Why We Need Usable Open Source, Now More Than Ever

Here’s an excerpt from an article I just published on Medium:

"Design Fail"

I work on Android and iOs devices every single day. My company develops and tests continuously for both platforms. Android is an open system. iOs is a closed system. Both were developed by giant corporations of dubious moral authority. Both contain largely the same functionality.

People don’t choose the iPhone because it is “easier to use.” They certainly don’t choose it because the tech is better, it runs faster, or because (in 2016) more apps are available. They choose it because it looks gorgeous. Smooth, slim, and sleek. Like liquid silver money.

The iPhone will get you laid. It will get you a raise, or a promotion. It is everything that we in post-millennial America supposedly aspire to. The iPhone is cheaper than a Rolex, and smaller than a car. It looks bright and shiny as you are texting by the bar…

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Attention Based Currency and Universal Basic Income

Here are the slides from the talk I gave at BIEN 2016 this week at Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea: “UBI + ABC: Envisioning a Post-Work Economy”

Here is the paper published in the journal of BIEN 2016 proceedings, co-authored with Scott Little, Ph.D. Video and sound to be added soon.

ABC | UBI

Abstract: Attention Based Currency and Universal Basic Income

Cryptocurrencies from Ethereum to Bitcoin to UCoin have often been proposed as a decentralized, secure, and efficient way to deliver the benefits of Universal Basic Income (UBI) to a global community. Attention Based Currency (ABC) is a cryptocurrency generated by the interaction of Internet users with streaming media. Listening records are secure and encrypted, but the algorithm rewards listeners who seek out and share new content as “early adopters.” ABC is a market-based approach that can be used independently or in tandem with more traditional government-funded or philanthropic UBI programs.

Our economy is shifting from a model of extraction and industrial production to a post-capitalist system ordered by the weightless transfer of information. ABC’s application of blockchain distributed database technology to the consumption of content represents a new way to quantify this source of wealth in real time and reinvest it to achieve a more vibrant and dynamic global information culture.

Our paper presents analysis of the economic impact generated by two proposed pilot models:

■ ABC only
■ State-funded UBI only

We will then present a new hypothesis, ABC launched in partnership with a cryptocurrency-based UBI delivery system, that is driven by the results of this analysis as a viable option.

As jobs disappear and the price of online goods and services approaches zero, neither advertising revenue nor stock market speculation can sustain the global Internet economy indefinitely.  ABC protects users’ privacy, while providing direct rewards for their role in the information economy. Attention Based Currency, when deployed in combination with Universal Basic Income, holds the potential to create a sustainable, human-powered, information economy.

Authors

 

Tess Gadwa – CEO, Yes Exactly   |   Founder, Art Meets Code

Scott Little, Ph.D. – Theoretical Physicist, InSolves

Previous Whitepapers:

Support of a Non-Vanishing Value of ABC.” J. Scott Little, Ph.D.

 

Whose Robots?

Swiss-based robots for Basic IncomeTechnology was an omnipresent theme at BIEN 2016, and also the subject of debate. Profs. Inoue, Shinagawa, and Tsuzuki analyze the economic impact of artificial intelligence on employment. Guy Standing may argue that the movement does not need the specter of future job loss caused by automation, but it remains a compelling vision, as evidenced by the “friendly robots” demonstrating in Davos and on behalf of the Swiss referendum. Yet technology is not the enemy, or even a neutral force.

Julio Linares spoke yesterday about the possibility of rewriting financial instruments to deliver direct dividends to citizens; an innovative solution that seems tailor-made for Ether or another cryptocurrency built for the fulfillment of “smart contracts.” My own presentation dealt with cryptocurrency and UBI. Technology is more than a necessary evil to which we must adjust; it is an extension of our selves and our humanity. Often tech lies with within the spheres of corporate or government control, but not always.

As I attend this conference I am aware of the outpouring of rage and grief in the United States over recent police shootings. A sniper who had targeted police in Dallas was killed by an actual police robot. I feel a weird kind of survivor’s guilt. Are our goals here in Seoul too lofty and unrealistic? All I can say is that guns are technology. Cell phones are technology. Fear and hatred are not technologies.

We need better technologies to support activism and organizing outside the corporate sphere. (Ask me how.) Some of these tools may be directly aligned with the goals of universal basic income; others may simply help build a broader political constituency.

To wait for political change before addressing the “how” and the practical dimensions of the change to come, would be a grave mistake. The next BIEN summit, will take place in Finland, birthplace of Linux. It seems a fitting place for advocates of free software, privacy, and basic income to find common ground.

Who’s in?

Blogging Live from BIEN 2016

First impressions:

This could be the high water mark of a movement, or it could be the start of something much greater. People have spoken so far from Finland, Mexico, Switzerland, Belgium, and of course South Korea. Auditorium is packed. So far speakers hail from academia and government. Surprised there aren’t more representatives from the tech sector on the schedule. Morale seems high despite the defeat of the basic income referendum in Switzerland last month.

One thing immediately becomes clear: due to differences in cost of living, from a practical and logistical standpoint, basic income is far easier to implement, on a far wider scale, in the Global South than the economies of Europe or the United States. See for instance the upcoming $30m experiment in Kenya, the world’s largest ever.

If predictions about the beneficial societal effects of UBI prove true, this trend could prove a major equalizer between economies of North and South. Perhaps in time, citizens find themselves tunneling under Trump’s proposed wall — in the opposite direction.

Sogang University, Seoul

Sogang University, Seoul

2016 BIEN Congress

BIEN Congress, Seoul 2016

Attention Based Currency and Universal Basic Income

We are pleased to announce that Art | Code Tess Gadwa and Attention Based Currency Chief Scientist Scott Little, Ph.D. have been selected to present their paper on Attention Based Currency (ABC) and Universal Basic Income (UBI) at the 16th annual BIEN Congress, defining a new model for application of the attention-based cryptocurrency to this specific problem set.

Attention Based Currency (ABC) is a cryptocurrency generated by the interaction of Internet users with streaming media. Listening records are secure and encrypted, but the algorithm rewards listeners who seek out and share new content as “early adopters.” ABC is a market-based approach that can be used independently or in tandem with more traditional government-funded or philanthropic UBI programs.

The conference will take place from July 7-9 in Seoul, South Korea.

Encryption Keeps Us All Safe

Key Unlocking

A few months ago, some friends approached me about a grassroots privacy advocacy group they were starting, known as Privacy Patriots. I was immediately interested. Encryption is a great example of a technology that is understood by few, but has huge implications, for, well, practically everyone. What we’re talking about is not just an algorithm — it’s the toolbox to protect our freedoms and privacy in the online era. For women especially, it’s an essential weapon to fight back against stalkers and harassers on the Internet. I wrote this as a letter to the editor for my local paper. Feel free to copy and re-post, or write your own.

Encryption Keeps Us All Safe

Recently, politicians seeking a scapegoat for terrorist attacks at home and abroad have attempted to pin the blame on encryption. This is a critical error because encryption is one of the most important and widely used tools to keep us safe in the information economy.

Encryption is simply a way to “lock” information so that only those with the proper “key” can access it. Encryption is a powerful tool for whistleblowers and for women seeking to avoid harassment and stalking.

There is no evidence that terrorists in Paris ever used encryption on their phones. In the San Bernardino shooting case, the government was able to crack the iPhone in dispute without assistance from Apple. Apple is correct that our information economy needs encryption to thrive. Our  banking and credit card system could not exist without it.

Cybercriminals grow more sophisticated every day. Outlaw or weaken encryption and nobody is safe.

Can Bitcoin Save the Music Industry?

Ever since Napster, the Internet has taken the fall for the music industry’s woes. Now an unlikely contender from the tech world seems poised to turn the tide. On July 14, Berklee College of Music’s Rethink Music report endorsed Bitcoin’s Blockchain database technology as the most promising solution to the problem of artist payments. A chorus of industry figures  have echoed its findings, from David Byrne to D.A. Wallach of Spotify to Panos Panay, founder of SonicBids, to Brian Message, co-manager of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, and Radiohead.

Between 20 and 50 percent of artist royalty payments never reach their rightful owner, due to poor accounting and a lack of common reporting standards — what Rethink Music calls the “black box” problem. Previous attempts to establish a central payments registry bogged down because of high administration costs and concerns over sharing sensitive data. The Blockchain is a type of decentralized database that allows secure “trustless” transactions between multiple actors, without any central authority. The network validates transactions and enforces a common set of standards, but only the key holders to each transaction have access. The core innovation behind all forms of cryptocurrency, the Blockchain is what allows Bitcoin to process hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions daily without any central bank. Also in use for banking and real estate, Blockchain technology could reduce costs and solve the trust problem.

“Musicians tell us that a royalty check might come every six months, or not at all,” says Tess Gadwa, cofounder of Attention Based Currency. “This is a problem of missing information, and it can be fixed.” Her company plans to launch a model blockchain-based streaming service known as the Million Song Mixtape later this year, eventually licensing the platform to other streaming music services. The goal: keep licensing fees low by launching a tradable online currency generated from listeners’ interactions with music.

For a demo of Attention Based Currency in action, please contact the cofounders at info@attentionbasedcurrency.com.

Compiling the Conscious Brain

Error!

Ars Technica had a great post this week about the differences between compiled and interpreted code, and why some computer languages are faster than others.

If you’ve ever wondered how a compiler works, or why someone might choose C++ for a project rather than Python this is a great read.

This compilation process has several steps. The source code is analyzed and parsed. Basic coding mistakes such as typos and spelling errors can be detected at this point. The parsed code is used to generate an in-memory representation, which too can be used to detect mistakes—this time, semantic mistakes, such as calling functions that don’t exist, or trying to perform arithmetic operations on strings of text.

This in-memory representation is then used to drive a code generator, the part that produces executable code. Code optimization, to improve the performance of the generated code, is performed at various times within this process: high-level optimizations can be performed on the code representation, and lower-level optimizations are used on the output of the code generator.

I’m not a programmer (not mostly, anyway) but this definition makes sense to me. Essentially, compiling code in advance saves time so that the program runs faster later.

What is interesting to me is that the human brain functions very similarly. We are hard-wired to interpret and react to certain types of information much faster than others. In particular, we interpret images and sounds faster and react more emotionally to them than to textual data. These types of information are processed by different hemispheres of the brain.1

“In a real sense, we each have two brains,” writes Dr. Martin L. Rossman.  “One thinks as we are accustomed to thinking, with words and logic. The other, however, thinks in terms of images and feelings.”

One of the chief difference between right-brained (emotion, imagery, sound) and left-brained (text, logic, mathematical computation) information processes is their speed; the human brain processes and reacts to right-brain information types almost immediately, while left-brain information requires sequential processing. Think about how long it took to read this article. Then think about long you spent looking at the brain illustration graphic. Although you almost certainly spent longer reading the text than looking at the illustration, when measured in bytes, the illustration contains 97.75 times as much information as the text. (That’s 4KB vs. 391KB.)

If you think the analogy above is far-fetched, think about traffic signs. Why do the most important road signs and signals use colors, shapes, and symbols in place of or in addition to words? In large part, it’s because drivers react more quickly to pictures than to words, and that extra second or two might save somebody’s life.

Road Signs

Credit: Merriam-webster.com

This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint — if you see a snake moving through the grass, you need to be able to jump back. If you hear an infant wail in distress, that sound had better be the most piercing and unpleasant thing you could possibly imagine. Written language wasn’t even invented as a technology until about 5,000 years ago (mathematics even more recently) so it kind of has to take a back seat to the survival traits that got our ancestors through life as hunter-gatherers.

Today, the bulk of human communications do not happen by accident. Instead, they are mediated, organized, and planned by the industries we know as marketing, propaganda, advertising — and of course, design. Appeals to the right brain can be powerful and subtle. Because citizens are not trained to evaluate or analyze right-brain “coding techniques,” these techniques lend themselves to manipulation and abuse by hidden persuaders — usually those with power and money.

But no technology is good or bad — it’s all in how we use them. Images, sounds, video and other “pre-compiled” right-brained media are incredibly effective at communicating information quickly and reaching people on an emotional, gut level. Just as one might choose node.js for one project, or C++ for another, images, video, and sound are not the best technology for every situation or to convey every type of information, but they are a powerful tool in the hands of those who have the skill and awareness to wield them.

— Tess Gadwa

http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/split-brain/background.html