Closing Reflections

Our categories are insufficient… Our frameworks ruptured… The age of the greatest technological advancements in world history… Advancements that make a new society possible… And yet, the same period of technological explosion is what created the anthropocene… The 50-year period when Global temperatures Rose to unprecedented levels putting us on the brink… as also the age of inequality…

Are we in the middle of a revolution? Is it going wrong? Where do we want it to go? And how?



Another excellent discussion in class and there was, if not the perfect consensus, at least growing one that data-use regulation was crucial to prevent the spread of hate / fear speech,  misinformation and manipulation.


While, a comprehensive regulatory framework would indeed be complex here are a few experimental aspects of it that we can discuss:


1. NO INDIVIDUALIZED DATA RETENTION: The default is that no data will be retained by any party about an individual. Retention of data would require either an exception being granted under law (For instance details of credit card transactions for 52 weeks or health data to provide continuity in care) or under explicit instructions initiated by an individual (Please retain my shipping address or my frequent flyer number).


2. ALL NON-INDIVIDUALIZED DATA SETS MUST BE HELD AS A PUBLIC GOOD WITH A REVENUE MODEL: And yet, We understand and agree that big data is indeed valuable for continuous growth of productivity. Therefore all data can and must be retained in fully anonymized form as a public good. This data must be available to all to develop their autonomous cars or fraud detection systems or better and better language processing systems etc etc. That is anonymous data must be made available through a public infrastructure through a tiered fee. The revenue generated must go into a public pool for citizens welfare activity, especially municipal broadband etc.


3. MISINFORMATION/HATE/FEAR SPEECH WILL ATTRACT  DAMAGES: The law must create a fully transparent misinformation / hate / fear speech reporting system with high standards for evidence and any misinformation/ hate speech that is not removed by the platform will attract fines and other damages.


As I noted about these are merely experimental elements of a broader framework that is required. Your thoughts and responses and of course a free wheeling discussion.



A New Weaker Regime of IPR to Empower the Individual?

In liberal individualism the seat of creative talents as the core of the individual self. In theory then the first justification for intellectual property rights is to protect the creative talents of individuals. The hypothesis that we discussed in class today was that this fundamental scaffolding for the success of the individual has what has been “misused” to build the entire regime of extreme monopolistic intellectual property rights that primarily supports the large multinational. Hence, the new proposition for us to discuss now:

We must abandon the current regime of strong pro corporation IPR and instead fashion a weaker and more open regime of IPR that fundamentally is about the protection and even more, the empowerment, of the individual on the one hand and an anti-monopoly – rapid growth model on the other.

How would we do this? Do you agree disagree? What ideas might work / might not work?


After an excellent first round discussion online here let’s do a very quick round of brief second round responses.

1. In my lecture I caution against a sense of realism that dampens the capacity to imagine solutions. Reflect on this proposition and problem!


2. The two illustrations in the lecture involve first, a fund that is aimed at making possible retraining/Education for employees who are laid off by companies by creating policy that would require companies to pay in to a fund for every employee they lay off. The second example involves a simple evaluation of the value of automation based on the data that was used to produce that automation and allocating that value to a productivity fund. Evaluate/respond!




Our in class discussion over the last 2 weeks, including on Monday this week has led us to a few conclusions:


  1. That after 50 years of huge productivity gains but a flat wage curve, inequality is at a record high in the United States. 
  2. In the past with every successive wave of automation, labor absorption was possible both because such automation was not seen as a replacement for labor but a combined new role for labor along with an expansion. For instance, with the automation of manufacturing through assembly lines, the role of labor went from being skilled craftsman to semi-skilled assembly line workers and involved an enormous expansion in production thereby absorbing large swats of labor and creating prosperity.
  3. That for the first time we may be witnessing automation that involves significant replacement of labor with parts of the economy that are expanding – – such as tech (cloud services, software), retail (robitized warehousing), transport/delivery (autonomous vehicles / drones) etc – – not requiring the same level of labor expansion.
  4. Alongside this we may also be seeing a period when the overall economic growth is slowing down in much of the Western world and under such circumstances labor absorption becomes even more difficult. This may not express itself as unemployment but as underemployment and exit from the labor market.
  5. All this is happening as has been mentioned several times (but not yet analyzed In any detailed way) in the context of accelerating climate change and the need to possibly move away from fossil fuel led levels of production in consumption.


Given the above let’s speculate on some of the consequences or solutions.


How do we solve or at least approach the problem of dramatic economic slowdown and automation related flattening of the wage curve and reduction in employment (leading to income inequality)  in the context of huge productivity gains?


The answer is obvious: move some part of the gains from productivity into broad support for citizens / people. In other words, can we take $25 out of every $100 gain in productivity and move it into a common pool that will say, subsidize health care for all, education for all, energy transformation for all etc etc.? Expressed another way, this would mean that say, I earn $100 and spend 50 of that on my family’s health, my children’s education, the necessary changes to move to solar at home etc and if all of that were to come free through a PRODUCTIVITY – TECHNOLOGY DIVIDEND FUND then I would be okay making $70 and working only 3 and 1/2 days a week. This would mean an overall betterment in my standard of living both because I have more time to spend with my family and on leisure and because I don’t have to worry about some basic things.


In terms of resources we are indeed in a place where this is possible: a kind of expanded Scandinavian model of organizing society and its resources.


Your reactions / responses! And talk to each other!


Uber has gone from being the future of transportation”to accompany mired in controversies – – from sexual harassment to multiple misclassification lawsuits and big ticket losses. And yet, it continues to produce and enhanced customer experience in transportation and growing market share  / revenues.

  • How might Uber increase its revenue beyond its current levels as a pathway to profitability?
  • How might it reduce its cost structure without impacting customer experience and safety On the one hand or negotiate the growing threat of regulation?
  • Is there a pathway to sustainability for Uber?


Starting with the early success of Linux and Apache, open source software has emerged as a strategic weapon in the technology sector. While it’s origins certainly come out of MIT and its software engineers, the concept of open source has been adapted to all spaces – – from engineering design to knowledge bases.


1. Evaluate the possibility of open source continuing to play a role in the tech market. For instance, do you see an open source challenge in the space of the big four – – Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook?

2. How have Microsoft and Intel responded to their virtual elimination from the mobile/handheld market? What is their future?


3. Do you see open source as a concept fundamentally restructure the knowledge economy going into the future? For instance do you see it destabilized the concept of intellectual property rights?


The combined impact of a two decade debate on network neutrality Is that that concept of the internet as a kind of public utility is now part of our imaginary. It’s not yet fully and legally enacted but as a concept… As an idea… That good quality internet service should be equally accessible to everyone Is something that every one of us has no choice but to think about. Network neutrality is merely the first battle in shaping the future of the internet.

Municipal wireless and community broadband have emerged as 2 strong concepts.. There is not yet a single shape to either of these ideas. They are just experiments towards the implementation of publicly accessible internet services… Like electricity, like water.

1. Should good quality internet access be treated as a fundamental right — that is a space where there is no difference in the quality of service based on class, neighborhood, region, locality, race, citizenship status etc.

2. Are municipal / community broadband concepts that we must push for and acting federal legislation? Why/ why not?


REVOLUTION – a word with many meanings… A word that signifies many emotions… A word that is very versatile…  A word that evokes different images for different people… A word that may hold a different imaginary for each of us…

What is revolution? What images thoughts, emotions, events and moments does it invoke for you? What history is and what stories does it bring up in your mind? In other words, talk about the many meanings of revolution… Build a conversation between each other on this word and its many meanings.