Shortsighted Government Is Selfish Politics

So I am at the pool today in Maryland.

This old man–looks about 100, yes really!–comes up to me and starts a conversation.

He says, you know what–my friend in California is 99-years old and he just got his driver’s license renewed–for 5 years!

Imagine that–can the State of California with confidence really issue a 5-year driver’s license to someone at that age and believe that both the drivers’ safety and public safety is provided for?

Yes, the problems at the Federal government level are ginormous–the national debt, the level of social entitlements, the “true” unemployment rate, the poverty level, our failing healthcare system, and more.

Still we cannot forget that some of the most important services that citizens get are at the State and Local levels of government–police, fire & rescue, transportation, community development, family planning, and more.

For government to function effectively–we need all levels to act rationally, responsibly, and with care for the people in mind–both short-term and long-term.

Issuing 5-year driver’s license to 99-year old individuals can have a devastating impact on someone family if that person loses control of their vehicle due to their physical or mental condition.

Similarly, issuing social entitlements (and they may indeed be needed) without a realistic plan for funding the system is irresponsible and can have a catastrophic impact to families around the nation when the system comes up short.

Government has to run with common sense–and stop setting up rules that are shortsighted and blind to the bigger picture.

Yes, people deserve to drive and to have medical care and so forth, but politicians should set up these systems, so that the people are really served, and not just their political agendas. 😉

(Source Video: Michelle Blumenthal)

Can a Computer Run the Economy?

Machine_learning

I am nottalking about socialism or totalitarianism, but about computers and artificial intelligence.

For a long time, we have seen political infighting and finger-pointing stall progress on creating jobs, balancing trade, taming the deficits, and sparking innovation.

But what if we somehow took out the quest for power and influence from navigating our prosperity?

In politics, unfortunately no one seems to want to give the other side the upper hand–a political win with voters or a leg-up on with their platform.

But through the disciplines of economics, finance, organizational behavior, industrial psychology, sociology, geopolitics, and more–can we program a computer to steer the economy using facts rather than fighting and fear?

Every day, we need to make decisions, big and small, on everything from interests rates, tax rates, borrowing, defense spending, entitlements, pricing strategies, regulating critical industries, trade pacts, and more.

Left in the hands of politicians, we inject personal biases and even hatreds, powerplays, band-standing, bickering, and “pork-barrel” decision making, rather than rational acting based on analysis of alternatives, cost-benefits, risk management, and underlying ethics.

We thumb our noises (rightfully) at global actors on the political stages, saying who is rational and who is perhaps just plain crazy enough to hit “the button.”

But back here at home, we can argue about whether or not the button of economic destructionism has already been hit with the clock ticking down as the national deficit spirals upward, education scores plummet, and jobs are lost overseas?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek(30 August 2012) suggests using gaming as a way to get past the political infighting and instead focus on small (diverse) groups to make unambiguous trade-off decisions to guide the economy rather than “get reelected”–the results pleasantly were cooperation and collaboration.

Yes, a game is just a game, but there is lesson that we can learn from this–economic decision-making can be made (more) rationally by rewarding teamwork and compromise, rather than by an all or nothing, fall on your sword, party against party, winner takes no prisoner-politics.

I would suggest that gaming is a good example for how we can improve our economy, but I can see a time coming where “bid data,” analytics, artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation, and high-performance computing, takes this a whole lot further–where computers, guided and inspired by people, help us make rational economic choices,thereby trumping decisions by gut, intuition, politics, and subjective whims .

True, computers are programmed by human beings–so won’t we just introduce our biases and conflict into the systems we develop and deploy?

The idea here is to filter out those biases using diverse teams of rational decision-makers, working together applying subject matter expertise and best practices and then have the computers learn over time in order to improve performance–this, separate from the desire and process to get votes and get elected.

Running the economy should not be about catering to constituencies, getting and keeping power for power sakes, but rather about rational decision-making for society–where the greatest good is provided to the greatest numbers, where the future takes center stage, where individuals preferences and rights are respected and upheld, and where ethics and morality underpin every decision we make.

The final question is whether we will be ready to course-correct with collaboration and advances in technology to get out of this economic mess before this economic mess gets even more seriously at us?

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Erik Charlton)

How Far Will You Go?

This week we watched with horror as a Texas baseball fan and firefighter fell to his death attempting to catch a ball hurtling into the stands. 
This man overreached in this case, and went to his death in order to try and catch a baseball!
He did an ordinary thing, and it cost him his life–right in front of his son. 
It is tragic–unbelievable. 
Ironically, the same day, the Wall Street Journal (8 July 2011) has an article called “The Taming of The Fans,” about what they call “rowdy fan bases” and efforts to control the craziness. 
In response, a “fan code of conduct” is being adopted by some.
“Among the no-no’s:”
– Fighting
– Illegal drugs
– Laser pens
– Drinking underage
– And so on. 
About a month ago, there was the riots in Vancouver after the Stanley cup was lost and from the chaos came the now famous photo of the kissing couple, the girl having been injured and on the ground in the mayhem. 
We live in an unpredictable world–where things can get out of control. 
When rationality, morality, and a sense of moderation get away from us, then terrible things happen–death, destruction, chaos.
And of course, this is not limited to fans of sporting events and rock-and-roll concerts.
This week, we watched with mouths agape as people like Casey Anthony and Dominique Strauss-Kahn basically walk away from some very serious and terrible charges. While no one can say what really happened, we were all really shocked at the outcomes.
For months now, we have been watching with indignation as various Middle-East dictators shoot, kill, besiege, and round up their own people in order to maintain power in the Arab Spring.
Lara Logan, the CBS reporter, who was sexually attacked and brutally beaten by a mob in Egypt’s Tahir Square during the riots in February, is another recent horror tale that speaks volumes about people going to non-sensical extremes and committing atrocities. 
The images and sound bites are there basically everyday of people, organizations, and societies going to the extremes and doing unthinkables–really these are burned into consciousness (for others it’s in their subconscious).
People are willing to go to all sorts of extremes to get what they want, do what they believe, or just to go sheer crazy.
Sometimes, those efforts are rewarded and others get their due–in the end, I believe justice prevails in this life or the after.
Our world sits on a fine line between sanity and insanity–life and death.
People are tempted “to go for it” to get what they want all the time.
But the challenge is to weigh the cost and benefits and chose our actions carefully.
There is a domino effect to our choices–and we own the consequences. 
Will we pull ourselves back from the edge–when the ball is coming our way in life?