We shouldn’t own land

Should we abolish ownership rights over land?

It’s a crazy thought but it’s actually very logical.

Consider the factors of production. Classically defined, as land, labour, and capital. Along with entrepreneurship, which organises the factors, you have the building blocks of economic activity. Therefore, any controls on the factors leads to a limitation to the usage of the resources.

Remember how not so long ago, slavery — the ownership of humans over other humans — was a thing? Back then, it was an “economic” necessity but which fell apart when technology did the work of humans cheaper and led to the political revolution that now, thankfully, requires the treatment of all humans as equal in dignity. Less talked about is we’ve also seen a boom in economic output as well since slavery was abolished, as people are now free to use their time as *they* see fit (not another person). Slavery still exists, and economic slavery is more of an issue these days in developed economies, but my point remains: free the people.

It sounds not just absurd, but down right shameful, to suggest we own humans for economic reasons. And so I want to posit to you, that after years of trauma — like the micro issue of overpriced property where few can afford to buy a home especially the big cities or the macro issue like the wars caused by nationalism — that the ownership of “land” is one of the most damaging things we are doing to our economy (and society, if you ask me). Not just damaging, just out right wrong even.

Well that’s just ridiculous. How can the world function without ownership of land
This concept already exists: it’s called leasing. With leasing, you have a temporary control on the economic value and usage of an asset. The British had a 99 year lease with China before they had to give Hong Kong back to the communists. More relevantly, the Chinese communists themselves forbid foreigners from owning land, as its owned by the state and the collectives. Just because you don’t “own” the land, doesn’t mean you can’t own a home you build on top of it. It simply means that no one human has control of this factor of production indefinitely.

“Property rights” still exist….you just can’t sell the land as an asset and it’s a finite right you have.

So the government owns all the land?
I hope not. I’d rather say “society” does. Every few years, we allow an individual or a group to bid for a lease capped at a certain amount of years. At each bid, a group of independent people can assess what is the best usage of the land. The lease owner then gets to control the land like a land owner does and on the face of it, society will not have changed. But under the surface of it, we’ve changed the way we think about the world. We let creativity, demand and supply determine outcomes…and because nothing is assured, it keeps lease owners on their toes. It kills the concept of inheritance of land, which damages the dynamism of the economy.

Now, the devil is in the details. Replacing private ownership of land with a committee that approves land usage can be a slippery slope of sliding into horse shit again, but as long as the principle of ‘freedom’  is upheld for the resource that is land and it’s dynamic usage towards the best ideas, I think we’re good.

You could never convince existing land owners outside of China
No kidding. But that’s ok. I like to think of what we do on earth as a petri dish, where the best ideas will lead the way. What matters more is that we recognise this is the best way, so that when in the next century we begin a new phase of exploration as humans colonising other planets, moons of planets — and one day exoplanets — we have this principle down pat.

An evolving manifesto for earthlings

The evidence behind the Big Bang can explain how our universe developed from 10-43 seconds. Anything before “the bang”, however, science has no evidence and its reserved for the philosophers.

Following our own personal ‘bang’ into this world and as we grow as humans, we learn a fact that we spend the rest of our lives ignoring. That being, we all die some day.

But despite this mystery and gift of life, there is another fact that would pay dividends to be more consciously aware. That being, the human species is evolving, like how a stronger lit light fills a room more fully. We take our gift of life for granted, and it’s only when we lose it — ‘it’ being our health — that we can truly appreciate life. Building on those ideas, let me get to the point: the survival of our species is constantly under threat and we have no time to waste.

Meteoric objects that wiped out the dinosaurs are one good historical reason why we need to rush as I don’t think we’ll have much time to plan for it. For me, it’s more exciting: there’s a whole multi-verse out there for us to see.

Whilst we are destined to all die one day, our life shouldn’t be wasted.
We all should contribute to the future of humanity. I believe there are seven broad areas, from my vantage view, that could do with more engagement.

(1) Automation
Metric of success: percentage of the population that is able to work in the other sectors I list below. The more, the better.
Automation is a hot topic in industry and government alike, and for good reason: it’s happening, fast. But while industry is focussed on creating the automation, everyone else is fretting about the impacts it could create, which is mass structural unemployment.

Let me focus on why automation matters first. If we can automate any process, we should. The reason is for every human performing a service, we are wasting our collective opportunity by not having those people focussing on building our future (more on that below).

The issue of jobs disappearing is a temporary issue but it’s real. I prefer to call it “friction” as we retrain people to work on new types of jobs. Keep reading.

(2) Learning
Metric of success: structural unemployment rate is nil
Education is the institionalisation of learning (but it doesn’t have the monopoly on it). Learning to me is all encompassing, about the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Automation is one good short term reason where we need to rethink how we can retrain and reskill the workforce to reduce the friction. If automation will advance us, which it will, the speed bump will be our educational system and we — and by extension our economy — will only be as dynamic as our ability to learn and relearn.

School curriculas, learning methods, chips that we can implement in our brain and that query the internet. Whatever gets us to learn anything faster, is where we need to be.

(3) Sustainabilty
Metric of success: we have the ability to terraform another planet and/or can control Earths environment
It doesn’t matter what side of the climate change debate you’re on, logic dictates if it displaces one thing (such as the environment), it will end up costing us in other ways (ultimately our health, or our security!). Our ability to learn how to create sustainable ways of living — eliminating pollution as a by product, new types of food, methods that will allow us to habitate outside of earth— will underpin our ability to survive as a species. What we fine tune now on earth will be the model we can replicate across the universe.

(4) Healthcare
Metric of success: all disease is eliminated. Forever.
If we could eliminate human disease — and I include aging as part of that — imagine how different life would be. There would be less suffering. There would be more knowledge that we retain (by people staying alive) and less opportunity cost (by distracting our focus due to sickness). There would be more “resources” in the form of people working on problems.

Until we achieve this goal, humanity will be limited, like how a car is limited by its fuel to operate (worsened by it’s fuel tank suffering a leak).

We have the means to one day eliminate all disease. There is absolutely no good reason why we shouldn’t (and that includes the arguments supporting disease to solve ‘over-population’: we need as many humans possible to colonise space). Why aren’t we moving faster towards this goal?

(5) Transportation
Metric of success: we can travel from point A to B, instantly
With new ways of moving humans, we create new lives. When a city implements public transport, new parts of a city become accessible which allows a spreading out of the population and which in turn reduces housing demand and gives more cash in the hands of the communters. It allows different types of people to mingle to promote social cohesion, much like how NYC has more diversity than any other city I’ve seen.

Development of transportation leads to improved methods which reduce pollution.
In the long term, our ability to explore new planets gives humanity a capacity to grow our population and uncover new resources, such as asteroid mining for minerals and beyond, to enrich our society.

Whatever promotes the goal of transportation in this broad sense is arguably one of the biggest activites we can perform to grow the economy.

(6) Society
Metric of success: statistically absent percentages of harm and death caused by other humans
There is a lot of division in humanity. Nation state divisions, religious divisions, and racial divisions to name some of the main offenders. It won’t be until we come into contact with the first alien species, and especially one that threatens humanity as a whole, before we collectively wake up and willingly collaborate as a shared consciousness.

Compassion. Communication. Controlled violence. Power structures that optimise for the utilitarian goal. Whatever promotes social cohesion so as to leverage our collective consciousness rather than divide it, is the activity that will allow us to grow quicker as a force in the universe. To keep with the car analogy, it’s stepping on the accelerator rather than the break, in order to go forward. Technology is after all the faustian bargain: once we know how to do something, someone else will use it against us. The only insurance agains that, is by developing our society to prevent abuse.

(7) Exploration
Metric of success: the amount of people we have engaged in exploration.
I define exploration of the physical, mental and spiritual.

By exploring our world and our solar system, we create new opportunities for humanity to habitate for our survival or new resources to grow society.
By exploring ideas that lead to scientific answers or philosophical questions, we develop opportunities in the same way, if not more, as physical exploration.
And by exploring the spiritual; by acknowledging our sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and cognitive capacity is limited in the same way a smaller antenna is limited in what radio frequencies it can capture, we can open up new worlds. Bats can see infrared light but we can’t. What else can’t we see that prevents us from understanding?

I’m not saying if you’re working on something that’s not the above, its not a good thing. I’m just saying you’re wasting our time. This list is not comprehensive, but it’s also fairly broad and encompasses multiple approaches to solving our problems. But it harks back to one idea: what are you doing to propel humanity forward?

Why Bitcoin (or another deflationary currency) will lead to an economic revolution

In the 1500s, a turning point occurred in humanity. The British and Dutch empires adopted a new concept, that enabled them to take over the world and change it in the process. Their powerful new weapon? The notion of credit, where they abandoned the idea that the old was sacred. By “borrowing” against future prosperity — through credit — they overtook their rivals.

In our lifetimes, we are about to see another transformation. And ironically, due to the opposite reason: where borrowing against the future will be stopped. What’s that got to do with Bitcoin? A lot.

Every man and his dog is talking about Bitcoin and crypto currency. But one thing few people seem to talk about, let alone understand, is that Bitcoin has a fixed supply — specifically, 21 million. Which means that one day, unlike fiat currency, there will be no more “Bitcoins” printed out for the world, which makes it deflationary. If Bitcoin becomes the Store of Value in the world like I optimistically predict,  what will a deflationary world look like? A world where prices, like what you pay for in shops and what you get paid as salary, are decreasing? What’s that going to do to the economy? Four years ago, I made an attempt at saying deflation was a good thing (or rather, didn’t matter) but I didn’t get to the meat. I’m going to make another attempt at it this time (although many other people are still convinced it’s a problem).

Let’s unpack it. First let’s start with the concept of inflation itself.

Inflation
Here’s a question most people don’t seem to be able to explain. Why do governments, like my tax masters the US and Australia, make 2% inflation a “target”.

Inflation is basically when prices rise and there is a corresponding decrease in value of your cash to purchase — so the US and Australia have it as official economic policy to see prices rises by 2% each year. Short term, it means producers of output get more money, which makes economic output higher. But eventually, labour costs catch up so it’s a neutral impact on the economy. That is, in a best case scenario.

If expectations are managed, this can help jump start an economy short term, useful for elections. But really what’s happening is that long term inflation erodes the value of people’s savings (as their purchasing parity drops) while at the same time it reduces the effective value of debt (for a similar reason). So basically, for a long term “neutral impact” on the economy, debt holders are rewarded and hoarders of cash are penalised.

Debt funds consumption and investment, which grows output in an economy. Savings are a leakage from the economy which do the opposite. So in this sense, this political philosophy broadly speaking, is aligned with growing the system.

Meaning, inflation is evil, but in a good kind of way so we encourage it if we can control it.

Let’s now look at the real question: what’s economic growth?

Economic output
How do you grow an economy? The easy answer is that exports bring cash into an economy, but what about actual global output? If we take out this artificial growth, which is a transfer of cash between economies through trade, what actually creates net growth?

It basically comes down to two things: productivity improvements, which is doing the same thing cheaper (so that extra cash can go to other things), and population growth, which means there are now more people to consume in the economy. More people also means more workers, and remember, labour is a factor of production so the more available people (and time we have), the more we can produce. If we can pair productivity growth to population growth, we get economic growth: as we have more available cash to hire more people, they in turn can produce more output (if we assume the marginal output of labour put to work is higher than the marginal saving from productivity). By the definition of GDP, which is based on consumption, more goods being output and more people consuming means voila: more economic activity.

But that’s not the only thing that can brings cash into a system to fund consumption. Enter debt.

Debt
The invention of credit created the world we know today. But a thing that makes me scratch my head is how every government and citizen in this world seems to be in debt. If you look at the estimates, there isn’t one “bank” — every government seems to be in debt. Which basically implies one thing: we are borrowing money that will be paid by future tax, or the future income of citizens.

In the present, this is great: we have another form of cash injection into the economy, but for the future generations, this is effectively a leakage as their earnings are taxed.

Which brings us to the magic of inflation: that debt will get eroded, by a compounding amount, so that it’s practically non existent 2-3 generations from today. Assuming of course, the highway robbery from cash holders continues and inflation is constant.

But not with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin’s economic impact
With a deflationary currency that rules the world, cash holders will get rewarded for saving, as sitting on their economic value will increase with time. Inflation targets will now become deflation targets, but for the same goal of price stability. Instead of prices creeping up each year, they will creep down each year. More significantly,  debt will no longer be in the equation: as debt will only get more expensive over time (due to its purchasing parity) and it’s utilisation will drop.

Shock! Horror! The Kenyesian’s approach by Governments around the world to boost the economy will be eliminated! However, not all is lost. If investments can return a higher rate than what a saver would get hoarding their cash, then investment will still occur in the economy. And with investment, comes not just more cash into a system but also innovation, which might spark productivity improvements. This increases economic output.

Governments will be forced to stop abusing their position to borrow money to be paid by future generations, and instead, investment managers and entrepreneurs who can execute a higher return than deflationary returns, will instead be the custodians of increased economic output.

Which puts creativity, risk taking, and ingenuity, as the sole creator of economic prosperity. Which is how it should be: it’s making the competition of good ideas the thing the drives us forward.

In the process, this will make creativity the new scarcity, which is a powerful concept because it is less scarce than gold or fiat currency today. If Bitcoin or another currency with a fixed supply becomes the Store of Value in the world, this will usher in a new economic age that will be more pronounced than what the invention of credit did for the world.

Contrary to what people say, Bitcoin doesn’t have a deflationary problem: it’s actually got a built-in feature to unlock human potential, by strapping a rocket ship to our economy.

Gay marriage is asking a deeper question about humanity

In Australia right now, there is a intense debate about legalising gay marriage. The outcome of it will be significant. Although Supreme Courts and legislatures around the world have made it legal since 2003 (starting with Belgium), only Ireland has voted for it by the citizenry through a referendum. Australia isn’t doing a referendum, it’s a survey instead. It’s not binding, but it’s doing a good thing: creating debate.

I think this debate is a good thing because it will explore the issues, helping educate people. But I don’t think its going far enough. This is a debate that we will see again, thanks to the marvel of technology — and how Australia votes, actually helps establish the parameters of the future debates which is why it’s significant. However, before I go into that, I need to establish some assumptions with you.

(1) There is only one way to make humans without technology
(2) More humans is a universal goal of most institutions
(3) Marriage is about family

Now let me explain the assumptions

(1) There is only one way to make humans without technology

Whatever your views are on gay marriage, I hope you accept that the idea of creating a human, has long been through a male and female reproducing.

If it sounds ridiculous that I’m even pointing this out, it is because we have forgotten how much technology has changed our lives, starting with the test tube baby. For the first time in history, we could conceive a human outside of the body. In the years that have followed, we can now (almost) engineer sex cells so that two women or two men can have their DNA combined. Whatever your beliefs, you have to admit that’s a remarkable feat of science.

But the point remains, without technology, there is only one way to create humans.

(2) More humans is a universal goal of most institutions

There are two ways that an economy grows: through productivity improvements, or through population growth. This is a topic in itself, because in the next 50 years I believe there will be a crisis around economic growth as we’ve always taken for granted its growth due to population growth — with Japan, Italy and other western nations now declining in population and transioning to this new reality.

Population growth, for most countries (China being the notable exception) for most of history, have wanted more people for economic reasons. However, not just economic: if you’re fighting a war, pre 21st Century technology, you needed more people. If you’re running a institution that exists off its members contributions (like religions or nations), more people means more resources to advance the institution.

I could go on with this, but my point is simply this: let’s just take it as an assumption that human creation is built into nearly all human institutions as a positive thing.

(3) Marriage is about family

You don’t need society to have a loving relationship (other than freedom from persecution). You also don’t need society to make babies, as a man and woman. But if you’re going to have children, you want to be an integrated economic union with a partner, you want to be treated as a unit. You want to capture the tax benefits as well as the property rights to protect your progeny.  Marriage-lite, is about sharing a life with another person; but marriage full-blown, is about incubating new life into the world under the sponsorship of a couple.

(Which actually, is a point most people don’t realise about the US Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. It was about removing discrimination from couples, who were denied the same federal benefits in tax, pensions, and legal transfer as heterosexual couples.)

OK — that’s a lot of ground work. Argue if you wish on the above, but that’s not the interesting bit — let’s now get into the meat of the topic.

Gay marriage will be an issue in future about children thanks to technology and adoption rights

The US Supreme Court argument is intellectually a valid one around discrimination. But what it also does, is open up the can of worms on other issues, which I believe is at the core of resistance of gay marriage. Specifically, the rights of homosexual couples to bring up children.

If you are a progressive today, the question of gay marriage is “how could you deny people this benefit”. And for the true progressive, this would extend from not just relationships rights, but children rights — such as the right to adopt children, and engineer embryos in a test tube with the DNA of two people.

But to the progressive 50 years ago, they would have been befuddled. Because outside of adoption, the technology didn’t exist to create embryos outside of the body. Technology is now creating options we previously didn’t have available to us and it’s reasonable that we are taking time to consider its consequences.

Being against homosexual child rearing isn’t logical

If you can accept my second assumption, it can help you understand the resistance to homosexual unions and gender types beyond male and female. Because if you believe (as some people do) that being gay is a choice, then sanctioning against it is a way to preserve the growth of the population. However, technology is changing this.

If we can create a normal functioning human in a test tube, why does homosexuality matter any more?  I’ve heard the pain of gay people come out to their parents, and I assess the root issues is due to embarrassment but also a sense of loss: the parents won’t have grandchildren. However, we are nearly at the point where any two people can have their DNA recombined to form an embryo. And with the assistance of surrogates (currently banned in Australia: the ability for someone else to bring to term your baby) and a third person’s sex cell (you need a woman’s egg as a shell and for the critical mitichondia), we can give birth to a human of any combination of people.

Which, funnily enough, actually supports the goal of population growth. Homosexual couples, with technology, can be like heterosexual couples now. If we could just get over the embarrassment bit, which I think we’ve seen a sea change this decade but still not enough, we probably will see more families in future — a thing people are mourning to be in “decline”.

The bigger question

All this is actually a debate on a much bigger issue: are we ready to play God, and evolve into a new human species?

The moment we can engineer sex cells, is the moment we can decide what DNA we want in that embryo. We are using technology to create human life with precision. Allowing gay couples to create their own baby is simply an insight into the much bigger debate of should we even be playing God?

Which is why I think more debate is needed. This isn’t just a debate about relationship equality, but about homosexual child rearing. But actually it’s not even that which matters: this debate will be seeding the battle of the future, which is human-designed embryos, where we will also be able to decide what genes we want.

This is an emotive topic. It’s complicated. But if we apply a purely rational, logical approach to this issue, what would it be?  Well, let me help with this and phrase it another way: I believe this evolution is inevitable because it won’t be practical to have the activity restricted. We would need every country in the world to ban it, but you only have to look on drugs as an example of how even that doesn’t work, a $360 billion industry.

Consequently, you will have a choice: where you can choose to remain a Homo Sapiens Sapiens, much like how the sibling of our shared ancestor chose to stay in the trees as monkeys and apes, or accept this evolution of the human species.

The irony being this isn’t actually a vote towards this future or not, because it’s going towards one outcome anyway. What it is actually is, is a vote of how ready you are for it.

And that’s ok if you’re not ready…because I’m sure if you ask the monkeys and apes, they are very happy.

Bitcoin as Store of Value

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, on the back of China’s announcement to throttle cryptocurrency, made comments yesterday that shook the market.  (It’s not the first time he’s done this.)

He supported blockchain technology for tracking payments but then goes onto to say it’s illegal to trade Bitcoin at the bank and that’s it’s a currency that is associated with criminal activities.

It’s comical to hear this. How can the CEO of a Bank, both support Blockchain (the thing that Bitcoin invented) but trash Bitcoin? To me it points to one very obvious fact: Bitcoin itself is a threat and he’s on a consistent PR smear campaign.

Why Bitcoin is a threat
Customer deposits, where people store their money for protection, is the basis of banking. Banks use those deposits to then do lending activities that actually make them money, such as lending up to 10x what they hold as deposits in the forms of mortgages. Those same lending activities, not only make them money but can also be packaged into new financial products, such as mortgages bundled into securities (like the ones that created the 2008 credit-crisis).

Why is Bitcoin a threat? Because it has the potential to fulfill a function that only government fiat currency and gold have every achieved and that now banks are the custodians for: store of value.

If Bitcoin becomes the Store of Value in the world, people would move their customer deposits to Bitcoin. And the affect of that would be catastrophic to today’s banks.

Does Bitcoin have a fighting chance to be this?
Well, first of all its achieved an adoption that I think is irreversible. The only thing that could stop Bitcoin now is if governments make it illegal — but even then, it would require every government around the world to act in unison. Because all you need is one island nation, acting an a clearing house, to fulfill the needs of Bitcoin. (And the nation that realises this will become a new financial centre of the world.)

Secondly, the characteristics of Bitcoin are remarkable. What’s going on right now is real work is being generated, to create a hash. That hash and encryption function, will continue to be generated until 21 million Bitcoins are created. And then the supply stays constant!

The significance of this is there is a fixed supply: which means inflation will not exist (rather deflation), a pretty critical feature of where you want your Store of Value. Real work, and hence, value is behind it; and the token itself has a real use beyond being a string of characters — such as acting as a token to authenticate a Blockchain network which will underlay the future Internet.

I agree that there is a bubble right now: the hype driving it makes the price unstable. But I also believe that Bitcoin itself will get to $10,000 in value, without a doubt purely due to human psychology. But that’s not all, it should one day equal in my opinion  all the narrow money of the world which is $29 trillion  (if you want to be conservative, I’ll accept Gold which is $7.8 trillion). So if Bitcoin right now is worth $64,406,377,384 on 16,563,637 coins in supply, it’s price should be $3,888.42 but calculated on all the coins it will ever issue (21m), it’s $3066. But if the market value reaches $29 trillion, then 1 BTC will one day be worth $1, 380, 952 which is a 450x multiple on current prices ($371k if you use gold).

The question about Bitcoin is not about should it exist or not: the truth is, no one can control it. If you believe all the governments of the world will ban it, then maybe — but I believe human’s aren’t that capable on something that isn’t life threatening.

The question about it being a better store of value in the world is also not really a question: by design, it’s superior. (But admittedly the governance mechanisms behind it to create a secure system, are still being worked out and being tested– such as the SegWit2 rollout in November which put this question in doubt.)

Which leads to  the ultimate question, in lIght of the above:  do you accept it to be the Store of Value in the world? And that is the million dollar question (or, ahem, $1.381m question).

Is this the f—g button?

Islamic terrorism distresses me just as much as the nationalistic movements that Brexit, Trumpism and the rest of Europe are working towards for the same reason: it’s not progress towards future.

Islamism bothers me because it crushes individual freedoms. Nationalism bothers me because it kills open trade and travel, which has underpinned the stability the world has seen post world war two. Truthfully, both repulse me as forces because they divide humanity.

I’ve often half-joked to friends that the only time human’s will finally unite is when we get a door knock from an alien civilisation wanting to take us and our planet over. But we don’t need to wait for that either.

One day, an asteroid could wipe out all living species on earth like it did with the dinosaurs. And if that does not happened, then the next ice-age will give us a run on our gas bills (like how we had remarkably as low as 40 “breeding pairs” of homo Sapiens 70,000 years ago, and ice ages happen more often than you realise like the last one which happened 12,000 years ago). If we have any  hope of surviving as a human species, to not consider the need to colonise other planets, develop technologies to survive from our own earth’s changes, or address the need to one day eliminate all disease which is, quite literally, killing us — is short-term (human species) thinking. Life is a magical mystery but the survival of our species depends on further exploration and technology — but we can’t get there until we start thinking like this. 

(There is nothing wrong with short term thinking: putting your right foot ahead of your left foot as you breathe is critically important. I just hope you appreciate, that equally, you’re an idiot if that’s all you do when there’s a pot hole with a sleeping alligator two steps ahead of you.)

I get what’s going on with all the politics and why the actors are doing it. The cost of it, is they are just wasting our potential (and survival) as a species. That potential will only eventuate when we don’t squander our mind space and energy. Which is why I’ve decided I don’t have the headspace for it any more (outside of entertainment). Unless your survival as an individual human is at risk — and for some of you, that’s more pressing that others and I respect that — I’m going to ask you join me and start thinking about what really matters, as humanity. When you start thinking like that, hopefully that will follow with the doing which is what we need right now.

If you need help to get into this frame of mind, let me help.  Just ask yourself this question next time you catch yourself reading the news or getting into a debate with someone: how does this help us — and what are you doing — from not getting frozen by aliens or injected with a deadly disease and while we are at it did anyone remember to make a fucking eject button to get us to Mars?

Why automation excites me

Most of human society was engaged in farming once upon a time. Slavery meant richer nations (or classes in those nations) moved to others work as slaves focussed on farming — and then one day, after thousands of years, slavery was abolished. Ignoring the human element to this, what drove this economic change? Technology. No coincidence that this happened in the same hundred years of the industrial revolution starting. Machines are simply more efficient than humans — and yet I think you would agree wth me that we are working more than ever since this transition in the world happened. 
This is a good thing. It’s just the transition isn’t good — it’s friction. This is happening again and will continue to happen.
In the current form of friction, I believe automation is likely going to be one of the biggest political issues in the coming decade. The politics should be centered on how do we manage the friction (or if a country wants to fall behind, ignore it).  There is a trend toward nationalism in America and Europe especially, and foreign labour is the catch cry but truthfully, it’s also largely due to technology, or rather the automation in manufacturing replacing jobs. We need to realise this is a permanent trend and this will extend to other sectors of the economy like services in future (as we saw with farming in the last 200 years).
For those scared of a future where the machines replace our jobs or even for those who think profit is a bad word, you just need a different perspective. Let me try to do this in just four sentences.
  • Economic theory suggests that we can make money either through rent (land ownership), wages (your time), interest (tool ownership), or profit (creativity).
  • However, unlike the first three factors of production (land, labour, capital), entrepreneurship (creativity) is limitless.
  • (Well, almost unlimited — it’s limited only by our imagination and our time.)
  • Which is why we need machines to replace jobs that have us rent our time by the hour to survive, as instead we need to be unlocking human creativity.

How any country can leap frog in technology

What if I told you we could time travel to 1989 — and be given a forecast of what a new implementation of the Hypertext technology (called the World Wide Web) could do. Would you jump at doing whatever you could to be on top of this trend? Smart phones (Apple’s came out 10 years ago), a technology like Hypertext, also made us rethink how we can use the Internet and recreated the world. Well, it’s 1989 and there is a technology that is poised to do this again.

I’m passionate about the future of health, and I can’t ignore what’s going on with cryptography, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and Virtual/augmented reality. But if I had to pick one thing right now, which is ripe for government leadership to leapfrog even silicon valley, it’s this: Focus on blockchain.

It’s a specific technology that’s matured unlike most of these other trends. Its got a hacker community innovating like how I can only imagine when the web started. Its got significant investor interest. It has consumer awareness. It has all the things ready for this to blow up.

This is how you do that:

  1. Make cryptocurrency the same status as any currency. For example, in the US  Bitcoin’s are considered a capital asset which makes it impractical to use unlike regular currency which is treated on the income account. We need to remove this impediment as it makes it not practical.
  2. Offer incentives to businesses working on blockchain. Create a tax free corridor: anyone that that operations in an area is exempt for any taxation. This isn’t to just get the world’s best employing people locally and building technology which will together create an economy of agglomeration, but it will have a flow on affect on other cryptographic matters, such as cyber security which has now become the scariest frontier of warfare right now. Silicon Valley prospered because of technologies building off technologies. 
  3. Force the adoption of cryptocurrency. Require banks to offer it as a service and make all EFT terminals compliant. The moment the economy offers blockchain integrated into the economy — first with currency — we will see an acceleration of blockchain’s potential on the things that are truly exciting (such as Smart Contracts and Distributed Autonomous Organisations)

Implement these three simple policy concepts and it will make that economy the ground zero for blockchain innovation.

As I have already alluded, I don’t think Bitcoin is long term the goal of doing this: it’s the infrastructure that Bitcoin provides that is the exciting thing (ie, the block chain technology which is one of the four technologies that make Bitcoin outside of peer-to-peer, PGP and proof-of-work). The use cases go far and wide: not just for currency, but for things we take for granted like how websites are resolved (like DNS), contracts likes wills, voting, and anything else involving trust (such as simple but critical title deeds).  Blockchain is basically a decentralised database which is in line with the original design goal of the Internet. Efforts like Ethereum are effectively building a computer on top of the Blockchain concept. It’s a whole new paradigm in computing that goes far beyond currency.

But leave that to the entrepreneurs, who are already working on that — I could write many more posts on those ideas alone. But with leadership, anyone one of the three suggestions I’ve made could be legislated into law this year and overnight make that territory a global leader. 

This is what any  country could do to create the world’s best environment to foster this disruptive technology, which I am convinced will create a transformation like what the web did less than 30 years ago. 

 

America shouldn’t ban guns, but the world should learn from them instead

The US Supreme court this week reversed the Massachusetts High Court Caetano v. Massachusetts decision that said a “stun gun” does not qualify under the second amendment, with  a reason used because the technology did not exist at the time of the framing constitution. Actually, I agree with the US Supreme court on this, but it confirms something that I’ve long thought was bound to happen which is where do you draw the line for what constitutes “arms”?

Two nights ago, I was shown a semi-automatic rifle in the apartment of a friend and thought it was damn cool. But more broadly, my views on guns is simple: you need a gun, a human and a mistake or bad motive to create a tragedy. The political Right wing believe the answer to tragedies is mental health solutions (as my friend said, “people kill people, not guns”); the Left believe it’s banning the guns. I consider myself politically moderate and used to think the solution was banning them, but I’ve now realised it would be impractical (see the below video why).

How to Create a Gun-Free America in 5 Easy Steps

Want to create a gun-free America in 5 easy steps? Here's all there is to it.

Posted by Reason Magazine on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Without going into a debate what the second amendment means in the United States (originally to protect citizens from a tyranny when organised into militias; which has now been clarified by the courts as a personal right, and a right to self-defense) my reasoning was not that I wanted to take people’s freedoms away; it’s that I think guns are correlated with violence and so controls on them make logical sense because it’s easier to control that then the people who use them unpredictability on innocent humans. As a case in point, when I asked my friend how easy  it was to get a gun and a license, even he grimaced at how easy it was — it should be as hard as getting your driver’s license.

What now?
I actually think people should keep their guns because it’s irrelevant. The reason I say irrelevant is for the same reason why they exist in the first place: technology. Living in Silicon Valley, I see and hear things ahead of the rest of the world. Everyone in my network — primarily investors and entrepreneurs — spend a lot time thinking about the future as a day job so naturally have developed insights about what a future world looks like. And one of the more chilling ones I’ve heard about are drones which is why the Caetano v. Massachusetts  interests me as you could argue one day drones are an ‘arms’ essential for self-defense as protected by the constitution.

But what can be used in self-defense and also be used in offense.

Let’s play a thought experiment: that drones one day can carry a payload that would blow up its surroundings. And let’s also assume that one day, miniaturisation technology enables them to be the size of a fly. So a would-be deranged human would fly in their drone through a crack of your window and blow you up. Think that’s unrealistic? Based on technological trends, it’s almost guaranteed to happen one day, technically speaking.

That’s not talking about another set of military technological feats that’s been consumerised, which can simply be called “hacking”. You don’t think that one day, the thing governments are doing to each other — like the literal cold war between China and the US happening right now — won’t happen at an individual level? When your “Internet-of-Things” fridge that talks to your microwave and front door lock and bed-warmer and thermostat — becomes remotely controlled to make you a prisoner in your own home? I’m not going to extend this thought experiment any further because it’s just scary what could happen as the home is just one area of risk.

What good are guns or stun guns when it comes to fly-sized drones and hacking you don’t see ? They are not. That’s why it is time to move the debate, globally, to not one of guns but of society and the individual. It’s about how much power we allow individual humans to inflict violence on other humans.

An individual has the right to life, which means security and dignity among other things. What penalties do we have when another human takes that away? And what power do we allow individuals to protect themselves, which as the Supreme court justices opined about Caetano v. Massachusetts argued was necessary, because the state wasn’t there to protect her due to ineffective restraining orders or a present police officer.

Here is my suggestion for some principles I think we can agree to:

  • In an urban environment, where there is population density, anything that is a tool who’s primary purpose is to commit some sort of violence, should be banned. No one should be allowed to possess them, more for the idea that if you have an arms race amongst people you will always have one who can out-do the other.
  • Self-defense and tools are to be encouraged. But only ones that can disarm and disable an attack, not kill. This is why I like stun guns over regular say regular guns and agreed with the Supreme Court’s comment.

The debate is not about guns. Or maybe it is now — but it won’t be in a few years.

The West and Islam (and soon, China)

clash-civilizations
Twenty years have passed since famed political scientist Samuel Huntington published his seminal work, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. He predicted a world where there would be a clash with the Islamic civilization.
 
Here is a summary and critique. A nice summary from the article:
Like the Islamic world, the Sinic civilization believes itself to be superior to the West, and Huntington predicted it would therefore seek to challenge the West and its designs for global influence. China’s resistance to Western supremacy stems from its Confucian values, which emphasize the importance of hierarchy, authority, consensus and the state’s dominion over society and which clash with American beliefs of liberty, equality, democracy and individualism. The chasm between the two makes a Western-style political structure incompatible with Chinese cultural and civilizational traditions, just as it is incompatible with the Islamic world’s rejection of the separation of church and state. As a result, the relationship between the two civilizations would become increasingly confrontational, especially as China’s economic and military power expands and Beijing begins to pursue a role as a regional hegemon.
Despite the criticism, he did say one thing that Stratfor agreed with that I love:
Instead of promoting the supposedly universal features of one civilization, the requisites for cultural coexistence demand a search for what is common to most civilizations. In a multicivilizational world the constructive course is to renounce universalism, accept diversity, and seek commonalities.
We have politicians currently campaigning in America and Europe taking advantage of bigotry, racism and other despicable traits that take us a step back. To me, the above mentioned quote is a timeless reminder, that there is no one system that is superior so let’s just settle to be different and celebrate that.