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Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Making the world a better place?"

First, from my fav, the insanely over-the-top, (painfully and scatalogically) hilarious Silicon Valley HBO.

After watching that entire 4-season series (many episodes numerous times), I still now have doubts I can continue to cover Health IT sector events with a straight face.

I saw a WaPo article this week comprising an interview with 32 yr old prominent Bay Area techie Sam Altman (President of Y Combinator).
Why this Silicon Valley magnate is funding a new wave of political candidates

Still reeling from Donald Trump’s election, a prominent technologist is taking a page from powerful donors the Koch brothers, who remade state politics by recruiting and funding a new generation of GOP candidates.

Sam Altman, president of the Silicon Valley start-up incubator Y Combinator, announced Wednesday that he would spend from his personal fortune to enlist candidates who want to run for statewide office in California on a platform of “technology, economic fairness, and maintaining personal liberty.” The next races will be in 2018.

Altman, whose fund has helped launch companies such as Dropbox and Airbnb, is part of a wave of tech elites who are now looking to extend their influence beyond Silicon Valley into the wider political spectrum. Many of Altman’s contemporaries, including Mark Zuckerberg, saw Trump’s victory as a wake-up call, pushing them further into politics. Zuckerberg and Altman have gone on listening tours this year with the goal of hearing from Trump voters and people outside the Silicon Valley bubble…

A tech dude with both a brain and a heart. "Still reeling from Donald Trump's election..." Me too, bro'.

Promptly went to his site "The United Slate."
I want to find and support a slate of candidates for the 2018 California elections. I think the current political process is not surfacing the best possible candidates, and our government is suffering for it. I want to help candidates who believe in creating prosperity through technology, economic fairness, and maintaining personal liberty.

Today, we have massive wealth inequality, little economic growth, a system that works for people born lucky, and a cost of living that is spiraling out of control. Most young people think their lives will be worse than their parents’ lives, which should set off alarm bells for us all.

Most people’s lives are not what they pictured—they feel like they have great potential that is being wasted.

We are in the middle of a massive technological shift—the automation revolution will be as big as the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. We need to figure out a new social contract, and to ensure that everyone benefits from the coming changes.

We need to get back to a functioning government. If the process can work again, we have a chance to solve our biggest problems.

Our government is in the way of this vision—it rigs the system in favor of a small number of special interests and campaign donors at the cost of everyone else. In the process, our government has gotten us into an unsustainable financial bubble and has given up on fiscal responsibility itself. California is on a trajectory to go bankrupt.

We can have a better world—we can have affordable housing, free health care, a great education system, economic security, and a healthy planet. We can also have opportunity, fulfilling work, and a voice in the future for everyone. It won’t be easy, but it’s also not impossible—we need new candidates who understand the future.

I think California is the right place to start this—we’re the 6th largest economy in the world, and we have a long history of leading this country. We can lead the way here…

I am a product of our time—I got a computer when I was eight years old, and technology has been my obsession and career ever since. I understand its potential for both good and bad. I am simultaneously nervous and excited about the world we are creating, and I’d like to live in the best version we can build…

My heart is on the left, but I’m a pragmatist. I want to use technology to generate a lot of prosperity, and use some of it to pay for programs to make life better for everyone. There is a massive technological shift coming to society, and we can either benefit from it or be hurt by it.

I was one of the last children of the American Century. I’m not quite ready to let it go. If we don’t take action now, the US will be surpassed as the world superpower. I’d like to get back to the values that made our country the envy of the world. I still believe in American exceptionalism, and even with Trump in the White House, my proudest identity of all is being American…

Three Principles

These are three principles I strongly believe in.

  1. Prosperity from technology
  2. Economic fairness
  3. Personal liberty
1. Prosperity from technology

Creating prosperity is how everyone’s lives get better every year.

Most real economic growth comes from technological progress. The US government has turned its back on this basic law of economics, and no longer provides funding for our best and brightest to build a better future. Instead, we’ve built an increasingly financialized economy, and steal from our future with debt. We are getting beaten by other countries.

Obviously, technology cannot solve everything, and getting policy right is more important than just getting the technology right…

2. Economic fairness

The economic growth we generate must be shared by all Americans. We can’t stand for a society in which all of the gains (or more recently, more than all of the gains—life has gotten worse for a lot of people) from progress accrue to a small number of individuals.

I’ve benefited from our current system in a way that would have been nearly impossible for a poor person born just a few miles from where I grew up, where it feels like a different country. The two most important gifts I got in life were the love of my parents and a great education—a great education should be a right for every child.

I believe that economic justice is social justice, and that we will not have true justice until all Americans, regardless of their background or how they look, have equal economic opportunity…

3. Personal liberty

Freedom is the bedrock of America. We must preserve and defend the freedom to choose who we are, what we want to be, what we do with our bodies, how we want to express ourselves, and maintain our privacy in the face of technology. The authoritarian streak currently running through the country is deeply troubling to me.

These are my 3 core principles, but a lot of people probably agree with them. Here are 10 more specific policy proposals I’d like to see candidates enact.

Ten Policy Goals

Here are 10 policy goals I’d like to see candidates work towards enacting.

  1. Lower the cost of living, especially housing
  2. Move to a Medicare-for-all system over time by gradually reducing the age of eligibility
  3. Set a target of 90% clean energy in the country by 2050
  4. World-class education
  5. We need to reform our tax system
  6. Shift 10% of our $600 billion annual defense budget to the research and development of future technologies
  7. Fair trade and fair jobs
  8. Expand the social safety net
  9. A fair government
  10. World-class infrastructure
"Move to a Medicare-for-all system." See down in my prior post.

I signed up to contribute however I can. We shall see. There's no time to waste. In Valley VC-speak, we have a "short runway."

Go to Sam's United Slate site, read all of it. Consider participating.
I forwarded it on to my wife. Told her she should consider running. "Right. In my spare time." "But, baby, 'Women Leaders' and all that.You are a Leader." (She most certainly is.)
Doubt that I'm gonna get any traction there. We got a continuing, indeterminate full plate anyway these days.
Also recommend you read the book "Four Futures."

I've cited it on this blog before. See, e.g., "What might Artificial Intelligence bring to humanity."

My concern regarding our sociopolitical trajectory toward a "Quadrant IV" remains.

The nice thing I see in Sam's idea is that he doesn't conflate "personal liberty" with the sophomoric (albeit broadly tech-cohort fashionable) "Libertarianism" -- the latter of which gets you dystopian, untenable stuff like Uber.

As I reflect on Sam Altman's foregoing humane, reasoned "United Slate" proffer, I am reminded of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's (HR Dept cringeworthy) assertion that "young people are just smarter." Regarding the tech elites among them, I can't disagree -- as to the "intellectual" aspect, anyway. Whether their aggregate relative distribution of prosocial "moral intelligence" is better than that of us "elders," well, I don't know at this point. In any event, this younger demographic is going to have to live a lot longer with the consequences of our sociopolitical shortcomings than people like me. So, it's entirely appropriate that they take a good whack at politics and leadership.


Interesting Salon article:
A vote for moral technology: Updating Reinhold Niebuhr to the age of Donald Trump
The great theologian's understanding of irony and hubris can help us figure out what happened, and where we go next

It’s the incongruities that perplex and provoke so many of us. The ideal versus the real. It’s hard to look at the imposing U.S. Capitol, all that strong, gleaming marble, and realize at the same time how the nation’s elected representatives have failed at their primary job: improving the lives of those who elected them. We have learned that “those who elected them” doesn’t even mean what the Constitution intended. Disgusting negative ads elected them. Money elected them. A minority of the eligible population voted – inertia reelected them. Politicians are professional fundraisers who principally target “swing voters.” This is who we are now.

Our idealized democracy is obviously not even close to a perfect system for obtaining the wisest deliberator as president. The inordinately long, obscenely costly campaign process, imitating nothing so much as a repetitive TV miniseries, is, effectively, a register of party loyalty, not a measure of the viability of one or another policy direction. With all the talent that exists in the United States – the scientists, engineers, artists, givers, problem-solvers – look what we have now: an inarticulate man of limited imagination, who worships himself and appears to care about nothing and no one else, and least of all the truth. He convinced 63 million people to vote for him.

We – the millions of us who voted a different way – feel corrupted by his undeserved presence in our lives, his repetitive bad behavior, his pettiness, his petulance, his arrogance. Our values have been betrayed, and we are all somehow, in some way, complicit. We didn’t do enough to help voters see through him. We allowed democracy to become a business in the hands of public relations firms, pollsters, financiers and advertisers. And tweets. Sad!...
Well, resonates with Sam's United Slate vision, no?

All of which resonates with George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant."

From the Amazon blurb:
Ten years after writing the definitive, international bestselling book on political debate and messaging, George Lakoff returns with new strategies about how to frame today’s essential issues.

Called the “father of framing” by The New York Times, Lakoff explains how framing is about ideas—ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative, ideas that need to be communicated out loud every day in public.

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! picks up where the original book left off—delving deeper into how framing works, how framing has evolved in the past decade, how to speak to people who harbor elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews, how to counter propaganda and slogans, and more.

In this updated and expanded edition, Lakoff, urges progressives to go beyond the typical laundry list of facts, policies, and programs and present a clear moral vision to the country—one that is traditionally American and can become a guidepost for developing compassionate, effective policy that upholds citizens’ well-being and freedom.
Sam, you can count me in. Who's with me? Time's a wastin'. "Short runway."


How about a bit of music? One of my Swedish friends hipped me to this cat, Henrik Hansson (Swede by birth, lives in Japan). Listen to the lyrics.

Got no time for second-guessing,
Got no time for lookin’ back,
Don’t need anybody’s blessing,
Ain’t like all those fools
Playin’ by the rules.

When the night is over
He won’t realize
Who is real and who is in disguise.
He just plays along,
Don't know right from wrong...
'eh? Anyone come to mind via the lyrics?

More to come...

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