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Economic Influence & Networked Markets

Equif*cked: The end of credit reporting as we knew it

<![CDATA[After Equifax's epic data breach this week, I did the only sane thing a consumer can do. I froze my credit. When I got to freezing my Equifax credit report I received a failure notice.
Maybe Equifax should have taken their systems offline before the hack.

As of this week, the open credit report should be a thing of the past. And it will change Equifax’s business dramatically. Having been compensated for letting companies access our private credit data, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will also be charging consumers to keep their information accessible when they want it to be. This is the so-called “freeze” on a credit reporting account.
Unfortunately, Experian’s protection scheme is deeply flawed, it’s insecure, and we should not have to pay these companies to do their job. We should not be the guardians of the data they store, turning access on and off to control when our credit is visible to companies.
The credit reporting agencies are turning their poor security regimes into an excuse to collect more money from consumers. A radical rethinking of the credit reporting system is due, and the time has come.
And now that it is here, Equifax is already failing to provide consumers with the ability to freeze their accounts.
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[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]]]>


A new approach to Facebook and Twitter


A few weeks back, I removed Twitter and Facebook from my phone, and I am much relieved. It was egging on my frustrations and encouraging stupid, tit-for-tat arguments that do not advance any meaningful discussion. The results have been a more peaceful mind, capable of more reflection, with less to argue about at home because I’m inflamed by Trumpism online.
I also think we’ve seen the advent of such voluminous trolling, as I noted the other day after having to shut a posting down because it was getting vitriolic and downright crazy, that Facebook and many social conversations are impossible. Every issue has become life-or-death, and that simply isn’t the way life actually is or should be. There is no compromise possible if we pursue single-point issues to disagree about rather than discuss what we might have in common.
So, to answer the question I previously posed, whether Facebook is worth the time to engage deeply in comments, I have decided it is not.
I’ll continue to post, and I encourage all my friends and any newcomers to discuss all they want. I may jump in, but for the most part my Facebook usage will be informational henceforth. I’ll share what I am reading, thinking about and doing, because it may be useful to all of you.
If you find my posts annoying and feel compelled to attack me, an idea I shared, or what you think my opinion is, please feel free to ignore me. You have no obligation to correct me, as we all have views that can add up to a civil discourse. The point is to express those views to enrich to stew of possible solutions this country desperately needs.
I’ll be focusing on local and global action with the time I used to spend being admonished and frustrated by Trumpist or “America is finished” advocates. You can read the story here. Or not. Your choice. I’m done wasting energy on trivia. It’s time for action and clear, pragmatic assessments of action.
I love my friends, new acquaintances with interesting ideas, my country, and the ideas that will transform our lives for the better. I welcome all of that. Please feel free to reach out to me in email, if you’d like to engage in a productive discussion. I’m looking for a different way to host that conversation than Facebook.]]>

Business & Technology Influence & Networked Markets Life & Everything Else Social & Political

The General Is In

<![CDATA[I like the job title suggested by the quote below: Maker of Contributions Others Can’t.

“Expert-generalists study widely in many different fields, understand deeper principles that connect those fields, and then apply the principles to their core specialty.” But, you may wonder: wouldn’t this force Musk to learn at a surface level only and never gain true mastery? Contrary to the jack-of-all-trades myth, “Learning across multiple fields provides an information advantage (and therefore an innovation advantage) because most people focus on just one field… Each new field we learn that is unfamiliar to others in our field gives us the ability to make combinations that they can’t.” Musk applies this multi-disciplinary approach in order to disrupt the automotive world and achieve otherworldly breakthroughs in rocketry.

Late last year, after years of an increasingly complicated description, I decided on a new response to the question “What do you do?” — which for many people can mean, “How do you earn that living, or wear that suit, or obviously not own a suit but drive that car?” There’s an examination of bone fides going on. The question can be completely innocent, as when the neice’s boyfriend at family Christmas says, “I work at [deleted for protection of neice’s boyfriend], it’s a big consulting company. Do you know what I am talking about?” “Oh, yes,” I responded. And he did as I would have, after a brief pause, and redirected the question, asking me, “What do you do?” Therefore, he can be part of the family, because if he’d launched into an explanation, well, it would have been a poor example of soft skills.

My answer to the “what do you do” quandary is that I am in the business of being me. If pressed for details, I add that I create new combinations across several different domains. The list of domains has been progressively complicated, so I usually stop there and ask what my interlocutor does with their time.
No comparison to Elon Musk intended, we are both citizens of the United States and the planet, equals before the law and not much else. However, I believe this expert-generalist skillset represents more than the path to business titancy, it’s the keystone of complete works of creativity, business and technical innovation at every scale. I know it has been the basis of my career, and remember with gratitude the first times people recognized, nurtured and leveraged my learning skills. It taught me more about more processes, systems and stories. Having started a writer I became a “portfolio careerist” in the mid-90s.
Now I am in the business of being me.

Expert-Generalism is the basis of future careers and lives, not to mention many current and fabled startups not-quite-Muskian, in deference to the fact that the era of the multi-founder is just starting. The smartest CEOs I’ve known are essentially generalists. Some are truly generalists while others began as deep domain experts and added business, strategic, economic and political skills. The smartest ones are all expert-generalists.

Expert-Generalists are also the backbone of great local service experiences, because they can tie together a thriving on-demand small business community with incredible personal presence, soft skills, and expertise. The edges of the network are about to come to life with digitally managed personal and professional services as small business and solo workers become integrated into the logistics and planning platforms that have been the sole domain of the enterprise for decades. New combinations of value will be breaking out everywhere, out of necessity as much as a taste for progress.

A few people with an idea can change an industry and be testing the concept on the cloud in a few days, targeting their local market or the world. It is not necessary to start at scale. Uber certainly didn’t. Local is where an idea can be proved, then grown. Local is also where the action will be as a result of the collapse of credibility of authority in media, marketing, government, Wall Street and much else, likely too much else.
We’ll find the anchor point in local experience, built of people augmented by software. The economics of local on-demand have not been worked out. Experiments are breaking out all over, though some have run afoul of the law because they are frankly radical. Even the collapse of American democracy is possible these days, but I pledge to work with my neighbors to see that we are all happy, enjoy a fair wage that ensures they and their children are well-fed and educated.

All of us will acknowledge that.

The New York Times‘ Thomas L. Friedman recently described a new class of jobs he dubbed “STEMpathy” work. These are people augmented by software, the network and mobile devices, as well as extensively networked homes and automobiles. This includes everyone who doesn’t feel secure in their jobs today. We feel this way because we know the changes coming include AI and robots. Friedman correctly points out that “heart” is at the core of all work experience. There will be robots. We do need to change our skills, though not to be beggared at the gates of globalism.
Eventually, the question of how ordinary people will earn livings to buy the products made by businesses will become the foremost question in society. I suspect that will involve an intense local focus. Cities and states are already responding to the 2016 election by focusing on their quality of life, local values, and, strangely, the people. Marketers are seeking the holy grail of one-to-one engagement with customers. As everything becomes more virtual, it is increasingly important to be personal. There’s a lot of money in human contact and connections.
We can have no idea when that will happen, especially given the growing authoritarian movement. When the break comes, there will be a Great Re-deal, which does not have to mean a mass redistribution of wealth. Instead, it could come in a general adjustment of the compensation for work, which will lead to fair returns for all the work that contributes to the creation of great wealth and small prosperity: A thriving economy.
At that time, there will be many more specialists than today, working in science, technology, mathematics, medicine, and management. There will be more expert-generalists managing them. There will be many more expert-generalist laborers, sellers, makers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, as well as delivery, installation, maintenance and support people, working and living in the same community as those specialists.
We’ll all be grateful that expert-generalism isn’t something only Elon Musk can do. I’m confident he’d agree.

Source: How Elon Musk Uses His Learning Superpowers To Master Information, Clean Technica



Trump making classic narcissistic CEO blunder

<![CDATA[Reading The New York Times' thoroughly reported tale of decline, Inside the Failing Mission to Tame Donald Trump’s Tongue, I am struck by Trump’s focus on his rallies as evidence of his assured election, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.
Success at business meetings when it’s All About You, a trait shared by The Orange D with narcissistic CEOs, is different than real engagement with the electorate. Rallies, especially the subjective size of the crowd (always “yuge” in Trump’s estimation), are misleading indicators in a national campaign. Trump and his fellow narcissists judge success by their ability to draw a crowd. Likewise, Trump’s focus on the “historic” number of votes he received and lost, despite the general increase in the number of voters overall due to population growth, demonstrates his inability to understand the underlying meaning of the data, which is simply political trivia.
Trump’s team is not really campaigning so much as identifying locations that are the optimum distance from a large enough population to ensure a crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 for the boss. His real estate mindset serves him well as a showman who needs a crowd, but it doesn’t do any good for his electoral math. This explains why he can justify two upcoming events in Washington state, which he is assured to lose in November. Except for the value to Trump’s ego, the trips are an otherwise wasted effort to win the election.
Then there is his mouth, which hurts him with voters who are not caught up in an in-person love fest with Donald Trump. Words are all that get out of the event venue. Crowd’s feed Trump’s worst trait, his ego, which is connected to the world through his mouth. He says all the craziest things they would only dream of saying, so it’s more like a rock concert or a twisted self-help event than a political rally for the crowd. There is genuine shared enmity in the room for everyone not in the room, which unites a certain kind of crowd. For everyone watching from the outside, it’s a turn-off.
The narcissistic CEO holds meetings to hear how well he or she is doing, in contrast to more successful CEOs who constantly study the operation of their company for improvements. For Trump, the crowd’s the juice that makes his brand go. As the big orange one noted this week, the company is having its “best year ever.” It’s an open question whether Trump distinguishes between dollars and voters when speaking in terms of his campaign’s success. That he doesn’t plainly see the difference in value between a dollar and a voter speaks volumes to this writer.
Trump obviously loves his crowds, and cannot be advised to embrace a different kind of campaign style, because the only measure that matters is Trump’s happiness. His team, which includes his vaunted family, are failing Trump, because they’ve been organized around Trump’s self-centered need for attention. It’s more evidence of why Trump is thoroughly unqualified to be President of the United States.]]>

Business & Technology

Tesla's Autopilot: Beta Testing In Public, So Open the Data

<![CDATA[At the end of June, after the first death in an accident involving the Tesla auto-pilot system, the company said in a press release: “This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles.” Sounds safe, sure, but data without context is generally misleading.
The company goes on to position the death as a rarity that confirms the overall safety of the Tesla auto-pilot:

Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

Tesla doesn’t provide sources for its U.S. driving fatality per miles driven, nor the lower global average of one fatality per 60 million miles. Safety data generated by the auto-pilot testing should be opened for customers to review before buying and using the system.
1.39 trillion miles were driven during 2014 in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At that rate, Tesla’s 130-million-miles-without-a-death figure suggests that if everyone drove on Tesla auto-pilot, 10,739.2 people would die annually in the U.S. On the face of it, certainly better than human drivers.
2014 saw a historic low in U.S. driving fatalities, 32,675 deaths, after progressively better results over many years: 10.8 deaths per 100,0000 people, according to the Center For Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. Death rates were headed up almost 10 percent in 2015.
The Tesla auto-pilot seems to perform more safely than average people when measured in terms of fatalities. We don’t know if the system has blind spots that engineers are seeking to plug. We don’t know if it makes more or fewer small, non-fatal mistakes than a driver. If three people had died in the fatal Florida Tesla accident in June, Tesla’s average deaths per miles driven would be just average, only as safe as ordinary simple human drivers.
It’s also important to understand that the 130 million miles of auto-pilot driving Tesla points to is active beta testing with their customers lives in the balance. It’s not like we’re all test pilots in the Chuck Yeager vein, but the fact that the company is sending car owners out with an active auto-pilot system still in the testing stages should concern us.
If the company has broken securities law, which appears may be the case — at least an SEC investigation is said to be underway — its a conservative decision to assume the safety filings may not reflect the full risk the auto-pilot involves. Tesla should take action to increase transparency now.
This is a situation in which all auto-pilot data should be exposed for public inspection, so that customers don’t need to rely on Tesla’s assurances. A corps of data scientists would give consumers a better risk evaluation than a company seeking to lower its liability risk profile. Tesla could make an important contribution to co-development of products with informed customers by opening its beta-stage auto-pilot data to public scrutiny. ]]>


On-demand food service delivers beer with your meal


As of today, customers in southern California (other cities are coming, at least in the US) can order both alcohol and food at the same time, whether the drinks come from a restaurant or a liquor store. Your options will depend on the relevant corporate partnerships, but it could save you the hassle of placing a second order or (gasp) drinking something tamer.

Source: On-demand food service delivers beer with your meal]]>


Brexit and Trump: When Fear Triumphs Over Evidence – Scientific American Blog Network


These are both part of something called the Elaboration Likelihood Model. As it turns out, this model suggests that we rarely can engage in both types of decision-making at once. That means that if we have been lulled into a superficial (peripheral), engagement with the information that we are asked to make decisions about, this largely excludes our ability to process the information deeply (central).

When pundits argue that people don’t need experts, they are actively trying to push you from using central processing to a peripheral approach. They are asking you to turn off your logic and turn on your emotion, because they know that it is difficult to use logic once fear takes over.

This is also why politicians like Trump and the Brexiters like to say they represent “ordinary people.” Of course, “ordinary people” don’t exist. Even if they did, they’d be unlikely to be a billionaire or an old-Etonian who delivers speeches in Latin. Presenters of such arguments are trying to make you feel negative emotions against an imaginary opponent (usually the ‘elites,’ who also don’t actually exist), trying to get you to disregard evidence and logic.

Source: Brexit and Trump: When Fear Triumphs Over Evidence – Scientific American Blog Network]]>


Didi Chuxing, China’s Rival to Uber, Scores $7 Billion in New Funding – WSJ


China’s homegrown competitor to Uber Technologies Inc. has raised $7 billion in its latest fundraising effort, giving it a host of powerful allies including Apple Inc. to fend off the global ride-hailing champion at home.

Source: Didi Chuxing, China’s Rival to Uber, Scores $7 Billion in New Funding – WSJ]]>

Life & Everything Else

The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters. – The New York Times

<![CDATA[The challenge for the United States over the next two decades is the distribution of prosperity, including health improvements across all segments of society. Efficiency is the driver, but the product will be greater equality.

In some parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.

Source: The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters. – The New York Times]]>