Tag Archives: Politics

Economists still calling computer networks “virtual” while interconnectivity is exposing economic externalities

While artists and designers have discovered there’s no sharp distinction between “real” and “virtual” (aka the New Aesthetic), economists are still talking about “virtual”, even as the networks of computers they’re referring to are exposing the economic externalities the greed of the “first economy” is built on.

Bill Davidow wrote for the Atlantic 10 April 2012, How Computers Are Creating a Second Economy Without Workers,

“Twenty years ago, if you went into an airport you would walk up to a counter and present paper tickets to a human being. That person would register you on a computer, notify the flight you’d arrived, and check your luggage in. All this was done by humans.”
Well, except for that part about “a computer”. And the flight computers in the airplane. And the FAA computers. And….

This is also true:

“Today, you walk into an airport and look for a machine. You put in a frequent-flier card or credit card, and it takes just three or four seconds to get back a boarding pass, receipt, and luggage tag. What interests me is what happens in those three or four seconds. The moment the card goes in, you are starting a huge conversation conducted entirely among machines. Once your name is recognized, computers are checking your flight status with the airlines, your past travel history, your name with the TSA (and possibly also with the National Security Agency). They are checking your seat choice, your frequent-flier status, and your access to lounges.”
While Bruce Sterling can (rightly, I think) say that’s not AI, nonetheless it all happens without much human intervention. And pixelated images of airplanes don’t start to indicate what’s going on in there.

The punchline:

“Here’s the challenge: In the past, every million-dollar increase in economic output generated on the order of ten jobs. In the future, in the productive Second Economy, it may generate only one or two.”
That’s not new. I’m a farmer, and 90% of farm jobs in this country Continue reading

Version Tracking for Congress

Stuff that’s been old hat for decades in the computing world is fresh and shiny in government. Govtrack.us tracks not only bills, but also voting records and videos of Congress members. And it adds RSS feeds, old hat to most people on the Internet, but radical innovation for legislation! You can now subscribe to every bill, vote, and YouTube video that your Congress critter posts, including many of their floor speeches. Those are especially enlightening, seeing them speak in front of a mostly empty chamber, especially compared with their previous voting and speech records. Govtrack should be useful not only for the public, but for Congress members and their staffers, for example by making it easier for them to read the bill before voting on it.

Maybe using the Internet to shine a little light on Congress can lead to a more open Internet and maybe even a more open society.