Wisdom of (Select) Crowds

TSIS is designed to enable lots of people to work together to solve big problems. As such it needs to optimally employ the knowledge and opinions of lots of people, who are not experts.

For a good summary of what works best, and demonstrating that this is an excellent approach, see the “Wisdom of Crowds” by Jame Surowiecki:
• Similar writing to Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis
• Anecdotal explanations of solid scientific findings
• Should be called the “Wisdom of Wisely Constructed Groups”.

Intuitions fail us when it comes to making decisions for groups of people:
• Chasing experts is a costly mistake (p XV).
• Uniformity and consensus works against smart decisions (many examples).

Gurus fail often because it is very hard to identify true gurus. With enough experts, some will simply have lucky track records, and self styled experts consistently overestimate how often they are right (p35). Meanwhile there are lots of stories in the book of how groups of experts go wrong with consensus and groupthink, or herding (socially safe but suboptimal choices), p49.

What works far better is (1) diversity, (2) independence, and (3) aggregation of opinions:
1. Diversity = individuals with different backgrounds and information
2. Independence = each contributor to work and act as independently as possible (pXX), without being nullified by consensus or groupthink (p40-onward).
3. Aggregation = combine opinions after formulating them, rather than seeking consensus, either incrementally along the way (e.g. SARS) or finally at the end (most cases).

The Google search “pagerank algorithm” works on this basis, treating the diverse universe of independent web pages as votes for the other web pages that they reference, after these are themselves weighted. (p16) Google quickly became the top search engine for this reason.

“With most things, the average is mediocrity. With decision making, it’s often excellence. … You could say it’s almost as if we’ve been programmed to be collectively smart.” (p11) However there are necessary ingredients. For instance, it is critical to consider lots of “loser” ideas before making the wisest pick. “Sometimes the messiest approach is the wisest.” (p29)

Diversity is critical to adding new information. Education can often make experts think alike, leading to “too much exploiting and not enough exploring” different alternatives (p31). Even if gurus exist, it is frequently improbable to identify them (p35). The argument is for diversity. “Smart people will not lead you astray, but finding the smartest person will” (p36).

Independence does not mean isolation, but relative freedom to pursue one’s own opinion (p41).

Aggregation systems are critical to combine independent opinions (p74-5). One thing to avoid is sequential aggregation, where people may think that those before them must have more knowledge so they just follow along. This can create an information cascade, or “fad”, but fortunately people naturally learn to avoid this for their most important decisions (p63).

Wisdom of Crowds in the TSIS Project

The TSIS design encompasses all these considerations, such as the subsystems for information sharing, delegation, and activism. They are core assumptions, embedded in design choices.

Chapters 5 offers solid evidence that people can naturally organize themselves to solve problems without top down control. We only need to provide systems to enable this to happen. There are several warnings, but the gist is very positive.

Chapter 7 emphasizes the importance of accountability and trust, especially p115-123, which is addressed by the accountability of identity validation, and reputation communities.

TSIS is designed to accommodate norms and conventions arising to make things work more smoothly over time (p97-100), especially with the accountability that TSIS envisions. In the worst case, that norms can be gently imposed with small tweaks to the design down the road.

TSIS might beneficially add “decision markets” (p19-21), for aggregating opinions and votes. “The most mystifying thing … is how little interest corporate America shows for them.” (p21). What’s not obvious is how to motivate people to participate, while minimizing bluffing to sway outcomes.

The “Wisdom of Crowds” is a resounding case for designs like TSIS to make the most of large numbers of people to solve big problems together!

Focus Contagion

FThere’s a powerful effect that surely has a name, so please tell me if you know! Related terms include “gaze following”, “joint attention”, “information cascades” (fads), and “social proof” (see comments below) … but maybe it could be called the Hitler Effect. 🙂

The obvious aspect is that people assume that whatever a lot of other people are looking at is worthy of their attention.

What isn’t obvious is that the effect is nonlinear, in my opinion. In some sense it is cubic (power of 3), meaning that it could be very powerful.

In particular, if we perceive the other people as closely resembling ourselves (w1), and if they appear to express great interest (w2), and if our first impression is positive (w3), most of us are generally willing to spend an inordinately large amount of time and effort following the topic.

The topic might be another stupid thing Donald Trump said, or some pointless quirky murder in the news, it doesn’t matter, people will invest great amounts of time if they think many similar others are passionately doing the same thing, and you haven’t decided beforehand that it is ridiculous.

To get mathematical, the value (V) that you as typical person are likely assign to a topic (T), based on others’ perceived attention, seems to be something like:
V(T) = sum of (m * w1 * w2 * w3) over all others, where:
m = number of people, or subjective size of a organization
w1 = perceived closeness or similarity of the other person(s)
w2 = perceived value expressed by the other person(s)
w3 = initial perceived value to you

The w factors are probabilistic weights ranging from +100% (max positive) to 0% (neutral) to -100% (max negative), allowing for negative results.

w1 represents closeness or similarity of other person(s):
o Someone close or similar to you could have a w1 = 100%. 
o Someone you hate could have w1 = -100%. 
o Somebody that you know nothing about has w1 = 0%.

w2 represents the value that the other person(s) express:
o A strong positive valuation would have a w2 = 100%. 
o A strong negative valuation would have a w2 = -100%. 
o Somebody that you know nothing about has w1 = 0%.

w3 represents the value you initially perceive in the topic, independent of others paying attention (parallel with w2). Thus -100% means you previously thought the topic is a total waste of time, 0% means decidedly not caring, and +100% is very important to you.

Most people will come to a completely new topic they see in the news with a low but nonzero w3, so the first two weights (w1 and w2) should usually have the strongest effect.

This means that if we perceive a lot of people (m) to be passionate about a topic, we’ll follow it, whether we know it to be worthy of the time or not. And because we generally read or watch news in private, we are very easily influenced by what the news tells us about other people in the audience.

If you look for it, you’ll often see Canadians told what Canadians are excited or concerned about, investors told what investors think, and liberals told what liberals think. Supposed experts are often interviewed to tell us what we think, or individuals “on the street” are selectively interviewed to reinforce a point that supposedly comes from us, most often expressing an intense opinion. This process is relentless.

This theory supports the observations of Gustave Le Bon, about crowds submerging into one, and opinions becoming contagious, turning the crowd into a mob. Other such theories likewise match, but none seem to pick out these factors.

References:
“Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki
https://wisdomofcrowds.blogspot.com
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25125428
https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13414-017-1303-z

The Suffering Herd Effect

Ever wonder why people ignore so many big issues, like enormous waste (e.g. $21 trillion gone missing in the US federal government, equal to the accumulated debt so far).

My theory is that our ever higher level of fear and suffering causes the herd (us people) to tune out and quietly accept problems. If everybody around us is suffering, we just have to get through it, rather than rip each others throats out. More suffering means more letting go. Tada? So maybe evolution instructs us to hunker down and wait for a change in environment, la de da.

As you may know from my post about increasing fear since the 1960s, I firmly believe (as does Noam Chomski) that the BIG money is purposely squeezing the middle class, and moreover maintains a high fear level on purpose, via media, war, scares, etc. The more afraid and overwhelmed and isolated we feel, the less likely we are to protest and realize the power of numbers. If you’re afraid for yourself, you’re not concerned about esoteric rights or about elites slowly twisting democracy, as much as keeping a job and feeding your children. Something like 50% of Canadians are $200 from insolvency.

I’ve watched kids to see why they are so much happier than the rest of us. Before adolescence, I think they assume by default that somebody is taking care of things (womb delusion, an earlier article) and the world is safe. Safety frees them to be happy.

The theory says that this sense of safety is what kids lose as they become adults today. They are habitually worried, and strapped for options. I often see adults rush by on the verge of panic to get somewhere, as I walk around downtown on weekdays. Today I literally had a game of chicken with a sidewalk plow at 25km/hour. He’s gotta move to survive. Uber drivers earn $8-12/hour, according to their own website. More and more people are being crushed out of the middle class into this hell.

The TSIS solution is to make BIG money transparent, which is the goal of the last of the 7 TSIS subsystems.

The BIG money often think they’re victims (I’ve read, heard, and seen it first hand). They may not see that they are victims of each other, first, and that limited transparency can make them safer and happier. Even so, I can’t see them willingly welcoming the TSIS solution. There will be a fight! That’s why it comes last.

Whose your delegate?

It’s almost astonishing that most of us have nothing like a TSIS delegate on most topics.  In TSIS, a delegate is someone you chose to filter news and express your interests, for a particular topic.

How many topics concern you? If you’re typical, there are hundreds that might, but you sure don’t have time to follow all of them, and you certainly don’t have time to get involved.

Consider just education. Who decides where money is added or subtracted? How are curriculums decided, and are they preparing kids to cope with the world? What about sex education? Religion? What about the useless math courses? Home schooling? National standards? Homework? Streaming? Flunking and remediation? Economic inequality? And so on.

Multiply that list by the number of other topics that concern you, like medicine, social services, urban planning, wars, tariffs, investment, and everything else. It probably comes out to hundreds of topics.

How well can you follow them all? According to the FCC (link), the average American spends 70 minutes a day taking in news, half of which is TV news. How well does this cover it? Do you have time to dig in, consider the history, really understand the latest news, and express an opinion or take action?

TSIS delegates are an easy solution. Rather than trying to follow everything and act on it yourself, you pick somebody that you trust to make a better decision than you can, for the topics that concern you.

In TSIS, individuals will declare that they are willing to act as a proxy on specific topic(s), and everyone else simply picks the person that best represents them. This will happen a few different ways:
• bottom up, delegating to someone you know, or a friend of a friend, who you think will have at least slightly better knowledge and decisions, or time and energy, for a given topic.
• top down, delegating to feed providers (which have already stepped forward in a leadership capacity to control a feed)
• redelegation, proxies can delegate support onward to someone that they think is even better. Note that this will create natural leadership hierarchies, which may be extremely useful on topics involving a large number of supporters.

Delegates (and redelegates) will then act in accordance with the delegation permissions (a checklist), within a specific topic:
• filter and select information to pass back to their supporters,
• express opinions and vote on behalf of supporters, and
• take part in activism on their behalf.
Thus someone who becomes a delegate can act with the force of many supporters, while freeing them to focus their attention somewhere more useful. Their supporters can examine the delegate’s activity, they can adjust delegation permissions, and change delegates at any time if they disagree.

Big banks and big corporations have the sharpest lawyers and lobbyists on top of every regulation, law, policy, treaty, tarriff and tax cut that affects them. Until we have delegation capabilities, most of us are overwhelmed, flying blind, and outgunned even if we do take action.

The Womb Delusion

There’s a delusion so prevalent that it’s considered perfectly normal.  It’s the implicit assumption that somebody “out there” will take care of us.  I don’t know a name for it so I call it the womb delusion, because that’s the purest form.

We actually depend on this delusion in the womb.  We can only assume that someone “out there” will take care of us.  There’s nothing we can do about it, in the womb.  This is the necessary disposition in which we begin life, before ever encountering another human being.

As children, we experience more of same.  We don’t live in an actual womb, but there’s little difference. Parents tend to provide the necessities and shield their children from bad things, so that they don’t have to worry about them.  Depending on the culture and environment, this goes on for 8 to 28 years old. Today we let kids maintain the delusion longer and longer, partly because they need it in this world.

The womb delusion takes the pressure off, and let’s us develop without developing anxiety disorders, and that’s a good thing.   Given the necessity of the delusion, it should be no surprise that it’s automatic, presumably bred into us through evolution.

Some people retain the delusion well into adulthood, if they can, such as if they have a guarantee of employment or significant entitlements, which shelter them from outside forces.

This brings up the chief/supporter division.  Humans generally evolved in tribes of around 300 people, according to some experts.  In such a tribe, there would have been one chief, or only a few, and the rest of the tribe had to be followers.  This was necessary to function.  If everyone strove to be a chief, the tribe would tend to break down and become vulnerable to attack, and competition might get deadly.  The vast majority of people simply had to acquiesce to the chief(s), and it seems evolution took account of these odds by wiring us to fall in line, unless there was a strong enough reason not to.

As it happens, most people do seem willing to let chosen leaders act without opposition, or oversight, even knuckling under to bad leaders over long periods of time.  This seems similar to a womb delusion, where we tend to assume that our leaders will take care of us, despite any concerns that they may not.   Children have a much the same relationship with their parents,  so it seems reasonably accurate to use the same term for both.  A definition for  “responsible leader delusion” would be almost identical.

Why is this important to TSIS?  A critical goal of the project is to make it much easier to overcome the womb delusion when there is nobody “out there”, or if they’re there, but doing a particularly bad job.  Without information integrity, we can’t even know that much about our leaders.  TSIS solves this, and all the other problems involved in organizing, taking action, and getting our democracies working again.

It’s just a website, but I believe it’s the right website, and the alternative seems to be nothing at all.

TSIS Ratings System

The TSIS rating system is intended to optimize the value of the information in the system.

TSIS will make all information subject to a “value” rating, along with flags for disinformation or conflicts of interest, and so on.   This applies both to original information and to critiques of that information, and any further derivative.

The TSIS rating system will optimize value in two ways.  First, it will recognize (and eventually reward) great information, and the users that provide it.  Second, it will guide other users to find the best information for their purposes.

The first goal of value ratings is to provide an incentive for providing great information.   Gaining an audience will require good ratings, which will require genuine effort (or great talent). If you have great information with high value to a lot of users, you will stand to benefit accordingly.  If you have crappy ratings you may as well not publish.

The second goal complements the first, namely to guide users to the information that they find most valuable.  In particular, users ideally want to know the value rating that they themselves would apply if they read each item.  This is a prediction problem.

TSIS  will permit users to control how ratings are used for them, to filter and rank the information they are presented with.  It’s in their interests to pick the best value prediction method(s), so it makes sense for them to make that choice.

TSIS will offer several choices, because there is no one optimal approach, and will allow mixing choices.

  • One choice will be to let the system learn or tweak the user’s interests based on their actual ratings, using (something like) back propagation neural network learning.
  • One choice will be to select one of several predefined ways of aggregating ratings.
  • For example, TSIS should be able to select which other users or user attributes make better predictions for a user.
  • For example, research shows that those best able to predict the ratings of others are much more reliable predictors of information versus disinformation.

TSIS will continuously research and improve on these smarts.

Although some people may prefer to operate in echo chambers of their own ideas, and they’ll only want to consider ratings of people who belong to their tribe/ideology/religion.  We can’t help that, but many of us will be interested in algorithms that predict which information disagrees with us that we will nonetheless find the most valuable.  The dream is to make it so easy to find valuable information that crosses tribal lines, that people will be tempted to explore.

Can Technology Rescue Democracy?

This essay will argue that ordinary web technology can solve the most critical social problems that stand in the way of a better world, including fake news and democratic (in)accountability.  The argument is that the underlying problems are really information and incentive problems that systems can solve.

TSIS is used to demonstrate this in concrete terms.  The point is not that TSIS is correct or complete, but to legitimize a conversation about solutions.   If we see solutions as feasible, we can move the conversation from problems and perils to making things better.  Probably much better.

A web solution will not work in every context, but it should work in first and second world countries with good internet access, and especially in democracies.  That can be a huge improvement, and other countries may also benefit if we rebalance power in the countries where oppression often originates.

Change Model

The goal is to mitigate or eliminate problems standing in the way of a better world.  This requires a model for the change process, to identify the problems at each stage.  It must begin with individual integrity and accountability, because nothing else can work without that, and will generally end at democratic accountability to get things done.

The following model is layered, with each layer supporting the layers above it, beginning with individual accountability and integrity at the bottom:

Democratic Accountability

is required when change requires legislation or regulation

Collective Activism

is required for grassroots change and/or democratic accountability

Leadership/Delegation

is required for effective coordinated activism

Optimal Information (and integrity)

is required for good decisions, and good leadership and activism

Individual Accountability (and integrity)

is required for information integrity

Figure 1: Change Model

We will step through this model top down, from democratic accountability to individual accountability, examining the problems at each stage.  As we shall see, all of them appear to be issues of either:

  • (A) information, and/or
  • (B) incentives,

both of which are inherently amenable to technical resolution.

Democratic Accountability

Beginning at the top layer, democratic accountability requires several things:

  • voters must be informed about the relevant issues (A), see Optimal Information below
  • voters must be informed about their representatives’ actions and plans (A),
  • voter opinions must be aggregated and reaily communicated to both voters and representatives (A)
  • representatives must be motivated to respond to voter opinions(B): this is solved if voters are more aware of representative’s choices, and the representative wants to keep their job
  • voters must be motivated to take a more active part in representative accountability (B): this is solved or at least mitigated if voters are much more effective

In many democracies, voters typically get 1 vote every 4 years, on all topics at once, with little effective tracking and feedback.  In between, representatives are often more answerable to the party leader than constintuent interests.  This results in relative apathy.  In contrast, in more direct democracy such as in Switzerland, voters tend to be highly involved.   It seems relatively easy to create web systems that deliver much much higher involvement between elections, by making opinions matter.

Everything in this list is directly amenable to technology.  As we shall see, TSIS demonstrates a concrete example of how this could work.

Collective Activism

Democratic accountability will be valuable if it is driven by democratic interests.   When the interests of voters diverge with those of governing representatives, activism may be required to realign them.  Effective activism requires several things:

  • voters must be informed about relevant issues (A)
  • individuals must be able to advertise a cause, and assemble voters that share the same interest (A); note the discussion of leadership/delegation below.
  • this assembly must be able to share ideas and proposals, find commonality, and focus their numbers on solutions (A)
  • this assembly must be able to organize, plan, raise funds as necessary, communicate, and lead itself effectively (A)
  • activism must integrate with democratic accountability above, since the result of activism may be changes to regulation or legislation (A)

Everything in this list is again amenable to technology to bring people together and help them agree on common interests and actions, and take action together in large numbers.

Leadership/Delegation

Leadership is important at many levels of society, not just in our elected representatives in government.  We all face the same problems, and we need leadership to face them effectively together.  For example:

  • Activism requires leadership, closer to problems than most of us can afford to get. If 1,000 people join a cause, they cannot all lead in 1,000 different directions.
  • Democratic accountability also requires leadership to put pressure on representatives. Critics won’t have much effect without a supportive audience of voters.
  • Optimal Information requires leadership to guide a readership on the topics at hand. Everybody can’t read everything for themselves, we need to depend on others to filter and select the best.

And so on.

The right leadership for any topic usually isn’t our elected representative(s), because they can’t deal effectively with everything from banking regulation to senior health care to organized crime to traffic planning.  There’s just too much.  In fact, we seem to have a huge unrecognized leadership gap today.  In a world of billions of people, with thousands of concerns, everybody has to depend on others closer to their concerns to deal with them effectively.  We can’t all do it all.

Presumably most leadership should be democratic in nature , because we want a say as to who leads us, so we will assume some type of democratic process.  We also assume that people are likely to prefer different leadership for different topics, or sets of topics, so the granularity  of choice is by topic.  Finally, with large numbers of people, it’s not just about picking one person at the top who does everything.  People are very unlikely to directly know someone suitable for such a position anyway.

The TSIS approach to leadership discovery is called “proxy delegation”, in which willing individuals declare themselves as a proxy on topic(s), and everyone else picks the person that best represents them.  This is likely to happen in a few different ways, such as:

  • top down, delegating to your feed providers (see below), who have already stepped forward to lead information sharing on given topic(s).
  • bottom up, delegating to someone you know or a friend of a friend who you think will have at least slightly better knowledge and decisions or time and energy for a given topic.
  • redelegation, proxies can delegate support onward to someone that they think is even better. Note that this will create natural leadship hierarchies, which may be extremely useful on topics involving a large number of supporters.

For instance, I have very limited time and knowledge to deal with #education issues, from day care availability to technical schools, so I might delegate my voice and my vote on all #education topics to a friend whose judgment I trust, who has the time and care to make better decisions than me.  That person might then delegate their combined support to someone even better equipped.   That person becomes my “proxy” on the #health topic, and I’m become their  “supporter”, until I change my mind.  It will be quick and easy to examine my delegations, and review their votes or comments on my behalf.

TSIS would make delegations formal with a checklist allowing supporters to specify what powers they delegate to a proxy for given topic(s).  Supporters may delegate or not delegate each of the following:

  • to redelegate to other proxies (A),
  • to publish opinions or comments on behalf of supporters (A), either internally within the system or externally to the world
  • to vote on behalf of combined proxy support, such as to select plans of activism (A)
  • to communicate information back to supporters, and the level of granuality for communication (A),

And so on.   Thus, becoming a proxy will multiply an individual’s power, and those that are actively concerned and who earn the respect of enough people may become quite powerful indeed.

Note that very different groups of people may settle on different top-level proxies in such a system, but the common desire to have more of an impact should be a check on fragmentation.

Getting serious about delegation seems critical for democracy to work again.  Important decisions require more inquiry and more time than any of us can afford on every topic, and there can be no effective democracy without good  decisions.

To bring this back to information and incentives, we can see that delegation involves:

  • individuals must declare willingness to act as a proxy (A), to gain greater influence (B)
  • other individuals must delegate support to willing proxies (A)
  • proxies then communicate the voice of supporters both internally and externally (A)
  • proxies vote with their combined support on issues (A)
  • proxies communicate critical information back to supporters (A)
  • individuals should be able to review actions by proxies on their behalf (A)

Once again, everything in this list is amenable to technology that can unify people as much as possible, under shared leadership to drive shared interests and actions.

Optimal Information

Good information is required for democratic accountability, activism, delegation, and every other decision or action on any topic.

Great information involves:

  • incentives designed so that the interests of information providers are aligned and determined by the interests of information consumers (B)
  • competition for incentives (B) to provide the most valuable and relevant information (A)
  • an open delivery platform (A) to eliminate barriers to entry (A,B)
  • accountability for every piece of information, no matter how small, traced to validated users (A)
  • value ratings, flags, and unhindered criticism of published items (A) to minimize disinformation and maximize information (B)

All this is quite readily amenable to technology.

Identity Validation

The integrity of information is critical for the integrity of decisions based on that information, such as decisions about activism or delegation or democratic accountability. The integrity of information is in turn critically dependent on the integrity of the source of the information. There can be no integrity of information without integrity of sources!

In TSIS, every piece of information, no matter how small, will be traceable to a individual, and every piece of information (including ratings, flags, and criticism) will be subject to value ratings, flags, and criticism by other users.  This will ensure accountability and thus integrity, over time.

Ensuring the integrity of sources has these requirements:

  1. identify sources reliably, and
  2. hold sources accountable for misinformation, and
  3. catch and prevent serial offenders from ever being allowed to participate

Requirement #2 is also part of Optimal Information, discussed above, so we won’t cover it again. Requirements #1 and #3 are matters of identity validation, which is ensuring that sources are who they say they are.  This is critical to minimize spoofs and imposters who seek to mislead and deceive others, and ensure accountability for disinformation.

Identity validation is a straightforward matter of checks and analysis to ensure people are who they say they are, to detect probable spoofs and imposters, and to require further validations when it appears that an identity is questionable.  This can be based on relationships among identities, online activity, value ratings and flags published by each identity, and so on.

TSIS will use straightforward statistic modeling to detect questionable identities, and to derive an expected global trust level for each source.  Users can set thresholds for trust levels, to filter what information reaches them, to suit their tastes.  In TSIS, sources with higher trust levels should thus gain the attention of more people, so there is an incentive to be highly validated and trusted.

Note:  TSIS will insist that accountability accrues to individuals, not to corporations or to organizations;  a real person or group of persons must take responsibility or there is no real responsibility.

In terms of information and incentives, identity validation is straightforward:

  • statistical analysis can detect questionable identities and estimate global trust levels (A)
  • traceability and accountability of all information in the system (A) can ensure that the effects of disinformation accrue to the source and follow it (B)
  • more validations will result in higher trust levels (A)
  • high trust levels are required to reach the biggest audience to have the greatest impact (B)

Without going into details, it seems clear that technology can help with all of this.

Other Components

There are two other components in TSIS that have not been mentioned about, because they do not directly relate to democracy:

  • Relationship Communities – to share sensitive reputational information, and help people determine who they can trust.
  • Wealth Registries – to keep an eye on anti-democratic forces that seem to rule our world.

Without further explanation, these are obviously information and incentive problems, and will not be discussed in detail.

Conclusion

This essay demonstrates that web technology can mitigate many difficult problems, especially those that hamper democracy, such as fake news and lack of accountability.   This can work because such problems are primarily information and incentive problems,  amenable to technology tuned to human needs.

Wealth Registries:  Opposing Rule of Wealth Is Not Communism

I believe in an even playing field.  I don’t believe in egalitarianism.

Undue advantages compound.  Inequality leads to imbalances of wealth, power, and taxation.  Wealth usually breeds wealth, and power often breeds power, in a positive feedback loop.

If inequality compounds over time, it is prudent to ask how far we let it run.  We should know how far it has compounded already, and then consider constraints, like fairer taxation.  Communist equality is not the only alternative to unlimited wealth and power.

Wealth is not a scientific fact, it is a social convention, which has a cost, and which cannot exist without a supportive society to defend it and to defend itself with lives.

If wealth is used primarily to advance it’s interests at the expense of everyone else, then everyone else does not owe it defend their wealth.   But if wealth is used to advance society in balance with its own immediate interests, I’ll be the first to defend it.  I think we’re far from that.

The BIG money is hidden, behind layers of lawyers, trusts, offshore companies, and private corporations.  People we will never see are ruling our countries in secret.  I ask only to know the wealth that rules over me, and permit me to judge whether that rule is in my interest.

Media Manipulation or Deceiving You to Support TSIS

I just read “Trust me I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday, and wow, it’s the strongest argument possible for TSIS optimal information sharing.  It’s also a tutorial for manipulating the media and public opinion for exposure.  Because you have to.

Holiday explains exactly what’s wrong with the internet blog economy.  Content producers are paid by the click, so they’ll do anything to get you to click, and there’s no penalty for publishing garbage and lies.  In fact, there are huge incentives and no disincentives, assuming you’re willing to double down dirty when you get caught.

This is exactly what TSIS optimal information sharing is about.  It’s not just integrity (identity validation, traceback, ratings and criticism outside the control of the source).  It’s also about incentives aligned with the reader rather than the content producer, with rewards according to reader value ratings, including subsequent ratings of criticism and corrections.

Holiday explains that lies become truth by repetition as they spread, and even reputable news agencies get sucked in because they don’t have the time and money to check, and they can’t afford to wait and miss the hot news that brings readers back.

I hate to admit it, but Holiday convinced me to use a little something something from his catalog of manipulation strategies, because 20 minutes of boring videos may  not get the attention that TSIS needs to make a difference.  I’m not saying that we should baldly lie to the world, but we have to target what makes people click and watch and comment and get involved, like everybody else.  Or die.

Thanks to Matt Mainville for the best book recommendation ever!

the BIG Money strategy

TSIS proposes “wealth registries” to shed light on the strong antidemocratic forces that seem to rule our world.  It’s not anti-wealth, it’s anti-anti-democracy.

Arguably 2/3 of global wealth belongs to powerful people that we know little or nothing about, hidden behind layer upon layer of lawyers, trusts, offshore holdings, and private corporations.  It can have tremendous influence on government and media (especially if they own it), and it often has a different agenda than the rest of us.  We should keep an eye on these huge interests.  Their wealth is not possible without the stable societies we maintain and the borders we defend, sometimes with our lives.

Let me explain why this is so important for the stability and well-being of our world.  It’s the biggest financial story on earth, hiding in plain sight.

Few people realize that the 2008 debt crisis is not over.  In fact, it’s worse.  The “rescue” just hid the problem with endless free money, and money equates to debt in our perverse monetary system, dollar for dollar.  The debt “rescue” created a global dependence on zero interest rates, drawing people farther and farther into debt, such as to buy a home before prices get out of reach.  After a decade of free money, we have twice the global debt, according to McKinsey consulting, and far more than twice the instability.  How can you solve a debt problem with twice the debt?  The “rescue” also handed out $22 trillion to BIG money around the world, which they could lever up 10 to 200 times, and crush their competition and especially the middle class.   This has pulled  voters toward  political extremes, such as  Donald Trump for instance.  Dr Ben Hunt wrote a great article explaining how this came about.

Friends know that I  believe the 2008 debt crisis was planned for the benefit of BIG money.  You can laugh that I’m a conspiracy nut, but I nailed the 2008 debt crisis because of it.  That February, before a single thing hit the news, I saw a crisis coming plain as day, before even the US Fed supposedly did.   I moved all my wealth to the safest bank I could find, and invested so heavily in gold that my brokerage sent a warning letter about imprudent investment.  I was so scared because I could see it was *on purpose*.

When the crisis hit, I watched and became even more convinced that it was a setup to benefit BIG money, especially in the USA.  The crisis “justified” a decade of 0% interest rates, which mostly went to the BIG money that caused the problem.  In the US there was $5T in TARP and other “get out of jail free” rescues designed by bankers, plus $9T in Summers-Geitner, for a total bailout equal to the US Federal debt at the time, plus letting the big banks rewrite the banking rules to kill off 11,000 of the 15,000 midsize banks in the US … the list goes on and on. Nobody seems to know all this. Nobody understands Summers-Geitner, the biggest bailout of all time, which was so corrupt it’s unbelievable. It allowed banks to create a separate hedge fund with no assets, and buy their own toxic assets with US Treasury guarantees!  They got to pay themselves nearly full price for their shady debt, at taxpayer’s risk and expense.  Was there a recovery?  No.   I said there wouldn’t be, as did my favorite economists.  The money didn’t go to taxpayers to get the economy going, it went to the BIG money to buy more stuff, with leverage.   It is clear that they didn’t want a recovery, they wanted the money taps turned on hard and long for themselves.

Dr Hunt thinks that the instability has been caused by psychopathic politicians pursuing short term gains. I look at copious evidence, not just the 2008 rescue, and think it’s BIG money planning to subjugate national currencies and thus financial sovereignty and thus democracy.  Democracies have long since ceased being functional, this would simply make it more formal and irreversible.

BIG money has come at this from other angles too, like the TPP treaty, 85% of which was initially ‘investor rights’, to put BIG money ahead of sovereign governments (corporations could sue for any law that reduces profits). Similarly, Chomski’s “Requiem for The American Dream” explains 10 more such angles.  If you truly understand these things, and still think I’m a nutbar, I think you’re willfully blind.  Yes, opinions like mine have been associated with wild eyed gold bugs, and antisemitic canards, but I’m convinced that I’ve considered both sides of the equation.

I think we’re on the verge of trouble again, unless something changes.  Debt levels are higher than ever in history, and interest rates are crawling up.  The BIS reports that over 1/8 of public companies are “zombie corporations”, unable to cover their debt payments. What happens when the economy slows?

For Canadians

It’s funny being Canadian, because we think that we are above all this.  Unfortunately, our central bank and financial regulators fed us a lie in 2008, and we still haven’t noticed it.  It couldn’t be clearer.

* We were told Canadian banks needed no bailouts in 2008 because they were more prudent. There was actually a huge hidden $144 billion bailout, and an independent audit showed that 3 of the 5 big banks were under water in the crisis (bankrupt)!

* Canada may now have the 4th riskiest banking sector in the world, according to the Bank for International Settlement or BIS, sort of the central bank for central banks  (I can’t find the analysis on their site).

* Canada has the most dangerous housing sector in the world, according to the BIS, (see table 1).

* Nearly half of Canadians could not cope with a delay of one week’s pay.

Canadians think we’re squeaky clean, but we are a top global haven for hiding wealth and especially criminal proceeds, due to an extreme  lack of transparency and oversight.  It’s so prevalent in Canada that there’s a special name for it, “snow washing”:

I contacted the Bank of Canada to ask about their short term (crisis) plan and long term (solution) plan for a debt crisis. They said they were monitoring and modeling, which is to say that have no plans.  After insisting Canadians deserve to know there’s a plan instead of another “oops! a crisis?”, they said they would never answer my emails again.  As I say, I think BIG money runs central banks.