Doc Huston


News — At The Edge — 8/4

The light ahead — healthcare data, smart-tech& gig economy — reflects an oncoming train wreck, not daylight or relief.


America’s heart of darkness —

“The entire 2016 episode has been…[a] journey into America’s own innermost parts, with Donald Trump’s victory prompting a nervous self-inventory of what we value…[and] is unequivocally grim….

[It] wasn’t that hard for a foreign power to tinker with our…democratic process, which suggests that it just isn’t that hard…for anyone….

[Republicans] got their tax cuts and Supreme Court seats, and the rich…who contend for control of the country don’t much care how public offices wind up in their hands, so long as they do….

We haven’t returned to…pre-’70s levels of trust in 40 years, and I doubt [will]….

[Trump] will pass. What will last…while ugly and dark, is…[you] don’t have the choices you ought to…because of decisions made without your consent by people of wealth and power behind closed doors.”

The Tragedy of the Healthcare Data Commons —

“[W]e’ve architected an ecosystem around data that is not only dysfunctional, it’s possibly antithetical to the core values of democratic society…in which everything you do — the things you buy, the food you eat, the time you spend watching TV — may help determine how much you pay for health insurance’….

HIPPA, the regulatory framework governing health information…[only] protects medical data….

Insurance has always been a data-driven business….[so] we’re essentially being judged on a simple shared commons….But once the system can discriminate on a multitude of data points, the commons collapses, devolving into a system rewarding whoever has the most profitable profile….

Once you start to think…this way, you start to see the data-driven erosion of the public good everywhere. Our public square, where we debate political and social issues, has become 2.2 billion data-driven Truman Shows….Public education is hollowed out by data-driven personalized learning startups….

We’re facing a crisis of…the public spaces we once held as fundamental to the functioning of our democratic society….[I]f we fail to re-architect the core framework of how data flows through society — if we continue to favor the rights of corporations to determine how value flows to individuals absent the balancing weight of the public commons — we’re heading down a path of social ruin….

’It is when the hidden decisions are made explicit that the arguments begin.

The problem for the years ahead is to work out an acceptable theory of weighting’…[because] we can no longer outsource that work to private corporations…in healthcare, insurance, social media, ride sharing, or e-commerce.”

Algorithm and Blues: The Tyranny of the Coming Smart-Tech Utopia

“Imagine a world governed by smart technologies engineered [for]…optimized transactional efficiency, resource productivity and human happiness…[with] congestion-free roads…[instant] personalized entertainment…[positive] social interactions….No surprise ailments….

[The] technologies required…are already being rapidly developed and deployed…[with] seductive promises…that builds from prior techno-utopian visions…yet it seems doomed to end in tyranny…[because] humans need friction….

Efficiency mongers too easily dismiss the value of searching, browsing, being bored, being lost, failing, missing out, daydreaming, being surprised, going off script….

[In] a smart-tech world of perfect rationality is a dystopian nightmare wherein humans are reduced to…perhaps ‘happy’ automatons…yet they’ll have no choice…[and] hardly democratic — although some…[argue] folks have a say in markets, as consumers.

All of the supposedly ‘free’ services and content online actually come at price.[Will] consumers chose ubiquitous surveillance? No…[but] that seems a…description of the past two decades….

[So] resist a future where everyone is always switched on by default — in short, tyranny by smart tech.”

The U.S. government doesn’t know how big the gig economy is —

“[Gig] work is becoming integral to [livelihoods]…because it can potentially include every worker who doesn’t have…a steady nine-to-five job….

[BLS] has largely overlooked the gig economy…’[yet] idea that a primary job will pay for most expenses and can be relied on is no longer the case for working Americans’….

Gig workers currently make up anywhere from 4 percent to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.”

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Doc Huston

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