Category Archives: Politics

DystopianFuture = f( Robots, BigData, AI, IoT )

I was standing at the window watching the recycle trunk pick up our container. The trunk was driven by one person who just operated a giant robotic gripper that extended from the truck to hold the container and empty it. Took about five seconds. Up and down our street the truck zoomed. All done. Amazing. Before, there were a few (strong!) people who did this. It was one driver and two other workers. Where are they now?

Currently, only recycle bins in my city are standardized. So, a truck with a single manipulator is usable. In future, its inevitable that the rest of the garbage will be disposed in standard containers, and more people will do less of this manual labor. Nothing new, the march of automation and more powerful computers. For decades there have been those warning of dire consequences, yet we are still here and have more of more stuff. So what is the problem?

There is a confluence of technological breakthroughs that are bound to happen and all these are being quickened by the internet. Internet speed change is occurring. Robotics breakthroughs and applications are only waiting for a new form of power storage and control.

Currently, all advanced technologies are limited. Drones have limited range and robots are mostly lumbering beasts that fall over doing the easiest tasks that humans can do while sleep walking. Yet, this won’t always be the case. In fact, the substitution of humans with autonomous intelligent systems is not even the only way this Change will happen. It could be that the path will just be human augmentation.

People can be augmented to use more AI and robotics technology. This will increase productivity in many fields. Thus, we’ll need less people. Even now we see the effect of more information in knowledge industries. Years ago a software developer had to remember many things, but now with the web the admin-techno-config-trivia is available at a mouse click. The bell curve of who can program has shifted. Since knowledge is available, silos of expertise are reduced. Now one person can do many different things. Again we’ll need less people.

If we need less people, how will the economic system function? Does it become a giant welfare state where only a few do “meaningful” work and the others have a form of guaranteed sustenance? Or will it become a dystopian nightmare of a stratified classes, the majority are the new ‘untouchables’, the middle tier occupied by the technocratic knowledge workers, and all presided over by the upper 1% ruling class?

Links
obots’ Next Big Job: Trash Pickup

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Money pooling based on random tiered payout

This idea was created in response to the recession. The goal was to inject cash into the economy as rapidly as possible. A reaction to the “shovel ready” bureaucratic approach.

I subsequently found that this is not an altogether new idea. Perhaps the tiers and random elements are something new.
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Abstract
To accelerate the velocity of money flow for economic stimulus, a payout of a pool of money among contributors randomly placed in payout level tiers is advocated. The randomness of selection and increased frequency of payout creates a network effect that increases demand for goods and services. This will also have social benefits by increasing morale and unity of purpose, unlike present political inspired economic approaches.

Key words: Taxes, Economy, Unemployment

Reverse Taxes

Taxes are a necessary evil. One purpose of taxation is to fund social services that benefit all. For example, taxes pay for road maintenance. The street in front of my house gets repaired because my neighbors and I pay our taxes. However, if my own driveway needs maintenance, I have to fund that since only I own it and gain value (well, the bank owns it still, details). Yet, if I don’t maintain my driveway and it becomes a dangerous eyesore and attracts vermin, not only will my standard of living suffer, but eventually my neighbors will too: esteem, property values, and so forth. So, it behooves my neighbors to either drive me out with flaming torches and pitchforks or more civilly, encourage me to get with the program.

The problem is that families, especially in today’s economy, are not able to attend to many issues in a timely manner. They are cash strapped and, unfortunately, consumer fixated. Regardless of the reasons, there are personal as well as social-economic reasons for this. Even certain Wealth based religions and philosophies have a hand in making this situation worse.

A reverse tax is a tax that instead of going to a government agency, goes directly to private tax payers. These tax payers choose on their own what to do with it. Some will splurge, drink, or go further into debt. However, many will choose to act responsibly and improve their lives and immediate environment. Regardless of what they do, the funds will be quickly injected into the economy.

With Stochastic Reverse Taxation Subsidization (SRTS), funds can be made available that bypass the “public” route, where the individual directly chooses what needs to be funded. Since in each period those receiving payout are random (but everyone will get paid), the odds are that a portion of these people will buy goods and pay for services. This will increasingly stimulate demand with each period.

This is a direct application of changing one aspect of a system to influence the whole. In this case we are increasing the velocity of money. Instead of top-down approaches, a direct mid-level insertion is made. Thus, money is exchanged quicker, spread more rapidly without the red-tape and bureaucratic siphoning.

Implementation

Mathematics

Just how much would be available? There were 144,103,375 individual income tax returns in FY 2009. If we include the disenfranchised and those in the in the underground or shadow economy, the actual number of people who “could” file are actually much larger. Let’s just make it 200M. (the population of the USA is about 310,409,288 people). If we make the contribution $42, that is 13,037,190,096 about $13 Billion to stochastically redistribute. Choosing 42 weeks for a campaign, we will distribute $310 million dollars a week. This does not sound like a lot, but it is the quick “injection”; it is not waiting for “shovel-ready projects” that just fatten those in the loop.

If we create four payout tiers, then it is now a simple matter to determine the number of people and how much each be allocated per week. Can it be made no-loss, that is, no one would lose their $42? Probably not. We want there to be sizable distributions. Since we want some sizeable feedback back into the general system, the top tier will get a substantial return.
• Tier 1: X1 people would each get $1 million.
• Tier 2: x2 people would get thousands.
• Tier 3: x3 people would get hundreds
• Tier 4: x4 people would just get their $5 dollars back.

The randomness comes from assigning contributors to a tier. Each cycle will create a new random assignment but with algorithms to make sure every person gets to be in each tier after a few cycles. That is, the same person will not be in the same tier all the time.

Compare this to the recent tax breaks to spur the economy. What did the normal tax payer get $50? And that is a one-time year long break, I guess that would buy a few more take-out meals for lunch.

A mathematician/economist would have to create the algorithms for this process. Maybe it is not possible to do this and make it attractive for people to join in.

Note that this is different than the fixed payout algorithms or schedules like those used at eMoneyPool or Indian Chitty pools.

The problem with conventional pools is that the incentive is reduced the more people are part of the pool since the length of the ‘campaign’ is proportional to the desired payout level.

Administration

Using the existing Tax System?

The simplest approach is to just have a new checkbox on the tax form stating that one would like to participate in the Reverse Tax System. One possibility is to use a contribution value one, five, ten dollars. The payoff would be proportional. This would be the worse approach to use if we want to stimulate the economy. For that we would need a more accelerated schedule, perhaps monthly, optimally weekly. Using the Internal Revenue infrastructure is just convenient since the tax payer information is already available.

But, the tax schedule is yearly. We need a more aggressive schedule. Weekly! Not only would this be more effective in any stimulus effect, it would make the system more attractive, since there would be more ‘churn’.

Requirements and Limitations

Non-profit

This is a stimulus package for the middle class. Thus, the Wall Street crowd should not even know about it. 🙂

Not a lottery

This approach is similar to a multi-state lottery. Many differences however. Lotteries are for-profit and there are many losers (most!). The approach suggested here is not a payment, but a temporary allocation of funds. If the math is done correctly there is minimal loss other than normal inflationary devaluation of liquid assets within the payment schedule period and administrative costs.

Tax Free

Enough with the taxes. The payouts should be tax free. They should be totally reintroduced into the system so that demand is increased.

No competition

The effectiveness of this approach would be reduced if there are competing systems. Furthermore, it would be much easier for abuse if other systems were allowed.

No new bureaucracy

Taxes, are unavoidable, but they are also a giant spigot that feeds a growing never satiated beast. Bureaucracies grow. And grow. And become less effective, so they sprout new growths, that grow. And grow.

No debt generation

There is the possibility for a family to receive a guaranteed amount within a certain time period. So, institutions and businesses would be happy to capitalize on that. For example, offering various loans or “deals”. A great example of this are pay date loan companies. These should all be disallowed. An easy way to assure this is to not preannounce or make a big deal about it. It’s not that many large payments would be optimal anyway.

How to incorporate compound interest and investment?

Traditional “chits” or money pools are for short term financial of poor or modest groups. The modern banking and financial industry is used for more long term goals. If pools are used, money that should go into interest generating investments will suffer.

History

Something I posted on my blog on December 5, 2011, with the title “Demand Stimulation By Stochastic Reverse Taxation”. I came up with the idea for a massive “chit fund” that could pay out more often in a random schedule and people would get a payout based on a tiered system.

A few years ago I had a crazy idea. What if people pooled part of their money together and then redistributed it among the pool participants? Yes, not a new idea. A form of this even appears in “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein. but what I was thinking was doing this on a massive scale, very massive. What if this massive “office chit pool” guaranteed that at each distribution at least hundreds of people would get a million bucks, others would get thousands, and the rest just a few hundred?

I abandoned the idea. It would not work, for one thing, you would need a lot of people, and the more people the longer it would be for each to be in line for the big payout. Would anyone wait years putting money into the pool just so one year they can get a substantial payout just to buy some needed item? No. It would probably be more advantages to just invest the money, at least there would be an accumulating interest payment.

Another try

Ideas, sometimes even bad ones, keep coming back. See this graph: They keep coming back

On July 19, 2010, I had another thought, what if instead of a rotation, one uses a random distribution into a payment hierarchy.

One pays into the pool, and at each distribution period one is randomly placed into a payout tier and the income distributed. In subsequent draws one is not placed into the same tier as the prior draws. When everyone has participated in each tier, the cycle could be repeated.

This is more reasonable. Using randomization, payout tiers, and shorter cycles would make this more acceptable. It would be like an income co-op.

Revisiting The Idea

Months later I revisited the idea. Could this be useful as some kind of economic stimulus? A “for the people” stimulus? Something to boost employment, increase opportunity, increased morale, and motivation? Probably not, there are no Silver Bullets. But, could it help?

Further reading
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The greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run

This quote by Gifford Pinchot could be used as the root control rule for spaceship Earth.

A non-political measurable goal. Not the right to pursue happiness, that is inherently self-defeating, but rather the right to maintain happiness. Big difference.

References

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Video is adding to the rise of misinformation

Rich media, in particular video, is a low “resolution” method of obtaining information. Low because for the amount of bandwidth consumed, there is very little information content.

I never really understood why video on the web is such a big fascination. For entertainment and occasional news information it is fine. And, for some stories it is important to see the participants involved (for those non-verbal cues). However, for really understanding the news or some topic it is necessarily limited. In broadcast networks and web media it is composed of sound bites, interruptions, and entertainment. It is basically just a vehicle to sell advertising to sponsors. If you see a video about some event X, the next video you see also about X will not contain any new information.

A great example of this is the talk and interview shows. Invariably someone being interviewed will not answer questions addressed to them, important questions. Instead, the opportunity is taken to regurgitate what was said minutes before. Hence, no information.

The viewer, us, is conditioned to think that they got new information, but really they were manipulated. Video is a passive medium, you just look. It requires no interaction and exercise of logical thought, just emotional reaction.

Where to get information? Reading. Reading diverse sources and viewpoints will give one a better appreciation for reality, which is complex, nuanced, and bereft of easy answers. Not that one will automatically know what to think or decide on a course of action, but one will hopefully be more resistant to being manipulated, ’emotionalized’. With the looming elections in the USA, that is very important. There will probably be billions of dollars spent on double-speak and non-content news.

Updates

  1. Jul 29, 2012: Intentional ‘misinformation’ is really ‘disinformation’. I think I read this somewhere.
  2. Just had a thought, is video adding to illiteracy? Why read, there will be a talking head somewhere to tell you what to think about something.

Some related links
Note how some arguments against TV were made in the 70’s. Is the web the new TV?

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Can the predictive web also enable control?

In a previous post, “Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud“, I discussed how a web of ‘agents’ could optimize ‘apps’ to be more responsive, proactive, and multipliers of our intents. I was just reading “Should we fear mind-reading future tech?” by Andrew Keen, and was thinking of the possible negative aspects. Still reading the article, so it may cover this. (finished reading it, was not mentioned).

Privacy is the usual concern about this high-tech stuff. This is very important. But, can “faster than realtime” computing, prediction, massive complex-event-processing and correlation also enable the powers that be to also control? We already know that advertising in all it’s forms can control, else why, for example, is the American presidential election a feeding fest of political money contributions?

Could that same advertising and fake news reporting via social media and apps that employ predictive quasi-AI morph into controlling media, an Orwellian manifestation of new-speak? In a scenario that would make a great sci-fi novel, Big Interests like political parties, business groups, and political organizations use social media, not only to advertise, but to gently guide one toward having programmed epiphanies.

Can it even be more “physical” and intrusive? For example, by prediction, these groups can arrange that one will meet a certain someone at the right time. Your a bleeding heart influential liberal? No problem, the future Fox News will arrange that you meet this gorgeous strong willed conservative that will change your mind.

Silly example, but you get the point, when you know, you can make nano-adjustments: unnoticeable, personalized, massive lobbying. Ads are old school, here come the psych-bots.

Some links

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999 should be 6789

The Cain 999 tax simplification is attracting attention. Well, it should. In this political climate the major candidates have not been proposing anything bold, just the same phrases, party lines, and lack of answers to specific questions.

But, perhaps the 9-9-9 plan is too bold and as some critics are writing, lays the burden disproportionally on the 99%.

My counter proposal is just as simple, 6789:

  • 6% – income on the 99%
  • 7% – sales tax
  • 8% – corporate tax
  • 9% – income on the 1% rich

That is more equitable. Of course, economists and mathematicians can tweak the numbers. Most importantly, these numbers should be part of a feedback system. Why is everything “fixed” when the world is dynamic?

Based on economic performance and quality measures, the whole sliding scale could be shifted up or down. For example, in an overheated economy it could be shifted up, and in a difficult period, like now, it could be shifted down, such as, 5-6-7-8, etc.

Further Reading

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Do we need an ad-free top-level domain?

From its roots as an information sharing infrastructure, the internet is now increasingly composed of marketing and sophisticated attempts at private information harvesting. This has led to an adversarial relationship between providers and consumers.

Advertising is important. Commerce is important. Getting information on new products and solutions is important. Consumerism as culture is not important (it leads to a debtor nation). Advertising that preys on the bases ‘instincts’ and misinforms is not good. There are no easy solutions to fair advertising and fair use of personal information. Invariably, the consumer will be pimped.

When telephone soliciting became absurd, a Do Not Call registry was created. The same approach may not work in the web, for even the act of searching for something is subject to ad-fluenced manipulation.

A top level domain (TLD) that prohibits advertising will be useful if and only if it is also transparent. Since it must be funded and probably would not survive on donations or sponsorship by users, an ad-free domain must rely on organizations and companies. These must be explicit. No shenanigans like we have in the political process where influence is nefarious like the Political Action Committees (PAC) that subvert the democratic process.

Some difficulties:

  • What is advertising? How can it be identified?
  • Who does the filtering?
  • What people, organizations, and companies can become part of this domain.
  • What to call this? Radio Free Earth (rfe).

Oh well, perhaps a bad idea. It was out there, my brain picked it up.

I wrote about advertising and privacy before, but in a fictional short story format: Scattered.

Further Reading

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What is up with Fox News?

Ok, we know that Fox News is biased. There is no denying that. Very hard to be non-biased. And, we know that the Fox “non-news” shows are unbridled lunacy and cater to the lowest reptilian brain area of otherwise nice people, that “Fox Geezer Syndrome“.

But, is there an excuse for just being a bad News network? I’m watching* the Sunday morning news shows. Fox News Sunday, of course, has some Republican talking head discussing the Libyan crisis. But, instead of getting into the issues and exploring the nuances, the GOP guy just uses this to critique President Obama. In contrast, on “This Week With Christiane Amanpour”, there are probing questions that reveal that the issues are not ninth grade reading level cut and dry.

The world is complex; who would have thought? No wonder they want to get rid of NPR.


One future day on Fox news:

Obama: Well, my second term is up. My last executive action is to give the Rethugs, I mean the Republicans their chance. I will start them off running. I decree that rich people will pay no taxes (since we know that trickle down helps everyone, <wink>). I will eliminate minimum wage requirements. No limits to foreign worker visas. Consumers should directly pay capitol gain taxes, no financial bait-and-switch needed to do it anymore. Humanitarian bleeding-heart liberal welfare state programs will be stopped, and the extra money will go to the military; we need a few more barely functional weapon systems. All regulatory agencies are now dissolved, the Market (which we should bow down to) is self-policing and destined to take us to libertarian heaven. Health care is gone, if you can’t take care of yourself, what are you living for? Further, …..

Fox news: But, where is your long-form birth certificate?


 

Very insightful observation:

The popularity of vigorous rage merchants like Beck and Olbermann are not a sign of our political culture’s vitality, but rather its decadence. We live in a time and place that puts high value on emotion, and that views emotions as self-validating. To feel something is thought by many to be sufficient evidence of its truthfulness, or at least its authenticity. This is a mark of the barbarian. I understand why post-Sixties liberals make the mistake of believing that nonsense. But conservatives? — R. Ramsey


Another individual, Ira Rosofsky, in a blog post gives some background material on today’s “emotional” extremism. See “The Paranoid Style in American Politics“. He states that Richard Hofstadter wrote about this in 1964.


*I’m using my old SlingPlayer box to watch boob tube** at my home workstation. Cool. SlingPlayer is prob one of the best and least known solutions.

**No, not that tube. Oy veah.

Further Reading
The Effects of Semantics and Social Desirability in Correcting the Obama Muslim Myth

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internet + demographics + culture = revolution

Look at what happened in Tunisia and is and may echo in Egypt. This is just the start.

An essay, “A Time for Choosing” by Daniel E. Geer Jr., has this as its first paragraph:

The Internet was built by academics, researchers, and hackers—meaning that it embodies the liberal cum libertarian cultural interpretation of “American values,” namely that it is open, nonhierarchial, self-organizing, and leaves essentially no opportunities for governance beyond protocol definition. Anywhere the Internet appears, it brings those values with it (treating censorship as a routing failure, say). Other cultures, other governments, know that these are America’s strengths and that we are dependent upon them, hence as they adopt the Internet they become dependent on those strengths and thus on our values. A greater challenge to sovereignty does not exist.

That last sentence is great: “A greater challenge to sovereignty does not exist.”

[What follows was not the point of the referenced essay above and is my own naivety.]

Now look at what happened in Tunisia and is and may echo in Egypt. This is just the start.

What will happen in America? I think the possibility of violent revolution is very remote. Then again, with the rich just getting richer across a very wide gap and jobs going overseas, we are creating new kinds of classes. Not very prudent.

In the middle east and other countries the demographics is of a very young population. In the USA we are old. If we simplistically assume that revolution is the dramatic change to an opposite, then a revolution in America due to its demographics would be opposite to that in other countries. We have freedom (compared to many countries), so a revolution would be to non-freedom. Is the rise of anti-science, extreme right wing politics, hate-radio, renewed gun fervor, all fueled by internet misinformation, fear-mongering, and irrational thinking the result? It seems that the Taliban is winning the war, we are becoming them.

I don’t have to belabor the point. Just look at non-fox news for evidence: politicians calling for stopping of support for public radio, Creationism and anti-science in schools, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Young people here would be wise to put away the game machines and yakking on Facebook and start seeing what is really happening. The future has swallowed empires of old. Its gaping maw is opening again.

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Arguments for the elimination of the internet?

Of course, the title of this post is ludicrous, the internet has a been a marvel and has changed the world.  Who would have thought that we would have Farmville, perverts showing their wieners on Chatroulette, terrabytes of 140 character notifications of bowel movements on SMS, people spending thousands of waking hours on virtual worlds, every flavor of pornography, advanced multiprocessor systems for perfect transmission of misinformation, and a host of low moral technological advancements.  🙂

The above is all in jest.  Of course, any new technology will have positive and negative ramifications.  Automobiles get you places but also kill people.  However, there are more indications for reasons to be more cautious in providing Internet access in places like schools, children at home, and workplaces.

Jerry Mander wrote a book on reasons for eliminating television.  This was way before the internet broke out into common use in a big way.  I wonder how those arguments would play in this new medium?

The automobile ushered a new ere in social evolution and freedom.  However, today we are reaping the results of not thinking it through:  the energy costs, health, resources, and employment costs.  I bet we spend more on total automotive upkeep (from road maintenance, energy use, automotive legislation, to health costs due to injury and environmental unintended consequences) then we do on education. Jerry Mander wrote:

“It’s not enough for us to say that cars are great because they will drive us someplace. Cars speed up life, they make oil wars happen, they create terrible waste problems, they require a lot of pavement, and they kill people. So you have to ask a series of systemic questions before you can make a judgment about whether cars are good. The same goes for computers, for TV, and for every technology.”
 

Will the Internet years from now be as much of a minus as a plus? A bigger minus; already we see rampant security and privacy incursions. Even the criteria of truth is changing, just as digital imaging allow the reconstruction of reality. Will decades later be a realization of a cyberpunk continuum, where the everyman is just an information tuple ripe for exploitation by an extremity of views but nowhere a lasting gestalt to hold it together and sustain society?

Updates

7/22/2010:  Today I had to cook supper and forgot how a certain dish was prepared.  The explanation I found in the book “How To Cook Everything” did not really explain it so I, of course, went online.  I found out how to do it on YouTube.  Yea, amazing.  There is no excuse for being ignorant in today’s world.

Links

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