Fraud: Kia Ora, world!

via Daily Prompt: Fraud

We steal.  That’s the beauty of human ideas.  Each one can generate another one.  Good artists borrow, great artists steal.  Or did I get that wrong?

Fraud is not quite the same as stealing, is it?  They are clearly in the same universe of “Thou shalt not” , if you like Olde Englishe. Both are wrong, immoral, and just not nice. the person who harms another or the common good is a thief or a fraud.

I pretend to care.  That’s a fraud, but can also be a kindness.  Words are so messed up, when the only way to find Truth is to agree it is bipolar.  That our minds create sharp categories, but biology is fluid.

All words lie.  They can only partially express the Truth, if such a thing even exists outside of our minds.  But this is where discussion starts getting futile, pointless and off the topic of fraud.

Sometimes, I feel like a fraud when I use “Kia Ora” as my opening greeting in an email.  It’s because I only ever use the spoken greeting at formal meetings.  It’s a wonderful Maori words that can be used to express all kinds of sentiments, wishes, and above all acknowledgement of a fellow human.  We say it when we are touched by what we hear, when we want to encourage.

Literally, it means ‘towards health’, or to your good health.  But most often used to say ‘hello’; a less formal greeting than “Tena koe” , which literally means “That you”.  Just as the Hebrew greeting for ‘hello’, is Shalom Kia Ora reflects different cultural values than the wish for Peace of “Shalom”.

A wish for health, as the most important human attribute.  Without health, what use is wealth?  But it is the meaning beyond the literal wish for health, that I find so appealing. That connection that we share a joint “Ora”  a healthy life. But do I live it?

I am a fraud.  I pretend to myself to be other than I am, because it makes me feel more comfortable.  I see the world not as it is, but as I wish it to be.  And manage the pretence, despite evidence to the contrary as confirmation bias, backfire effects, and other cognitive biases trick my brain that it is right, when it is not.

Financial fraud is interesting.  One can argue that many rich folk, are only so because of some kind of fraud.  The shady dealings of President Ignoramus come to mind.  Though I am told he would have been richer if he had just invested the money he inherited in the stock market, rather than leave the trail of destruction with his failed enterprises.  President Fraud who claimed he was going to fix problems, while just bringing us closer to the brink of nuclear apocalypse and planetary despoil that could spell the end of humanity.  And worse than these, has increased suffering among countless millions who are deported, abused, or impoverished by his administration.

I have proposed a solution to financial fraud: a single global financial transaction system, with full transparency for all transactions. When I was a child, I was taught of an all-knowing and all-seeing God.  Google was the first step in its development, and still key in its further development added by Facebook and other platforms that connect every global citizen to each other.

The solution will undoubtedly create a new type of fraud based on mathematical wizardry and ability to exploit any weak spots in the software design of the electronic financial transaction system.   Yet, there is hope that a shared ledger system that is well designed could at least detect it, if not necessarily prevent that kind of fraud.

What I find strange, is how today’s governments allow fraud  (or is it blackmail or just plain theft) by computer hackers of various sorts to continue to grow as a business.  Are they getting a pay-back?  Or is it the cover of rogue states?  I’d love to know the answer, as it would seem just a question of investing more technical capacity and resources to prevent this apparently ever-increasging threat of fraud through what should be the most sacred infrastructure of our society: our connectivity to each other.

Can we remove all fraud in out connections?  Probably not. But we can do more to discourage them, and catch them early – rather than wasting resources protecting copyright, for example.

Yet, another fraud.  How can Warner Brothers make millions of dollars on the Happy Birthday song, when its writers made nothing? Intellectual property is a fraud, since all human invention builds on earlier ones. Inventors need to be rewarded, but perhaps in a way that better incentivises common good than personal profit.  Creators create because they have to, not because of the reward.  So, support creation rather than rewarding its results.  And how does it help creation to maintain copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator?

Fraud is the rentier economy, that is increasingly with us.  The State allows a ‘fee’ to be demanded for use of knowledge or processes.  Or even property. Why is this fair and and not fraud?  What does it mean to say you ‘own’ the land.  Only that you paid for it, and are part of the chain of ownership; but where and when did ownership originate?

We are not owners of our land, our assets or even our knowledge. We are stewards part of an interconnected species that started with a dozen or so humans about 70,000 years ago in Africa, who now exceed 7 billion and cover every corner of the globe.  Wake up, don’t defraud our future.

 

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Our story: 22. More on money

What is money? There are a surprising number of answers to this.  I will start with the one I learnt most recently. Money belongs to a set of words defined by Juval Harari as “fictive”. Animals communicate about the world about them.  Humans use words to do so.  These words extend beyond the natural world to the social world.

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Our story: 21. Foundation money

“Global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion.” There are 8,000,000,000 of us. UN estimates 7.5 billion humans.  We are increasing every year by about 50 million, with about half the deaths than births.  (There are over 100 million born every year.)

So, that’s at least $1500 per person per year that could be used, if nations did not exist.  Military is only for defence against other nations; once they are gone, there is no need for them.  Is $1500 per year enough to feed the world? Given that nearly a third of humans live on less than $2 per day, that would be more than enough in developing countries.  In New Zealand, I can’t get a cauliflower for less than $3, so it may be more of a challenge.  But I think even at New Zealand prices one could get a healthy diet for close to that price, especially if we changed the market.

Why is food so much more expensive in industrialised countries, and especially in NZ.? The easy answer is that it is the price of labour. But is the work any different in growing the food and getting it to market? Probably harder in developing countries. They have less tools, infrastructure, and resources in general. Only labour is cheap. And that drives the price of everything.

If much of the food supply that the State provides is grown locally; and this is bought at a fair price, would that fairness not include equal pay for equal work, wherever it was done.  But if you did that, then the same money would be worth much more in a poor country than a rich one.

There is a simple answer to that: change the unit of money to person-time. A basic unit can be multiplied for quality and training of the person. Or we could leave it unadjusted. Either way, we are doing what Adam Smith writes about when we exchange goods: we exchange our labour for that of another’s.  His labour theory of value.

People would be supported to grow their food, on roof-tops, balconies and indoors, by being provided the resources to do so, and the sell to the State for the produce based on their labour. The produce would the supply the local or community.  Commercial or State food production would be needed to supplement the local product for most communities.

The State would supply each person or family, either with food or with meals at community centres. The food ordered would still have a price (in hours of basic person-time), but the State would supply and charge the electronic account of the individual. This is the functional equivalent of money, but is an abstract electronic credit that is given at birth to each baby.

Citizens earn credit by doing work; those who are not in paid employment get paid (in person-hours) for the work they do in caring for their family, friends, or community. Those who are unable to work are in the same category as those who are unable to manage their credits: they need State support.

Citizens use their person-hour credits for all their needs, from the private and State markets. Each individual is given credits by the State, and earns more from work, art or new ventures.  One way that is not possible for an individual to make credits from is investment.  The State provides investment to entrepreneurs, based on community support and track record.

If all transactions are in credit instead of money, and credit ledgers are public it becomes much harder for corruption to stay hidden, and crime is easily tracked. Blockchain technology offers secure and transparent transactions.

But, where does the State get the money to do all this? The money has to come from its citizens. The money we currently spend on the military could be used to feed the world. By providing healthy food, we can also expect to reduce the State’s cost for health services.  But the State can also create money, especially when money is just digital credit.

But let’s ignore that aspect and make the case that  food provided by the State could be more efficient (or cheaper) than when provide by the market. There is no longer the need for marketing, and we have the technology for global management for scale efficiencies.

State planning did not work well for production or distribution of food in the Soviet Union. The difference is that through the use of smartphones and computers, we can have a system that is driven by community needs; not directed by bureaucrats. A system that encourages local food growing, by rewarding productivity.  A system run using science and technology to efficiently.  Such a system can provide food cheaper than the market, while meeting individual preferences, and improving health. So, it makes sense to pay more taxes and get free food.  We do that for health and education; why not the other human needs?  If we can do this more efficiently through the State than the market.

Our story: 20. Foundation vision

Public health was born in antiquity (or even earlier). Modern public health emerged in the 19th century and transformed society. Separation of sewage (shit/crap/poo) from drinking water; vaccines; and more recently antibiotics and modern medicine mean that humans live more than double our biological expectations.

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Our story: 19. Step to the vision

Here is one possible path to the future vision that I outlined in #17. The vision is of a new world, new laws, a new social contract between people and government.  I tended to anarchy until I read Tom Paine’s Common Sense. Published in 1776, its first page explains that “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil”. Necessary because there are always a few cheats and rogues who need to be controlled for the common good.  Government is made necessary “by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.”

The problem, as Paine explains is tyranny; when government no longer serves the common good, but specific interests. His pamphlet inspired the US Declaration of Independence, and the effort to establish new form of government: democracy.

Updated, the declaration might state: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all life is created equal, that the power we have as humans comes with responsibilities and duties. That government is established only to guarantee all peoples their Rights. Chief among these Rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, how do we establish a new form of Government, a new social contract between individuals and Government? If you believe in democracy, you will think it is up to the people to decide. But democracy offers limited options; all you get is a vote every few years.  And all you can vote for is who will represent you in government, not the nature of government itself.

Can we, the People, decide that we want a new social contract? If we can reach a collective agreement, why not?  For one, there are many powerful interests who do not want change, that means possibly or definitely losing power. Even those who are just ‘doing well’ are afraid of change; and those at the bottom of society have to spend all their efforts on survival, and cannot invest in change.

So, how do we get change.  Actually, change is inevitable. Human society, just as all animals, are constantly evolving. It usually happens on a different time scale, with rapid change once a threshold is reached. Like the French Revolution in 1789, or the Russian one in 1917, or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Or the world wars; did you know that we just started the fourth world war? The third was the cold war that ended with the end of the Soviet Union.  The fourth is a cyber-war, implemented by fixing elections and drones, but with traditional aims of control and power.

I think that the new world order will emerge more peacefully; at least I hope it will. It requires the death of nations, just as we needed the death of God for science to progress. We now have a global infrastructure that connects every person in the world to every other.  We just need to decide on the new social order.

I am sceptical if that is the first step or the last step.  Or if we will take that path, and not continue on the path of self-destruction.  But this is a key step in my mind: global democracy.  A global infrastructure that provides health, education and other services to every child born into this world, as well as a system of global governance, while enabling local community decisions on how to use public resources.  Join me…

Tired

It’s late and I’m tired.  I committed to write every day, but don’t have the 30 minutes left at the end of my day. I try not to leave it to the end of my day.  I could have written while I was waiting for my plane, sipping the cappuccino in the lounge.  I can’t remember what I did instead.  The time passed.  But I would only have got about 15 minutes before it was time to board.

On the plane, I got caught up in my book.  I am reading Don Quixote and was enjoying it too much while on the short flight to Napier to get my laptop out.  Work was busy, mumps, pertussis and two cases of paratyphoid.  Typhoid and its relative paratyphoid are not usually found in New Zealand, and generally acquired overseas.  Neither of our two cases had travelled; nor did they have any common exposures.  Finding the source will be tricky, and perhaps less important than making sure that it does not spread.  Then there is the outbreak of an undefined nature that we are investigating.  I don’t have to do any of this work, but provide the oversight and guidance for the public health unit.  Always challenging, balancing public health with intrusions we make on individuals who happen to have become infected or exposed  – the cases and contacts that we manage to prevent disease spread.

And after work, I joined a small group that was reviewing how we can do better to meet the health needs of those who don’t do so well.  In this case, the focus on a Pasifika child with asthma who presents to hospital.  It is good that I don’t need to mention housing and the other social determinants of disease.  Everybody understands this, and that we don’t do enough prevention.  The meeting was in neighbouring Hastings, so I di not get home till after 10pm.  And now I am tired.  Good-night.

Our story: 18. Loss

I just wanted to note the loss of the last two days.  I was going to make it three, but here you have me.

Loss comes with life.  If you are lucky, you lose less. But loss remains inevitable. Is loss a failure?  Or the foundation for success?   In the end, you decide what it is.  By the story you tell yourself about the loss.

So, in our story, I had got to my vision, as the culmination of our history.  How we emerged to cover this planet.  And are now ready to act as one, all 7+ billion of us.  And got stuck at how to explain the steps from here to there.

The laws of biology are more flexible than those of physics, yet must operate by them.  All matter is governed by the universal laws of physics.  Chemistry describes the laws of physics at molecular level, or perhaps best thought as a dance of electrons between different  Biology, or life, uses chemistry as its basis.  And must always follow the laws of physics.  In our brain cells as much as in the stars from which we were born.

I have been meaning to say something about the different domains of human knowledge reflecting a single reality.  Physics, chemistry, biology were the three sciences I was taught at school.  Mathematics is not part of this triad, but is vital to them all.  Then you have the human sciences, such as anthropology, sociology and economics.  But are these  not built on biology?  It seems only recently has economics changed the assumption of human behaviour as rational to being beset with cognitive biases.

One of these insisted I produce this; just to keep myself on track to designing tomorrow.  Despite, or perhaps because of, its loss.