What if we’re all forced to be average?

[Note:  This item comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <Bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com>
Subject: What if we’re all forced to be average? notsp
Date: June 22, 2016 at 4:51:08 PM EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

Imagine if everyone is held to the letter of the law by a world of minders? Just with DRM what happens if we talk rules that works socially and remove human discretion? If meaning comes from context there is a major risk in all these efforts to enforce the letter of the law. One of the big advantages of the US has been our ability to reinvent ourselves.

The AI Dashcam App That Wants to Rate Every Driver in the World
By Mark Harris
Jun 15 2016

If you’ve been out on the streets of Silicon Valley or New York City in the past nine months, there’s a good chance that your bad driving habits have already been profiled by Nexar. This U.S.-Israeli startup is aiming to build what it calls “an air traffic control system” for driving, and has just raised an extra $10.5 million in venture capital financing.

Since Nexar launched its dashcam app last year, smartphones running it have captured, analyzed, and recorded over 5 million miles of driving in San Francisco, New York, and Tel Aviv. The company’s algorithms have now automatically profiled the driving behavior of over 7 million cars, including more than 45 percent of all registered vehicles in the Bay Area, and over 30 percent of those in Manhattan.

Using the smartphone’s camera, machine vision, and AI algorithms, Nexar recognizes the license plates of the vehicles around it, and tracks their location, velocity, and trajectory. If a car speeds past or performs an illegal maneuver like running a red light, that information is added to a profile in Nexar’s online database. When another Nexar user’s phone later detects the same vehicle, it can flash up a warning to give it a wide berth. (This feature will go live later this year.)

Lior Strahilevitz, a law professor at the University of Chicago, proposed a similar (if lower-tech) reputation system for drivers a decade ago. “I think it’s a creative and sensible way to help improve the driving experience,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of legal impediments in the United States to what Nexar is doing, nor should there be.” Eran Shir, Nexar’s co-founder, says, “If you’re driving next to me and you’re a dangerous driver, I want to know about it so I can be prepared.”

Nexar estimates that if 1 percent of drivers use the app daily, it would take just one month to profile 99 percent of a city’s vehicles. “We think that it’s a service to the community to know if you’re a crazy driver or not,” says Shir.

That community includes insurance companies, who Nexar suggests could save billions by cherry-picking only the best drivers to cover. Nexar has calculated that companies using its universal driving score could save $125 a year on each policy. Drivers benefit, too, from video and sensor footage stored in the cloud that they can use to support their side of the story following a collision.

Shir hopes that Nexar will also reduce traffic fatalities long before self-driving cars become mainstream. The app can highlight treacherous intersections, or detect a car braking sharply and send alerts to users several cars back or even around a corner. “This needs to be a real-time network,” says Shir. “We’ve optimized the way that cars communicate so that the latency is very low: about 100 to 150 milliseconds.”

Such targeted warnings require much more precise geolocation than that offered by normal GPS systems, which are typically accurate to within only 5 to 50 meters. Nexar’s app fuses data from multiple sensors in the smartphone. The accelerometer senses potholes and speed bumps, while the magnetometer (used for compass settings) detects when the car is travelling under power lines. “We use these, refreshed fifty times a second, to crowdsource features of the road and pinpoint where you are to within 2 meters,” says Shir. A side benefit is that the company has built detailed maps of road surface quality in its pilot cities.


Re: What if we’re all forced to be average?

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

From: “David S. H. Rosenthal” <dshr@abitare.org>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] What if we’re all forced to be average?
Date: June 30, 2016 at 5:22:36 PM EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

The AI Dashcam App That Wants to Rate Every Driver in the World


By Mark Harris


Jun 15 2016






The Antarctic ozone hole has finally started to ‘heal,’ scientists report

The Antarctic ozone hole has finally started to ‘heal,’ scientists report
By Chris Mooney
Jun 30 2016

In a major new paper in the influential journal Science, a team of researchers report strikingly good news about a thirty year old environmental problem. The Antarctic ozone “hole” — which, when it was first identified in the mid-1980s, focused public attention like few other pieces of environmental news — has begun, in their words, to finally “heal.”

“If you use the medical analogy, first the patient was getting worse and worse, and then the patient is stabilized, and now, the really encouraging thing, is that the patient is really starting to get better,” said MIT atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon, lead author of the study, and former co-chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And moreover, that patient — the Earth’s vital ozone layer — is getting better directly because of our choices and policies.

The initial, Nobel Prize winning discovery that ozone depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) carried in refrigerants, spray cans, foams and other substances could damage the stratospheric layer that protects us from ultraviolet solar radiation (and thus, skin cancer) came in 1974. But it wasn’t until the sudden discovery of a vast seasonal ozone “hole” over Antarctica in 1985 that the world was shocked into action.

The so-called “hole” represents a region of the stratosphere over Antarctica, between about 10 and 25 kilometers in altitude, where “the ozone gets destroyed completely,” explains Solomon, who conducted the new research with scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Leeds in the UK. However, some ozone remains above and below this region, amounting to a 40 or 50 percent loss of atmospheric ozone overall in a very large area of air.

Ozone has been depleted in the stratosphere all across the globe, to be sure. But Antarctica in the spring (which is autumn in the northern hemisphere) presents uniquely conducive conditions for it to happen, as extremely cold polar stratospheric clouds provide a surface that enables the chemical reactions in which destructive forms of chlorine are created.

Discovery of the “hole” galvanized action and in 1987, the Montreal Protocol, which is still today hailed as the epitome of a successful environmental agreement, led to a phase out of the use of ozone depleting chemicals. Here was a case that now appears so very different from the story of climate change, because everything basically functioned like it was supposed to — scientists identified a problem, the public grew concerned, and politicians acted to solve it.

“You have to put yourself back in the time when the ozone hole was discovered,” remembers Solomon, who has been studying the issue for over three decades. “We thought we were going to see a few percent change in the ozone layer in a century. And then all of a sudden, boom, we’ve got half as much ozone in a part of the world where nobody ever expected it, already happening in 1986. It became a tremendous hot environmental crisis as a result of that.”

Ever since the Montreal Protocol’s adoption, then, it has been a process of waiting for ozone depletion in the atmosphere to slow down, then for decline to cease entirely, and then finally, seeing the ozone layer turn the corner and begin to grow back. And it is this last observation that is finally here for the Antarctic ozone hole in particular, the new study asserts.


Who got rich off the student debt crisis

Who got rich off the student debt crisis
42 million people owe $1.3 trillion in student debt.
It’s a profit center for Wall Street and the government. Here’s how we got into this mess.
By James B. Steele and Lance Williams
Jun 28 2016

A generation ago, Congress privatized a student loan program intended to give more Americans access to higher education.

In its place, lawmakers created another profit center for Wall Street and a system of college finance that has fed the nation’s cycle of inequality. Step by step, Congress has enacted one law after another to make student debt the worst kind of debt for Americans – and the best kind for banks and debt collectors.

Today, just about everyone involved in the student loan industry makes money off students – the banks, private investors, even the federal government.

Jessie Suren is an energetic 28-year-old who wanted a career in law enforcement. Albert Lord is a 70-year-old former accountant who became a multimillionaire executive. The two have never met, but their stories tell the history of America’s student debt crisis.

Suren attended a free boarding school for underprivileged youth in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and enrolled in La Salle University in Philadelphia. Scholarships didn’t cover the cost of the private college, so she borrowed about $71,000, much of it from Sallie Mae, the financial giant of the student loan industry.

Suren did well in school. But a job with the U.S. Marshals Service fell through, and by graduation in 2010, she had a soaring loan balance and no career prospects.

In the years since then, Suren has scrambled to keep current on her loans, sometimes working 16 hours a day at two low-paying jobs. Her finances are incredibly tight, and she has made no headway on her loans. Today, her balance tops $90,000.

“My loans are a black cloud hanging over me,” she said. “I’m a student debt slave.”

For Lord, student loans have been the road to riches. He was the CEO who built Sallie Mae into a financial colossus through fees, interest and commissions on billions of dollars of federally guaranteed student loans. For delivering handsome profits to investors, Lord received pay and stock worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

His success made him one of the highest-paid executives in Washington, gave him entrée into an elite circle of power brokers and won him a seat on the board of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. With his wealth, he started a private equity company and built his own golf course, Anne Arundell Mannor, near the Chesapeake Bay. After a 30-year career at the forefront of the student loan industry, Lord retired in 2013 and now shuttles between houses in Naples, Florida, and Annapolis, Maryland.

Almost every American knows someone like Suren, an adult burdened by a student loan. Fewer know that growing alongside the legions of indebted students is a formidable private industry that has been enriched by student debt.

Decades ago, the federal government relinquished direct control of the student loan program, opening its bank to corporations concerned with profits, not diplomas. Private equity companies and Wall Street banks seized on the flow of federal loan dollars by peddling loans that students sometimes could not afford and then collecting fees from the government to hound those students when they defaulted.

Once in place, the privatized student loan industry has succeeded largely in preserving its status in Washington. Student loans are virtually the only consumer debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy except in the rarest of cases – one of the industry’s greatest lobbying triumphs.

At the same time, societal changes conspired to drive up the basic need for these loans: Middle-class incomes stagnated, college costs soared and states retreated from their historical investment in public universities.


Re: FEMA Contractor: Unrest After 395% Food Price Spike Coming Soon

[Note:  This comment comes from reader Randall Head.  DLH]

From: rvh40@insightbb.com
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] FEMA Contractor: Unrest After 395% Food Price Spike Coming Soon
Date: June 29, 2016 at 6:49:47 PM EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

So FEMA is studying response a food supply disruption.  They’d damned well better be.  They’ve also studied response to EMP or something else taking out the electric grid — recall the solar flare that took out much of Canada’s grid a few years back.

The food supply system is particularly vulnerable to disruption because some B-School geniuses decided we should base our food supply on Just-In-Time Delivery systems.   While this reduces warehouse costs and it ensures that we have perishable produce in our supermarkets year-round — what happens if it breaks down?

Say we have a breakdown in the diesel distribution system.   How long will Wal*Mart have food on the shelves?

FEMA Contractor: Unrest After 395% Food Price Spike Coming Soon


By Claire Bernish


Jun 28 2016






Palantir Buyback Plan Shows Need for New Silicon Valley Pay System

Palantir Buyback Plan Shows Need for New Silicon Valley Pay System
Jun 28 2016

Palantir Technologies’ $225 million offer to repurchase its employees’ privately held shares hints that Silicon Valley is starting to make some fundamental changes in the way it compensates its workers.

Palantir, a data analytics firm, is one of the largest start-ups around, with a valuation reaching more than $20 billion last year. It is offering $7.40 a share to buy back up to 12.5 percent of an employee’s shares (and in some cases, those of former employees), or $500,000 worth of shares, whichever is lower.

The offer has some interesting characteristics, to say the least. Palantir’s worth, measured by the price at which its stock trades in the private share market, has been deflated. The price Palantir is offering is above the private market price and the value assigned to the stock by some prominent mutual funds.

A critical story by Buzzfeed last month reported that the company was struggling to keep employees and collect on bookings. With the negative news and the general decline in valuations, there is a sentiment that Palantir is no longer the $20 billion behemoth it once was. Morgan Stanley recently marked down the value of Palantir’s shares to $5.92 each from a high of over $11. No one knows if this valuation is right, by the way, because prices in the private market are largely guesses.

Palantir’s offer, though, is at least a cheap way to tell the market that Palantir thinks it is still worth a lot.

The repurchase comes with conditions, as Buzzfeed reported earlier. Palantir is requiring that current and former employees who sell their shares agree that they will not compete with Palantir for 12 months or solicit any Palantir employees during that time. It also makes them agree to a nondisclosure arrangement that forbids them from even talking about the repurchase and waive any claims they might have against the company. And the offer extends to some but not all former employees.

Palantir has said the offer is intended to increase the morale of employees by offering them “liquidity.” Some employees have been with the company since its founding 11 years ago and are still waiting for that pinnacle event in the life of a hot tech start-up: the initial public offering of stock.

Unlike them, the former employees can already sell their shares in the private market. They might take this offer because it is a higher amount. Palantir’s motives for including them in the buyback are unclear. Palantir gets all of the benefits of the nondisclosure and other agreements, but any employee who takes the offer is not likely to be doing those things anyway. Perhaps Palantir is doing this out of the goodness of its heart.

Whatever the reason, Palantir’s offer comes at a time of great debate in Silicon Valley over employee compensation. Traditionally, workers received options on a four-year vesting schedule. When they left a company, they would have 90 days to exercise those options or forfeit them.

In earlier times, this was not much of a problem because companies backed by venture capital went public rather quickly, in some cases before employee shares even vested. But now, the average venture-backed company waits about eight years to go public, creating a headache for employees.


What the 1880s tell us about why the rich are moving to cities today

What the 1880s tell us about why the rich are moving to cities today
By Emily Badger
Jun 29 2016

Wealthy, college-educated residents with the budget to bid up home prices are increasingly turning up in the center of major American cities, driving a generation-long shift in demand for downtown living.

The trend is notable for what preceded it: For decades, until about 1990, people with options largely dodged city centers. But if you look much further back in history, an interesting pattern emerges. More than a century ago, before the rise of electric streetcars, the Model T and modern suburbs, the rich lived in the hearts of cities and the working class farther out.

We are, perhaps, returning to that old pattern. Or, to think of history another way: What made downtowns desirable to the rich more than a century ago may help explain what makes them appealing to this same group again today.

“Obviously 2016 is very different from 1880,” says Jeffrey Lin, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. “[Most] people don’t walk to work anymore, and we have all these dramatic changes in technology. So it’s probably not the case that the same factors that initially attracted high-income or high-status status people to downtowns are relevant for the exact same reasons today.”

But, he suggests, some important underlying conditions remain. Downtowns — many built before the automobile — are inherently easy to get around on foot and by transit, for people who may be tired of commuting today. They were originally designed with parks and amenities like Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, surrounded by the stately buildings that today house hotels, shops and restaurants. Many were built on waterways essential 150 years ago for industry that today make for great repurposed parks. And they are by definition dense, making them the kind of places where it’s possible to live and bar-hop and work nearby (as today’s high-end apartment listings boast).

Close-in locations were the most coveted in 1880 when getting around was a pain on horse-drawn railways, says urban historian Carl Abbott, and so people with the most money claimed them. That is not so different from the market today where the wealthy can afford to buy the kind of housing that allows them to walk to jobs downtown, and where poverty is increasingly moving to the suburbs.

This chart from Lin’s research, which he presented at a recent symposium on gentrification at the Philly Fed, shows that well-off residents lived the closest to the center of American cities back in 1880 (the orange circles at the upper left). The farther from the city center, the lower the socioeconomic status of neighborhoods. In more recent census data over the past 50 years, the opposite trend line has been true: