Monday, November 20, 2017

Corruption and Meritocracy

We like working with people we like. It is far more productive (and cheap) to be able to trust people to just crack on with things, than to put systems in place to monitor them. Tim Ferriss (author of 'The Four Hour Workweek') sings the praises of empowering people to make little decisions. You don't want to work for yourself. You want to outsource the work that distracts you from what you find fulfilling. For that to happen - you need to be able to trust each other. To be working for each other. Meritocracy is intended to replace hereditary entitlement. The problem is relationships are also hereditary. I am more likely to trust you if my friend trusts you. If we share some common ground. Nepotism and working with friends is a natural form of this inheritance. The only way to break this form of corruption is to build stronger networks of trust. Merit without trust isn't particularly valuable.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Trial and Error

I am using Duolingo and Memrise to learn Spanish. I still regard myself as Monotongue. I did years of Afrikaans but my vocab and confidence are weak. I have attempted various other languages - Zulu, Xhosa, German, French, and Italian in various stop-starts. I am really enjoying my current stab. It feels like computer-assisted learning is coming on by leaps and bounds. There is something very different when a person tells me I got something wrong, and a computer does it. Judgement free. The computer is genuinely ambivalent, and I can just crack on. The computer doesn't get bored, annoyed, or impatient. The computer can also give instant feedback, which helps me learn immediately. The reason I am learning is to engage with people. This is consistent with the way I use Social Media. As a catalyst for real-world interaction. I don't think Artificial Intelligence will replace human interaction. I am confident it will help us learn and communicate better. Exciting times.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Every Action is a Vote

The world is noisy. Once you accept that it is not particularly fair, you still have to treat it as if it is. Even though there is so much that is not under our control, cumulatively things we do add up. No individual vote matters, but if no one votes... that matters. Every action is a vote.  Every day. Democracy isn't a ballot box, it is a conversation. Kant's 'Act only in a way that you can at the same time will that it became a universal law'. We have to crack on. We can't be overwhelmed. We have to carry on having hard conversations. We have to carry on trying not to get triggered by the things that irritate us. Breathe. Ask another question. Take another step. We have to treat each other kindly. There is no towel to throw in. This is all we have.

We vote every day

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ideas in the Open

I have mixed feelings about Intellectual Property. I think we would be better off if we did our thinking in public. Open to the error correction of a million eyes, if what we are doing is worth their attention. Property allows investment. You can ring-fence the rewards.  It also restricts the knowledge to a smaller set of people. We don't always know what connections our ideas will allow others to make. We all see the world differently. In a world with zero transaction costs, perfect transparency, and the ability to replicate anything that has been done before - the rules of reward based on ring-fences will fall away. We will have to switch the economics of scarcity for the economics of abundance. The only thing that can't be copied is human relationships. Trust. Time. Context.


Monday, November 13, 2017

A Proper Engine

The most important thing about an engine is that you have one. Even if it is tiny. Engines start life as buffers. They need to be looked after, and to grow, but the help is reciprocal. You can dip into a buffer. That is why it is there. A buffer takes the edge off as you get into position to have a proper engine. With a buffer, your labour is still the engine. You need to fill up the buffer again. An engine fills itself. Left alone, an engine grows. Even if it is not left alone completely, it will grow if it generates more than is taken out. You should try not dip into the engine, but use what the engine makes. Eventually one day, your engine can give you the financial security to direct your energy towards things that count, but can't be counted.

Start Little

Friday, November 10, 2017

One and One

Some solutions take time. Australia has been gradually building up Superannuation Assets. As of December 2016, Australians had AUS$2.2 trillion in these funds. The contribution rate was initially set at 3% and has gradually increased as people got used to the idea. It is 9.5% now and is planned to increase to 12% in 2025. The 'three pillars' being (1) compulsory employer contributions, (2) additional self-funding, (3) if necessary additional means tested government support. One way for a Community Wealth Fund to pay 150 Universal Basic Incomes would be to start small. Each person joining could commit to Funding one for themselves, and one more (one for me, one for you). It may take time. It will take time. Eventually you could get to a stage where a fully funded Community Wealth Fund (say US$15 million?) could pay R3,000/ $250 / £200 to everyone. Then the fund could increase that amount over time, or help other groups form, or split into two groups and build up again. Solutions take time. Not time spent. Time well invested.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Stokvel 2.0

A fellow Basic Income fan describes it as 'the Stokvel that went to Harvard'. A Stokvel is a by-invitation club that pools money and then assists each member of the community in turn. The word derives from the stock fairs of English Settlers in the Eastern Cape. Post Napoleon, the English pushed into Southern Africa to establish settlements on the frontiers between the isiXhosa and the Dutch colony. There is a beautiful twist that the word now has an Afrikaans (African Dutch) flavour and the concept is used by approximately 1/3 black South African adults. Stokvels have a commonly agreed constitution, dictating contributions, how the money is paid out, and the roles and responsibilities of the members. A Community Wealth Fund that paid 150 basic incomes to its members would be a self-financed Stokvel.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Emotional Attention

Strong and weak are not opposites. One reason vulnerability is difficult to show is because it feels like the price is respect. We only have so much concern to give people. Our emotional attention is not an unlimited resource. Pity is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. So it is easier to bottle up the challenges that being strong in the face of adversity ensures. Dr Chopper prescribes a dose of Harden Up. When someone indicates they are struggling, our natural inclination is to feel like we need to offer advice or help. Sometimes all that person needs is to express that life is hard. No help is needed. No action. Just someone seeing. Hearing. Acknowledging their strength.