be unanimously favored. If you don’t like the policies, you should be free to move out, but as an ancap I doubt you’d argue that people should be able to stay in their apartment without paying rent, violating a “no pets” policy, and not expect to encounter any force. You wouldn’t call rent “theft”. But, when it comes to a larger organization such as a city or state, you call the taxes theft and nearly any law enforcement illegitimate.

Why the special pleading in the case of states? My contention is that the main difference is just one of scale and switching costs. The state as an organization is just too big and it is just too expensive to move to some other states, similar to how it’s hard to leave facebook and not see all those photos from your friends anymore. That doesn’t mean facebook can be run in a way that makes everyone perfectly happy and free to do whatever they want.

Let’s look at other possible reasons you might bring up. The “Lysander Spooner” argument that you didn’t sign a contract with a state but you did with a co-op when you moved in. Well, actually, when your parents or whoever cane physically moved to the state, or set up a business interacting with people living there, etc. they did in fact make numerous agreements and covenants. So at least for businesses paying taxes to their city, I think the situation is quite analogous to, say, a store paying rent to a mall and complying with its policies. You can always NOT run a business in that city or state. Secondly, I doubt you would argue that if you were born in an apartment and inherited it from your parents without ever signing a single agreement with the co-op, the co-op therefore has to let you have the apartment completely for free, never evict you and take pains not to restrict your freedom in any way by requiring you to follow policies the rest of the people signed. Why is that? You didn’t sign any contract but somewhere you realize that the co-op is a community and your de facto guarantees and protections are extended by the co-op itself. For practical reasons, it is more a question of being within their jurisdiction, than signing an agreement. Perhaps one day technology will obviate the need for jurisdictions in more areas of life. It already has done that in some. But until then, for practical reasons, we have jurisdictions and organizations with overlapping jurisdictions make agreements between each other about how they will handle their internal matters. Now, the reason this “inheriting” happens much more often in a state, is the scale of the state. You are simply less likely to live your whole life in an apartment until your parents leave it to you, than you are in a country. And frankly, if the States of the US all required you to sign documents when traveling between them or establishing a business within the state, it’s likely that the “contract difference” would be completely eliminated.

You may say that the state has a “monopoly in violence” but in fact, in many parts of the world, it does not. In the USA, the federal government is arguably the organization whose laws trump state law (in view of the 10th and 14th amendments this is debatable). And yet it’s very rare that federal law enforcement officers or bureaucrats would be the ones dealing with you if you were arrested on the street. The organization using force locally is the city, and each city is a separate organization from every other city. You are subject, in fact, to overlapping jurisdictions of your county/city, state, and federal governments. Some corporations may hire armed guards. Some county sheriff may arrest you and put you in a county prison as a completely local matter. So there is no monopoly of force in the USA at least. However you want to organize society, someone will always be enforcing some laws enacted by some organization or in accordance with some agreement between organizations. Whether it’s an armed guard in a building, or a police department of a city.

It is only by singling out states for special treatment over every other type of organization that one can make accusations and ivory-tower pontifications of the type libertarians make, and I want to explore the real factors behind the difference. I think you’ll find that, if “the state” was removed, then this wouldn’t get rid of use of force, or any of the other “bad” things. It would just take another form. For example, in tribal Scotland, highland clans weren’t any less violent than a unified Kingdom was internally. In fact, violence around the world has been going down on every scale (millennia, hundreds of years, decades) “despite” larger and more sophisticated states forming.

In view of this, using morality as our guide isn’t always guaranteed to give any consistent answers. Is copyright protection morally good or bad? Even libertarians are divided on that. How about owning land? What is “ownership” anyway? It is an expression of property rights, as determined by the rules and laws involved. These vary from place to place, and just like the expression “human nature” - when you get down to it - the more universal you want your statement to be the less traits you have to require in common. There is no “universal law of property” that covers all contingencies the same equally. There are issues of religion (eg usury), shared use (eg easements), risk (eg fractional reserve requirements) time (eg adverse possession) liability (eg bankruptcy protection) practicality (eg predatory lending restrictions) and much more.

In fact, the whole distinction between “negative” rights (freedom From) and “positive” rights (freedom To) is spurious. In the jungle they are respected exactly the same. Human civilization is all about establishing frameworks for ensuring some degree of guarantee and assurance of various conditions that people have come to expect. These days we have drinkable water running to our sink and emergency rooms that by law must try to save our life regardless of ability to pay. All these things are the result of progress, a gift you receive just by virtue of being alive now and not 2000 years ago. Previous generations have spent a lot of resources to get it to you. Those people are no longer on the planet and therefore your notions of paying everyone for their contribution doesn’t apply here. Billions benefit from the intential and sometimes accidental innovations and wealth creation of the past millions. It is a free gift. You take these for granted and divide them into “positive rights” and “negative rights” and look for morality as the sole guide to how to structure today’s organizations. I simply observe what is happening and want to focus on maximizing outcomes such as overall health, wealth, satisfaction, happiness and actual freedom. I worry about questions like, what kinds of things can organizations do in order to achieve these goals? Both at the level of a state or a school. While we’re at it protecting property with courts, is there a limit to the enforcement of property rights or are they absolute? On the Laffer curve for taxation does zero wealth redistribution really achieve the best, or even close to the best, outcomes? Look at the first-order effect welfare had on poverty, before the diminishing returns. Having a safety net also makes everyone more free to take risks. They are able to afford switching costs that otherwise would restrict them from making informed choices, rendering their freedom in name only.

There’s plenty to think about there, in fact these have always been the major subject of political and organizational innovation. In some of my other posts I tackle these kinds of questions.

We can all get caught in our favorite political philosophies, but history has shown one of the most dangerous types of people is someone in power who puts their ideology before the lives and welfare of their fellow human beings. So keep an open mind, and don’t think your political philosophy is the “only” and “best” way to run things, at any cost. No one is perfect, and “we are all stupid, just on different subjects.”

November 14, 2014

My thoughts on Net Neutrality

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:11 pm

Over the past few years my work in Qbix has put me at the crossroads of internet and politics. I welcomed the opportunity to discuss and debate political issues and philosophy with many people — friends, radio hosts, and so forth — and in the process this helped me better understand my own political philosophy and articulate my views.

I am neither Libertarian nor Republican, nor Democrat. I guess the closest terms I’d apply are Liberal, Minarchist, Distributist, and Realist. I care that arguments are made in good faith and supported by facts. I don’t rely on using the political system to solve most of our problems, and I think I live in a country whose general population’s ability to influence public policy has greatly diminished. We can see, for example, that 95% of our representatives in Congress have just been re-elected despite a dismal 14% approval rating just prior to the election. What does that say about our democracy?

The Net Neutrality Debate

Anyway, now that our electorate has spilled a lot of ink regarding Net Neutrality and 3 million comments were sent to the FCC, the issue remains. The current Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, was a former venture capitalist and lobbyist for the Telecom industry. Obama placed this man to head up the FCC, perhaps partially because of his personal efforts in raising money for Obama’s campaign – this kind of stuff happens at all levels of government. And the current fight is currently over whether the FCC should reclassify broadband Internet service back as a Common Carrier Utility rather than an Information Service. Some Telecom companies and Billionaire mavericks warn against this, while Net Neutrality advocates say it’s a bunch of fearmongering. I think the problem is something deeper — it’s the fact that corporations have gotten so big and centralized that we as a population need to argue about one-size-fits all policies that are then imposed on everyone.

“Net Neutrality” is a term that one side uses to dress up a bunch of complicated policy decisions, and not all those 3 million people writing comments to the FCC understand the implications, if anyone really does at all. It’s a marketing term, same as “Right to Life” and “Right to Choose”, that casts the opposing viewpoints as straw people. Meanwhile, the actionable proposal is to reclassify Broadband Internet as as a “Common Carrier”, undoing its earlier reclassification by the FCC as an “Information service” – which the FCC expected would speed up Broadband adoption in the US. One issue is whether that reasoning applies anymore, and if not, why not. Another issue is whether rules that apply to telephone networks, which carry conversations between people, should govern the transit of Internet data, which can be sent by one site (such as Netflix) to millions of customers at once. But the real issue here is the size of the participants involved, and the amount of data on the Internet they handle.

Earlier this year, we’ve seen merger taking place between AT&T, DirectTV, Comcast and Time Warner. Over the last two decades we’ve seen something similar happen in the banking industry, where “too big to fail” banks merged to be even bigger. Say what you want about politics or the free market, but it’s pretty obvious that the more top-down these companies the run, the more one-size-fits-all solutions we will be debating, and the more unintended consequences might arise from the fallout of either decision.

General Principles

As for myself, I think that we would fare much better if our governments were set up differently. Analyzing all the different political debates, one theme has emerged for me over and over again – government does well when its role is limited to ensuring people’s minimum expectations are met. These expectations vary from place to place and increase with better technology – for example, Romans had aqueducts, while most of us have come to expect running tap water that’s safe to drink, and would be up in arms if we didn’t have that. Along with access to safe drinking water, the UN has recently proclaimed internet access to be a “fundamental human right.”

But as with any guarantees and free things, there should be a limit on how much something can be consumed before the consumers have to pay for resources. Let’s analyze that issue without resorting to an easy-to-defeat straw man. Basically, we can think of free things (free food on a cruise, etc.) as an egalitarian layer which delivers goods and services only up to a certain point — usually this point is a reasonable one that would satisfy many consumers. For example, if a person started eating all the food, stuffing it in their luggage, throwing it overboard, etc. then at some point the cruise operators would approach the person and either ban them from consuming any more resources (”by force”) or give them the option to continue doing it, but pay. This doesn’t mean the lower level wasn’t free to consumers – only that it was limited.

What’s nice about this free layer is that it’s provides safety net for people down on their luck, and also lowers the barrier for new entrants and trying new ideas. Yes, the markets are distorted by the guarantees and resource transfers, but there’s also quite a bit of data to show that we get a lot of bang for the buck and also leads to better resource allocation in society.

But it’s only free up to a point. In my opinion, a company sending 34% of the internet’s traffic shouldn’t expect the same treatment as a company that’s hosting a small website. It’s pretty obvious that Netflix is setting up special peering agreements with tier 1 providers such as ComcastVerizonAT&T. Net Neutrality isn’t about this, and it shouldn’t be. It’s about “the last mile”, which the FCC admits is basically a duopoly.

The Takeaway

So the real issue here is one of mergers, giant corporations, and lack of competition. This leads to top-down solutions that are then debated in a political way. Many libertarians are especially conflicted in this debate since a free and neutral Web has obviously shown to produce a lot of wealth and innovation, and yet the size of the corporations is now causing debate whether “free market” should be meant in the Adam Smith sense or the strict Laissez-Faire sense. By contrast, my position is clear even in this case. In my opinion, we should have been seriously considering distributism and and implementing an unconditional basic income.

November 10, 2014

Some Sensible Suggestions for Bill de Blasio’s Office

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:30 am

With the recent speed limit overhauls in New York City, I would like to write an open letter to the Mayor’s office recommending some smart policies that would actually reduce congestion, improve the city’s economy, produce more revenue for the city and save lives. Will any of these get implemented?

  1. Require delivery trucks to share their routes with the city, work with them and their client businesses to move as many deliveries as possible to night-time. That will reduce the terrible congestion in Manhattan during the day, and also create jobs. This is already done in other cities and countries such as Britain.
  2. Install systems that detect when a parking spot is freed up, such as sensors along the sidewalk or image recognition mounted on traffic lights, able to distinguish pavement, e.g. via colors. Partner with companies that would provide such a system, and let them make money via subscriptions to an app that all drivers would have to download to know where the parking spots are. 30% of city traffic is from cars circling to find parking, which helps no one. This way the city can make revenue from cars which overstay their 2 hours, by having the meter maids (via the same company’s app) be dispatched to places where the car’s meter is about to expire, instead of wandering randomly.
  3. Optimize traffic light synchronization to reward people going 25mph. Work with NJ, etc. to expand EXITS of tunnels and bridges leading out of Manhattan. Make green light duration depend on congestion, increasing green light time around exits from tunnels, while decreasing it for blocks around entrances to tunnels and bridges. This is a classic way to dissipate jams.

And those lawmakers who really care about saving people’s lives should consider working to require car manufacturers to start adding systems that detect pedestrians ahead and prevent collisions. The technology exists. Instead of relying on people to prevent accidents by driving slower, please consider actively promoting better technology to help achieve vision zero.

October 7, 2014

Stop wasting our time

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:24 am

A “green screen”, in the movie business, referred to a device for filming people and inserting backgrounds later. Anything in the foreground with the same share of green, of course, could disappear as well during editing.

Let’s imagine applying a “green screen”, but this time to our economy. Take money out of the equation for a second, and look at what’s going on. All across the country, people are working long and longer hours just to maintain their standard of life and provide for their family. But at the same time someone is working 25% longer hours in their job, someone else applying for those same jobs is getting rejected!

What’s going on? Clearly, if both people were hired, they could each work less and more would be accomplished. This is an example of a pathological misallocation of resources, in this case the resource being human labor. If the resource was food, some people would be starving while stores would have to throw out extra food every night. Is the trend accelerating, and what, if anything, could we do about it?

At the same time, it’s become fashionable in some circles to attribute all these problems to government regulation, taxes, and that catch-all word, “socialism”. If only there would be less “wealth redistribution”, they would argue, the markets would be freer, everyone could be employed and on better terms. I’d like to show that, in reality, the solution could be quite the opposite.

The last 20-30 years have brought about large changes to our economy’s fundamentals. Improvements in logistics have enabled supply chains to stretch around the world. Apple products, once proudly “Made in the USA”, are now primarily assembled abroad, by companies like FOXCONN who pay workers much less than Americans’ local cost of living. Those jobs are not coming back from overseas – not to humans anyway. Record stores have been replaced with iTunes and online media services. Bookstores have been disrupted by Amazon (though indie ones aren’t dead yet).. A decade ago, we had travel agencies. When was the last time you used one? The majority of that work is done by computers at Expedia and other websites.

All in all, computers are doing the work that people used to do, and not enough new jobs have been created to pick up the slack. The result is a demand shock for local human labor, and the consequences can be serious.

We’ve seen a dramatic demand shock before. Before the Great Depression, 20% of US workers were employed in farm-related jobs. Today, it is only 2%. The shift that occurred in the Great Depression can clearly be seen to originate on the farms. Farmers were working longer and longer hours producing cheaper and cheaper produce, while others struggled to find employment at all. Sound familiar? It took 10 years for the workforce to migrate to cities (John Steinbeck’s the Grapes of Wrath comes to mind) for factories to be built, and for the country to move to a more manufacturing-based economy. It also helped that after World War 2, most manufacturing economies in Europe and Japan were bombed out, so American manufacturing (such as Detroit in its heyday) got a head start.

Today we are seeing something similar, but with more safety nets in place. Old people have social security and medicare. People with low income receive a variety of subsidies, ranging from unemployment, to welfare checks, to collectively bargained (and heavily subsidized) medical and education services. Many programs, such as public schools and roads, are redistributions of wealth that aren’t obvious.

But let’s get back to our question, of why some people are working longer hours than ever, while others who want the job are being turned away. One reason is, of course, there is a cost to train and support a new employee. But beyond that, if both people would agree to work less and get paid less, the company’s expenses over the long term would be roughly the same.

The reason this doesn’t happen, of course, is that the person working overtime (for the same amount of money as before) isn’t willing to give up half their pay so someone else can pitch in to help. They may do it for a family member, but not for a stranger. And why? Isn’t money supposed to motivate us to help strangers? Precisely because they can’t afford it. Less and less money is finding its way to the wage-earners of America, and more is given to executive pay and funneled to overseas workers and tax havens. We see this in every recent study on income inequality, and heard it voiced recently by the Occupy movement.

We don’t have to limit or tax executives’ pay in order to solve the problem of unemployment. Making the rich “pay their fair share” in taxes isn’t going to raise enough money to even make a dent.

In fact, safety nets are what make unemployment tolerable. When people know that they will survive on a smaller salary, suddenly they go from working overtime for dear life to seeking part-time employment. Which means instead of one person working 12 hour days, we can have two people working 6. Safety nets lead to better allocation of people’s time and labor. People can use the rest of their time to get an education in the jobs of tomorrow, pursue careers they are really passionate about, or start their own business.

For years, there have been proposals for an unconditional basic income — all citizens, receiving a regular monthly check in the mail, for the same amount whether rich or poor. This idea has enjoyed support from progressives, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives alike. Such a system would help absorb demand shocks for human labor and allow people to spend their time more usefully, without having to prove a low income to welfare workers, while resisting temptation to work for “cash under the table”.

Our safety nets help mitigate the growing unemployment we face. Far from being hazardous to the markets, they help people allocate their time properly. If our society ever implemented an unconditional basic income that would completely cover a minimum cost of living, people would go from saying “I can’t afford to lose this job” to asking, “what do I get for working full time at your company?”

If this were a static society, where demand for local labor was always the same, employees would always be needed and valued by the capitalists. But in a world where technology progresses at a lightning pace and there are a billion people around the world willing to work for 20 dollars a day, safety nets are the best defense for our workers’ standard of life. They enable our people to use their time more productively, get more educated for the future, start new companies based in our country, and serve the rest of the world who will pay for American products and services. Don’t worry, the money we spend overseas will come back. In the meantime, thanks to safety nets, hopefully Americans won’t waste their lives.

September 11, 2014

What Palestinians can do that’s actually productive

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:08 pm

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, if you’re tired of the same old struggles, violence and death, as I am, then you should read this post. It’ll focus your attention on actual policies that can promote peace and move everyone in the region closer to a solution, by focusing on what’s really at stake and drawing logical conclusions.

At a time when the “Islamist Resistance Movement” Hamas wages an endless jihad against Israeli “occupation”, indiscriminately firing rockets, drawing Israeli military response before negotiating, while rejecting ceasefires, and declares a victory when 1500 civilians in Gaza were killed (30% of whom were children!) one gets the inkling that there might be better approaches. But such approaches are unlikely to come from ideological organizations whose officials can’t seem to stop saying that their actual goal is to get rid of the State of Israel completely. It should be clear to any thinking person that declaring you pose an existential threat to the other party is not good diplomacy, and will not lead to peace. No, we need to appeal to more moderate (and more secular!) organizations, but what can they do beyond what they’ve already been doing?

In my last post, I said that governance was the central issue, and spoke about what Israel and its neighboring countries can do to bring about a lasting governmental structure in the Gaza strip, thereby ensuring not only stability but economic growth and prosperity as well as a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie on the part of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis. The momentum gained from that could galvanize the political will to try something similar in the West Bank.

However, when it comes to that region (also called Judah and Samaria), there are over half a million Israelis living there, as well as many Christians and others. This is the area that all the Palestinian leaders aspire for the State of Palestine to govern. As I’ve mentioned before, expulsions from native lands and forced resettlement of hundreds of thousands, whether of Jews or Arabs, causes hardship on a massive scale. Not only that, but doing that in Gaza has been heavily criticized by both sides and has gotten the region no closer to peace. The only alternative is to leave people where they are, in their own cities, and set up a government structure that protects their safety and their civil rights.

So what positive steps can Palestinians take that will actually get them closer to a viable Palestinian State? It seems that everything that’s been done until now has had an antagonistic character, whether it’s “armed resistance” or diplomatic face-offs. But sometimes, being the first to lead in a positive direction can pay off more than endlessly facing off. As the English saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than vinegar (ok, it’s just an expression).

The Palestinian Authority may not have its state, but it does have its cities. It can start now, showing by example how it would rule over Jews and Christians (and atheists, and perhaps gay people too!) by implementing policies that are on par with Israel’s policies towards the Arab population it inherited and other minorities. This includes giving them equal protections under the law, religious freedoms, civil rights and so forth. Israeli Arabs are full citizens who enjoy equal rights and are represented in all the branches of government. And some high-profile Arabs are writing thoughtful articles and coming out on video in favor of Israel’s actions. Truth be told, there still exists discrimination, along the lines of what the USA experiences with its Black population, but at the end of the day, the Arab citizens of Israel are at least able to make a life in Israel just like everyone else, enjoy peace and security, and don’t want to leave.

Mahmoud Abbas does not want to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but what kind of state would Palestine be? In a troubling statement last year, he has said that a future Palestine would not be home to a single Israeli — civilian or soldier. Will the State of Palestine become yet another place inhospitable to Jews and cracking down on the already-existing Jewish cities? Will it put pressure on the half-million Jews to “go somewhere else“? And will the government treat Christians and other minorities better than they have been treated in the past?

Looking around the Arab world, not an insignificant number of Islamic countries oppress minorities, provide almost no religious freedom, and make life difficult for womenInvestigate it for yourself. If Palestinians want to form a State that will rule over 700,000 people with a different religion and customs, this is one of the most major issues they need to address. For a start, they can remove laws from their books that condone honor killings, and start distancing themselves from Islamic regimes which institutionalize some of the human rights abuses against women and minorities. Hamas wouldn’t do this since it sees democracy as an obstacle to Sharia Law, but the PA actually can.

Politically, the Palestinian leadership has been not just divided, but completely ineffective. Their “unity government” is the latest in a long line of failed reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, ever since the two duked it out in a civil war in Gaza. Hamas wanted to get their salaries paid (after all every rebel organization needs to pay its personnel somehow), and Fatah thought a united government could put more pressure on Israel. But like the proverbial scorpion and the frog, at the same time Hamas was planning to undermine the peace talks with Israel and stage a coup in the West Bank.

I do not presume to lecture the Palestinians on who should be their leaders, or how they should carry on their strategies and diplomacy. But I know one thing that the Palestinians could do that would go a long way towards building trust that they can govern other people. And that is, start implementing these policies in your own cities. Invite Jews and Christians to live there. Protect them. Make it so that Jews in the West Bank don’t need to live in Jewish-only settlements in order to feel safe. Many religious Jews do not need Zionism in order to live in the Holy Land where their ancestors used to live. But they do need equal protection and freedom to live their lives, as do Christians and others who would live there. There is no reason Palestinians can’t start now, and put together a roadmap which includes international observers confirming their record on human rights in their own cities. After all, this is in addition to what they are already doing, but it’s something that is almost universally regarded as positive.

Politics aside, I know that the entire civilized world cares about human rights, and when it comes to the US, UN and the EU, the Palestinian Authority would do well to take the lead on a human rights roadmap, and show the world how well they can govern a multicultural society in their own cities. Perhaps then, they will have built enough trust to govern their own state.

September 3, 2014

A new chance for peace in the Middle East

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:29 pm

The Middle East

Governments in this region, which has seen a great deal of violence and death, have recently all found themselves faced with a common enemy - radical insurgent groups. Political Islam in particular can be seen as a virus, much like Communism and Nazism decades ago, and studied epidemiologically. Idealistic young men are the vector by which this virus spreads, first through violence, then through political control.

The ideas of ISIS, originally born in Saudi religious schools, have found fertile breeding ground in political quagmires of Syria and Iraq. Places with no political stability always attract insurgents, funded by one or another group, and serve as incubators for violent revolutionary movements. We can now see young men even from the US and Britain joining up for Islamic conquest reminiscent of Saladin or the Crusades of the 11th century. And just like Nazism and Communism led to alliances between countries like the Allies and NATO, so does Radical Islam lead to previously unlikely alliances involving countries in the middle east. The Saudi regime, concerned about its stability, has allied with Egypt’s new government against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Political Islamic groups, as countries against terrorists.

Israel and Palestinians

This new climate offers a surprise opportunity to solve the other major conflict that had galvanized the Middle East for decades - the conflict between Israel and local Arabs now known as Palestinians.

This conflict, in one word, is about governance. All the other issues - security, water, labor - are consequences of who governs what. The Israeli right wing, following ideas of revisionist Zionism, believe that Israel must be a sovereign Jewish state extending from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea. The Israeli left wing has always supported a two-state solution, with a home for Palestinian Arabs and and an Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

In recent years, the right wing has come to dominate Israeli politics, deflating hopes for a two-state solution. Much of the support for right-wing politics in Israel can be attributed to militant supremacist groups like Hamas operating in Gaza, who brand themselves as “armed resistance to occupation”, and who call for Islamic Sharia rule from the river to the sea. Hamas itself was helped along by Israel in its early days (as a counterweight to the PLO), and took advantage of the political vacuum in Gaza to seize control. Since coming into power, their unwillingness to compromise or honor any prior agreements has caused sanctions from US, EU, UN and Russia, and later a blockade by Israel and Egypt, causing hardship to the 2 million residents of Gaza, half of whom are children. Over the last 7 years, the blockade and smuggling economy empowered Hamas similarly to how the war on drugs has empowered Mexican drug cartels to the point of infiltrating governments.

Today, with governments around the world concerned about radical Islam, there is suddenly an unprecedented consensus about disarming Hamas, both in the West and in the Arab world. It should be said that Gazans themselves overwhelmingly oppose ISIL. However, when it comes to disarming their own Sunni militant groups, they are even more strongly opposed, considering “armed resistance” a vital part fighting for their rights as a people. Meanwhile, the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon, which considers itself a “resistance movement” as well, has flaunted any UN efforts at “disarmament”, has gone on to build 1000 military facilities and currently possesses a huge arsenal. Formed to fight against Israel, they too are now too busy fighting the Radical Sunni Islamists in Syria.

Solutions that won’t work

Anything involving mass deportations, since many Palestinians are tribal, loyal to the land and won’t agree to lave. Anything where Israel annexes all Palestinian cities in the West Bank - that’s been tried by Jordan, whose occupation of the West Bank led to civil war that its government described as “life or death” for Jordan. (A one state solution also failed when the British tried to fulfill their mandate for over 20 years.) Any “one-state” solution risks a heavy loss of life in civil war and violence. And this is not specific to some ethnicities - consider what’s happening in Ukraine right now between Kiev and the separatists, or the war in Vietnam. If the problem of governance will be solved, it has to respect the demographic realities as they are today.

The Solution

First, the governments of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudia Arabia and the UAE should join forces to solve the situation in Gaza, where 2 million Palestinians live. Today there exists an unprecedented, remarkable consensus that Gaza should be demilitarized. They can greatly minimize the loss of life by joining together and speaking with one voice to the masters of Gaza. A roadmap should be put together, which involves the lifting of the blockade, and active involvement in reviving the economy in Gaza. UAE can help develop Gaza’s beachfront into a lucrative tourist destination. The Saudis and Israelis can help Gazas extract their natural gas and become energy independent. Disarmament of Hamas can be then coupled with takeover by the Palestinian Authority, something that Hamas had already agreed to anyway before this whole bloody summer.

When the PA takes control in Gaza with support from Egypt, Israel, Saudis and the West, Gaza can be turned into a demilitarized state not unlike Monaco. Having rebranded itself last year into the “State of Palestine“, the PA is the most recognized entity in the world to run Gaza. The meteoric rise of Gaza’s economy (it can only go up at that point) will take the wind out of the sails of any “resistance” movements, as young men will once again have jobs to provide for their families, and children will have an education to prepare them for the 21st century.

The model in Gaza can then be replicated in the West Bank, also known as “Judah and Samaria”. Gaza was the simpler case of the two, as the West Bank is now full of Jewish cities, in which over 300,000 people live. But, with the success of the operation in West Bank, and the resulting boost to morale and interests of Israel, Egypt, and Fatah, not to mention a successful precedent in Arab countries working together in Israel, will go a long way toward overcoming any political roadblocks that are currently in the way.

Gaza and West Bank can become autonomous regions, not unlike the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Turkey or US protectorates of Haiti and American Samoa. Their constitutions would limit their sovereignty by requiring them to be demilitarized and abide by agreements with their neighbors when it comes to security, army basing rights, water, and other things — agreements which would probably be updated as technology improves.

Most importantly for this to work, the State of Palestine (née Palestinian Authority) must adopt in its constitution equal protections for Jews and Christians, similar to what Israel has for Arabs. Jewish-settler cities in the West Bank such as Modi’in_Illit must not be discriminated against in favor of Palestinian cities like Jenin. The PA is a secular organization whose President and Prime Ministers have won praise from Israeli politicians and army for how their achievements in both security and diplomacy. Fatah, its leading political party, is a secular movement and is not interested in restricting rights of minorities based on religion or race. Thus, it is quite likely that such an agreement can be formed.

To summarize:

Israel should stop insisting on solving all this on its own. The world should stop calling on Israel to solve the situation by itself. Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE should take advantage of their common position on Hamas, join into a coalition, and produce a roadmap, which accomplishes the following things in Gaza:

  • Lifting of the blockade
  • $100+ Billion international investment into Gaza economy
  • Tourism industry with help from UAE
  • Gas and energy independence
  • Takeover of government from Hamas by the State of Palestine
  • Gradual disarmament of Hamas and other militant groups
  • * This part should be de-emphasized in negotiations with Hamas but eventually accomplished
  • Establishing Gaza’s status as a protectorate of Israel and Egypt
  • Demilitarization and treaties with Israel and Egypt
  • Going forward, frameworks concerning security, labor, army basing rights, water, etc.
  • * Civil rights
  • * Constitution of Gaza
  • * Clearly spelled out protections for minorities and freedoms similar to Israel’s

After this is successfully done in Gaza, the model can be followed for a similar approach in the West Bank. Although thornier due to the presence of Jewish towns and cities, the precedent would have been set in Gaza. Instead of agreements with Israel and Egypt about water, etc., the West Bank will contract with Israel and Jordan.

Netanyahu’s concerns about security from the east can be resolved in terms of army basing rights in the West Bank, which is vastly different from a military occupation, and is fully compatible with having the West Bank be an autonomous republic. With a demilitarized protectorate, issues such as immigration for families of West Bank residents will then not affect the governance or security of Israel.

With so many countries united against Radical Islam, now is the time to use all this to achieve something positive like the improvement of life for people in Gaza, and subsequently use that as a model in the West Bank. I’m sure that along the way, things will not go exactly as I’ve laid it out here. But to ignore the opportunity, to let it pass by, would be a real shame. For once, the issues are not Israel vs the Arab World, it’s Countries vs Terrorists. Let’s use this opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people, and bring political stability to a region that’s galvanized the Middle East for almost a century. And in the process, forge new bonds and set new precedents for middle eastern countries by accomplishing good things together. As an old Russian proverb goes, “Appetite comes with eating.”

June 8, 2014

The Genie is Out of the Bottle: Welcome to the Big Data revolution.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:13 am
It’s not just the NSA that wants your data. It’s everybody. And, what’s more — fighting this is a losing battle. If you thought the war on drugs has been ineffective, when you begin to realize how much Big Data resembles crack cocaine to organizations, the term “user” takes on a whole new double meaning.

We are entering a brave new world where, for the first time, computers are increasingly able to correlate vast amounts of information on people and make it searchable and useful. But to whom?

Google started with a mission statement very similar to this, although it reads more nobly - the company wants to make the results “universally accessible.” But other organizations aren’t so generous.

Retail stores are looking to mine customer data in order to build profiles on their shoppers, predict their habits and get a competitive advantage over their rivals. Two years ago, Target stores were able to know about a teenage girl’s pregnancy before her father did, thanks to some mathematical wizardry.

Insurance companies had been one of the first users of big data. They happily made it available to their actuaries and used the results to deny coverage and set rates for those enrolled in their programs. Most countries in the world collectively bargained for basic healthcare, but the US has only this year began mandating universal coverage for all.

And lest governments be turned to for help, they are the most dangerous suspects of all. Beyond the latest revelations about the NSA an ongoing war is quietly escalating between countries, with hackers and equipment manufacturers being used as saboteurs. Our nuclear power plants, gas pipelines and stock exchanges run on components made in other countries. The Stuxnet virus was the first, but certainly not the last, high profile case of government-sponsored sabotage.

But the biggest dangers lie at home, where governments can invoke laws to punish their own citizens with violence and incarceration. Police are increasingly being militarized and told they are soldiers fighting a war. There are now Federal laws allowing indefinite detention of American citizens without due process. Passed in the name of fighting terrorism, they beg the question of whether this new cure is better than the disease.

Still, compared to other countries — where overt dissent or gay sex are a crime punishable by execution — the US is pretty safe for the average person. When you consider the biggest potential dangers Big Data presents in the wrong hands, consider all the people living in those countries under a regime that begins to employ it.

A vast, hidden surveillance network now runs across America, powered by the repossession industry. The local legislators are considering banning the use of this data by all except, of course, government agencies and law enforcement.

The data brokers are fighting back arguing that information they collect, such as license plates and locations, is all public to begin with. This is, in fact, true — the data has always been around, it is just now becoming more searchable and cross referenceable by computers.

Where have we seen that before? Many years ago when facebook first revealed the Newsfeed. There was a huge backlash, to which CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responded in a facebook note to all users: “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.” He went on to explain that all the info in the newsfeed was already public, just better accessible to us for consumption.

The inexorable march of technology proceeded unabated. The next few years produced the slogan “privacy is dead” on the social networks. So many people now post mundane details of their lives IN ORDER for others to read and to collect “likes”. This was unthinkable just 10 years ago.

Now fast-forward to last year: Graph Search comes out, to help us all find what we’re looking for using only the data available to us, and facebook doing the searching. No big splash this time. The graph search is arguable much more dangerous to privacy than ever, yet it remains technically true that it doesn’t violate any individual privacy settings.

And the inexorable march of technology continues. Keep in mind — it’s not that you’re caught on camera in a public place that’s scary. It’s that, in the future, all this stored information can be cross referenced and mined for any purpose.

This is a very good time for “Don’t Be Evil” to apply. But how and who will enforce this policy? Information is power, and our only hope, as a society, is to develop a culture where this power helps everyone. Because the days of it helping no one are gone.

I have one humble proposal, to turn this data to good, in limited cases where it is clearly needed. Requiring law enforcement officers to record and store video of their activities on duty would improve the experience for both cops and the people they are dealing with. One study showed a staggering decrease of 88% in complaints against officers. We need federal laws to enable timely and straightforward access to this video in court cases where people are facing assault charges and years in prison. There is currently a White House Petition to that effect.

As we begin to tumble down the rabbit hole, how will we steer our culture? Can we avoid becoming stuck in a Matrix of our own creation? That, dear readers, is left as an exercise to you, individually and collectively. Don’t stay asleep. Take control of your data, by helping decide how we build a culture around how it is used.

May 23, 2014

My thoughts about MMT and US Fiscal Policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:13 pm
The other day I heard Stephanie Kelton “Busting Monetary Myths” on Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and that got me thinking about our approach to fiscal policy. So I thought I’d share my thoughts with you here.
  1. MMT is right that for polities that issue fiat (monopoly) currency, there is no immediate necessity to tax people in order to raise revenues for public projects. In fact the Grace commission’s report pretty much said this was de facto the case, in the 80s.
  2. However, there are long term consequences, and the point that Stephanie Kelton and Warren Mosler make only goes so far in a larger framework. Taxes remove money from the economy but they “hurt” purchasing power of individuals and corporations according to some political rules. On the other hand, government spending “helps” individuals and corporations, and furthers some ends, according to political rules. Printing money without taxation can lead to inflation.
  3. Government spending doesn’t always lead to inflation. If the government makes good bets that result in higher GDP, then the greater money chases a greater amount of goods and services, and there is more wealth and prosperity for everyone in the country. Famous examples are the interstate highway system and the internet, so MMT advocates often point to infrastructure spending as something we can do now, without waiting for tax revenue, and I agree.
  4. However, the public sector running at a deficit eventually leads to sovereign debt, which, if not serviced, becomes harder to pay. And, given the debt ceiling in the US, it’s even worse because it contributes to political brinksmanship and lowers the credit rating of the US. This is a BIG DEAL and as long as the credit limit is in place, deficits are dangerous.
  5. There is a good case to be made for spending on infrastructure that businesses need (internet, etc), basic services that everyone needs to collectively bargain (healthcare, education), and a basic income for everyone (or a negative tax as Milton Friedman would advocate). That last one is because the marginal propensity to spend is higher for people in the long tail (which also happens to be the majority), and this boosts aggregate demand.
  6. But this keynsian/state-capitalist approach is limited by many things, including crony capitalism, corruption, regulatory capture, and simply wrong bets. More often than not, government spending does NOT increase GDP. State capitalism must take aggressive measures to remove corruption, which Singapore has done but US has not (Singapore isn’t an example of laissez faire, but it’s a shining example of state capitalism and “economic freedom” aka business friendliness).
  7. There are diminishing returns from being TOO centrally planned (state socialism) and being TOO business friendly (corporatism). People therefore on either side of the debate are needed to keep the policies swinging form one extreme to the other. Which is why I believe that libertarian ideas (such as the ones promoted by Milton Friedman) are very valuable in public discourse, even if their utopia isn’t going to happen anytime soon, or ever.
  8. Now the bigger picture. If we take MMT *simplified* soundbites to their logical conclusion, we can eliminate all taxes and print money. The government would choose who/what causes to help and not choose at all whose purchasing power to hurt. Sounds great, right? Except if GDP doesn’t keep pace with the currency (and it won’t, cause government bets wrong, boosting aggregate demand has limited returns and even Paul Krugman explicitly acknowledges this) there will be much more rapid inflation. This in itself is a viable way to run a country — not unlike a corporation that keeps issuing and selling more shares to investors and diluting all existing ones, forever, making everyone reinvest into the company every so often if they believe in it. But this will NEVER be done by the USA or any country that already has treasuries others have bought. Because this will devalue all the future cashflows and throw off all futures contracts on exchanges. This is obviously a mental experiment and edge case, but you can see how veering one way or the other policy wise can affect this.
  9. In fact, countries compete on the strength of their currency, among other things. The bigger picture that wasn’t covered involves TRADE DEFICITS. In the US, our wages are among the highest in the world, and our cost of living is quite high. You want to know what slavery is? It is being poor and living next to rich people. You can’t afford the necessities of life unless you work your ass off for ONE of them, and since your need is great, the average cost of your labor is cheap. That is why we have social protections. But social protections cost money. And the rich people drive up the cost of living, making the social protections cost even more.
  10. The result? As world technology and infrastructure got better since the 1950s, much of our stuff is outsourced. Apple, once proudly making its products In The USA(TM) now employs Foxconn and an army of people around the world, who would work longer hours doing more repetitive work for less pay than most Americans. Here I would invoke the Three Sector Theory.
  11. Joseph Stiglitz points out one interesting fact about the Great Depression: the US went from over 20% employed in farm related jobs to 2% today!. This combined with the 3-sector theory explains a lot. The FUNDAMENTALS MATTER. The Great Depression is largely the result of disrupting the first sector with technology - as well as the Dust Bowl. If you read the Grapes of Wrath or other pieces about that time, you’ll see how long it took for people to a) migrate to cities, b) cities to build factories, c) transition the economy to a second-sector economy. The reason that our manufacturing did so well after WW2 is that Japan and Europe were bombed out. By the 70s, Labor Unions in US were very strong, and wanting a piece of all the manufacturing pie. But, corporations reacted by outsourcing labor around the world in the next decades.
  12. And now, with the internet and computers, the situation is simultaneously worse for the American worker (as they are now in a race to the bottom against overseas workers AND computers), and holds a lot of promise. The promise is in things such as education, but not the kind of failed attempts to throw money at existing, brick-and-mortar schools (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/mark-zuckerberg-gave-jersey-100-130400933.html) but real reform: use the internet to deliver lectures and invert the classroom (http://magarshak.com/blog/?p=158) . Our skyrocketing college costs will go down. This is already happening (Coursera, MIT OpenCourseWare, Udemy, Udacity, Khan Academy etc.) but the government could start transitioning from student loans to this.
  13. Countries compete on more than the strength of their currency. They also attract talent. Going back to the GDP, the US turns away a lot of H1B visa applicants who would love to come here and contribute to our STEM fields and pay our taxes. We turn them away and they go work in other countries. Countries also compete to attract lucrative businesses, and the US is way low on the list of net investment.
  14. We can see the effect of paying down your debts in the case of Russia for example. In 2000 it was nearly bankrupt, now it is once again going toe to toe with The West and ramping up to be a world power. Among the things that enabled its government to do this was an economic policy that got debt under control and currently it is 10% of GDP. US debt is 98% of GDP. China is now set to become the biggest economic power in the world. You may not agree with this right away, but there’s good cause to worry that China will start buying less US treasuries and start selling more treasuries to EU banks (and EU economy is bigger than US by GDP). At that point we are stuck with an ever worsening problem, as more banks choose non-dollar reserves, plunging demand and currency loses its purchasing power. All your callers’ comments about petrodollar warfare aren’t going to make much of a difference.
  15. 15. Finally — if you ask me, the best investment of all is in CAPTURING GREENHOUSES GASES. Why? Simply because if this investment pays off, we and our children will be able to NOT DIE from results of general ecosystem collapses, trillions in property won’t be destroyed in coastal cities, etc. Richard Branson is offering $25M for the best ways to capture atmospheric carbon, but more should be invested in this and other pollution reducing industries such as Sweden’s great achievement. The US should be a leader in this, since it’s the biggest polluter in the world. A distant second is investing in COMBATING SUPERBACTERIA, which both CDC and WHO have said is a catastrophe waiting to happen due to the end of antibiotics. Yes, these investments will SAVE people trillions of money and lives, but we are unwilling to make them. Something has to be done.

April 30, 2014

A smart way to reform education

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:16 pm

Many people regard the public school system as a daycare center for parents who need to work. But when it comes to education, there is lots of room for innovation. Using technology like mobile apps, we are in a better position to measure and improve educational outcomes than ever before.

When done right, the results can be amazing. We can go from expecting a typical bell curve to achievement and understanding from nearly every student. Here is a full overview of how to do that:

  1. Give every family a parental-control iPad if they don’t have a computer at home.
  2. Deliver the lecture part of each class via an engaging multimedia presentation bought from a marketplace of these things. Instead of a boring teacher or one teacher teaching 20 students, a great presentation would be repeatable by thousands and millions of students, and every year can be improved. It could also be critiqued and fact-checked by reviewers in the market. The market would update them like textbooks.
  3. The next day, the school day would start later, so kids could get a good sleep (health and cognitive reasons) and a good breakfast (nutrition reasons), the latter can be delivered in school, for kids to come on time and socialize.
  4. After breakfast and homeroom, the Tests would begin. Every day, the tests would be testing for real knowledge that would be obtained from the previous day’s presentations. They would test two levels: minimum adequate comprehension, and solid comprehension. This would replace homework and the method of solution could also be analyzed.
  5. Students who did not score high enough to demonstrate minimum comprehension for that day would be quickly identified by their test scores. They would be scheduled for smaller remedial classes later that day for that subject. That means the main time they spend with a teacher would be more individualized and tailored to where they are struggling as actually determined by their attempts on the tests.
  6. For a student who scores well on all or most tests, the day would be quite pleasant and free of remedial classes. They could do any number of things - and if they have to remain in the school, fine - there will be plenty of entertainment and socializing there. That is their reward for learning and comprehending the previous day, proportional to how many subjects they were able to do.
  7. Right after the Tests, all students would still have to take classes which aren’t only comprehension focused such as Gym and Debate etc. But there are very few of those.
  8. The students would themselves choose how to schedule their time to study for the next day. It could be a study session with friends or a private study session. No one would force them to sit through a lecture.

Benefits:

  1. Insane amounts of homework from multiple classes are replaced by Tests which are already scored in terms of difficulty, cognitive load, and how much time they take. So the school is fully aware of how much load they are putting on the students. Currently there is homework creep.
  2. Instead of struggling privately and spending money on private tutors many low-income families can’t afford, the students would get individual attention after their performance was analyzed in a Test setting. Home would be reserved for a lot more self-motivated learning, mimicking the real world.
  3. The kids would have freedom and responsibility to set aside their own time to learn, and incentive to learn that they do not have when told to sit down and shut up for 5 hours a day. It would also lower incidents of diagnosis of ADHD, especially in restless younger boys in grades where psychological development and aptitude feedback is crucial to get right.
  4. Lectures are boring and too variable in quality. An uncommonly great teacher may only be able to reach 20 students while the rest get mediocre or bad lectures. There is no reason to keep things this way when technology can replace lectures with professionally produced multimedia at home. Animations and stories teaching algebra and calculus for example.
  5. If you go to the bathroom or zone out during a lecture, you are faced with big dilemmas, having to copy notes from classmates. Here you just rewind. A kid can even pause the lecture for 2 hours and go play basketball or watch another one, finishing this one when they want. Truancy would be greatly reduced.
  6. Note taking would not be compulsory and you wouldn’t be training kids to be 2nd century Roman scribes. Instead you’d be ingraining habits about learning online which they will carry for the rest of their life. For 99% of us all the material is already written clearly online. Note taking should be optional.
  7. It would actually be cool among kids to be educated because these kids would get access to programs the remedial kids didn’t. So we would foster a desire and self motivation in kids to learn. Both teachers and kids would be motivated in their remedial classes to prepare kids for comprehending lectures of the next day. Going to a remedial class means that the next day’s tests are likely to be guaranteed pass. If these remedial classes get the kid to eventually start consistently scoring above Adequate, into Solid Mastery, both the kid and the teacher are rewarded.
  8. Which brings me to granularity, measurability and accountability. The interaction of teachers and students would be in a smaller classroom setting, and more effective. Struggling would be caught early. Each subject would be broken down into very granular modules (one a day). A kid falling behind would be seen a mile away.

This is an example of actually refactoring the system to take advantage of existing technology and aligning the incentives and delivery mechanisms of the system with what what technology has made possible. It has been possible for 15 years now via internet and 40 years via VHS. It’s about time this has been tried.

An app to facilitate this would have additional benefits over regular textbooks and infrequent exams:

  • It could enable instant scoring of quizzes, which until now was not possible, by having students take the quizzes on their phones, or scanning a multiple-choice result. This would allow instant decisions about who needs additional help that day.
  • If a student puts the app in the background (e.g. to look things up on the internet) this could alert the teacher, and thus prevent “cheating”. The teacher could have some whitelisted sites inside the app which the students would be allowed to use as reference on quizzes.
  • The daily quizzes could double as attendance, proving not just that the student was there, but how they did.
  • There would be a feedback mechanism between a marketplace of study material (videos, lectures, articles, etc.) and how well students do the next day. Unlike textbooks which are updated once a year, we’d have teachers and students across 1,000 classrooms testing and refining each module for each day, resulting in measurable improvements over time.

But the question is more about bureaucracy. Given the way public schools are run today, would a principal and teachers ever be willing to try something new? It may be impossible to reform the system so drastically all at once. And what would we do with all those kids and their free time? Wouldn’t this lead to more bullying and abuse as maturing 11 year old kids are stuck in a building for 8 hours a day?

I used to believe the only avenue for trying this system are private and charter schools, but now I see that many public schools are open to testing out such new apps and ideas to flip the classroom, on a smaller level. Luckily, my company is in a position start making these kinds of apps in a couple years!

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