Black Boxes, Student Data & Playing Moneyball for Education

black-Box_2

We’re rapidly entering a world of evidence-based decision making in public education. These decisions will be powered by vast amounts of data run through proprietary black boxes that parents will have no way of understanding. The approach is called Moneyball and the goal is to justify ration resources to students –while investors make a tidy profit.

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve had as a parent is convincing other parents that the endless collection of our kids’ data isn’t benign and technology isn’t inherently benevolent.

Big Data, Like Big Brother, Isn’t Your Friend

As adults, we’ve chosen to ignore this cold hard fact: that by using electronic devices, we are allowing ourselves to become a product. Von Shoshana Zuboff calls this evolution in big data mediated economics surveillance capitalism:

It’s now clear that this shift in the use of behavioral data was an historic turning point. Behavioral data that were once discarded or ignored were rediscovered as what I call behavioral surplus. Google’s dramatic success in “matching” ads to pages revealed the transformational value of this behavioral surplus as a means of generating revenue and ultimately turning investment into capital. Behavioral surplus was the game-changing zero-cost asset that could be diverted from service improvement toward a genuine market exchange. Key to this formula, however, is the fact that this new market exchange was not an exchange with users but rather with other companies who understood how to make money from bets on users’ future behavior. In this new context, users were no longer an end-in-themselves.  Instead they became a means to profits in  a new kind of marketplace in which users are neither buyers nor sellers nor products.  Users are the source of free raw material that feeds a new kind of manufacturing process.

As adults we’re vaguely aware that certain choices we make will impact our credit report. The inputs seem arbitrary and frankly ridiculous. Unless, there’s a problem, THEN, the unfairness of the system quickly comes into focus.

How your credit report is determined is an example of a black box. Inputs go in, something happens inside the box, and then your credit report comes out. What happens inside the box? Who knows? It’s a proprietary predictive model.

What sorts of random digital bits could impacts your credit report? Things like what operating system you use, if you do your browsing using a desktop or cellphone, even what you decided to use as your email address.

This excerpt is from New Study Shows You Can Predict Credit Rating from Your Online Tech Fingerprint.

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Digital Nudging: Data, Devices & Social Control

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

Digital exhaust, virtual selves

…“Choice architects” create these systems and weave them into public policy. Through strategic application of “nudges,” citizens,  otherwise “irrational actors” in the market, can be guided to conform to economists’ expectations. Through nudges, human behaviors are redirected to fit mathematical equations and forecasts….

The way we live our lives generates enormous amounts of data. Keystrokes; online payments; photos with embedded meta-data; cell tower pings; fit bits; education management apps; search histories; avatars; social media posts all contribute to a cloud of digital exhaust that threatens to engulf us. Our world is being increasingly data-fied as smart phones mediate our daily activities, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors become integrated into our homes and public spaces.

In the coming decade we’re going to have to navigate environments defined by ubiquitous computing and surveillance. Virtual and real worlds will meld in unsettling ways. The threat of state repression will intensify, especially for black and brown people, immigrants, refugees, the poor, and dissidents. As the former CIO of the City of Philadelphia Charles Brennan noted at the end of an October 22, 2017 meeting, the future of policing will encompass predictive analytics, facial recognition software, and drone surveillance.

With UPenn’s GRASP lab currently managing a $27 million contract with the US Army Research Lab to develop distributed intelligence, autonomous weapons, it’s not too soon to be thinking about what comes next. To get a feel for where we could be headed, the write up, “Singapore, City of Sensors” describes what it’s like to live in a “smart nation”  where EA3 devices track “Everyone, Everywhere, Everything, All The Time.”

Bits and bytes of data build up like passes from a 3-D printer; and as the data is aggregated, our digital doppelgangers emerge. Of course they’re merely shadows of our true, authentic selves. They magnify certain aspects of our personalities while suppressing others. The data of our online counterparts can be incorrect or incomplete, yet even with all those flaws our online profiles and reputations have begun to profoundly influence our offline lives.

As Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) says: data is the new oil, so valuable nation states will fight over it. From Cambridge Analytica to Cornell-Technion’s Small Data Lab to Wharton’s Behavior Change for Good program, social scientists are teaming up with venture capital, government agencies, and NGOs to devise new and intrusive ways to monitor people and extract profit from the management of our data-filled lives.

The relationship map below (click here for the interactive version) features individuals and organizations associated with the Small Data Lab, a program of Cornell-Technion based on Roosevelt Island in New York City. This research and development program is backed by influential impact investors and technology companies, including Google. If you know your way around social impact bonds, you’ll see quite a few familiar names: Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Atlantic Philanthropies. The aim is to come up with sophisticated ways to analyze digital exhaust and devise technological “solutions” that pressure individuals to conform to neoliberal economic conditions. The technological underpinnings of these app-ified “solutions” enable the capture of “impact metrics” that will fuel the growing social investment sector.

Cornell-Technion also aims to grow the STEM/cyber-security human capital pipeline, having recently accepted at $50 million gift from Tata Consulting, one of India’s most highly-capitalized IT companies, to build an innovation center on their campus. The program plans to do outreach into New York City schools to promote skill development in AI and human-computer interaction.

PTB Ventures, Project Trillion Billion, is one example of a company positioning itself for this new market. A financial backer of Learning Machine, spun out of the MIT Media Lab and specializing in Blockchain education credentials, PTB has also invested in Callsign (digital identity authentication), Element (biometrics), and DISC Holdings (digital payments and credit on blockchain). Their website states the company anticipates a future where trillions of devices will be connected to billions of humans and create trillions of dollars in economic value. These investors hope to use connected devices and sensors to mine the lives of the global poor and dispossessed for the economic benefit of the social impact and fin-tech sectors.

Proposals for online platforms are beginning to emerge that aim to combine decentralized identifiers (DIDs used to create self-sovereign digital identities), e-government transactions, and online payment systems (including public welfare benefits) with “digital nudges” grounded in behavioral economics. See the screenshot taken from the Illinois Blockchain Task Force’s January 2018 report. It shows a desire to digitally incentivize healthy eating purchases for people receiving SNAP benefits.

Behavioral economics is the study of how psychological, cognitive, emotional, social, and cultural factors influence the economic choices a person makes. It challenges the idea of homo economicus, that people maintain stable preferences and consistently make self-interested choices in relation to market forces. The field was popularized in the United States by Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kaheneman. University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler built upon this work. Thaler won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his research last year.

Thaler worked closely with Cass Sunstein, who headed Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2008, they co-wrote Nudge, a book espousing “libertarian paternalism.” People make “choices,” but systems can be designed and implemented to encourage a preferred “choice,” generally one that prioritizes long-term cost-savings. “Choice architects” create these systems and weave them into public policy. Through strategic application of “nudges,” citizens,  otherwise “irrational actors” in the market, can be guided to conform to economists’ expectations. Through nudges, human behaviors are redirected to fit mathematical equations and forecasts. David Johnson’s 2016 New Republic article Twilight of the Nudges, provides useful background on this technique and the ethical implications of applying nudges to public policy.

Sunstein Obama

The first “nudge unit” was established in the United Kingdom in 2010 as the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). It operated as a cabinet office for several years before reinventing itself as a global consultancy in 2014. BIT is now owned in equal parts by staff, the UK government and NESTA, a social policy innovation / impact investing foundation funded with proceeds from the UK lottery system. Thaler is on their Academic Advisory Team. From 2015 to 2018 BIT had a $42 million contract with Bloomberg Philanthropies to support development of their “What Works Cities” initiative in the United States. Results for America, the organization that co-hosted the $100 Million “Pay for Success” celebration in Washington, DC last month, currently manages the What Works Cities program on behalf of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Ideas42 has also been very active at the intersection of social science, behavioral economics and impact investing strategies. It was founded in 2008 as a program of Harvard University with support from scholars and experts at MIT, Princeton, the International Finance Commission (IFC), and the Brookings Institution. Focus areas include education, healthcare and financial inclusion. Numerous mega-philanthropies that are actively implementing the Ed Reform 2.0 agenda have partnered with the organization: Gates, MacArthur, Arnold, Lumina, HP, and Dell. Other partners are involved in deployment of global aid: USAID, the World Bank, the International Rescue Committee (see my previous post re BIT and IRC involvement with Syrian refugee children), and the UN Environment Programme. There are representatives of global finance including Citi Foundation and American Express; insurance companies, MetLife and the Association of British Insurers; and impact investors focused health and wellness, the Robert Woods Johnson and Kellogg Foundations.

Over one hundred experts are allied with this program, including Angela Duckworth and Katherine Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania. They created the ninety-second video “Making Behavior Change Stick” as part of their application to the MacArthur Foundation’s $100 Million and Change challenge. While the proposal was not a finalist, Duckworth and Milkman’s research continues to move forward with private support, housed within the Wharton Business School. Their first $1 million came from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (founded with Facebook stock), that interestingly enough is also currently working with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office (Larry Krasner) on criminal justice “reform.” More opportunities for our technological overlords to encourage “good” decision making while completely disregarding “broken on purpose” social programs, I suppose.

Take note of the partners identified in Duckworth and Milkman’s MacArthur proposal:

Duckworth and Milkman’s premise is that technology can be used to encourage people to make “good choices,” which the begs the question, “Good for whom?” I suspect what will make a certain choice “good” is the likelihood it will enrich social impact investors while furthering the austerity that drives reduction in public services, increases outsourcing, and fosters the creation of public-private partnerships. The desires of those needing to access services will not be factored into the computer code that sets up friction points and establishes preferred outcomes. Citizens are simply inert, raw material to be molded, for profit, by inhumane digital systems. In the nudge model, economic systems that create mass poverty are not addressed. Instead, the impetus is placed upon the individual to better navigate existing systems steeped in structural racism.

As you may remember from my previous post, Duckworth has been working closely with human capital and labor economist James (7-13% ROI on Early Childhood Education Investments) Heckman. She is one of five leaders of the “Identity and Personality” division of his Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group, based out of the University of Chicago and funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). In May 2017, Duckworth brought an interdisciplinary group of experts in behavior change to the University of Pennsylvania for two-day conference sponsored by the Center for Economics of Human Development. Fourteen presentations, including  a “Fireside Chat With Daniel Kahneman” were recorded and are viewable here.

The prior year, Philadelphia became the first city in the US with its own municipal level “nudge unit.” Though Duckworth does not appear to be directly involved, Evan Nesterak, a researcher in Duckworth’s Characterlab, co-founded The Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative (PBSI) with Swarthmore Professor Syon Bhanot. Bhanot is involved with theSwarthmore Professor Syon Bhanot, as well. According to a 2018 report on PBSI published by Results for America, the initiative’s other academic partners include: the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, St. Joseph’s, Yale, Columbia and Princeton. The report, viewable here, was funded by the John and Laura Arnold Foundation. John Arnold, a hedge-fund billionaire who made his fortune at Enron, has since moved on to education reform, gutting public pensions, and promoting pay for success “evidence-based” finance.

“Innovative” programs are being incubated within the planning and policy departments of many US cities now via fellowships and loaner “experts” who plan to advance an “evidence-based,” “big-data,” “platform-government” agenda. Anjali Chainani, Mayor Kenney’s Policy Director and Manager of the city’s GovLab, has gone through the Results for America Local Government Fellow program.  The Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative is an outgrowth of the City Accelerator and GovLabPHL, which she manages. While the initial program areas are strategically uncontroversial (it would be difficult to speak against seniors taking advantage of discounted water bills or public bike sharing), it seems likely an “evidence-based” campaign of nudges, once normalized, will be extended into more lucrative and ethically-dubious areas like policing, health care delivery, family services, and behavioral health.

Below is an extensive relationship map that shows interconnections between data-driven public policy / privatization programs originating out of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the global financial interests represented by the members of Citi Group’s “Living Cities” program, and how those interface with government operations in the city of Philadelphia. Many of these programs were put into place by our former mayor, Michael Nutter, who went on to become a senior fellow for Bloomberg’s “What Works Cities” program. His wife Lisa is now a principal with Sidecar Social Finance, an impact investing firm.

Click here for the interactive version.

Feeding this machine is our gradual yet irresistible slide into a financial world of digital economic transactions. My next post will focus on that. Please take some time to explore the maps above. They are complex but convey a great deal about the forces at work. Sometimes a nudge is actually a shove. I think our city is being positioned for some serious shoving.

The footage above is from the violent July 5, 2018 police intervention against peaceful OccupyICEPHL protestors at 8th and Cherry Streets outside Philadelphia’s ICE detention center.

-Alison McDowell

A Close Reading of Moneyball for Government & Why You Should Be Worried

Moneyball for Government

But the idea of using “data” to ration resources struck a cord with both Democrats and Republicans. Politicians couldn’t resist the opportunity to use a real David vs. Goliath baseball story to sell the American public on lowering their expectations of what government could deliver. And it sounds scientific too!

Much has been made of the Oakland A’s 2002 season, where the out-resourced baseball franchise fielded a scrappy team which temporarily silenced its critics with a then record breaking 20 game winning streak.

General Manager Billy Beane is credited with this baseball miracle. How? By breaking with tradition and putting together his team using the power of “data” to acquire undervalued players –an approach which became know as moneyball.

Did the moneyball innovation take the A’s all the way to the World Series? Nope. The winning streak did enabled the A’s to clinch their division title and land a spot in the playoffs, where they were defeated in the first round by the Minnesota Twins.

But the idea of using “data” to ration resources struck a cord with both Democrats and Republicans. Politicians couldn’t resist the opportunity to use a real David vs. Goliath baseball story to sell the American public on lowering their expectations of what government could deliver. And it sounds scientific too!

It’s a compelling story, especially in the hands of a writer like Michael Lewis, who coined the term and penned the 2003 bestselling book of that name. At its heart, Moneyball is about crunching numbers and relying on hard evidence-not emotion or tradition-to drive decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. It’s also about determining what data matter and what don’t (in the case of baseball, concluding that on-base percentage matters a lot more than total home runs). When it comes down to it, it’s a way to get more with less.

Which raises important questions: Can data, evidence, and evaluations similarly revolutionize America’s government? Can we provide better services to millions more Americans while actually saving billions of dollars? Can we make this country a better place for children and families by investing in what works, by testing it and retesting it, and by holding ourselves to a higher standard? In short, can government play Moneyball?     Moneyball for Government, pages 3-4

In my opinion, using moneyball to allocate government resources is very similar to managing a fantasy sports team. It’s an imaginary world divorced from the complex, precarious reality most Americans live in. It’s a perfect playground for the managerial elites to work their devious magic, without dirtying their hands with actual face-to-face interactions with the downtrodden citizens they profess to care so much about.

Here’s a critical detail to remember: Professional sports has always been a cut-throat business. Players are treated as things to be inspected, judged, cut, or traded — all based on their numbers. This isn’t an arena where fairness –not to mention social justice — is valued. Just take a look at what happened to Michael Bennett after he decided to take a knee during the national anthem.

I read Moneyball for Government, so you don’t have to. Here’s my list of reasons why allowing politicians to run our government like a fantasy sports team is a very bad idea.

Moneyball is about rationing resources and not providing services to everyone who needs them.

The goal of moneyball is to create a compelling narrative that justifies and even celebrates austerity. Moneyball’s fundamental assumption is discretionary spending must continue to be cut and streamlined in the name of “funding what works”. This trick immediately removes from debate any discussion about cuts to non-discretionary spending –like the 50% of the federal budget that goes to defense.

The authors admit that denying services to everyone who needs them is unfortunate, but there’s always a silver lining: rationing services is a cheap way to create a randomized trial!

Resources are limited, though, and we can’t afford to give the most promising interventions to everyone who wants them. This is unfortunate, but it regularly creates a perfect research opportunity. If there are five hundred slots available in a new program, then instead of enrolling the first five hundred eligible people to sign up, we can let a thousand eligible people sign up, and hold a lottery to determine who among them participates. Just like that, we’ve created a randomized trial….         Moneyball for Government, page 18

Moneyball is about funding low-cost interventions with high rates of returns.

Ever wonder why reducing class size isn’t an intervention embraced by philanthro-capitalists like Bill Gates — even though there’s solid research supporting it?

Simple, lowering class size is expensive and takes a lot of real teachers to make it happen. This isn’t the moneyball way, which is low cost interventions with a high rate of return.

This also explains why Moneyball for Government celebrates the work of organizations like KIPP, City Year – Americorps, and TFA. Organizations that provide low-cost teachers and no-cost volunteers, and by doing so, offer interventions which don’t cut into the bottomline.

Moneyball is pseudo-scientific and far from the rigorous kind of research it claims to create.

Low cost interventions require low cost measurements of success. Remember how rationing access to services provided an opportunity to create a lottery –sorry– a randomized trial? Well, there’s plenty of pseudo-scientific short cuts used to cook up moneyball’s version of “rigorous evidence”.

Another frequently noted problem for the most rigorous kinds of research is cost….     Moneyball for Government, page 19

 

Still, the truth is that randomized trials aren’t always feasible….                                         Moneyball for Government, page 19

 

There are some great recent examples of research that have used low-cost methods to study low-cost interventions that have turned out to make a real difference in people’s lives….                                                                                                                        Moneyball for Government, page 20

Strong scientific research requires well designed studies which attempt to reduce all possible causes to the one variable being studied. How studies are conducted are just as important as the numbers plugged into them. That’s why studies are published so other scientists –who have no vested interest in the outcome– can critique the study’s design and publicly discuss how unintended bias could have been introduced into the results.

None of this happens with moneyball, if you can attach a number to something, it automatically becomes valid.

Moneyball creates a surveillance state and privacy nightmare. Citizens shouldn’t be experimented on by their government, without their knowledge or consent.

Again, for moneyball’s low cost interventions to be financially profitable, these programs require low-cost research, which would ideally run on no-cost data.  Preferably, this data would be collected and shared by federal, state, and local governments.

Have you noticed a lot of talk about interoperability and student data? Ever wonder what it’s all about? Here’s the definition of interoperability: The ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.

Here’s Recommendation 6 on how to get the bipartisan moneyball agenda rolling: Build cosscutting data systems that also protect privacy. (page 126) More detail can be found under Pillar 1: Relentlessly use data and evaluation to learn from experience. (page 116)

What does it all mean? I’ll let the authors explain:

Without a way of identifying what works and what doesn’t, progress in social policy is impossible. Until recently, the most sophisticated evaluations required a lot of time and money. Sometimes that’s still true, but not always. With modern data systems, we can do quick, sophisticated tests of different program designs. Think about a store chain testing different product placements in different stores –or a social-services agency testing different intake routines in different offices. To figure out cheaply what works, we can often use data that governments already collect. Think about a new textbook, rather than setting up a whole new approach to collecting data, we can just assign the book to half the classes (selected at random) in a district and compare the scores of kids who used the new text with the scores of those who didn’t, on tests the kids already take. And once we learn the best interventions, we can subject them to financial analysis to compare benefits and costs -and thus give policy makers an important tool to help make tough choices about different ways to spend limited resources.  Moneyball for Government, pages 116-117

Does this sound like the way to go about designing a rigorous scientific study? Hardly.

Did you get a hint of any concern about the protection of privacy? Absolutely not.

To me, this approach is more like the Silicon Valley startup mentality of code and release. A very profitable approach which usually runs on free data and lets the end users discover any flaws or bugs in the program – and suffer all of the consequences. Of course, the business may or may-not choose to clean up any of these bugs in a future release, if they feel spending time on the fix won’t negatively impact the bottomline.

It’s also important to point out that conducting a scientific experiment using a computer model to decide who does or who doesn’t get access to resources –without the subject’s knowledge or consent — is unethical.

It’s also alarming that the adherents of moneyball want the government to collect, store, and share vast amounts of digital information on its citizens. In short, create the infrastructure for a surveillance state. The Stasi Records Agency was able to wreck many lives with much less.

Moneyball is ripe for abuse and fraud.

Because the numbers used to justify interventions aren’t produced by actual controlled scientific studies, where this data come from creates a hidden opportunity for fraud and abuse.

For instance, numbers can be cherry-picked, others ignored. Unethical service providers could reverse engineer studies to create numbers that justify their intervention –and secure a contract for the services they provide.

Even the authors are worried:

One possible way to prevent the misuse of Moneyball -either through the politicalization of evidence or the use of less-than-rigorous studies as a justification for cuts in services -is to identify an impartial referee to evaluate studies and data that come through the door, wheter that be a nonpartisan office like CBO or a newly created one. Moneyball for Government, page 56

Forgive my cynicism, but I can think of one recent example where an “impartial referee” set up to prevent fraud in a world of data and financial speculation failed spectacularly, ruining the lives of millions of Americans.

Do you remember when all the credit rating agencies gave AAA ratings to a certain complex financial instrument which turned out to be junk? Do you also remember how this triggered the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the recession that followed?

I do.

When it comes to money, greed will find a way to bend, and other times break, the rules. It’s the one thing you can count on.

Now What?

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that moneyball isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but here’s a few education specific reasons to oppose the moneyball narrative:

If you want well resourced schools for every child, you can’t support moneyball.

If you want to end standardized testing, you can’t support moneyball.

If you want human teachers for kids instead of devices, you can’t support moneyball.

If you object to kids being used as guinea pigs for education reform, you certainly can’t support moneyball.

In the end, moneyball is just more too-good-to-be-true snake oil packaged in a shiny new Pay for Success bottle.

Don’t fall for it.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Childhood Pay: Arthur Rolnick, Steven Rothschild, and ReadyNation

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

Pre-K Teachers Heart Tech

The push for early childhood education access is NOT being driven by a desire to meet the basic human needs of children. Rather financial interests that view children as cogs in a national workforce development program are pushing it; and they see preschoolers as lumps of human capital to be plugged into economic forecasts. This is all happening at a time when human services are being privatized in the name of scalable, outcomes-driven social entrepreneurship. The trailer for a new documentary, The Invisible Heart, on social impact bonds indicates how much capital is flowing into this new market.

This post provides additional background on the ReadyNation Global Business Summit on Early Childhood Education that will take place at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City November 1-2, 2018. No U.S. educators or policy advocates may attend unless they come with at least four pre-approved business sponsors. Review the draft agenda here.

This is the second in a series. Read part one here.

Where did ReadyNation come from?

The idea emerged from a conversation three men had on a conference call during the summer of 2003:

  • Arthur Rolnick, senior researcher at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve
  • Robert Dugger, financial policy analyst and venture capitalist
  • James Heckman, University of Chicago economics professor

Its first incarnation, the “Investing in Kids Working Group,” focused on researching returns on early childhood investments, developing finance mechanisms, and crafting policy recommendations. Over the past fifteen years Dugger, in consultation with Heckman and Rolnick and with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, gradually built a structure to undergird a global investment market fueled by debt associated with provision of early childhood education services.

The push for early childhood education access is NOT being driven by a desire to meet the basic human needs of children. Rather financial interests that view children as cogs in a national workforce development program are pushing it; and they see preschoolers as lumps of human capital to be plugged into economic forecasts. This is all happening at a time when human services are being privatized in the name of scalable, outcomes-driven social entrepreneurship. The trailer for a new documentary, The Invisible Heart, on social impact bonds indicates how much capital is flowing into this new market.

Arthur Rolnick, Steven Rothschild, and Pay for Performance

Much of my research has focused on the Boston area (global finance), the Bay Area (tech), Chicago (blockchain), and New York (urban policy). So I was surprised to find what may be a key piece of this puzzle actually comes out of Minneapolis Minnesota. Though perhaps the fact that Minnesota is home to the nation’s first charter school, City Academy that opened in St. Paul in 1992, indicates local conditions favor neoliberal reforms.

Arthur (Art) Rolnick spent his 40-year career as a senior economic researcher at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. During that time he also served as an associate professor in the economics department of the University of Minnesota and was co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The Collaborative houses the Chicago Longitudinal Study whose researchers are tracking the short and long term effects of early intervention on 1,000 students who attended Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers in 1984-85.

The Chicago Child-Parent Centers were service providers for one of the nation’s first two early childhood social impact bonds, begun in December 2014. The Chicago SIB included payout metrics tied to third grade literacy scores. Thus far the program has issued maximum payments to investors including Pritzker, Goldman-Sachs and Northern Trust. According to this report from the Institute for Child Success, it is possible that over the seventeen-year time horizon for the SIB, $34 million could be paid out on the initial $16.9 investment.

Click here for the interactive version of this map.

Rolnick connected with Steven Rothschild, a former vice president at General Mills who left the corporate sector and launched Twin Cities RISE!, an “innovative anti-poverty” program that provided workforce training for low income adults, in the mid 1990s. Rothschild arranged with the state of Minnesota to provide services via an outcomes-based contracting arrangement where the organization was only paid when the “economic value” they provided to the state by increasing taxes (paid by those placed in jobs) and decreasing state expenditures (reduced costs for social services or incarceration) met approved targets.

Arthur Rolnick and Gary Stern of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve worked with Rothschild and Twin Cities Rise! to develop the economic analysis in support of the outcomes-based contracting initiative. Rolnick’s work with Rothschild eventually led him to examine the economic implications of early childhood interventions using data from the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study. In 2003, the year Rolnick had that auspicious phone call with Robert Dugger and James Heckman, he and and Rob Grunewald, regional economic analyst, put out the following report for the Minneapolis Federal Reserve: Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return.

In a 2006 profile of Rolnick, Minnesota journalist and blogger Kevin Featherly notes that report catalyzed $1 million in seed money for the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, a project of the Minnesota Business for Early Learning. It also put Rolnick and Grunewald on the lecture circuit for the next several years where they touted early childhood education as a prudent economic investment. Weatherly likened Rolnick’s schedule after the release of the report to that of a presidential candidate, sharing the stage with Jeb Bush at the National Governor’s Convention, the head of the Gates Foundation at the National Council of State Legislatures, and presenting to a global audience at the World Bank.

Rothschild who served on the boards of the Greater Twin Cities United Way and Minneapolis Foundation, went on to found the consulting firm Invest in Outcomes and write the Non Non-Profit, a book that exhorted non-profits to focus on the Return on Investment (ROI) and measurable economic outcomes of the services they provide. These ideas eventually led the Minnesota legislature to adopt the “Pay for Performance Act” in 2011 that appropriated $10 million for a pilot program to develop Human Capital Performance Bonds or HuCaps.

Rothschild provides a detailed explanation of how HuCaps function in a 2013 article for the San Francisco Federal Reserve’s publication Community Development Investment Review. HuCaps differ from social impact bonds in that they are true bonds and tap into the state bond markets; which, in theory, could give them access to significantly more capital-trillions of dollars rather than millions. In this podcast with the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Rothschild describes the model developed by Twin Cities RISE! as the basis for much of the social impact investing activities that have emerged over the past decade.

Source for this slide.

As structured in the Minnesota legislation, the service provider is the one that takes the risk rather than the investor. If the provider is not able to meet the target metrics they are the ones who will not be paid. As a consequence, HuCaps have not yet taken off; see Propel Nonprofit’s analysis here.

Source for this slide.

Nevertheless, there are those who have not given up on the Human Capital Performance Bond approach. Arnold Packer, former director of the education reform and workforce development SCANS 2000 Center based out of Johns Hopkins University, wrote about HuCaps for the Brookings Institution in 2015 (the co-chair of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making is Bruce Haskins also of Brookings). He noted that Milton Friedman was among the first to float the idea of leveraging private investment in human capital development. Take a minute to watch this one-minute video, from Institute for the Future, that portrays a college student contemplating entering into an income-sharing arrangement in exchange for tuition.

The idea that states could issue bonds for human capital in the same way they do for infrastructure like bridges, and that future savings will be created as people attain higher paying jobs due to their improved human capital, is central to the HuCap premise. In order to justify future cost savings, those receiving services must be tracked, so their “outcomes” can be measured over time. According to Arnold:

“This reform requires a shift in thinking on all sides, investors in human resources (early childhood education falls into this category) will have to consider statistically estimated benefits in terms of future cost savings and revenue as equivalent to projected revenue from a toll road. Government agencies will have to coordinate in order to structure attractive Human Resource bonds, since different agencies at different levels of government, benefit from the savings resulting from earlier investments.” Source

This model of finance, if ever widely adopted, would demand all recipients of public services (including education) be part of the government’s statistical estimate. Because many early-intervention services are directed at families, a person’s predictive profile would likely start to be amassed prenatally; babies assigned a Decentralized Identifier (DID), before they are even born. Estimates would be made about the likelihood a person would need to access services in the future, what those services would be, and what they would cost. Assessments would be made about the anticipated tax revenue a person would in turn generate over their lifetime. All of this data would need to be calculated in order to determine the impact metrics for the investors and structure “attractive human resource bonds.”

Before the rise of cloud-based computing, such a level of tracking would have been impossible. Having access to data to make those predictions would have been difficult to obtain. But that is rapidly changing in this world of Big Data, digital identity and “moneyball for kids.” The bi-partisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making concluded public hearings in February 2017, and the vast majority of those providing testimony favored creating enormous pools of data to inform public policy decisions.

Evidence Based Policy Making

Read the report.

Responsibilities of the Commission on Evidence Based Policy Making:

Things seem to be on hold for the moment with Human Capital Performance Bonds, but I feel strongly they may be simply waiting in the wings until Blockchain sovereign identity is normalized. An Illinois state Blockchain task force (note Pritzker, backer of early childhood SIBs is running a well-funded campaign for governor of Illinois now) has developed preliminary recommendations linking public service benefits to citizens using Blockchain technology. They even envision building in behavioral incentives tied to the provision of services through digital economic platforms. See the diagram below for an illustration of how they might incentivize food purchases.

Read the report.

Of course the implications of this type of manipulation for people who live in food deserts with limited access to fresh produce remains unaddressed. And it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see how other choices might be economically incentivized: which online course to take (the evidence-based one); which training program (the evidence-based one); which therapy provider (the evidence-based one); which medical treatment (the evidence-based one). But by whose measure? Who sets the metrics? Who profits when “evidence-based” standards are imposed?

How will independently-owned, neighborhood-based child care centers fare in this new landscape? If they are shuttered, what will the economic impacts be for communities, especially in economically distressed neighborhoods where such businesses are important sources of employment? Will small-scale providers be willing to collect the “human capital” data required to take advantage of pay for success investments? If they are willing, would they even have the money to purchase the technology (smart tables, anyone?) required to gather their “impact” evidence?

Rob Grunewald, Rolnick’s collaborater on the Federal Reserve Early Childhood paper, is on the ReadyNation Summit planning committee. Rolnick is part of a workshop, “Scalable Success Stories in Early Childhood Programs,” at 11:45 on Friday, November 2nd.

The “pay for performance” finance mechanism dreamed up by Rothschild and Rolnick in the 1990s is particularly well-suited to this age of Internet of Things data collection, surveillance, predictive analytics, financialization, and economic precocity. This is why we should all be very concerned about ReadyNation’s Global Business Summit on Early Childhood; especially because it so clearly discourages early childhood educators and policy advocates from attending.

Next up, Dr. James Heckman and the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

-Alison McDowell

 

How Big Data Becomes Psy Ops and Tilts the World Towards its Own Aims: Next Stop, Public Education

Reposted with permission from Educationalchemy.

640px-LudovicoMalcolmMcDowellAClockworkOrangetrailer
Ludovico technique apparatus – A Clockwork Orange

While “grit” has been exposed for the racist narrative it is, it’s also a direct by-product of the same OCEANS framework used to control, predict and manipulate voters. If this data can sway major national elections and change the global trajectory of history, imagine what such data, gathered on children, day after day, year after year, could yield for corporations and government interests.

The psy ops tactics used to get Donald Trump elected to the U.S. Presidency (still having gag reflex) are the same ones being used in public schools, using children as their “data” source. Given the power they had on influencing the electorate, imagine what they could do with 12 years of public school data collected on your child.

What data? And how was it used?

A psychologist named Michael Kosinski (see full report) from Cambridge developed a method to analyze Facebook members, using the cute little personality quizzes or games. What started as a fun experiment resulted with the largest data set combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected. Dr. Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. His work is grounded on the Five Factors of Personality Theory which include something called OCEAN: openness, conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.

So many people volunteered their personal information to play these games and take these quizzes that before long Kosinski had volumes of data from which he could now predict all sorts of things about the attitudes and behaviors of these individuals. He applied the Five Factors (Big Five Theory) model (well-known in psychometric circles) and developed a system by which he could predict very personal and detailed behaviors of individuals on a level deeper than had been accessed by prior models or systems.

Enter Cambridge Analytica (CA), a company connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting. CA indirectly acquired Kosinksi’s model and method for his MyPersonality database without his consent.

Then, CA was hired by the Trump team to provide “dark advertising” that would sway undecided people toward a Trump vote. CA was able to access this data to search for specific profiles: “all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats.” See motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/big-data-cambridge-analytica-brexit-trump

Steve Bannon sits on the board for Cambridge Analytica.

“We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. According to Motherboard, “His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well.” In Nix’s own words, it worked like this: “At Cambridge,” he said, “we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

The report continues, “according to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica’s marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.” Then these same consumers receive “dark posts”-or, advertisements specifically devised for them, and that cannot be viewed by anyone else other than that person.

Where did the Big Five Theory come from?

Dr. Raymond Cattell is regaled in Western culture for his so called notable contributions to the field of intelligence assessment (IQ and personality work). Despite his direct and profound relationship to the eugenics movement and his recognition by the Nazi Party for the birth of The Beyondists, his work is benignly promoted in scholarly circles. But the fact that he is professionally legitimized does not make him any less the racist he was. And his contributions toward racist practices live on. He has two notable theories of personality development and measurement entitled The Big Five Theory and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).

The way that OCEANS Five Factors personality data from our students can be used:

The recent trend toward a “grit narrative,” hailed by Angela Duckworth and others, has been gobbled up by school districts around the country. The OCEANS model is used widely by schools and other institutions internationally.

“The grit measure has been compared to the Big Five  personality model, which are a group of broad personality dimensions consisting of openness to experience (aka openness), conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.”

(citation: Cattell, R. B.; Marshall, MB; Georgiades, S (1957). “Personality and motivation: Structure and measurement”. Journal of Personality Disorders19 (1): 53–67. doi:10.1521/pedi.19.1.53.62180PMID 15899720. )

There is a growing emphasis on the “affective” learning of students. Some examples include: “ETS’ SuccessNavigator assessment and ACT’s Engage College Domains and Scales Overview … the broader domains in these models are tied to those areas of the big five personality theory.”

Also see Empirical identification of the major facets of Conscientiousness 

While “grit” has been exposed for the racist narrative it is, it’s also a direct by-product of the same OCEANS framework used to control, predict and manipulate voters. If this data can sway major national elections and change the global trajectory of history, imagine what such data, gathered on children, day after day, year after year, could yield for corporations and government interests.

Watch the video from Jesse Schell, gaming CEO, to see exactly where this can go. As Schell says “your shopping data is a goldmine” and it’s only a matter of time before gaming companies and gaming behavior interface with our daily consumer and behavioral choices. You can get points for simply brushing your teeth long enough when product brands partner with gaming systems.”

We now have, thanks to perpetual assessments of children’s knowledge affective “grit” or personality, “the concept of the ‘preemptive personality,” the endlessly profiled and guided subject who is shunted into recalculated futures in a system that could be characterized as digital predestination.”

The role of education technology (aka “personalized learning”):

According to a report entitled Networks of Control: “Jennifer Whitson (2013) argues that today’s technology-based practices of gamification are ‘rooted in surveillance’ because they provide ‘real-time feedback about users’ actions by amassing large quantities of data’. According to her, gamification is ‘reliant on quantification’, on ‘monitoring users’ everyday lives to measure and quantify their activities’. Gamification practices based on data collection and quantification are ‘leveraging surveillance to evoke behavior change’ … While self-quantification promises to “make daily practices more fulfilling and fun” by adopting ‘incentivization and pleasure rather than risk and fear to shape desired behaviours’, it also became ‘a new driving logic in the technological expansion and public acceptance of surveillance’.

(See Wrenching The Gears for more readings on this issue)

A New Campaign! Classrooms, Not Computers: Stop Educating for Profit

Reposted with permission from Educationalchemy.

data-mining

We want to end the invasive corporate control of students, schools, and communities being pushed in the name of technology. We want to create actions to eliminate the mining, tracking, and surveillance of student data by government and corporate entities.

Technology is replacing teachers. Classrooms and students are becoming pipelines of data collection for the profit of private corporate interests. As we saw with the news about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, we know that “he who owns the data rules the world”. Through powerful lobbying tech companies are transforming education. Technology that gathers information from students are replacing person-to-person interaction with teachers and ending hands on learning. The personal data students are forced (unknowingly) to provide these companies, is a gold mine of private information about our children.

We want to end the invasive corporate control of students, schools, and communities being pushed in the name of technology. We want to create actions to eliminate the mining, tracking, and surveillance of student data by government and corporate entities.

The outcomes of this campaign (one personal, one more social/public) are 1. Protect our individual children/students from corporate surveillance, and 2. Dismantle corporate-led education policies that place public education into the hands of private corporate interests intended toward greater social surveillance and control.

There are two problems we address. First, is to identify and share what the problem is (it’s complicated). Two, the problem is too big (technology is everywhere! How can we fight this?)

The problem is larger than the focus of this campaign alone (read more at datadisruptors.com).

Join us at Classrooms, Not Computers.

-Morna McDermott

What Will Facebook Terragraph, 5G, and Being a “Smart City” Mean for San José Residents?

Reposted with permission from EduResearcher.

smart city san jose

A quote from the Smart City Team presentation in April on the Facebook Terragraph (millimeter wave technology) rollout reveals that “deploying at scale in a city has never been done before.”  This alone should lead us to ask critical questions about the process and outcomes. To what extent have residents been informed about known risks and hazards of new technologies that they will apparently be subject to, and what kinds of concerns about safetysecurity, and privacy (or lack thereof) are being contemplated by city leaders as they make final decisions to either fully deploy or hold off on the Smart City experiments? Are cities with tech partnerships exempt from needing to uphold basic standards of protection of human participants in experimental research?

Silicon Valley’s philosophy to “move fast and break things” may not be readily apparent upon landing on the Smart Cities Vision page for San José, but a closer look at key proposals reveals it’s likely in the mix. While difficult to know how day-to-day life will change as a result of living in a “smart city,” the issues described below are certainly worth learning more about. What should residents expect as tangible benefits? What will be the costs? What blind spots may exist among well-intentioned leaders making decisions, and will there be unintended (or consciously dismissed) harms resulting from these initiatives?

precise definition of a “Smart City” remains elusive, yet what does appear at the root, is that 5G will be involved. A recent Bloomberg update documents tensions between big business and government in the rollout of 5G, with a focus on San Jose’s role in initially participating with, and then protesting, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee of the FCC. It appears despite the recent resistance, that industry dominance is not solely an issue within the FCC, but also influential in shaping local policies for 5G deployment.

…”For San Jose, the march toward 5G continues without the FCC. On Monday, the city struck an agreement with AT&T to install about 200 small-cell devices for 5G on light poles in exchange for $5 million in lease revenue over 15 years. Perhaps the worst part of the whole process, said San Jose Mayor Liccardo, is that most Americans aren’t paying attention: “When you’re talking about complex issues of technology and regulation, it’s often lost on the public just how badly they’re being screwed.”

According to a February 2018 report by Grand View Research, the global smart cities market is anticipated to reach approximately 2.6 trillion dollars by 2025. A summary of the report indicates key industry participants to include tech giants such as Accenture, Cisco Systems, Siemens, IBM, General Electric, and Microsoft.  What appears missing in the summary, however, is the specific situation for San José, where apparently Facebook will also be a main driver and beneficiary of the Smart Cities plan.

A quote from the Smart City Team presentation in April on the Facebook Terragraph (millimeter wave technology) rollout reveals that “deploying at scale in a city has never been done before.”  This alone should lead us to ask critical questions about the process and outcomes. To what extent have residents been informed about known risks and hazards of new technologies that they will apparently be subject to, and what kinds of concerns about safetysecurity, and privacy (or lack thereof) are being contemplated by city leaders as they make final decisions to either fully deploy or hold off on the Smart City experiments? Are cities with tech partnerships exempt from needing to uphold basic standards of protection of human participants in experimental research?

See the following overview of the Facebook Terragraph here: “Introducing Facebook’s new terrestrial connectivity systems — Terragraph and Project ARIES” and a video introduction linked to the image above. To read more about Facebook’s partnership with San José, see documents from the April 5th Smart Cities Meeting).

Below is a list of concerns related to the Smart Cities and 5G rollouts. Specific questions are provided at the end of this post. 

A. Public Health Impacts:
1. Scientists and Doctors Demand Moratorium on 5G (original)
(Örebro, Sweden) Sept. 13, 2017 
“Over 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries sent a declaration to officials of the European Commission today demanding a moratorium on the increase of cell antennas for planned 5G expansion. Concerns over health effects from higher radiation exposure include potential neurological impacts, infertility, and cancer.  Dr. Joel Moskowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley, recently announced an additional statement from the International Society of Doctors for the Environment and its member organizations in 27 countries adding to the call for a halt to the rollout of 5G.  In the United States, the ISDE member organization is Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). There are now over 200 signatories to the original appeal. See the main website here.

2. 5G Wireless Technology: Millimeter Wave Health Effects

3. To learn more about concerns related to 5G and “Internet of Things” technologies, listen to the audio of the following Commonwealth Club discussion held on February 5th, 2018 in San Francisco, CA: ReInventing Wires: The Future of Landlines and Networks and read the report here published by the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy.

4. 5G Wireless Telecommunications Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications (in press), Environmental Research. Abridged version available via Bulletin of the Santa Clara County Medical Association, re-shared with permission from author: A 5G Wireless Future: Will It Contribute to a Smart Nation or Contribute To An Unhealthy One?

5. 5G: Great Risk for EU, U.S. and International Health: Compelling Evidence for Eight Distinct Types of Harm Caused by Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Exposures and the Mechanism that Causes Them


B. Big Data Security Issues:

The following screenshot is from the proposed Data Architecture Report with examples of the key platforms being proposed to house data (City of San Jose Open Data Community Architecture Report – 2/2018, p.5)

Below are examples of major security/data breaches from several of the proposed platforms:

C. Privacy Risks:

Smart Cities Come With Inherent Privacy Risks, ACLU Says
Making Smart Decisions About Smart Cities (ACLU of Northern California)
“Smart Cities”, Surveillance, and New Streetlights in San Jose (Feb. 2017, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Privacy International Reports (with key word search for “Smart Cities”)
Selected Posts/Reports:

The following slide was provided by the Smart Cities Team during the presentation on Privacy at the Smart Cities Committee meeting on April 5th, 2018.

Posted on the slide:
“Many questions remain for us to consider…
* Who owns the data?
* What is our retention policy?
* Where is it housed?
* Who are we sharing the data with?
* Should we have a data monetization strategy?
* How are we managing Big Data?
* Chief Privacy Officer?”

It should be acknowledged that the Smart Cities team has been responsive to offer meeting with community members who have raised concerns. Representatives from the ACLU and NAACP have been invited for individual conversations after making comments at recent public meetings and the City’s Deputy City Manager, Kip Harkness has written a blogpost on pending projects with key questions at the end related to the need for public involvement.

In the spirit of community engagement, please find the following questions for city leaders and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. (Responses will be posted as soon as they are made available).

1. Does the city have evidence to document the safety of experimental technologies being deployed in light of the biological risks/hazard warnings raised by over 200 scientists who have recommended a halt to the deployment of 5G/millimeter wave technologies? (See hereherehereherehere and Section A above for more).

2. Have alternative solutions to high-speed connectivity been explored (outside of the FB Terragraph/5G/IoT rollouts)? Listen to the audio of the following event from the Commonwealth Club outlining science and policy gaps in addressing these issues: ReInventing Wires: The Future of Landlines and Networks and read the full report here.

3. Will residents be allowed an opportunity to “opt out” of having internet devices being connected to the Terragraph by the City or Smart City Technology partners? Or will everyone within city limits be subject to their information being swept up into the data-gathering structures?

4. How will the City of San José justify using platforms for Smart City data architecture that are a) explicitly connected to Amazon commerce sites and b) that have been repeatedly vulnerable to massive data breaches? (see Section B above)

5. What assurances will be provided to ensure data extracted from the Smart Cities program and/or devices connected to the Internet of Things/5G networks will not be used in ways that would harm vulnerable communities? (Click image below for concerns. See also Data Justice Lab and the Data Harms Record).

6. Eubanks’ recently published book,“Automating Inequality: How High Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish The Poor” documents ways that structural discrimination is being exacerbated by the introduction of new technologies and related policies shaped by algorithmic error and bias. What processes will the Smart Cities team enact to ensure algorithmic transparency for the public to know how data will being used in analyses or decision-making?  Will the City of San José agree to abide by the following Principles for Algorithmic Transparency and Accountabilitypublished by the Association for Computing Machinery U.S. Public Policy Council?

7. Why is the City of San José partnering with Facebook to deploy untested Terragraph 5G millimeter wavelength technology “at scale throughout the city” given its clear record of betrayal of public trust with privacy violations that allowed data from 87 million users’ profiles to be abused and misused?  

8. During the FB Terragraph presentation at the April 5th meeting, the Facebook representative indicated that specific data would not be extracted, rather that amounts of data sent/received would be monitored via the Terragraph. What evidence can be provided to verify such claims aside from the verbal promises? Have data contracts for the Terragraph project been analyzed and vetted by non-industry-funded privacy/security experts?

9. Will the contracts for the Facebook Terragraph partnership and AT&T 5G small cell rollouts with the City of San José include liability disclaimers similar to these earlier ones from telecom companies? If so, would the City of San José then be held liable in case of harm inflicted on residents as a result of the technologies being deployed (and would the city be able to afford such liability at a large scale)?  Note that similar issues were raised when SB649 was considered at the State level and was eventually vetoed by Governor Brown.

10. With the exception of four city employees working on the Smart Cities project and the Mayor, San José’s Smart Cities Advisory Board consists entirely of individuals from the tech industry without any representation from community based organizations, academics, scientists, public health professionals, independent privacy/security experts, or civil/human rights organizations. How will city leaders be more intentional about structurally integrating community into the process of decision-making related to the Smart Cities Initiatives? 

Smart Cities Advisory Board
Vice President, AERIS
Director and Head of IoT Investment Fund, Cisco Investments
Chief Technology Officer for Smart Cities, Dell EMC
Vice President and General Manager, IoT, Intel
Senior Vice President, ORBCOMM, Inc
Founder and Chief Technology Officer, RevTwo
Former Chief Technology Officer, PayPal
Vice President, CityNOW, Panasonic

For readers interested in more information about Facebook’s reach, see the following maps and analyses by the Share Lab: Research and Data Investigation Lab.

Screenshot of image above is from the following article via the BBC.
For main Share Lab site, see https://labs.rs/en/.

_____________________________________________
May 26th Update: Since the original publication of this post, concerns have also been raised about the use of facial recognition technologies throughout the Smart Cities projects (at the May 3rd Smart Cities meeting where Box software’s facial recognition was proposed in a pilot demonstration and more recently from ACLU documents that link the use of Amazon’s Reckognition software with Smart City plans in Orlando, Florida). The video below was originally posted to the ACLU YouTube channel with the title Amazon Sells Facial Recognition Tech To Police. More detailed information with concerns about facial recognition technologies can be found here and here.  is currently unclear whether or not the City of San José is using (or plans to use) the Amazon Rekognition facial recognition technology throughout the city. The video below from the ACLU does indicate that the City of Orlando is a “Smart City” that is already using the Rekognition technology.

…”It also already has surveillance cameras all over the city on everything from light posts to police officers. Activating a citywide facial recognition system, could be as easy as flipping a switch. Body cams were designed to keep police officers accountable to the public, but facial recognition turns these devices into surveillance machines. This could mean round-the-clock surveillance whenever cops are present. Imagine what that would mean for minority communities that are already over-policed.”…

The following is a quote from a letter dated May 25th, 2018 from US Congressmen Ellison and Cleaver to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos:

“According to a page on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) website, Rekognition is a “deep learning-based image recognition service which allows you to search, verify, and organize millions of images.” The same web page describes Rekognition as a tool for performing “real time face searches against collections with tens of millions of faces.” Amazon’s website lists the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Orlando Police Department as Rekognition customers. A series of studies have shown that face recognition technology is consistently less accurate in identifying the faces of African Americans and women as compared to Caucasians and men. The disproportionally high arrest rates for members of the black community make the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement problematic, because it could serve to reinforce this trend.”… 

The letter continues with a series of questions requested to be answered by Bezos prior to June 20th, 2018. To learn more about Amazon’s Facial “Rekognition” program, click either of the images below:
Privacy statement. Clicking the above images will serve content from youtube.com

For additional reading, see: 
Dr. Beatrice Golomb, Professor of Medicine, UCSD, Letter to Oppose 5G (SB649)
5G Wireless Telecommunications and Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications
Why We Should Oppose 5G on Health Grounds // Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D.
Smart Cities, Social Impact Bonds, and the Takeover of Public Education 
The 5G Appeal: Scientists and Doctors Call For a Moratorium On The Roll-Out of 5G
Smart or Stupid? Will the Future of Our Cities Be Easier to Hack? // The Guardian
Philadelphia’s $4,000 Trash Cans A Messy Waste
The Disinformation Campaign and Massive Radiation Increase Behind the 5G Rollout // The Nation [Investigative Report]
Why Smart Cities Need an Urgent Reality Check // The Guardian
The Color of Surveillance in San Diego // San Diego ACLU 
Amazon Pushes Facial Recognition to Police. Critics See Surveillance Risk // New York Times
Together We Can Put A Stop to High-Tech Racial Profiling // ACLU
Amazon Confirms That Echo Device Secretly Shared Users’ Private Audio
Amazon Needs To Come Clean About Racial Bias In Its Algorithms
Emails Show How Amazon Is Selling Facial Recognition System to Law Enforcement. Broad coalition demands that Amazon stop selling dragnet surveillance tool to the government, citing privacy and racial justice concerns

The next San José Smart City meetings will be held from 1:30-4:30pm in the City Hall Chambers on June 7th, 2018.

-Roxana Marachi, Ph.D

Editor’s Note: Seattle is part of the White House Smart City Initiative. It may not follow the exact blueprint of what’s happening in San Jose, but I think it’s important to start thinking about and asking questions concerning data collection, ownership and monetization at the city level. Personal privacy is a big concern as well. If every public action can be monitored and recorded it’s not hard to see smart cities quickly evolving into surveillance cites.

-Carolyn Leith

Tracking for the Rest of Us

20170712_093417

Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

Tracking has always been a part of the American experience.

As a nation, we justify this cognitive conflict between freedom and oppression with a myth; merit rations our resources and those most deserving are rewarded for their hard work.

As it happens in a country born out of genocide and racism, the merit myth – or our inherited cultural algorithm – usually decides those most deserving are also white.

This isn’t news to people of color, but with the dawn of big data and the surveillance state, white people – like myself, are discovering there’s a downside to tracking.

Tracking for the Rest of Us

One such teachable moment is playing out in a high school in Florida where students are required to wear wrist bands. These ID bands are proof that a student is “on” or “off” track and determines if they are deserving of various privileges.

on track student

Workforce Development Pipeline

Another teachable moment is slowly unfolding in Washington State, where workforce training known as the Swiss Model is being pushed by Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal.

Reykdal - Wa Schools Largest Workforce Development

The implementation of the Swiss Model is further along in Colorado. In the document Swiss Apprentice Model: An Employer Driven System of Education & Training – a title which is telling enough – one slide gushes about the many ways employers receive a return on their investment.

Colorado ROI on Swiss Model

Supply and Demand

Besides directly benefiting employers by lowering their training and recruiting costs, there’s another deeply disturbing feature embedded in this neoliberal model; employers get to decide through their industry associations how many of what kind of worker will be produced by this system.

Why is this so important?

Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

So Many Questions

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

How does rearranging our education system to supply just-in-time employees improve the quality of life for all of our citizens?

Or is this just another in a long line of market miracles sold to the public that ultimately ends up benefiting the corporate bottom line? 

Human Capital

Technologists love the word innovation, usually in combination with: disruptive, 21st century, and now permissionless.

Some of Silicon Valley’s vanguardistas are fond of a phrase “permissionless innovation”, a propaganda expression which implies that somehow progress won’t take place if it respects human boundaries. For obvious reasons, the phrase is coming back to haunt them.

In my opinion, the Swiss model reeks of “permissionless innovation”.

Treating children as an extractive resource – to be fed into our economic system in an attempt to keep this faltering system running – is well beyond my personal human boundary.

People are often puzzled why Tom Vander Ark, self proclaimed edu-innovator, doesn’t have a degree in education. Instead, he has a B.S. in Mineral Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and a MBA in Energy Finance from the University of Denver.

I think I’m beginning to understand this paradox.

-Carolyn Leith