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▶ Audrey Watters | Gettin' Air with Terry Greene
"Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) is an ed-tech folk hero who writes at Hack Education @hackeducation where, for the past nine years, she has taken the lead in keeping the field on its toes in regards to educational technology's "progress". Her long awaited and much anticipated book, "Teaching Machines", will be out in the new year."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  terrygreene  bfskinner  technology  schools  education  turnitin  history  learning  behaviorism  cognition  cognitivescience  psychology  automation  standardization  khanacademy  howweteach  liberation  relationships  agency  curiosity  inquiry  justice  economics  journalism  criticism  vr  facebook  venturecapital  capitalism  research  fabulism  contrafabulism  siliconvalley  archives  elonmusk  markzuckerberg  gatesfoundation  billgates 
21 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The New Socialists - The New York Times
"Socialism means different things to different people. For some, it conjures the Soviet Union and the gulag; for others, Scandinavia and guaranteed income. But neither is the true vision of socialism. What the socialist seeks is freedom.

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today’s socialists, and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the “working class” — not “working people” or “working families,” homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

Walk the streets of Bushwick with a canvasser for Julia Salazar, the socialist candidate running to represent North Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. What you’ll hear is that unlike her opponent, Ms. Salazar doesn’t take money from real estate developers. It’s not just that she wants to declare her independence from rich donors. It’s that in her district of cash-strapped renters, landlords are the enemy.

Compare that position to the pitch that Shomik Dutta, a Democratic Party fund-raiser, gave to the Obama campaign in 2008: “The Clinton network is going to take all the establishment” donors. What the campaign needed was someone who understands “the less established donors, the real-estate-developer folks.” If that was “yes, we can,” the socialist answer is “no, we won’t.”

One of the reasons candidates like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Salazar speak the language of class so fluently is that it’s central to their identities. Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton struggled to cobble together a credible self out of the many selves they’d presented over the years, trying to find a personal story to fit the political moment. Today’s young candidates of the left tell a story of personal struggle that meshes with their political vision. Mr. Obama did that — but where his story reinforced a myth of national identity and inclusion, the socialists’ story is one of capitalism and exclusion: how, as millennials struggling with low wages and high rents and looming debt, they and their generation are denied the promise of freedom.

The stories of these candidates are socialist for another reason: They break with the nation-state. The geographic references of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — or Ms. Tlaib, who is running to represent Michigan’s 13th District in Congress — are local rather than national, invoking the memory and outposts of American and European colonialism rather than the promise of the American dream.

Ms. Tlaib speaks of her Palestinian heritage and the cause of Palestine by way of the African-American struggle for civil rights in Detroit, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez draws circuits of debt linking Puerto Rico, where her mother was born, and the Bronx, where she lives. Mr. Obama’s story also had its Hawaiian (as well as Indonesian and Kenyan) chapters. But where his ended on a note of incorporation, the cosmopolitan wanderer coming home to America, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez aren’t interested in that resolution. That refusal is also part of the socialist heritage.

Arguably the biggest boundary today’s socialists are willing to cross is the two-party system. In their campaigns, the message is clear: It’s not enough to criticize Donald Trump or the Republicans; the Democrats are also complicit in the rot of American life. And here the socialism of our moment meets up with the deepest currents of the American past.

Like the great transformative presidents, today’s socialist candidates reach beyond the parties to target a malignant social form: for Abraham Lincoln, it was the slavocracy; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the economic royalists. The great realigners understood that any transformation of society requires a confrontation not just with the opposition but also with the political economy that underpins both parties. That’s why realigners so often opt for a language that neither party speaks. For Lincoln in the 1850s, confronting the Whigs and the Democrats, that language was free labor. For leftists in the 2010s, confronting the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s socialism.

To critics in the mainstream and further to the left, that language can seem slippery. With their talk of Medicare for All or increasing the minimum wage, these socialist candidates sound like New Deal or Great Society liberals. There’s not much discussion, yet, of classic socialist tenets like worker control or collective ownership of the means of production.

And of course, there’s overlap between what liberals and socialists call for. But even if liberals come to support single-payer health care, free college, more unions and higher wages, the divide between the two will remain. For liberals, these are policies to alleviate economic misery. For socialists, these are measures of emancipation, liberating men and women from the tyranny of the market and autocracy at work. Back in the 1930s, it was said that liberalism was freedom plus groceries. The socialist, by contrast, believes that making things free makes people free."
coreyrobin  socialism  liberation  capitalism  latecapitalism  freedom  2018  canon  dsa  wageslavery  billgates  markzuckerberg  liberalism  neoliberalism  taxes  society  anxiety  socialjustice  democrats  us  politics  economics  markets  berniesanders  sovietunion  nordiccountries  scandinavia  domination  alexandriaocasio-cortez  rashidatlaib  kevinphillips 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World - The New York Times
"“Change the world” has long been the cry of the oppressed. But in recent years world-changing has been co-opted by the rich and the powerful.

“Change the world. Improve lives. Invent something new,” McKinsey & Company’s recruiting materials say. “Sit back, relax, and change the world,” tweets the World Economic Forum, host of the Davos conference. “Let’s raise the capital that builds the things that change the world,” a Morgan Stanley ad says. Walmart, recruiting a software engineer, seeks an “eagerness to change the world.” Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook says, “The best thing to do now, if you want to change the world, is to start a company.”

At first, you think: Rich people making a difference — so generous! Until you consider that America might not be in the fix it’s in had we not fallen for the kind of change these winners have been selling: fake change.

Fake change isn’t evil; it’s milquetoast. It is change the powerful can tolerate. It’s the shoes or socks or tote bag you bought which promised to change the world. It’s that one awesome charter school — not equally funded public schools for all. It is Lean In Circles to empower women — not universal preschool. It is impact investing — not the closing of the carried-interest loophole.

Of course, world-changing initiatives funded by the winners of market capitalism do heal the sick, enrich the poor and save lives. But even as they give back, American elites generally seek to maintain the system that causes many of the problems they try to fix — and their helpfulness is part of how they pull it off. Thus their do-gooding is an accomplice to greater, if more invisible, harm.

What their “change” leaves undisturbed is our winners-take-all economy, which siphons the gains from progress upward. The average pretax income of America’s top 1 percent has more than tripled since 1980, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold, even as the average income of the bottom half of Americans stagnated around $16,000, adjusted for inflation, according to a paper by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

American elites are monopolizing progress, and monopolies can be broken. Aggressive policies to protect workers, redistribute income, and make education and health affordable would bring real change. But such measures could also prove expensive for the winners. Which gives them a strong interest in convincing the public that they can help out within the system that so benefits the winners.

After all, if the Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and his co-author Mark R. Kramer are right that “businesses acting as business, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face,” we shouldn’t rein in business, should we?

This is how the winners benefit from their own kindness: It lets them redefine change, and defang it.

Consider David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He’s a billionaire who practices what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” For example, when a 2011 earthquake damaged the Washington Monument and Congress funded only half of the $15 million repair, Mr. Rubenstein paid the rest. “The government doesn’t have the resources it used to have,” he explained, adding that “private citizens now need to pitch in.”

That pitching-in seems generous — until you learn that he is one of the reasons the government is strapped. He and his colleagues have long used their influence to protect the carried-interest loophole, which is enormously beneficial to people in the private equity field. Closing the loophole could give the government $180 billion over 10 years, enough to fix that monument thousands of times over.

Mr. Rubenstein’s image could be of a man fleecing America. Do-gooding gives him a useful makeover as a patriot who interviews former presidents onstage and lectures on the 13th Amendment.

Walmart has long been accused of underpaying workers. Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group, famously accused the company of costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year because it “pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs.” Walmart denies this criticism, citing the jobs it creates and the taxes it pays.

When a column critical of Walmart ran in this newspaper some years ago, David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, published a red-penned edit of the piece on a company blog. Beside a paragraph about how cutthroat business practices had earned the heirs of the Walton family at least $150 billion in wealth, Mr. Tovar wrote: “Possible addition: Largest corporate foundation in America. Gives more than $1 billion in cash and in kind donations each year.”

Mr. Tovar wasn’t denying the $150 billion in wealth, or that more of it could have been paid as wages. Rather, he seemed to suggest that charity made up for these facts.

A few years ago, some entrepreneurs in Oakland, Calif., founded a company called Even. Its initial plan was to help stabilize the highly volatile incomes of working-class Americans — with an app. For a few dollars a week, it would squirrel away your money when you were flush and give you a boost when you were short. “If you want to feel like you have a safety net for the first time in your life, Even is the answer,” the company proclaimed.

The rub against such an idea isn’t just that it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s also that it dilutes our idea of change. It casts an app and a safety net as the same.

Fake change, and what it allows to fester, paved the road for President Trump. He tapped into a feeling that the American system was rigged and that establishment elites were in it for themselves. Then, darkly, he deflected that anger onto the most vulnerable Americans. And having benefited from the hollowness of fake change, he became it — a rich man who styles himself as the ablest protector of the underdogs, who pretends that his interests have nothing to do with the changes he seeks.

President Trump is what we get when we trust the rich to fix what they are complicit in breaking.

In 2016, Mr. Trump and many of the world-changing elite leaders I am writing about were, for the most part, on opposite sides. Yet those elites and the president have one thing in common: a belief that the world should be changed by them, for the rest of us, not by us. They doubt the American creed of self-government.

A successful society is a progress machine, turning innovations and fortuitous developments into shared advancement. America’s machine is broken. Innovations fly at us, but progress eludes us. A thousand world-changing initiatives won’t change that. Instead, we must reform the basic systems that allow people to live decently — the systems that decide what kind of school children attend, whether politicians listen to donors or citizens, whether or not people can tend to their ailments, whether they are paid enough, and with sufficient reliability, to make plans and raise kids.

There are a significant number of winners who recognize their role in propping up a bad system. They might be convinced that solving problems for all, at the root, will mean higher taxes, smaller profits and fewer homes. Changing the world asks more than giving back. It also takes giving something up."
2018  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  philanthropy  charity  hierarchy  inequality  change  democracy  donaldtrump  oligarchy  elitism  us  michaelporter  markkramer  thomasbikkety  emmanuelsaenz  gabrielzucman  markzuckerberg  morganstanley  economics  capitalism  latecapitalism  davidrubenstein  walmart  facebook  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear
"Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism."



"Insight is precisely what Musk’s strawberry-picking AI lacks, as do all the other AIs that destroy humanity in similar doomsday scenarios. I used to find it odd that these hypothetical AIs were supposed to be smart enough to solve problems that no human could, yet they were incapable of doing something most every adult has done: taking a step back and asking whether their current course of action is really a good idea. Then I realized that we are already surrounded by machines that demonstrate a complete lack of insight, we just call them corporations. Corporations don’t operate autonomously, of course, and the humans in charge of them are presumably capable of insight, but capitalism doesn’t reward them for using it. On the contrary, capitalism actively erodes this capacity in people by demanding that they replace their own judgment of what “good” means with “whatever the market decides.”"



"
It’d be tempting to say that fearmongering about superintelligent AI is a deliberate ploy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook to distract us from what they themselves are doing, which is selling their users’ data to advertisers. If you doubt that’s their goal, ask yourself, why doesn’t Facebook offer a paid version that’s ad free and collects no private information? Most of the apps on your smartphone are available in premium versions that remove the ads; if those developers can manage it, why can’t Facebook? Because Facebook doesn’t want to. Its goal as a company is not to connect you to your friends, it’s to show you ads while making you believe that it’s doing you a favor because the ads are targeted.

So it would make sense if Mark Zuckerberg were issuing the loudest warnings about AI, because pointing to a monster on the horizon would be an effective red herring. But he’s not; he’s actually pretty complacent about AI. The fears of superintelligent AI are probably genuine on the part of the doomsayers. That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted. (Of course, they saw nothing wrong with this strategy when they were the ones engaging in it; it’s only the possibility that someone else might be better at it than they were that gives them cause for concern.)

There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own.

Which brings us back to the importance of insight. Sometimes insight arises spontaneously, but many times it doesn’t. People often get carried away in pursuit of some goal, and they may not realize it until it’s pointed out to them, either by their friends and family or by their therapists. Listening to wake-up calls of this sort is considered a sign of mental health.

We need for the machines to wake up, not in the sense of computers becoming self-aware, but in the sense of corporations recognizing the consequences of their behavior. Just as a superintelligent AI ought to realize that covering the planet in strawberry fields isn’t actually in its or anyone else’s best interests, companies in Silicon Valley need to realize that increasing market share isn’t a good reason to ignore all other considerations. Individuals often reevaluate their priorities after experiencing a personal wake-up call. What we need is for companies to do the same — not to abandon capitalism completely, just to rethink the way they practice it. We need them to behave better than the AIs they fear and demonstrate a capacity for insight."
ai  elonmusk  capitalism  siliconvalley  technology  artificialintelligence  tedchiang  2017  insight  intelligence  regulation  governance  government  johnperrybarlow  1996  autonomy  externalcontrols  corporations  corporatism  fredericjameson  excess  growth  monopolies  technosolutionism  ethics  economics  policy  civilization  libertarianism  aynrand  billgates  markzuckerberg 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Tim Maughan on Twitter: "Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it https://t.co/nIMEez6IT5"
"Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it [screenshot]

been saying this for ages (as has Curtis and others) - this is now the way the world works.

We build systems so complex we don't understand them, and can't control. Instead we try and manage and reactively fire-fight small parts.

see also: all markets, supply chains, the media, algorithms, economies, day to day politics, policing, advertising..just take your pick.

How do you make sense of a system no single individual can comprehend? You lose agency and blame others. You dream up conspiracy theories.

Or you try to find one single answer or reason - and you argue violently for it - when the reality is its far too complex for that.

"It was her emails! The media! Racism! It was bernie! No, it was the russians!" It was all those things, plus x more levels of complexity.

This all sounds very 'we're fucked' and defeatist and, well, yeah. Maybe. Or maybe we can try and find ways to wrestle control back.

One thing these systems all have in common: their purpose is primarily to create and hoard capital. Maybe we should pivot away from that?

More relevant quotes re complexity, control, and automation from that Zuckerberg statement (which is here https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104052907253171 …) [two screenshots]"
timmaughan  elections  2017  2016  markzuckerberg  facebook  systems  complexity  agency  cv  control  systemsthinking  economics  algorithms  media  supplychains  advertising  politics  policing  lawenforcement 
september 2017 by robertogreco
The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools - The New York Times
"The involvement by some of the wealthiest and most influential titans of the 21st century amounts to a singular experiment in education, with millions of students serving as de facto beta testers for their ideas. Some tech leaders believe that applying an engineering mind-set can improve just about any system, and that their business acumen qualifies them to rethink American education.

“They are experimenting collectively and individually in what kinds of models can produce better results,” said Emmett D. Carson, chief executive of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which manages donor funds for Mr. Hastings, Mr. Zuckerberg and others. “Given the changes in innovation that are underway with artificial intelligence and automation, we need to try everything we can to find which pathways work.”

But the philanthropic efforts are taking hold so rapidly that there has been little public scrutiny."



"But many parents and educators said in interviews that they were unaware of the Silicon Valley personalities and money influencing their schools. Among them was Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin Independent School District, a public school system in Lufkin, Tex., where students regularly use DreamBox Learning, the math program that Mr. Hastings subsidized, and have tried Code.org’s coding lessons.

“We should be asking a lot more questions about who is behind the curtain,” Ms. Davis said."
automation  education  personalization  facebook  summitpublicschools  markzuckerberg  publicschools  edtech  data  chaters  culture  2017  marcbenioff  influence  democracy  siliconvalley  hourofcode  netflix  algorithms  larrycuban  rafranzdavis  salesforce  reedhastings  dreamboxlearning  dreambox  jessiewoolley-wilson  surveillance  dianetavenner 
june 2017 by robertogreco
What's Wrong With Letting Tech Run Our Schools - Bloomberg
"Silicon Valley tech moguls are conducting an enormous experiment on the nation’s children. We should not be so trusting that they’ll get it right.

Alphabet Inc. unit Google has taken a big role in public education, offering low-cost laptops and free apps. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc. is investing heavily in educational technology, largely though the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Netflix Inc. head Reed Hastings has been tinkering with expensive and algorithmic ed-tech tools.

Encouraging as all this may be, the technologists might be getting ahead of themselves, both politically and ethically. Also, there’s not a lot of evidence that what they’re doing works.

Like it or not, education is political. People on opposite sides of the spectrum read very different science books, and can’t seem to agree on fundamental principles. It stands to reason that what we choose to teach our children will vary, depending on our beliefs. That’s to acknowledge, not defend, anti-scientific curricula.

Zuckerberg and Bill Gates learned this the hard way last year when the Ugandan government ordered the closure of 60 schools -- part of a network providing highly scripted, low-cost education in Africa -- amid allegations that they had been “teaching pornography” and “conveying the gospel of homosexuality” in sex-ed classes. Let’s face it, something similar could easily happen here if tech initiatives expand beyond the apolitical math subjects on which they have so far focused.

Beyond that, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about letting tech companies wield so much influence in the classroom. They tend to offer “free services” in return for access to data, a deal that raises some serious privacy concerns -- particularly if you consider that it can involve tracking kids’ every click, keystroke and backspace from kindergarten on.

My oldest son is doing extremely well as a junior in school right now, but he was a late bloomer who didn’t learn to read until third grade. Should that be a part of his permanent record, data that future algorithms could potentially use to assess his suitability for credit or a job? Or what about a kid whose “persistence score” on dynamic, standardized tests waned in 10th grade? Should colleges have access to that information in making their admissions decisions?

These are not far-fetched scenarios. Consider the fate of nonprofit education venture InBloom, which sought to collect and integrate student records in a way that would allow lessons to be customized. The venture shut down a few years ago amid concerns about how sensitive information -- including tags identifying students as “tardy” or “autistic” -- would be protected from theft and shared with outside vendors.

Google and others are collecting similar data and using it internally to improve their software. Only after some prompting did Google agree to comply with the privacy law known as FERPA, which had been weakened for the purpose of third-party sharing. It’s not clear how the data will ultimately be used, how long the current crop of students will be tracked, or to what extent their futures will depend on their current performance.

Nobody really knows to what educational benefit we are bearing such uncertainties. What kinds of kids will the technological solutions reward? Will they be aimed toward producing future Facebook engineers? How will they serve children in poverty, with disabilities or with different learning styles? As far as I know, there’s no standard audit that would allow us to answer such questions. We do know, though, that the companies and foundations working on educational technology have a lot of control over the definition of success. That’s already too much power.

In short, blindly trusting the tech guys is no way to improve our educational system. Although they undoubtedly mean well, we should demand more accountability."
edtech  google  provatization  siliconvalley  technology  schools  politics  policy  2017  publicschools  education  inbloom  facebook  markzuckerberg  data  pivacy  accountability  via:audreyatters 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The Health Threats Mark Zuckerberg’s Gift Doesn’t Address | Risa Lavizzo-Mourey | Pulse | LinkedIn
"But health is not merely, or even mostly, determined by our DNA. Poverty, inequity, violence, poor housing, lack of a good education, lack of jobs, lack of access to healthy food or safe places to play – all have a dramatic impact on health. These social determinants of health are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of all illnesses; only 20 percent can be chalked up to biological causes alone.

The power of social determinants to drive health is illustrated by a series of maps (see below), produced by the Center for Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, which lay out projected lifespans based on where a person lives. In Atlanta, a baby born in Buckhead, a high-end shopping mecca, can expect to live 84 years, while five miles away in Bankhead, a neighborhood in transition, residents face a life expectancy a full 13 years shorter. Babies born on opposite sides of downtown Denver have an 11-year difference in life expectancy; in Richmond, Virginia the longevity gap between wealthy and underserved neighborhoods is a yawning 20 years. As the maps demonstrate, your zip code can be a greater determinant of life expectancy than your genetic code.

Narrowing the longevity gaps found in communities across the United States requires far more than money alone. These are the "wicked problems" facing America – problems that are huge and complex, with solutions that are neither clear nor stable. Even the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s $10 billion endowment — the fourth largest of any U.S. foundation — is not enough to cure these challenges to health.

What is needed is diverse thinking, lots of collaboration, and solutions designed by, and specific to, the communities they target. These solutions are already emerging, in communities across the nation, and need to be encouraged and amplified. For example, RWJF and the Reinvestment Fund recently launched Invest Health to bring together leaders from mid-sized U.S. cities that are applying innovative solutions to entrenched poverty, poor health, and a lack of investment. In January Invest Health awarded $3 million to 50 cities in support of programs that are creating affordable housing, safe places to play and exercise, and quality jobs. Teams from the selected cities have access to faculty advisors and coaches, and share what they've learned.

Zuckerberg and Chan will also require that researchers share their work, which is likely to speed up the search for causes and treatments for disease. In the same way, we all need to share ideas about how to address the systems and structures that perpetuate the glaring inequities that cause illness. We must develop cross-sector solutions that can address a multitude of problems. And we must learn from each other – both our successes and our mistakes."
markzuckerberg  health  healthcare  society  policy  politics  us  via:anne  2016  risalavizzo-mourey 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Facebook the Colonial Empire - The Atlantic
[See also: https://backchannel.com/how-india-pierced-facebook-s-free-internet-program-6ae3f9ffd1b4#.lywam4h52 ]

"The kerfuffle elicited a torrent of criticism for Andreessen, but the connection he made—between Facebook’s global expansion and colonialism—is nothing new. Which probably helps explain why Zuckerberg felt the need to step in, and which brings us back to Free Basics. The platform, billed by Facebook as a way to help people connect to the Internet for the first time, offers a stripped-down version of the mobile web that people can use without it counting toward their data-usage limit.

“I’m loath to toss around words like colonialism but it’s hard to ignore the family resemblances and recognizable DNA, to wit,” said Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies. In an email, Bahri summed up those similarities in list form:

1. ride in like the savior

2. bandy about words like equality, democracy, basic rights

3. mask the long-term profit motive (see 2 above)

4. justify the logic of partial dissemination as better than nothing

5. partner with local elites and vested interests

6. accuse the critics of ingratitude

“In the end,” she told me, “if it isn’t a duck, it shouldn’t quack like a duck.”

In India, where Free Basics has been the subject of a long, public debate, plenty of people already rejected the platform precisely because of its colonialist overtones. “We’ve been stupid with the East India Company,” one Reddit user said in a forum about Free Basics last year, referring to the British Raj. “Never again brother, Never again!”"



"Well, here’s the other side of the argument: When mobile-network operators allow some companies to offer access to their sites without charging people for data use, it gives those companies an unfair advantage. Free Basics makes Facebook a gatekeeper with too much leverage—so much that it conflicts with the foundational principles of the open web. Those principles, and what people mean when they talk about net neutrality, can be summed up this way: Internet service providers should treat all content equally, without favoring certain sites or platforms over others.

And doesn’t the fact that so many people upgrade to the full Internet so soon after trying Free Basics dismantle the claim that Facebook isn’t looking at the platform as a way to expand its global user base? People may start with an ad-free version of the site, but they quickly graduate to regular old ad-peppered, data-gathering Facebook.

All this raises a question about who Free Basics is actually for, which may further hint at Facebook’s motivations. Sumanth Raghavendra, an app developer and startup founder in India, points to this commercial for Free Basics—from back when it was still branded under the larger umbrella of Facebook’s Internet.org project—as representative of the local marketing for the platform.

“If you are awestruck by how cool India’s ‘poorest’ folks seem to be, don’t be …because these folks, the target audience for Free Basics, are far from being India’s poor!” Raghavendra wrote in an essay for Medium. “As is plainly obvious, the original target audience of Free Basics was not India’s poorest who have never come online but far more so, students and millennials to whom the hook was about surfing for free.”

As of October, one of India’s biggest mobile carriers said 1 million people had signed up for Free Basics. But only about 20 percent of Free Basics users weren’t previously using the Internet, Facebook told the Press Trust of India, the country’s largest news agency. (Facebook didn’t immediately respond to my request for comment and more recent numbers.) In other words, the vast majority of the people who used Free Basics already had Internet connections.

“Free Basics was hardly something aimed at poor people and even less so, targeted at people who have ‘no connectivity,’” Raghavendra wrote. “This entire narrative painting it as a choice between some connectivity and no connectivity is false and disingenuous.”

“There is absolutely no need to offer a condescending promise based on altruism to bring these folks online,” he added. “They will do so on their own time and at their own pace with or without any external help or artificial incentive.”

Zuckerman, from MIT, is even more pointed: “When Zuckerberg or Andreessen face criticism, they argue that their critics are being elitist and inhumane—after all, who could be against helping India develop? The rhetoric is rich with the White Man’s Burden.”

Some of the colonialist subtext in all this evokes what the writer Courtney Martin calls the “reductive seduction” of Americans wanting to save the world, and the hubris that underscores this kind of supposed problem solving. “There is real fallout when well-intentioned people attempt to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity,” Martin wrote.

Representations of colonialism have long been present in digital landscapes. (“Even Super Mario Brothers,” the video game designer Steven Fox told me last year. “You run through the landscape, stomp on everything, and raise your flag at the end.”) But web-based colonialism is not an abstraction. The online forces that shape a new kind of imperialism go beyond Facebook.

Consider, for example, digitization projects that focus primarily on English-language literature. If the web is meant to be humanity’s new Library of Alexandria, a living repository for all of humanity’s knowledge, this is a problem. So is the fact that the vast majority of Wikipedia pages are about a relatively tiny square of the planet. For instance, 14 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, but less than 3 percent of the world’s geotagged Wikipedia articles originate there, according to a 2014 Oxford Internet Institute report.

“This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions,” the researchers of that report wrote. “It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”

Consider, too, the dominant business models online. Companies commodify people as users, mining them for data and personally targeting them with advertising. “In digital capitalism—another stage of imperialism?—capital and corporation underwrite free-ness,” Bahri, the Emory professor, told me. “That’s why Facebook can claim to be always free.”

Incidentally, “users” is a term that Facebook now discourages, favoring “people” instead. Though “users” was, at least, an improvement over “dumb fucks,” which is what Zuckerberg called the people who signed up for Facebook when it was new, according to online chat transcripts that emerged as part of a lawsuit several years ago.

In 2010, Zuckerberg told The New Yorker he had “grown and learned a lot” since then. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said at the time.

A lot of people, in 2010, meant Facebook’s 400 million users. Since then, that number has quadrupled to 1.6 billion people—the vast majority of them connecting to the site via mobile. Last year, Facebook’s market cap crossed the $300 billion threshold. Earnings statements show it made more than $5.8 billion in ad revenue in 2015, with more than 80 percent of that money—some $4.6 billion—coming from mobile ads.

Facebook is already, it is often said, eating the Internet. So it’s easy to see why Internet.org was rebranded as Free Basics. The old name sounded too much like a reflection of what Facebook actually is: a dominant and possibly unstoppable force, a private company exerting enormous influence on public access to the web. “The great social network of the early 21st century is laying the groundwork,” Austin Carr wrote for Fast Company in 2014, “for a platform that could make Facebook a part of just about every social interaction that takes place around the world.”

Free Basics might be stoppable. But is Facebook?

“It is an uncomfortable truth that, in emerging economies, Facebook had already won the Internet well before Internet.org and the FreeBasics campaign began,” Steve Song, a telecommunications policy activist, wrote in a blog post this week. “Facebook became the de facto Internet for many people because it did the most profoundly useful thing the Internet can do: Connect people.”"
facebook  colonialism  imperialism  india  freebasics  internet  2016  adriennelafrance  markzuckerberg  marcandreessen  class  whiteman'sburden  ethanzuckerman  web  online  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
february 2016 by robertogreco
If you really want to make a difference Mark Zuckerberg, let go of your power | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
"The Facebook CEO is the latest ‘philanthrocapitalist’ to try to make a better world. But when the rich meddle with development, can they ever disrupt the status quo?"



"Occupy would never have been funded by a large philanthropic organisation, but the spontaneous global movement is almost wholly responsible for putting the issue of inequality on the political map. Large private donors are prepared to fund technocratic causes, and in more enlightened cases – “democracy”, but they’re not prepared to relinquish power and control themselves. In fact, they only serve to concentrate power further into an increasingly narrower set of ideas about how change happens.

For example, the Gates Foundation makes a decision about vaccines and requires governments to match fund the donation to access it. Those governments then have to choose between saying no to funding for vaccinating, or diverting funds from something else, such as public health or education. Gates made the de facto decision for that government. His new agricultural alliance was similarly defined: bring together large agri-business and government to improve agriculture in Africa on a technology-rich, large-land-holder led platform. Green agro-ecology approaches, despite having been proving significant success in the region where it has been applied, get sidelined.

Parmar sees this as even more sinister. “There are other priorities other than those that are publicly stated – increasing the level of power, through increasing their networks in non-western countries,” he says.

The funding arena has become increasingly narrow, focused on issues like health or education. Very few focus on voice, power or challenging the mainstream. Anyone who has filled out long funding application forms, struggling to come up with short-term targets and outcomes, will have felt the limits of the donor relationship. Indeed, most foundations are now more focused on “value for money” than ever before, in spite of the fact that development is complex, and attribution for success can’t usually be ascribed to any one intervention.

Coupled with the trend towards governments limiting the ability of charities or grassroots organisations to campaign in many parts of the world – from India to China, and increasingly on western shores – development NGOs, enabled by the funding community, are at risk of becoming little more than contract agencies who deliver basic public services while further entrenching a system of inequality and divisions. If governments are stripping citizens’ rights, if communities are divided, if resources are extracted only to benefit the wealthy elite, then we will be aiding and abetting the status quo, leading to a shrinking and less vibrant civil society in the long run. And a less vibrant and agile civil society signals a reduction in long-term development for the many. “Is there a model of power and development which is more focused on local concerns through local participation itself?” asks Parmar.

A powerful letter written by Jessie Spector, the executive director of Resource Generation, urges Zuckerberg to let go of power and to fund root causes. In an ideal world, Zuckerberg never would have been allowed to accrue this much wealth and dictate how it would be spent. But in the world of realpolitik, I would take Spector’s recommendations further, and say to Zuckerberg: set up an independent entity; don’t sit on the board; set some guidelines about tackling root causes like corporate power or tax justice; ensure smaller organisations have access to the funds without jumping through excessive hoops; make sure it’s governed openly by a broad group of stakeholders, representing gender, race, class, none of whom can sit on the board indefinitely and finally, agree to relinquish control. Only then can Zuckerberg truly begin to make a positive difference with his wealth and dent the power dynamics that dominate the funding community."
deborahdane  philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  inequality  democracy  wealth  2016  markzuckerberg  georgesoros  billgates  power  control  influence  jessiespector  gatesfoundation  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  robberbarrons  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: The Business of Ed-Tech
"Beyond VC Funding

“US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually,” McKinsey wrote excitedly this summer. Of course, venture capital is just one source of the money that’s pouring into ed-tech. There’s government funding, of course. There’s personal spending. And there’s lots and lots of “philanthropy.”

The Gates Foundation is perhaps the most famous of these philanthropic organizations, having spent billions of dollars pushing various education initiatives. In October, Bill Gates gave what Education Week observed was “his first major speech on education in seven years,” and indicated his foundation would “double down” on teacher preparation and common academic standards.

The other two giants in education foundations: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In September, the LA Times obtained a memo written by the Broad Foundation, outlining its $490 million plan to put half of LAUSD students in charter schools. The memo “lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.” It cites several large foundations and California multi-millions who could be tapped for more financial support.

[image: @EdSurge tweet: “Melinda Gates is saying that the role of foundations is to direct where government funding goes #GatesEd"]

And this underscores one of the major criticisms of these philanthropic efforts: they are profoundly anti-democratic. As John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, “people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can.”

Zuckerberg’s name is next to Gates’ in that sentence because he has signed the “Giving Pledge,” Gates’ and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet’s challenge to the 1% to give away at least half of their wealth. After the birth of his daughter this fall, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wrote her a letter (and posted it on Facebook, of course). In covering the contents of the letter, the New York Times got the headline totally wrong: “Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity.” The paper later clarified that it’s not a charity but an LLC – a “$45 billion tax loophole,” some suggested. Headlines from Gawker: “Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview.” And from Rolin Moe: “You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong..”

Among the projects that the new Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will fund: “personalized learning” (whatever the hell that means).

Zuckerberg’s interest in such a thing is no doubt connected to investments that he’s already made – in the private school AltSchool, for example. And in September, Facebook announced that it had been working on building software for the Summit charter school chain. “Facebook’s move into education may be unexpected, but it seems to be sincere,” wrote The Verge’s Casey Newton about the collaboration in an article that’s not much more than a “longform expanded version of the Facebook press release.”

Joining Gates and Zuckerberg in venture philanthropy is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Her organization, the Emerson Collective, announced a campaign – XQ: The Super School Project – to get folks to “rethink high school.” 5 of the “best ideas” will receive a share of the $50 million Jobs has earmarked for the project. The Emerson Collective also invested in AltSchool and Udacity this year to give you an idea of what “best ideas” might look like.

“I can conceive of no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice” – William Jewett Tucker"



"All the Best Ed-Tech Narratives Money Can Buy

All this business. All this disruptive innovation. It’s just magnific… Wait, what? Academic research challenging Clayton Christensen’s famous business school concept outlined in The Innovator’s Dilemma and applied to education in Disrupting Class and The Innovative University and invoked by just about every ed-tech entrepreneur and investor ever? Oh yes please.

Jill Lepore had already skewered the idea in The New Yorker last year. I wrote a little something on the topic back in 2013.

But now, as The Chronicle of Education wrote in September,
a new paper, the most extensive test yet of Christensen’s theory, may prove more difficult to dismiss. Andrew A. King, a professor at the Dartmouth College business school, and Baljir Baatartogtokh, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, spent two years digging into disruption, interviewing scores of experts, trying to determine whether 77 of Christensen’s own examples conformed to his theory, studies involving big names like Ford, McDonald’s, and Google, along with lesser-known makers of blood-glucose meters and blended plastics. Only a tiny minority – 9 percent – fit Christensen’s criteria. Disruption is real but rare, King and Baatartogtokh conclude, which suggests that it’s at best a marginally useful explanation of how innovation happens.

King says he’s not out to take down Christensen, although that may be what he’s done. Instead, he wants to prove a point. “A theory is like a weed,” King says. “Unless it is pruned back by empirical testing, it will grow to fill any void.”

Much like the business of ed-tech…"
philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  capitalism  siliconvalley  audreywatters  2015  edtech  education  charities  charitableindustrialcomplex  corruption  policy  billgates  gatesfoundation  facebook  markzuckerberg  priscillachan  power  influence  democracy  melindagates  williamjewett  charity  justice  technology  johncassidy  rolinmoe  zuckerbergchaninitiative  broadfoundation  elibroad  altschool  summitcharterschools  udacity  emersoncollective  venturephilanthropy  vc  disruption  disruptiveinnovation  innovation  claytonchristensen  andrewking  baljirbaatartogtokh  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control  charterschools 
december 2015 by robertogreco
You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong. |
"Why is it problematic when a businessman pledges to donate 99% of his personal shares in company stock (valued close to $45 billion) to philanthropy?

The popular argument against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s display of altruism is that it is not a charitable donation; by the letter of the law he is funding a LLC, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, rather than a 501(c)(3). This means the activities *for the public good* will include private investment and policy debates, activities not allowed under the legal jurisdiction of non-profit status. This has been called philanthrocapitalism, tax-efficient generosity that allows the richest Americans greater latitude in which to use their finances for ideological purposes.

The argument for such legal maneuvering of philanthropic endeavors is pragmatic; there is longstanding, government-rewarded benefit in establishing a for-profit mechanism within a donation initiative. These benefits are usually addressed as opportunities to react to changing landscapes and partnership needs working between organizations and governments, which under charitable trusts is not as nimble as it is for an organization unencumbered by tax-exempt status. Whereas there is a gravitas toward the Annenberg Foundation or the Hewlett Foundation as patriarchs of domestic and international philanthropic efforts, part of their infrastructure is an inability to pivot their strategy. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will not find its aims beholden to a singular mission; this makes them different from groups such as Riordan Foundation funding SMART Boards as evidence of scholastic merit despite ample evidence to the contrary. They can adapt, change, innovate.

I trust Mark Zuckerberg’s purpose for this movement is principled more than it is pragmatic. I find the LLC vs 501(c)(3) argument a straw man one as well; there are many ways he can use the money, many ways he can use the money in what we call a charitable fashion. The LLC in and of itself is not evidence of nefarious plans, nor is announcing a donation of 99% of his wealth to bettering the public good.

I have gone out of my way to not refer to the pledge of $45 billion as charity or philanthropy, however. While his intentions may be for the public good, they as misguided and harmful. Moreover, it is indicative of social and cultural erosion, showing a social structure where monetary success is not only more important than field-specific expertise but it purports the wealthy to an illusory status of Renaissance Men, their successes not narrow but holistic evidence to solve the problems of All Others.

John Cassidy’s critique in the New Yorker goes out of its way to steer clear of education debates, but Zuckerberg’s history as a donor to education reform is quite germane to the discussion. In America, access to quality education is promoted as an inalienable right. Education has long existed as a social structure, evidence to how our society views its purpose. Efforts to improve student achievement are going to be bound in equity and access. I struggle to think about student achievement conversations where we require charity or philanthropy in order for all citizens to have equal access to their inalienable right. When Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark Public Schools, it was a strings-attached political donation, not charity. Improving student achievement took a backseat to the politics of merit pay and consultancies for new bureaucratic management. This is not surprising; historically, merit pay and administrative overhead do not improve student achievement.

What does improve student achievement? The financial situation at home. Caroline Hoxby of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, notes the most efficacious way to improve the outcomes of the lowest income students is to put money in the pockets of their parents. The United States as a society does not believe in direct wealth redistribution, however, so our distribution metrics are almost entirely geared toward education services. Hoxby argues that the schools receiving these distributions are flawed and charter schools are the solution, which is where I disagree — if family finances are the most compelling indicator of success, then the efforts at school are always going to be secondary, no matter how efficacious the school experience.

The past solutions and future reform thinking presented by Mark Zuckerberg does not involve income redistribution or even support services beyond school walls. Most likely, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will develop more structures and systems that can function independent of the educational infrastructure. Mark Zuckerberg’s public statements on education reform support merit pay and personalized learning, contentious ideas considered discredited by many. The genesis of both beliefs are evident within the start-up culture that fostered Facebook, where meritocracy reigns supreme and *coding* can do as much for human equity as government. In the world of Mark Zuckerberg, supporting these missions with wealth and political force is not only sensible but an obligatory service to the public good.

The libertarian dreamscape of start-up culture does not, however, fiat to the bureaucratic labyrinth of education. Charter schools have not circumvented governmental obstacles, and early forays into technosolutionism have fallen flat. If governance is inextricable from education (a notion supported from the Enlightenment to today), any effort to avoid its shadow is doomed. To argue that education is not a public good could create space for the success of such efforts, but the purpose of philanthropy such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is marketed as service to the public good.

The best provision for positively influencing the education system is to provide for it through established, research-solidified channels. That means trusting the experts and using the leverage that comes with $45 billion to support multiple existing systems rather than building multiple new ones. But the ethos of Silicon Valley is to fail fast and to Fail Better, which is fine for privately traded companies made up of wealthy employees but a terrible framework to put on a social superstructure that has promised since the Enlightenment to be humanity’s conduit for upward mobility and social justice. It is not in the public good for schools to fail fast and Fail Better. In Silicon Valley it is okay for Udacity to fail with its SJSU roll-out or for Facebook to fail with its Newark Public Schools roll-out. These are companies with venture capital to cushion the hiccups, and even if the failure led to the end of the company, society only loses an instance of software-as-a-service. When the educational experience at SJSU turns out worse because of Udacity, or Newark Public Schools go through tremendous upheaval for no discernible benefit thanks to Facebook, our culture loses much more than the money it cost to put on the failed initiative. No matter the talk of learning from mistakes or doing better, the system has yet again failed, and the structure in place to mitigate that failure and was circumvented is left to glue the pieces back together. The students in these classrooms incubation labs have been failed to a significant degree, more so than any Fail Better rhetoric can fix.

The creation of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, is a protection mechanism. Most writing has focused on how it protects the financial portfolio of the Zuckerberg family, but the real protection is of their philanthropic legacy. They can talk about the public good and act by pushing money and policy toward ideology and push-button solutions, apologizing when its results are not as intended and promising to do better with the rest of the billions. The right decisions for the legacy of the philanthropist do not become the right policies for the philanthropy because they were borne of good intentions. There is an inherent flawed logic to the idea that saving the world is a private enterprise."
markzuckerberg  policy  power  politics  influence  democracy  2015  philanthrocapitalism  charity  charities  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  society  us  rolinmoe  johncassidy  priscillachan  facebook  udacity  education  publicgood  publicpolicy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  control 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism - The New Yorker
"The announcement, on Tuesday, by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, that, during their lifetimes, they will donate to philanthropic causes roughly ninety-nine per cent of their Facebook stock, which is currently valued at close to forty-five billion dollars, has already prompted a lot of comment, much of it positive. That is understandable. The fact that Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and a number of other billionaires are pledging their fortunes to charity rather than seeking to pass them down to their descendants is already having an impact.

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000, dispensed almost four billion dollars in grants. A big slug of this money went toward fighting diseases like H.I.V., malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, which kill millions of people in poor countries. Zuckerberg and Chan have also already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, including eradicating the Ebola virus. In their latest announcement, which they presented as an open letter to their newborn daughter, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, they said that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the new philanthropic organization that they are setting up, would focus on “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”

It’s not just the size of the donations that the wealthy are making that demands attention, though. Charitable giving on this scale makes modern capitalism, with all of its inequalities and injustices, seem somewhat more defensible. Having created hugely successful companies that have generated almost unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are sending a powerful message to Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs, European industrialists, Arab oil sheiks, and anybody else who has accumulated a vast fortune: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Speaking at Harvard in 2007, Gates attributed this quotation to his dying mother. (A slightly different version of it appears in St. Luke’s gospel.) In 2010, Gates and Buffett challenged fellow members of the ultra-rich club to give away at least half of their wealth. Since then, more than a hundred billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge.” Some of these mega-donors, such as Buffett, are content to let others direct their donations. (In 2006, he signed over much of his fortune to the Gates Foundation.) Increasingly, however, wealthy people are setting up their own philanthropic organizations and pursuing their own causes—a phenomenon that has been called “philanthrocapitalism.”

That is the positive side. It is also worth noting, however, that all of this charitable giving comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, could escape both of these levies.

The size and timing of the tax benefits to Zuckerberg and Chan are uncertain, but they are likely to be large. In the initial version of this post, based on the open letter Zuckerberg and Chan posted on his Facebook page, and on the opinions of several tax experts, I said that the couple, in donating stock to the new philanthropic organization, would gain immediate tax credits equal to the market value of the stock, some of which could be rolled over into future tax years. Typically, that is what happens when a rich person donates stock to a family foundation or to certain types of L.L.C.s constituted for philanthropic purposes, such as ones owned by family foundations.

On Wednesday, in a follow-up post on Facebook, Zuckerberg provided more details about the couple’s plans. Evidently, the L.L.C. that he and Chan are setting up will not be seeking tax-exempt status. “By using an LLC instead of a traditional foundation, we receive no tax benefit from transferring our shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, but we gain flexibility to execute our mission more effectively,” Zuckerberg wrote. “In fact, if we transferred our shares to a traditional foundation, then we would have received an immediate tax benefit, but by using an LLC we do not.”

Even if the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative doesn’t obtain tax-exempt status, over time its activities will most likely have a big impact on the taxes its founders pay. The I.R.S. treats ordinary L.L.C.s as “pass-through” structures, and shifting financial assets to such entities doesn’t usually generate any immediate credits or liabilities. But whenever the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative issues grants to nonprofit organizations, it will almost certainly do so by donating some of its Facebook stock, and that will generate tax credits for Zuckerberg and Chan equal to the market value of the stock at that time. As the years go by and the Initiative steps up its charitable activities, these credits seem likely to add up to very large sums.

Unlike a regular family foundation, the L.L.C. may also generate some tax liabilities for Zuckerberg and Chan. If it invested in a commercial enterprise, such as an online-learning company, taxes would be owed on any profits the investment generated. And if, as Zuckerberg also pointed out, the L.L.C. sold some of the Facebook shares that he and Chan have donated to it, they would have to pay capital-gains taxes on the proceeds. But since the couple will control the L.L.C., they will be able to decide how it finances itself, and whether it sells any stock.”

If what Zuckerberg is doing were an isolated example, it wouldn’t matter much for over-all tax revenues. But the practice is spreading at a time when the distribution of wealth is getting ever more lopsided, which means the actions of a small number of very rich people can have a bigger impact. In 2012, according to

By transferring almost all of their fortunes to philanthropic organizations, billionaires like Zuckerberg and Gates are placing some very large chunks of wealth permanently outside the reaches of the Internal Revenue Service. That means the country’s tax base shrinks. As yet, I haven’t seen any estimates of the over-all cost to the Treasury, but it’s an issue that can’t be avoided. And it raises the broader question, which the economists Thomas Piketty and Anthony Atkinson, among others, have raised, of whether we need a more comprehensive tax on wealth.

Arguably, there is another issue at stake, too: democracy.

Although organizations like the Gates Foundation portray themselves as apolitical, nonpartisan entities, they aren’t completely removed from politics. Far from it. The Gates Foundation, for example, has been a big financial supporter of charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. (It has also given some money to public schools.) Zuckerberg, too, has also provided a lot of money to charter schools. They featured prominently in his costly and controversial effort to reform the public-school system in Newark, New Jersey, which Dale Russakoff wrote about in the magazine last year. In the letter posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg signalled that he isn’t done with such efforts. “We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates,” the letter said. “Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.”

My intention, here, isn’t to enter the education debate. It is simply to point out what should be obvious: people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can. (As Matthew Yglesias pointed out on Vox, one of the advantages of registering the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as an L.L.C. is that it can spend money on political ads.) The more money billionaires give to their charitable foundations, which in most cases remain under their personal control, the more influence they will accumulate. And relatively speaking, anyway, the less influence everybody else will have.

Some Americans—not all of them disciples of Ayn Rand—might say that this is a good thing. I have already cited some of the Gates Foundation’s good works. Isn’t Michael Bloomberg, with his efforts to reform gun laws, promoting the public interest? Isn’t George Soros, through his donations to civil-rights organizations, lining up on the side of the angels? In these two instances, my own answers would be yes and yes; but the broader point stands. The divide between philanthropy and politics is already fuzzy. As the “philanthrocapitalism” movement gets bigger, this line will be increasingly hard to discern.

So by all means, let us praise Zuckerberg and Chan for their generosity. And let us also salute Gates, who started the trend. But contrary to the old saying, this is one gift horse we should look closely in the mouth."

[via: http://hackeducation.com/2015/12/23/trends-business/ ]
philanthrocapitalism  charitableindustrialcomplex  2015  facebook  markzuckerberg  johncassidy  philanthropy  influence  corruption  democracy  power  charity  capitalism  gatesfoundation  taxes  billgates  thomaspiketty  inequality  anthonyatkinson  dalerussakoff  newjersey  education  michaelbloomberg  georgesoros  priscillachan  warrenbuffett  policy  politics  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because Internet.org has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."



"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."



"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."



"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Being rich isn’t a superpower, and Steve Jobs isn’t Spider-Man
"Every age gets the heroes it deserves—or rather, the heroes it needs to do a certain kind of cultural work. Superhero stories have become our Greek dramas — popular entertainment built around larger-than-life figures with rich histories playing out complex fables of power, morality, and democracy. We tell the stories over and over again, either taking their characters back to their roots or placing them in fresh scenarios. We use these stories to explore new fantasies and solve new problems.

There are many issues playing themselves out in contemporary superhero stories—race and gender representation, surveillance and militarization, LGBT rights and identities, to name just a few. It’s strange, however, that one of the most important is one of the least talked-about: the disproportionate power wielded by the rich, whether wealthy individuals or wealthy societies. Wealth may be the buried theme of both contemporary comics and contemporary politics. Talking about superheroes and superpowers without talking about money misses an enormous part of the story—not least because the business of superheroes is bigger than ever, and the companies behind our most popular superheroes are some of the largest conglomerates in the world.

Now, it’s true that many superheroes have been rich: Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Iron Man’s Tony Stark were created as millionaire playboys decades ago. And this makes sense. As Spider-Man’s adventures showed for years, super-heroics don’t pay the bills: it’s difficult being a gadget-driven superhero (or any kind of superhero) without first having money to burn. But over time, Bruce Wayne stopped being just an idle heir and Tony Stark stopped being just an eccentric arms dealer, and both became hero figures much more recognizable to the 21st century: the genius entrepreneur. These characters are less Howard Hughes (the original model for Tony Stark) and more Elon Musk, less J. Robert Oppenheimer and more Mark Zuckerberg. They are brilliant futurists, larger than life—the people we ask to show us the future, and hope that they will help make the world one worth saving.

We don’t have warriors and war heroes at the center of our popular consciousness any more; we don’t have kings and queens, gods or monsters. We have entrepreneurs and superheroes: incarnations of a myth of the heroic individual. These are the titanic figures, at the junction of capitalism and futurism, whose actions have disproportionate effects on our world—actions and effects the rest of us are trying to grapple with. The Social Network, Steve Jobs (both the book and the movie), Ashlee Vance’s biography Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In—all are about businesses and entrepreneurship but also have a strong element of inspiration and self-help, and not just for budding business leaders but the larger public, to a degree we haven’t seen since the days of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

They offer, in short, much the same appeal as comic books.

The sociologist Thomas Streeter argues in “Steve Jobs, Romantic Individualism, and the Desire for Good Capitalism” that these myths play an important role in contemporary culture. For Streeter:
The romanticized version of Jobs’ life offers a story wherein one can imagine a capitalism with integrity, a capitalism where one’s inner life, one’s flaws, one’s passions are appreciated and lead to good things. The Jobs narrative offers the appealing vision of an idealized, productive, humane capitalism contrasted with the speculative, predatory kind of capitalism, unconnected to useful objects or activities, that appeared in the headlines after 2008. The name of Steve Jobs has become the symbol for the opposite of a Wall Street financial manipulator. Jobs functions, not always but often, as a signifier of good capitalism, of industrial capitalism with moral integrity. And in a world straining awkwardly, perhaps desperately, for ways to reconcile capitalist production with political democracy, that signifier can seem immensely useful and attractive.

Now consider The Amazing Spider-Man #1. Peter Parker is still a superhero, a good guy—so the story’s authors go out of their way to dot every I and cross every T to make sure we know that he’s still a good guy, one still obsessed with “great responsibility.” Parker explains that his goal with Parker Industries isn’t to save the world—which superheroes do every day—but to “make a world worth saving.” Over the course of the issue, we learn that his factories in China pay fair wages, that he’s taken a minimum salary, and that along with consumer products, the company works on biotechnology and renewable energy. When SHIELD helps Spider-Man stop thieves who’ve made off with Parker Industries’ customer data, Spider-Man strong-arms Nick Fury into handing the data back without the government taking a peek. He’s even started an “Uncle Ben Foundation” with the vague but noble mandate of “going around the globe using Parker Industries technology to help the less fortunate and raise the quality of life wherever we can.” It’s half Gates Foundation, half Batman Incorporated.

“We’re not here to build a fortune,” Parker says, “we’re here to build the future.” In short, as a businessman, a superhero, and a human being, the new Peter Parker, the world’s greatest self-made superhero, is impeccably, improbably, offensively good. Peter Parker is what you get if you tally our persistent anxieties about the power and personality of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Bezos, et al—and then just alleviate them: the perfectly polished superhero entrepreneur. If the real Steve Jobs is not available to serve as our imaginary heroic capitalist—whether because his personality is too flawed, the businesses he built are too imperfect, or simply because we can’t continue to tell new stories about him—Spider-Man is available forever.

This is not to say that all CEO superheroes are as perfect as Peter Parker. For Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Oliver Queen, and other wealthy superheroes, exploring business gives the writers room to explore the characters’ flaws and mistakes: their obsessiveness, their addictions, their immaturity. In fact, often these characters can sometimes seem barely likable. But in many ways—just as with Steve Jobs—this focus on flaws is still an act of reconciliation and never really jars the premise that the story being told is the story of a hero. The assumption remains that, barring a mind swap with a supervillain or a mystical personality reversal, these men (and it’s almost always men) are fundamentally good.

On the outside they may be flaky, boorish, and arrogant. Still, they feel things, have powerful value systems, and ultimately want most of all to improve the world—if not save it. If they were not superheroes, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne would be awful people. (They also resemble many young men in the worlds of business and technology.) Because we know Stark and Wayne are superheroes—and because we intimately know the history and personality traits that drive them—we forgive them everything. (Can you think of a better way to try to understand Elon Musk?) Despite their flaws, our superheroes are what we want our capitalists to be.

More subtly, they also give us tools we can use to understand ourselves—to reconcile our own wealth and power relative to others, our own status as citizens of global superpowers in a world filled with injustice, a world needing to be saved."



"In recent years, there have been a handful of comic book stories where superpowers have become consumer goods. MGH (mutant growth hormone), Xperience, and Kick are all mutant-derived drugs that induce or boost superpowers. All of them are addictive and deadly in various degrees.

But in a recent storyline, Iron Man/Tony Stark suffers a magic reversal spell that changes his personality. “Evil” Stark moves to San Francisco, where he creates a smartphone application and nanobot stack that lets users change their bodies to whatever they want, including boosted intelligence, health, beauty, and even immortality. Initially, he gives away the powers for free, but when adoption peaks, he remotely shuts them down, charging $99.99 a day for continued activation. The wealthy continue enjoying superhuman life, desperate users turned to crime, and Stark’s company makes a killing. Eventually, employee/love-interest Pepper Potts stops him, with the aid of a robot programmed with Stark’s old “good” personality. When that fails, Potts—a talented and quite wealthy business mind in her own right—buys out media outlets and blackmails Stark with the promise to expose the scheme.

The Superior Iron Man is literally a story of good capitalist versus bad capitalist, masquerading as a critique of contemporary tech culture. But the funny thing is that the “evil” Tony Stark doesn’t seem all that different from the “good” Tony Stark of past years. A little more craven, a little more louche, less evil than he is amoral. The difference between superheroes and supervillains turns out to be little more than a matter of perspective and degree.

It is tempting to think of our new capabilities as superpowers, because that makes us, in some way, superheroes. It is tempting to think of the inventors of our new technologies as heroes, icons, brilliant men and women of vision and ethics who overcame their own limitations and external opposition to save the day. It means that to cheer for them is to cheer for good. It means we live in a world that is both more magical and more ordered—even more human— than the one we know. It is much more distressing to ask ourselves, “What if we are not the hero in the story? What if we are not even the villain? What if the story was never even ours at all?”"
2015  timcarmody  superpowers  superheroes  comics  stevejobs  technology  wealth  capitalism  thomasstreeter  marcandreessen  tonystark  ironman  spider-man  brucewayne  batman  siliconvalley  elonmusk  peterparker  howardhughes  jrobertoppenheimer  markzuckerberg  inequality 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Facebook, communication, and personhood - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"William Davies tells us about Mark Zuckerberg's hope to create an “ultimate communication technology,” and explains how Zuckerberg's hopes arise from a deep dissatisfaction with and mistrust of the ways humans have always communicated with one another. Nick Carr follows up with a thoughtful supplement:
If language is bound up in living, if it is an expression of both sense and sensibility, then computers, being non-living, having no sensibility, will have a very difficult time mastering “natural-language processing” beyond a certain rudimentary level. The best solution, if you have a need to get computers to “understand” human communication, may to be avoid the problem altogether. Instead of figuring out how to get computers to understand natural language, you get people to speak artificial language, the language of computers. A good way to start is to encourage people to express themselves not through messy assemblages of fuzzily defined words but through neat, formal symbols — emoticons or emoji, for instance. When we speak with emoji, we’re speaking a language that machines can understand.

People like Mark Zuckerberg have always been uncomfortable with natural language. Now, they can do something about it.

I think we should be very concerned about this move by Facebook. In these contexts, I often think of a shrewd and troubling comment by Jaron Lanier: “The Turing test cuts both ways. You can't tell if a machine has gotten smarter or if you've just lowered your own standards of intelligence to such a degree that the machine seems smart. If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you've let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you?” In this sense, the degradation of personhood is one of Facebook's explicit goals, and Facebook will increasingly require its users to cooperate in lowering their standards of intelligence and personhood."
williamdavies  markzuckerberg  communication  technology  2015  facebook  alanjacobs  jaronlanier  turingtest  ai  artificialintelligence  personhood  dehumanization  machines 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day
"Have you ever thought about how much time you likely waste deciding what to wear in the morning? It’s probably made you late to school or work more times than you can count.

We waste so many precious moments concerning ourselves with frivolous details. An outfit will not change the world, it probably won’t even change your day.

This is not to say that fashion isn’t important, as it has an immense impact on culture and, in turn, the direction of society.

Indeed, fashion is where art, culture and history intersect. If we look at the 1960s, for example, the way people dressed was very much a reflection of the counterculture movement and the anti-establishment sentiments of the era.

Simply put, clothes can tell us a lot about sociology.

Yet, at the same time, we’ve arguably become an excessively materialistic and superficial society. Undoubtedly, there are greater things to worry about than clothes.

Similarly, as the great American author Henry David Thoreau once stated:
Our life is frittered away by detail.

…Simply, simplify.

In essence, don’t sweat the small stuff. Make your life easier by concentrating on the big picture.

Correspondingly, a number of very successful people have adopted this philosophy in their daily routines.

Decision Fatigue: Why Many Presidents And CEOs Wear The Same Thing Every Day

Whether you love or hate him, it’s hard to argue against the notion that President Obama has the most difficult job in the world. As the leader of the most powerful country on the planet, the president has a lot on his plate.

Regardless of what he does, he will be criticized. Simply put, he’s got a lot of important things to think about beyond his wardrobe.

This is precisely why President Obama wears the same suit every single day. Well, almost every day, we can’t forget about the time the Internet exploded when he wore a khaki suit. Although, that probably says less about him and more about us.

The majority of the time, however, Obama wears either a blue or gray suit. In an article from Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, the president explained the logic behind this routine:
‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits’ [Obama] said.

‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

As Stuart Heritage puts it for the Guardian, “Barack Obama has pared his wardrobe down to such a degree that he can confidently walk into any situation and make decisions that directly impact on the future of mankind.”

The president is not alone in this practice. The late, great, Steve Jobs wore his signature black turtleneck with jeans and sneakers every single day.

Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg typically wears a gray t-shirt with a black hoody and jeans when seen in public. Similarly, Albert Einstein reportedly bought several variations of the same gray suit so that he wouldn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear each morning.

This is all related to the concept of decision fatigue. This is a real psychological condition in which a person’s productivity suffers as a result of becoming mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions.

Simply put, by stressing over things like what to eat or wear every day, people become less efficient at work.

This is precisely why individuals like President Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein decided to make life easier by adopting a monotonous wardrobe.

Obviously, as these are some of the most successful and productive individuals in history, they are on to something.

Make Life Simple

Indeed, having a diverse collection of clothing is overrated. We waste so much time worrying about things that have no substantial consequences, and don’t even realize how easily we could change this.

This is exactly why President José Mujica of Uruguay rejects conformity and refuses to wear a tie, stating:
The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck.

I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.

He’s absolutely right. The vast majority of us are guilty of obsessing over material things. When it comes down to it, they bring no real value to our lives. True fulfillment is acquired by going out into the world and fostering palpable and benevolent changes.

Buying a new pair of shoes might make you feel more confident in the short-term, but it will not enrich your life in the long-term.

Undoubtedly, the world would be an extremely boring place if we all wore the same exact thing every day.

Yet, we might all consider simplifying our lives a bit more by reducing the amount of time we spend thinking about pointless aspects of our day. In the process, one might find that they are significantly less stressed, more productive and more fulfilled.

Life is complicated enough, don’t allow the little things to dictate your happiness. Simplify, simplify."
uniforms  clothing  fashion  minimalism  choices  2014  barackobama  stevejobs  markzuckerberg  johnhaltiwanger  uniformproject  josémujica  alberteinstein  glvo  thoreau  pesonaluniforms 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Privatized Ebola
"Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.

The World Health Organization is “the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” Its very name implies that it takes direction from and serves the needs of people all over the world but the truth is quite different. The largest contributor to the WHO budget is not a government. It is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which provides more funding than either the United States or the United Kingdom. WHO actions and priorities are no longer the result of the consensus of the world’s people but top down decision making from wealthy philanthropists.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to be a savior when it provides $300 million to the WHO budget, but those dollars come with strings attached. WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan admitted as much when she said, “My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests.” Instead of being on the front line when a communicable disease crisis appears, it spends its time administering what Gates and his team have determined is best.

“Health care should be a human right, not a charity.”

The Ebola horror continues as it has for the last ten months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cruelty of the world’s lack of concern for Africa and all Africans in the diaspora was evident by the inaction of nations and organizations that are supposed to respond in times of emergencies. While African governments and aid organizations sounded the alarm the WHO did little because its donor driven process militates against it. The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.

Critics of the Gates Foundation appeared long before this current Ebola outbreak. In 2008 the WHO’s malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained about the conflicts of interest created by the foundation. In an internal memo leaked to the New York Times he complained that the world’s top malaria researchers were “locked up in a 'cartel' with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group.” In other words, the standards of independent peer reviewed research were cast aside in order to please the funder.

Private philanthropy is inherently undemocratic. It is a top down driven process in which the wealthy individual tells the recipient what they will and will not do. This is a problematic system for charities of all kinds and is disastrous where the health of world’s people is concerned. Health care should be a human right, not a charity, and the world’s governments should determine how funds to protect that right are spent. One critic put it very pointedly. “…the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates, do not believe in the public sector, they do not believe in a democratic, publically owned, publically accountable system.”

There is little wonder why the Ebola outbreak caught the WHO so flat footed as they spent months making mealy mouthed statements but never coordinating an effective response. The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments, and if they weren’t demanding action, then the desperate people affected by Ebola weren’t going to get any.

Privatization of public resources is a worldwide scourge. Education, pensions, water, and transportation are being taken out of the hands of the public and given to rich people and corporations. The Ebola crisis is symptomatic of so many others which go unaddressed or improperly addressed because no one wants to bite the hands that do the feeding.

“The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million to fight the current Ebola epidemic but that too is problematic, as Director General Chan describes. “When there’s an event, we have money. Then after that, the money stops coming in, then all the staff you recruited to do the response, you have to terminate their contracts.” The WHO should not be lurching from crisis to crisis, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 influenza based on the whims of philanthropy. The principles of public health should be carried out by knowledgeable medical professionals who are not dependent upon rich people for their jobs.

The Gates are not alone in using their deep pockets to confound what should be publicly held responsibilities. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was contributing $25 million to fight Ebola. His donation will go to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. Most Americans are probably unaware that such a foundation even exists. Yet there it is, run by a mostly corporate board which will inevitably interfere with the public good. The WHO and its inability to coordinate the fight against Ebola tells us that public health is just that, public. If the CDC response to Ebola in the United States fails it may be because it falls prey to the false siren song of giving private interests control of the people’s resources and responsibilities."
charitableindustrialcomplex  2014  ebola  worldhealthorganization  health  wealth  gatesfoundation  billgates  markzuckerberg  philanthropy  democracy  margaretkimberley  africa  power  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  control 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Ello | quinn
"Ello needs to make money, and that means Ello eventually needs to charge someone. So who can it charge? The only way to make the massive returns VCs like is to charge companies or governments. These are the only thing in our society rich enough to consistently feed the VC mouths. (this is why I strongly recommend against taking VC money -- it's much like adopting 15 children at once, it limits your options.) The only thing a social network can sell to companies are its users. It could work, to have Ello sponsored by X corporation for a given day or week or whatever, but in this business environment part of X corporation's demand for its money is going to be user data. So there you're back to tracking your users like everyone else. Ello could charge databrokers and governments for their user data too, but that also drives them towards being Facebook, Twitter, etc.

That leave Ello to charge their users. This is a fine business model and the one that has supported more things for most of human history. I like this model, I even pay for online services now, though not many -- not many are worth it, and they usually track me anyway. Asking users to pay allows Ello to do something no other online company is doing right now -- optimize Ello for users. This is a great advantage for Ello, because it would mean they could actually listen to users and give them an experience that would, given enough time, be so much better than the massive social networks that people would love joining Ello.

But of course this is a problem too... most users can't pay. Some people like to complain, say that we deserve to be surveiled because no one is willing to pay for anything. This is a ridiculous statement, people all over the world are paying for things every day of their lives. But until we do something about the distribution of the world's wealth, the vast majority of people, even those with internet access, will find that paying a high enough amount for it to be worthwhile for Ello to collect it will cause a real decline in their quality of life.

obligatory graph:

hmm, I can't get obligatory graph to load. I less than three you, betas. ;) Anyway.

The only people that can pay Ello right now are in that top wealth quintile, and then probably the top 2/3rds of it at best. But social networks are like languages -- they are only worthwhile when they are broadly adopted. This makes an incredibly compelling case for user tracking and adverts, since success as a broad network makes the most sense by giving network access away and then selling the people to companies. This is a hard model to escape, to be honest, and it always has been. Companies and governments are essentially colonizing the internet, extracting, monetizing, and controlling the humans therein just like they did during the colonial period, only with less physical violences. Facebook is essentially John Company.

There are only two ways I can see that Ello can escape getting crushed by the contemporary versions of John Company (which did a huge amount of crushing in its day). One is to beat them at their own game and become the next John Company/Facebook/etc, which means becoming better at colonial extraction on users -- most likely in the growth arena -- actual former colony nations. If they don't have the stomach for this kind of evil, and and I deeply hope they don't, the other way is to make far less money. To be, compared to the big VC funded players, a small business with hopeful growth over the course of decades, not quarters.

This is going to mean working out something no one has been able to yet -- differential pricing on the net. The best system of payment they could have, with a magic wand and a fairy godmother etc interceding would be to extract something like $.25 a day from users in the top billion, maybe $.05 a day from the next billion, and possibly nothing or money losing from users in the last 3 billion. The problem is that people hate differential pricing, see it as unfair, when they can see it. They can't see income inequality all the time in their houses and neighborhoods and work places, so that doesn't bother them. They can't see massive surveillance and manipulation, so that doesn't bother them. But dear god, when they see a price list with differential pricing, people go purple with rage. So that's a problem.

Nowadays there's a lot you can do with geolocating IPs, and showing people variable content based on where they are. This could mean that Ello could price based on that, and for now, I believe that's their best option. But no VC will ever accept that, and chances are if Ello has or ever will take VC, they are already dead and just don't know it yet. Their chances of beating Facebook are next to none, especially as they would have to betray everything they've said they were about, and there is no other model that could feed the VC mouth.

Introducing variable pricing, pricing on features, and multiple payment systems over time could let Ello developers make a comfortable living. But at no time in the near future would it make them .com millionaires. To make Ello compelling and free of surveillance and extraction means making a service many can use and doesn't cost too much. Eventually, wide enough adoption to be meaningful to the world means opening it up and making it a protocol other people can build businesses on that don't provide much or any revenue for Ello. It means striving to enter that most dreaded of economic states -- becoming a commodity.

Making social networking a common commodity could remake the world, like the world wide web, or vaccination did. But like the world wide web and vaccination, they aren't ever going to let Paul Budnitz become Cornelius Vanderbilt or Mark Zuckerberg. He'd have to settle for the hope that a lifetime of hard work and enough money to live could let him be Tim Berners-lee or Jonas Salk.

So, Ello, what do you want?"

[See also: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/09/hello-ello.html ]
ello  quinnnorton  2014  jonassalk  markzuckerberg  corneliusvanderbilt  vc  venturecapital  business  monetization  funding  advertising  privacy  socialmedia  variablepricing  pricing 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth of Magical Futures — Kate Losse
"Despite its (now frequently mocked) claims to meritocracy, Silicon Valley loves its hierarchies. However, because these hierarchies often look somewhat different than old-time corporate ones, they are often opaque to outsiders looking in. My book The Boy Kings is among other things a diagram of hierarchy as it was architected at Facebook in Facebook’s early years, where the closer one was to a Mark-Zuckerberg-when-he-started-Facebook combination of age, race, and gender qualities the higher one was in the hierarchy (a hierarchy that appears not to have changed much given the industry's recently released diversity data). In the past year tech's particular version of hierarchy has been more widely acknowledged and critiqued, and thus we are now in the situation where people as powerful as Peter Thiel are being asked to comment on tech’s diversity and misogyny problems, as in yesterday’s Reddit Ask Me Anything interview with Thiel.

Peter Thiel’s answer to misogyny in tech was that we need more women founders, and this answer struck me as interesting on a number of levels, and also somewhat opaque to someone looking into this world from outside. Why women founders? On the one hand, the possibility that a woman founder would construct the hierarchy at her company differently than Mark Zuckerberg is compelling. On the other, the idea of women founders as a solution to tech misogyny also makes existing male founders and investors unaccountable for misogyny as it exists today. Thiel is saying that he and his funded companies are not responsible for the misogynist environments they themselves have built, and furthermore, that they can’t fix them-- only a woman founder can.

This is a problem, because the misogynist hierarchies that exist in tech today are not mystical outcomes, but very real products of the values of the people involved at the formation of a company, which are investors and founders. Investors and board members in addition to founders influence everything from how much equity goes to individual employees, to perks and play budgets (which often are not evenly distributed across the company), to the construction of departments, their relative importance, and the resources accordingly allocated to them. And not coincidentally the privileged departments, on this model, tend to be those occupied by people who look most like the founder and investors (at Facebook this was product engineering, which dominated other forms of engineering, which dominated non-engineering departments, which tended to have the largest degree of race and gender diversity).

But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all. That is, all of the women who are currently working in tech, up and down the employee stack, many at companies that Thiel may be invested in, do not seem in Thiel’s formulation to really exist to him. They do not have a seat at the table. They are not acknowledged as agents of change, or as subjects of discrimination (for example, in the AMA, Thiel cited the Bay Area “housing crisis” as a worse problem than sexism in tech, not knowing that the housing crisis disproportionately affects women and people of color because of the wage discrimination marginalized people face at work).

That is, according to Thiel’s “women founders” logic, he can only imagine women as agents/subjects if they are the founder of a company. And this, in the end, is exactly why and how tech is such a diversity disaster: because there are so many ways powerful people in the industry have of ignoring that marginalized people are working at their companies and are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination right now. This is why many powerful people in tech can only conceive moves to “change” the industry in terms of magical futures like “more women founders” or “getting young girls to code”. The women working in the industry right now are being written off in favor of these magical futures, and as long as this is the case, the now of tech (whether the now is today or twenty years from today) will be unchanged.

This is why you should be skeptical whenever you see powerful men arguing for magical future outcomes in regard to diversity. Instead, ask what they can do right now to affect discrimination in their companies. For example, what are they doing to rectify across the board pay and equity discrepancies between men and women, or white men and people of color? What do their harassment policies look like? Investors like Peter Thiel directly influence these decisions at startups they fund (even if “influence” means “failing to advise founders to avoid discriminatory practices”, which is a form of influence). So when men like Thiel speak of magical futures, we should always be asking them: what are you doing today?"
katelosse  siliconvalley  sexism  internet  culture  business  women  technosolutionism  peterthiel  gender  californianideology  meritocracy  facebook  markzuckerberg  vc  venturecapital  technology  libertarianism 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Facebook’s Gateway Drug - NYTimes.com
"Consider the role of “identity services,” the mesh of publicly issued identifications that has traditionally meant things like driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, but has come to include things like Facebook accounts. In a short essay outlining the vision behind Internet.org, Mr. Zuckerberg says one of its goals is to offer credit and identity infrastructure “that is still nascent in many developing countries.” Such services might be of some help in developing countries. But is Facebook the best entity to provide them?"



"Any emergent social movements concerned with matters of universal and affordable connectivity — as opposed to the corporatism of Silicon Valley — should not take this premise for granted. Nor should they fall for the pseudo-humanitarian rhetoric of rights espoused by technology companies. Whenever Mark Zuckerberg says that “connectivity is a human right,” as he put it in his Internet.org essay, you should think twice before agreeing. There is, after all, little joy in obtaining free access to an empty library, or browsing a bookstore with empty pockets — which is, in effect, what Internet.org offers, while holding out the promise of robust content, if users will pay, a few cents at a time, for the privilege.

In this way, Facebook and Internet.org are following a well-trod path. As the World Bank has demonstrated, when development becomes just a means of making a buck, the losers will always be the people at the bottom. Thus, to Silicon Valley’s question of “Is Internet access a human right?” one could respond by turning the tables: What kind of “Internet,” and what kind of “access”?"
africa  facebook  global  mobile  identity  services  evgenymorozov  2012  markzuckerberg  worldbank  colonialism  internet  online  web  sliconvalley  capitalism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Forty Four: Snow Crashing; danah boyd; Facebook and Oculus Rift
"It looks like Facebook's leadership is waking up to this (in fairness to them, the rest of the industry is waking up to this, too). With mobile, there isn't (and doesn't have to be) a one-size-fits-all communication/social networking utility or app. Facebook may well be the thing that everyone ends up having an account on, but in their latest earnings call, they reiterated their strategy to build more mobile apps and with the acquisition of WhatsApp alongside Instagram it seems clear to me (without my work hat on) that Facebook's goal to connect the world is through Facebook the holding company, not just through Facebook the product/platform. 

You can contrast boyd's work with that of Paul Adams' in his book Grouped[2], the result of which was Google Plus Circles shortly after he left Google for Facebook. Circles (and Google Plus) appears to me to be the sort of social network you end up building where you want everyone *and* you want to solve the problem of having different spaces and contexts. But we don't work like that, not as people: Google Plus is the place and it doesn't matter how many different circles I might have there - the cognitive overhead involved in placing people in circles is just too great and causes too much friction as opposed to just using a different app like Snapchat or WhatsApp or Twitter or Secret that comes with intrinsic contextual cues to being another place.

Adams' research was right - people don't like inadvertently sharing different facets of themselves to the wrong audience. No product has successfully catered for multiple facets, I don't think, and trying to build it into a one-size-fits-all product has failed so far. Mobile, which has reduced context-switching to near negligible, as well as provided a new social graph through the address book, has finally let a thousand social flowers bloom at scale."



"So when you're vision driven, look at Facebook the way you look at Google. One way of looking at Google is that they want to organise the world's information and make it freely available. One way of looking at Facebook is that they literally want to connect the world and enable every living person to communicate as frictionlessly as possible with everyone else.
Like I said, the devil is in the detail.

Facebook - the product you and I use, the one with the newsfeed - is just one way Facebook the holding company is connecting the world. Instagram is another. WhatsApp is another.

Some of those products are ad-funded, some others aren't. And if you're thinking about an end-goal of connecting the world, what's going to connect more people more quickly? Them paying for it, or the connection being available for free?

This might sound like having drunk the kool-aid, but try crediting Zuckerberg with more intelligence and think of him as the prototypical smart nerd: optimize for a connected world. What do you build? How do you deploy it?

It's against this background that they buy Oculus Rift. And don't think agency people have any knowledge - I'm in a plane at 30k feet, and when the news broke about WhatsApp, we were in a meeting *with our clients* - we find out about this stuff when you do, when Twitter explodes.

Like everyone apart from Apple, Facebook missed the boat. But Oculus as display technology - as another way to augment the human social experience is provocative and interesting. In the PR, Zuckerberg is quoted as saying:

"Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate."

He's not wrong. You are always going to be able to meet more people through mediated experiences than physically. Physicality doesn't scale. Is this a terrible harbinger of the replacement of physical social contact? Probably not. We have always invented and looked for more ways to connect with people. boyd says in her book that teenagers aren't addicted to Facebook in the same way they were never addicted to texting or tying up the house landline for hours. They're addicted to *people*. And if Oculus genuinely has the way to change the way people connect, then that makes perfect strategic sense for Facebook.

It turns out that today, people are still using Snow Crash as a business plan."
personas  diversity  facebook  occulusrift  personality  pauladams  danahboyd  google  google+  circles  toolbelttheory  onlinetoolkit  multitools  killerapps  instagram  whatsapp  spaces  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  communication  multiplefacets  contextswitching  danhon  markzuckerberg  snowcrash  nealstephenson  googleplus 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What Internet.org's Stirring Video Cut From the Kennedy Speech It Quotes - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic
"And that's really the point here: Don't pretend to be saints. We are not stupid.

Because the narrow scope of Internet.org's actual mission sounds both reasonable and, perhaps, attainable, given the 60-year decrease in costs associated with all semiconductor-based technologies.

Not even a grump could take issue with an industry trying to make itself cheaper, so that more people could use its products.

But that's only one level of what Internet.org is trying to do. The public facing-side of Internet.org is not satisfied with looking and sounding like an industry collaboration to increase technical efficiency. It's also working at an ideological level to reinforce the idea that connectedness means peace, that Internet access means progress (or even Progress), that working for a tech company is about making the world a better place. 

At some point, it may (may) have made sense to associate Facebook with peace. But that time is over. 

The thing is: People love the Internet, and they'll hop on it if it's available, even given all privacy concerns. The tech business is safe. But its leaders also want our adulation. 

And we shouldn't have to worship web products, or the people who make them, or the values they hold, to use the Internet."
2013  alexismadrigal  internet.org  sainthood  markzuckerberg  facebook  internet  web  online  digitaldivide  quoteoutofcontext  context  jfk  technosolutionism  silverbullets  politics  policy  worldpeace  whitewashing  ideology  connectiveness  adulation 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: That Depends Which Education Reform Movement You're Talking About
"Ten years ago, "school reform" at least equally applied to Deborah Meier and Ted Sizer as it did to, say, Joel Klein.

In the intervening decade, I've become a social software curmudgeon -- you'll pull Blogger from my cold, dead hands -- and yielded the "ed reformer" tag to people and practices I hate.

Basically, in both cases, the money men started to roll in and roll over the geeks and the teachers who were building tools and schools with an eye to something other than the market, or market-based logic. We're only just now hitting the point where it is clear the grifters are rolling into schools like Visigoths, but even when the point hasn't been to make money directly, it has been to apply the methods of business to education.

It has taken a while to sort out, but at this point many of the leading figures in screwing up the internet are also leaders in screwing up education (reform): Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs (RIP), etc. It isn't hard to tease out the common thread. The earnest geeks who do things, understand how things work, and care about actual people get rolled by the big money guys. That's it."
edreform  edtech  tomhoffman  2013  billgates  markzuckerberg  stevejobs  grifters  business  education  internet  deborahmeier  tedsizer  joelklein  alexanderrusso  anildash  money  economics  techsector  predictability  society  inequity  disparity  visigoths  schools  learning  purpose  evil  bigmoney 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Generation Make | TechCrunch
"We have a distrust of large organizations…don’t look down on people creating small businesses. But we’re not emotionless…We have anger…flares up to become Arab Spring & OccupyWallStreet…We have ego…every entrepreneur who thinks their tech startup is the best…We have passion, & an intense drive to follow…through, immediately. Our generation is autonomous…impatient. We refuse to pay our dues…want to be running the department. We hop from job to job…average tenure…is just 3 years. We think we can do anything we can imagine…hate the idea that we should ever be beholden to someone else. We do this because we have been abandoned by the institutions that should have embraced us…We are a generation of makers…of creators. Maybe we don’t have the global idealism of the hippies. Our idealism is more individual: that every person should be able to live their own life, working on what they choose, creating what they choose…"
socialmedia  makers  making  generations  millennials  2011  justinkan  williamderesiewicz  entrepreneurship  ows  arabspring  occupywallstreet  idealism  attitude  trends  passion  unschooling  deschooling  hierarchy  revolution  via:preoccupations  davidfincer  markzuckerberg  individualism  self-actualization  independence  work  labor  behavior  startups  startup  workplace  motivation  geny  generationy 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Woods+ (Ftrain.com)
"Anyway, the new thing from the Gootch makes it really easy to sort people into the holes, which is good, because this lets you divide people into clusters and lie to each group in different ways, which makes it easier to preserve the fictions that make up our polite racist society. And it looks pretty sweet and works well so far, which probably means that there will be a huge battle-in-earnest between the Gootch and the Books, between Circles and Friends. For example, I don't know if you saw this but according to the New York Times Mark Zuckerberg is taking walks in the woods with people he'd like to hire. If he really wants you to work for him he takes you for a walk in the woods. It's gotten that serious. And this is a responsibility of a well-educated American, to think about Mark Zuckerberg taking walks in the woods with multiple unnamed sources."
paulford  ftrain  facebook  google  google+  markzuckerberg  mostdangerousgame  hiring  2011 
july 2011 by robertogreco
The Ghetto Called Facebook | John C. Dvorak | PCMag.com
"Facebook is an enclosed, controlled, and manipulated environment for meek, tech losers. It's like a reality TV show—things are kind of real, but they're not."
johndvorak  facebook  aol  socialsoftware  socialnetworking  socialmedia  internet  web  online  2011  closedsystems  markzuckerberg  trainingwheels 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Caterina.net: Want to be an entrepreneur? Drop out of college.
"College works on factory model, & is in many ways not suited to training entrepreneurs. You put in a student & out comes a scholar.

Entrepreneurship works on apprenticeship model. The best way to learn how to be an entrepreneur is to start a company, & seek advice of a successful entrepreneur in the area in which you are interested. Or work at a startup for a few years to learn the ropes. A small number of people—maybe in the high hundreds or low thousands—have knowledge of how to start & run a tech company, & things change so fast, only people in the thick of things have a sense of what is going on. Take a few years off & you're behind the times. Some publishers have asked Chris to collate his blog posts on entrepreneurship into a book, but he said, What's the point, it'd be out of date by the time it hit bookstores.

As Fred pointed out, basic skills necessary to start tech company—design or coding—are skills that can be learned outside of academy, & are often self-taught."
education  entrepreneurship  business  startup  college  universities  colleges  autodidacts  unschooling  deschooling  caterinafake  fredwilson  evanwilliams  robkalin  bizstone  jackdorsey  markzuckerberg  dropouts  lcproject  billgates  stevejobs  industrial  learning 
december 2010 by robertogreco
SNL: Assange argues for "Man of the Year" - Saturday Night Live - Salon.com
"What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? I give private information on corporations to you for free, and I’m a villain. Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s Man of the Year."
privacy  snl  markzuckerberg  2010  wikileaks  julianassange  information  corporations  law  money 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books
"At the time, though, I felt distant from Zuckerberg and all the kids at Harvard. I still feel distant from them now, ever more so, as I increasingly opt out (by choice, by default) of the things they have embraced. We have different ideas about things. Specifically we have different ideas about what a person is, or should be. I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate. Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, in order to house the People 2.0 they genuinely are, and if I feel uncomfortable within them it is because I am stuck at Person 1.0. Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software currently shaping their generation is unworthy of them. They are more interesting than it is. They deserve better."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/1481824813/at-the-time-though-i-felt-distant-from ]
zadiesmith  philosophy  social  sociology  markzuckerberg  thesocialnetwork  generations  identity  personhood  nostalgia  facebook  cv  disconnect  jaronlanier 
november 2010 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Designed to Fail - Education in America: Part Five
"If those who seek to follow the Arne Duncan model of school reform want to argue with me about the inherent colonialism/racism of their plans, then perhaps they should begin by discussing why they won't embrace "real reform" - the re-design of our educational system.…No tests. No grading. No age-based grades. Few classrooms. Few classes. Teacher and learner agency. No core curriculum. No particular time schedule. The complete opposite of RheEducation…The concepts were student empowerment, teacher freedom, community, and authentic assessment…The political problem is that embracing these known understandings of education requires abandoning the filtering system of "education" we have used in America since the Civil War. Embracing these ideas would require that we - as a society - elevate teachers in pay and respect to or above the level of lawyers, bankers, and perhaps medical doctors."
irasocol  education  history  us  newrochellehighschool  grades  grading  openschools  schools  agesegregation  studentdirected  freedom  equality  elitism  seymourpapert  inequality  wealth  standards  standardizedtesting  larrycuban  markzuckerberg  billgates  elibroad  dianeravitch  society  perpetuation  culture  power  policy  politics  children  parenting  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  waitingforsuperman  williamalcott  incomegap  teaching  learning  assessment  neilpostman  unions  salaries  racism  michellerhee  charterschools 
september 2010 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Designed to Fail - Education in America: Part Three
"to understand the debate in America today you need to think of two names: Ellwood Cubberley and Rudyard Kipling. Mann is sweet, Dewey brilliant, Barnard essential to the process, but it is Cubberley who made the US ed system virtually unchangeable & Kipling who may offer explanation re: why?"

"Just how enduring this inevitability is can easily be seen in both education & political spheres. In education "we" continue to pursue the scientific & the "proper technique" (though we now say "evidence-based practice") despite never finding an actual way to measure human learning."

"The problem, then as now, is unequal beginnings on that path to either Americanness or Whiteness. Not only is a single conception of life, of government, of learning, of behavior, declared "correct" and thus all others declared "incorrect""
irasocol  education  history  rudyardkipling  edwardsaid  johntaylorgatto  ellwoodcubberley  johndewey  horacemann  schools  us  policy  classideas  woodrowwilson  colonialism  michellerhee  markzuckerberg  terryeagleton  tfa  danielwillingham  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  cv  teachforamerica 
september 2010 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses [Related: http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/25/students-stay-in-school/]
Alan Jacobs on Michael Arrington's talk at Berkley and the response by Vivek Wadhwa at Techcrunch: "I think we have a case of competing errors here. Arrington’s “go ahead and drop out” advice is probably wrong, but the idea that “any education will carry you far” is probably wronger."
alanjacobs  education  colleges  universities  vivekwadhwa  michaelarrington  unschooling  deschooling  alternative  money  learning  dropouts  markzuckerberg 
september 2010 by robertogreco
What Happened to Yahoo
"Why would great programmers want to work for a company that didn't have a hacker-centric culture, as long as there were others that did? I can imagine two reasons: if they were paid a huge amount, or if the domain was interesting and none of the companies in it were hacker-centric. Otherwise you can't attract good programmers to work in a suit-centric culture. And without good programmers you won't get good software, no matter how many people you put on a task, or how many procedures you establish to ensure "quality."

Hacker culture often seems kind of irresponsible. That's why people proposing to destroy it use phrases like "adult supervision." That was the phrase they used at Yahoo. But there are worse things than seeming irresponsible. Losing, for example."
paulgraham  hackers  entrepreneurship  yahoo  technology  startups  startup  management  media  programming  culture  business  google  history  software  hackerculture  facebook  markzuckerberg  tcsnmy  hiring  leadership  values  business-iness  lcproject  hierarchy 
august 2010 by robertogreco
apophenia » Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)
"Zuckerberg & gang may think they know what’s best for society, for individuals, but I violently disagree...they know what’s best for privileged class. & I’m terrified of consequences these moves are having for those who don’t live in lap of luxury. I say this as someone who is privileged...has profited at every turn by being visible. But also someone who has seen costs & pushed through consequences w/ lots of help & support. Being publicly visible isn’t always easy [or] fun. & I don’t think that anyone should go through what I’ve gone through w/out making choice to do it. So I’m [very] angry that some people aren’t being given that choice, don’t know what’s going on, that it’s become OK in my industry to expose people...it’s high time that we take into consideration those whose lives aren’t nearly as privileged as ours, those who aren’t choosing to take the risks we take, those who can’t afford to. This isn’t about liberals vs. libertarians; it’s about monkeys vs. robots."
2010  danahboyd  socialmedia  facebook  marketing  socialnetworking  surveillance  legal  transparency  security  sharing  activism  privacy  sxsw  ethics  internet  markzuckerberg  visibility 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Caterina.net: Want to be an entrepreneur? Drop out of college.
"College works on the factory model, & is in many ways not suited to training entrepreneurs. You put in a student & out comes a scholar.

Entrepreneurship works on apprenticeship model...best way to learn how to be entrepreneur is to start a company & seek advice of successful entrepreneur in area you are interested...Take a few years off & you're behind the times. Some publishers have asked Chris to collate his blog posts on entrepreneurship...What's the point, it'd be out of date by the time it hit bookstores...

basic skills necessary to start tech company—design or coding—re skills that can be learned outside of academy, & are often self-taught...

I was on verge of attending grad school to get a PhD in Renaissance poetry - my lost careers...writer, artist or academic. Do I regret spending all that time poring over Shakespeare when I could have been getting a jump start on competition? Not at all. There's no money in poetry, but then again, there's no poetry in money either."
startup  twitter  entrepreneurship  college  advice  autodidacts  self-education  learning  apprenticeships  tcsnmy  alternative  change  caterinafake  evanwilliams  fredwilson  robkalin  etsy  markzuckerberg  billgates  stevejobs  dropouts  life  glvo  edg  srg 
april 2010 by robertogreco

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