December 18, 2010
I'm looking to do more information sifting for a spell. As such I'm looking to locate 2-3 ideas a week that I think are worth a peek. My thought is to present the ideas first without minimal editorial.
IDEA 1: Knowledge is Power.
LINK: Google "Wikileaks" and see if a mirror is active. (one was active when I last checked)
TIME TO CONSUME IDEA: As fast as you can read.
ORIGIN OF WEBSITE: 2006
THE BUZZ: Currently this website is on the lam. They are being shut down regularly, but mirrors are continually popping up. They were tolerated for four years, but the recent release of diplomatic cables seems to be the beginning of the end for the founder of the site
THE CONTENT: Cables of various security levels. The cables are advertised as being peer reviewed and redacted. It appears to me the redactions are there to protect the lives of sources. Judge for yourself.
QUESTION: Who is being protected by the classification of these cables?
Comments on 1.The most stunning thing to me about WikiLeaks is that they have been around for 4 years operating relatively freely. Then the thing that drives them into the abyss are diplomatic cables. Really? These are the crown jewels of power politics?
Apparently. Lots of ways to read the cables. Some of the business related cables makes one wonder if the US State Department works for the USA or a small part of the USA called GE and GM.
Yes, the stories of the torture and abuses in other countries are sobering. The cable on the guy with the Ethiopian name in Eritrea detailed an event that was made all the more detestable by how mundane it appeared.
But my personal revelation from Wikileaks is this. The State Department truly has sucked up some of the best writing talent in America. The cable about Clegg and the Liberal Dems in London was among the best pieces of prose I've seen in the last 12 months. Maybe that is why Assenge is getting hammered so hard. Writers can be so petulant.
I don't know how all this will turn out. There are thousands of message that were set to be declassified 8-10 years from now. The are undergoing de facto declassification every day now. There are a lot of people invested in trying to stuff this genie back into the bottle.
Here is the question as I see it. One of Gary Vaynerchuk's principles seems to be on the block here.
Don’t spend time controlling your message: You can’t control your message on the web, get clear and spend your time fixing your message so it makes sense.
That is his advice for businesses who were accustomed to decades of using PR firms to control the message to the public. Governments have had similar power to control the message to the people. Can this genie be stuffed? My gut tells me no, but there are a cadre of focused people who are trying to do some heavy stuffing.
The idea that knowledge is power is very simple, but the wrestling for control of that power...very complex.
IDEA #2: People will risk a little to get a lot.
TIME TO CONSUME IDEA: 5 minutes on website linked above, more depth on their podcasts that run 20 minute segments.
ORIGIN: November-December 2010.
THE BUZZ: This delves into the economic principle called skewing. (We used to call this utility theory when I was in school) The idea states that getting a large payout has more upside than the downside of losing a few dollars. This is what draws people into low cost games of chance with high payoffs.
THE CONTENT: Long and short versions are focused on the idea of changing the way skewing is used. Currently, government has the monopoly on skew games (lottery) where they take a high rake and use it to fund whatever they want to fund. This proposal removes the political take on skewing.
THE QUESTION: Who has more to gain from running this game?
Comment on 2.The lottery is another power game as I see it. Government's like to be able to access the human trait called skewing to increase their power. Outlawing competition is a great place to be if you are in a cash business. Governments in the US have not been bashful about doing that.
The lottery as it is works as a hidden tax on the country. As taxes go, it is about as bad as bridge tolls. Bridge tolls hit the poorest harder as they give up a greater share of their income to cross the bridge to get to work. This lottery tax works the same way. The poorest are the ones least likely to found a microsoft or google. The most likely way they can change their financial day to day is though an infusion of cash via a lottery, hence they are bearing the brunt of this game.
Doing what is suggested on the link above, allowing banks to play in the game gives more money to the players. Keeping control of the lotteries at the government level...yes thatgives the politicians just what they desire. The chance to spend your money for their idea. (Not saying bankers are better, but when they have run the game elsewhere, they skimmed less than the governments, that is what competition tends to do.)
The guys at Freakonomics were kind enough to call out the Pols. Good on 'em.
IDEA 3: Time is running out.
TIME TO CONSUME IDEA: A few microseconds.
ORIGIN: August 2008.
THE BUZZ: The idea is that at some point global warming becomes the doomsday scenario and there is no reversing the process. They have calculated a date to give people a sense of urgency.
THE CONTENT: The content is the clock. Currently there are 72 months left on their clock.
QUESTION: What do they do when the clock hits zero and the world hasn't ended?
Comment on 3. The Clock. Here the there are two simple ideas. One the idea that human being are capable of destroying the planet through economic activity. Adam Smith I think wrote about this as "the tragedy of the commons" a few hundred years ago. But even then it was an economic tragedy. It is something of a mixed blessing for the environmentalists. On the one hand, every foretelling of global doom in the past has been wrong. So they are low on credibility. But on the upside, they only have to be right once!
I do like the idea of the clock. I'd have loved it if this idea (and the internet) were around in the 70's when global cooling was the rage. I'd have loved to have seen an ice age clock start ticking away and then fade out. Then a warming clock start ticking and fade out.
For the majority of human history, we have had the "knowledge keepers". The high priests who had the answers and parceled them out in one room schoolhouses to a few people who quite obviously knew less than they did. Education was based on students being ignorant, of instructors being able to get by on being half right half the time. Students wouldn't find the truth until years later, if ever.
So now that we have the internet out there to document these issues we can I hope put the doomsday crowd in the same box as the "seance crowd" and the "one room school house crowd" and the "inquisition crowd". I'm hoping that the clock is running out on ignorance. To the extent it is, The Who will have it been the best predictioneers of my generations with
"We won't get fooled again."