Monday, December 23, 2013

Technology and English Language

I love english in its ability to adapt. Looking at some fun additions in the last 20 years and see how much of the new additions to the OED to be driven by technology:

Attention Deficit Disorder
Civil Union
Friend with benefits
Helicopter parents
Nascar dad
Person of interest
Snail mail
Soccer Mom
Swift boated
Text (verb form)
Viral Video

Monday, August 19, 2013

Decoding India's Telangana conundrum By Mayurika Chakravorty

This week, India's ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition decided to create Telangana - a new state that will be formed out of the existing state of Andhra Pradesh. National and social media have been abuzz with the issue, keeping the country "informed" of parliamentary developments through minute-by-minute live feeds. 

The media frenzy reached a crescendo with the announcement by the central government (led by the Congress party) had endorsed the formation of the state. But why such commotion? The last time new states (three) were carved out of larger states in 2000, there was not such a hue and cry. 

To many the issue is really about Hyderabad - the city that since the information technology boom of the 1990s has been a thriving economic center. It recent years it has also been the haven of a real estate mafia who rode on the wings of that boom and an unholy nexus between caste and regional politics. 

Also palpable in the tirade of the people unhappy with the formation of Telangana is a sense of injustice as they claim that the success of Hyderabad was somehow the joint work of the people from both Telangana and coastal Andhra regions, and hence both should have a piece of the cake (or jewel!). Such views can only be understood as a rather short-sighted and historically challenged perspective on the issue. 

A shared 'jewel'?

First, not many people outside the region know that Hyderabad's success is not a modern phenomenon - it did not start with the 1990s IT boom. 

Ruled by the Qutubshahis and then the Nizam, it was one of the most developed cities in medieval times, with enviable urban infrastructure unparalleled anywhere else in the country. It retained its autonomy throughout British rule (the history of the complex negotiations between the Nizam, his knighted deputee Sir Salar Jung and the Imperial crown is in itself an engaging topic), and after independence the Telangana region with Hyderabad as its capital remained one of the richest revenue-generating zones in southern India. 

Following independence, the Indian government annexed the Telangana region, then known as Hyderabad state, and the first democratic elections were held in 1952 with Burugula Ramakrishna Rao (Congress Party) becoming its first elected chief minister. 

It needs to be noted that the coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions were not a part of this state and were in fact a part of the newly formed Andhra state carved out of the Madras Presidency. Andhra state was formed in 1953 with Kurnool as its capital. So when, why, and how did these two separate regions - Andhra and Telangana (or Hyderabad state) come together? The answers to these questions are the key to understanding the formation (or rather re-formation) of Telangana state today. 

An unholy matrimony

Telangana (Hyderabad state) and Andhra states were merged on November 1, 1956, with this merger termed by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as a "matrimonial alliance having provisions for divorce" - and there have been petitions for divorce right from the day the alliance was formed, culminating in yesterday's declaration of a "separation". 

The State Reorganization Report of 1955, on the basis of which this merger was effected, stated the following:

The existing Andhra State has faced a financial problem of some magnitude ever since it was created and in comparison with Telangana the existing Andhra State has a low per capita revenue. Telangana, on the other hand, is much less likely to be faced with financial embarrassment.

The report also strongly notes the dissent of the people of Telangana region and their unwillingness to form the larger Andhra Pradesh (it is called Vishalandhra in the report). It states "Telangana claims to be progressive and from an administrative point of view, unification, it is contended, is not likely to confer any benefits on this area." 

It further voices the anxieties of the Telangana people:

One of the principal causes of opposition of Vishalandhra also seems to be the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of the coastal areas. In the Telangana districts outside the city of Hyderabad, education is woefully backward. The result is that a lower qualification than in Andhra is accepted for public services. The real fear of the people of Telangana is that if they join Andhra they will be unequally placed in relation to the people of Andhra and in this partnership the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately, while Telangana itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra. (para 377)

While the report points out the "obvious advantages" - mainly economic concerns as well as control of the river basins - of the merger, it stops short of actually recommending it and instead says:

After taking all these factors into consideration we have come to the conclusions that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana, if for the present, the Telangana area is to constitute into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State with provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961 if by a two-thirds majority the legislature of the residency Hyderabad State expresses itself in favor of such unification. (para 386)

It ends with a hope that the people of Telangana may be eventually persuaded to agree on the merger, while also recognizing the need to respect their wishes if they do not:

Andhra and Telangana have common interests and we hope these interests will tend to bring the people closer to each other. If, however, our hopes for the development of the environment and conditions congenial to the unification of the two areas do not materialize and if public sentiment in Telangana crystallizes itself against the unification of the two states, Telangana will have to continue as a separate unit. (para 388)
However, eventually, the central government, with its visions of large-scale industrialization in the region including the unified Krishna and Godavery river projects - as well the cost-effectiveness of a shared administration - took the decision in favor of the merger. 

To allay the anxieties of the people of Telangana, it was decided that there would be certain provisions or "safeguards" for the people of Telangana and a gentleman's agreement was drafted to this effect. Among other things, it assured reservation for the local people (of Telangana) in government jobs as well as certain domicile conditions besides safeguarding the interests of Muslims and Urdu in public sphere. 

However, there were strong suspicions about these so-called safeguards even then and the Congress PCC Chief J V Narasing Rao stated that "constitutionally speaking, these safeguards had no meaning". 

Significantly the chief minister of Hyderabad state, Burugula Ramakrishna Rao, too was against the merger of Hyderabad state and the Andhra state. He wrote in a letter to the president of the Indian National Congress: "If Telangana is compulsorily merged with Andhra there will be considerable bitterness in Telangana with no adequate advantage on the other side." 

He also expressed apprehension about the relative lack of modern education in Telangana:

Educationally Telangana is very backward as compared to Andhra. They are particularly backward in the study of English for which there are either no facilities or very poor facilities. They are, therefore, afraid that in the matter of service in a bigger province, they will be at a terrific disadvantage. While there are thousands of graduates and MA's in Andhra, there are not even a few hundreds in Hyderabad. No guarantees can level up this great deficiency. Services, therefore, are afraid of an adverse effect of the merger.

Pertinently, Rao also pointed out that in spite of the common Telugu language (thus challenging the linguistic justification of reorganization of states) there were irreconcilable cultural and social differences between the people of the two regions:

Telanganites feel that apart from being Telugus they have built up their own way of life during the last 175 years. This way of life is in many respects different from the way of life of the Telugus in Andhra. The merger, they fear, will destroy this way of life. That is why they are worried.
Besides Telugu, Urdu too was an integral part of the social, cultural and political sphere in the Telangana region and he points out that:

Quite a large number of Telanganites are Urdu-knowing and Urdu-speaking people. For more than a hundred years Urdu has had its place in the life of the people. The administration is carried on in Urdu, records are maintained in Urdu, courts conduct their proceedings in Urdu, lawyers and other professionals carry on their work in Urdu. They are, naturally afraid that the merger would take away the importance of Urdu in their life. They do not like this prospect.

It is indeed significant because the influence of Urdu in the language of the Telanagana region is so prominent that in the thriving film industry in present day Hyderabad dominated by coastal Andhra tycoons, the Urdu-laden Telugu is often ridiculed on screen in the dialogue of comedians. 

Instead of the harmony hoped for by the State Reorganization Committee Report, Rao's letter reveals a dissonance that has unfortunately survived until today. He wrote:

Although the language is common, there are instances that there is no love lost between the Telugus in both the states. The classical example of this mutual dislike can be found in the attitude of Andhra officers during the Razakar agitation and immediately after the accession of Hyderabad [the annexation of Hyderabad state, code named Operation Polo]. While, they say, the Marathi, Kannads and other officers were comparatively kind to the people of Hyderabad, Andhra officers were particularly harsh and unrelenting. There are bad memories left. These memories are so fresh in the minds of the Telanganites that they do not want to be at the mercy of their brethren in Andhra.

Chief minister Burugula Ramakrishna Rao, in spite of opposing the merger, however conceded to the decision taken by the Congress High Command and did not oppose the merger of Andhra and Telangana. Is it not a classic happenstance that the same Andhra and Telangana are being separated now through another difficult decision of the Congress High Command in spite of the misgivings of present Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy? 

Thus, as predicted by several leaders of the time, the alliance of Andhra and Telangana remained a union marked by distrust and aggression and as the coastal Andhra influx over the years inundated and overpowered the social, cultural and political fabric of Telangana, there were periodic pro-Telangana agitation in favor of separating. 

The most damaging in terms of casualties was perhaps the 1969 movement, when more than 300 people died for the Telangana cause; and the most recent one, which most of us know of, was in 2009, spearheaded by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). Although it was TRS that was at the forefront of the latest movement, it is noteworthy that the final decision to de-merge Andhra and Telangana was taken by the Congress Party, which in the first place, several decades ago, had played the matchmaker to this unholy matrimony. 

What now?
While the separation of Andhra and Telangana may make more sense in the light of the history of the region, it is questionable if historical retribution was the sole impetus behind the demerger initiated by Congress. 

People have pointed out political exigencies with the elections coming up and the Congress Party not otherwise faring too well in the southern state. This might provide a boost to the prospects of the ailing party at least in the Telangana region. 

Congress leaders from the other regions (coastal Andhra and Rayalseema), many of them with real estate and other lucrative business interests in Hyderabad, have strongly lobbied against a separate Telangana. They will no doubt continue to lobby for keeping the state united or at least keep the shared status of Hyderabad for longer (now it is proposed to be a shared capital for the next 10 years). 

It is also significant in this context that while the educated, rich and upper-caste voices from Seema Andhra regions have expressed their dissent against the separation of Telanagana, there are supporters of Telangana in the region from among the Dalits and other marginal communities, one example being the scholar activist Kati Padma Rao from Guntur (coastal Andhra). 

The Telanganaites, meanwhile, will strive to point out the centrality of the historical, cultural and geopolitical significance of Hyderabad city to their movement. For the ordinary people of Hyderabad city though - including the multitudes of young professionals from other states in India - life will go on as usual, probably even with the hope of better prospects if the absurdly inflated real-estate prices crash in the near future, as predicted by the pundits.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

When I was a tadpole and you were a fish

When I was a tadpole and you were a fish 
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide,
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip,
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved,
And mindless at last we died,
And deep in a rift of the caradoc drift,
We slumbered side by side,
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death,
And crept into light again.
We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man's hand,
We coiled at ease 'neath the dripping trees,
Or trailed through the mud and sand,
Croaking and blind with our three clawed feet,
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark ,
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more,
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mould,
Of a Neocomian shore,
The aeons came and the aeons fled,
And the sleep that wrapped us fast,
Was riven away with a newer day,
And the night of death was past.
When light and swift through the jungle trees,
We swung on our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms,
In the hush of the moonless nights,
And Oh! what beautiful years were these,
When our hearts clung each to each,
When life was filled, and our senses thrilled,
In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love,
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death,
We followed the chain of change,
Till there came a time in the law of life,
When over the nursing sod,
The shadows broke and the soul awoke,
In a strange dim dream of God.
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds,
And furnished them wings to fly,
He sowed our spawn in the world's dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves,
Where the crook-boned men made war,
And the ox-wain creaks o'er the buried caves,
Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here,
O'er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when I,
Was a tadpole and you were a fish. 
Langdon Smith, 1895

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quite a Commencement Speech

 If you find yourself in such a place, I would ask you to consider a rule I learned as a physician: First, do no harm.

Besides, life is not that short. Life is well and long enough for you to come to regret any activity or habit
involving an exchange of long-term risk for short-term benefit. This is what many if not most Americans
did during the refinancing and consumption boom of the last decade, and it was what our government did
in egging on the boom. This is also the gospel of drunk drivers and cheating spouses.

Of course, when you encounter the opposite—the short-term risk exchanged for long-term benefit—
consider hitting that button again and again and again.

Past may be prologue, but this is not true for the individual. The individual can think different

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Latticework of Mental Models

Psychology (misjudgments)
Biases emanating from the Availability Heuristic:
1. Ease of Recall
2. Retrievability
Biases emanating from the Representativeness Heuristic
3. Bias from insensitivity to base rates
4. Bias from insensitivity to sample size
5. Misconceptions of chance
6. Regression to the mean
7. Bias from conjunction fallacy
Biases emanating from the Confirmation Heuristic
8. Confirmation bias
9. Bias from anchoring
10. Conjunctive and disjunctive-events bias
11. Bias from over-confidence
12. Hindsight Bias
13. Bias from incentives and reinforcement
14. Bias from self-interest — self deception and denial to reduce pain or increase pleasure; regret avoidance.
15. Bias from association
16. Bias from liking/loving
17. Bias from disliking/hating
18. Commitment and Consistency Bias
19. Bias from excessive fairness
20. Bias from envy and jealousy
21. Reciprocation bias
22. Over-influence from authority
23. Tendency to super-react to deprival; strong reacting when something we have or almost have is (or threatens to be) taken away. Loss aversion?
24. Bias from contrast
25. Bias from stress-influence (introduction | posts)
26. Bias from emotional arousal
27. Bias from physical or psychological pain
28. Bias from mis-reading people; character
29. Attribution Error; underestimating situation factors (including roles) when explaining reasons; one to one versus one to many relationships
30. Bias from the status quo
31. Do something tendency
32. Do nothing tendency
33. Over-influence from precision/models
34. Simplicity Bias
35. Uncertainty avoidance
36. Ideological bias
37. Not invented here bias — thinking that our own ideas are the best ones
38. Bias from over-weighting the short-term
39. Tendency to avoid extremes
40. Tendency to solve problems using only the field we know best / favored ideas. (Man with a hammer.)
41. Bias from social proof
42. Over-influence from framing effects
43. Lollapalooza
Other Mental Models:
- Asymmetric Information
Occam’s Razor
Deduction and Induction
Basic Decision Making Process
Scientific Method
- Process versus Outcome
- And then what?
- The Agency Problem
- 7 Deadly Sins
- Network Effect
Gresham’s Law 
The Red Queen Effect
- Ability to raise prices
- Scale
- Distribution
- Cost
- Brand
- Improving returns
- Porters 5 forces
- Decision trees
- Diminishing Returns
- Mr. Market
- Margin of Safety
- Circle of competence
- Complex adaptive systems
- Systems Thinking
- Utility
- Diminishing Utility
Supply and Demand
- Opportunity Cost
- Marginal Cost
Comparative Advantage
- Trade-offs
- Price Discrimination
- Positive and Negative Externalities
- Sunk Costs
- Moral Hazard
Game Theory
Prisoners’ Dilemma
Tragedy of the Commons 
- Bottlenecks
- Time value of Money
Feedback loops
- Tight coupling
- Breakpoints
Bayes Theorem
- Power Law
- Law of large numbers
- Compounding
- Permutations
- Combinations
- Variability
- Trend
- Inversion
- Outliers and self fulfilling prophecy
- Correlation versus Causation
- Mean, Median, Mode
- Distribution
- Thermodynamics
- Kinetics
- Autocatalytic reactions
- Newton’s Laws
- Momentum
- Quantum Mechanics
Critical Mass
- Evolution

Saturday, April 06, 2013

What I tell my Daughter when she cries

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Friday, April 05, 2013

DFW on Certainty

Part of our emergency is that it's so tempting to do this sort of thing now, to retreat to narrow arrogance, pre-formed positions, rigid filters, the “moral clarity” of the immature.

The alternative is dealing with massive, high-entropy amounts of info and ambiguity and conflict and flux; it’s continually discovering new areas of personal ignorance and delusion. In sum, to really try to be informed and literate today is to feel stupid nearly all the time and to need help.

That's about as clearly as I can put it ... That last one's of especial value, I think. As exquisite verbal art, yes, but also as a model for what free, informed adulthood might look like in the context of Total Noise: not just the intelligence to discern one's own error or stupidity, but the humility to address it, absorb it, and move on and out therefrom, bravely, toward the next revealed error.

This is probably the sincerest, most biased account of “best” your decider can give: these pieces are models — not templates, but models — of ways I wish I could think and live in what seems to me this world.
— David Foster Wallace

Saturday, March 02, 2013

One of Many Munger's Life Lessons

 I think most lives work best when you simply react intelligently to the opportunities and difficulties you encounter, and just take the results as they fall.

Some people think that by master planning, you will solve everything, but what I find is that the master plan gets a life of its own, and people believe it because they previously decided on that then, and they make all kinds of mistakes.

Carlyle was a very smart man, and one of his favorite sayings was " “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Leadership 101: Yair Lapid at Kiryat Ono

You won.
There was a competition in Israel for Israeli-ness that lasted over a century, since the second wave of immigration, and in the end you won.
We lost and you won.
For decades it was a Mexican standoff, where each one waits for the other guy to give in,about which Avi Ravitsky, a religious man, wrote: “The status quo was based on the false assumption” which was accepted by both sides, “that the opposition camp was doomed to dwindle away “and perhaps even disappear.”
I know that’s what the Haredim thought about the secular, that they’re doomed to extinction. But that’s what we thought about you, too, that you’re a sort of living museum, like the Ramat Gan Zoo. There’s a place where they have a rare species, almost extinct, that has to be protected so we can take our grandkids there and show them and tell them: “You see, kids? That’s how Jews used to look.”
Let me remind you, when Ben Gurion agreed to exempt yeshiva students from military service the original number was 700. That was supposed to be the entire yeshiva population, 700, and today in the Mir Yeshiva alone there are over 3,500 men.
By the way, the idea that Jews once looked this way is a fallacy. It comes from the fact that the secular Jews bought the story that the Haredim represent a Judaism that had existed for thousands of years, but in historical terms the Haredi movement is relatively new. It can be traced back to the 18th century when the Hatam Sofer established the principle that “the Torah forbids the new.” But the real breakthrough of the Haredi movement came in the 19th century when the rabbis were frightened when a new concept penetrated the Jewish world, the concept of secularism. Secular Jews came in two forms, one was the enlightenment movement and the other was the Zionist movement, and against these two movements arose a counter-movement of religious Jews. This counter-movement created you, the Haredim.
I know this isn’t what they taught you so I suggest that you don’t believe me, check it out for yourselves. Look at history honestly and you’ll find that the real story is that not only is secularism a response to Haredi-ism, but Haredi-ism is a response to secularism.
And from the very first, these two movements were in constant conflict until they reached the point of confrontation, and you won that confrontation.
You won, not only in terms of numbers, but also in the Haredi presence in politics and the settlement movement and as a consumer force and in the streets and the culture and the educational system, you won in all these places. And looking at you here, having heard the statistics, I expect you to win in the job market as well.
Because it turns out there’s no way to build Israeli-ness without you.
No matter how hard we tried, Israeli-ness can’t exist without Judaism and Judaism can’t exist without Haredi-ism, so you win.
There are two reasons for your victory: The first reason is demographic, of course. When the State of Israel was founded the founders had a certain vision, a clear perception of what it should be like. It should be a socialist, secular, European state. That was the mainstream vision, and it held out for 50 years, but different tribes gradually formed around the mainstream.
The Haredi-Ashkenazi tribe and the Haredi-Sephardi tribe and the national-religious tribe and the Beitar tribe, and in the ’50s tribes came here from North Africa that turned into the tribes of the periphery, and in the early ’90s the Russian tribe came here and then the Ethiopian tribe, and each tribe had its needs and demanded something from the mainstream.
Some of them had religious needs, like your tribe, the Haredi tribe, and others had political needs like the national-religious tribe, which instituted the settlement effort after 1967, or there were economic needs such as those of the tribes of the periphery or the Russian and Ethiopian tribes. Each tribe wanted something and each ate away at the mainstream and the tribes gradually infiltrated all the traditional mainstream axes of power, at first in the IDF, then in academia, then in business.
And when the mainstream of Israeli-ness tried to defend itself, because every group instinctually defends its own interests, the other said: Look, you oppressed us, you denied us our rights, and we won’t accept that. And they were right, because the mainstream really did oppress them and denied them their rights and they really shouldn’t have had to tolerate that.
And something else happened besides, the mainstream was no longer the majority. By the late ’70s there were more Sephardim in Israel than Ashkenazim, and since the ’80s there are many more people who consider themselves traditional or religious than secular. And Jerusalem is a much bigger city than Tel Aviv, and since 1977 the capitalist right wing has been in power most of the time, 34 out of 40 years, and a survey from 1994 showed that 56 percent of the public believes that the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai.
It became clear that the balance between the tribes and the mainstream has been upset. The mainstream is no longer the majority. Neither numerically, nor economically, nor politically, nor ideologically.
Then, in the late ’90s, significantly late, something predictable happened: the mainstream got fed up. The mainstream looked to the left and the right and said to itself: I’m sick of everyone demanding things of me, if they want me to lead the country, let them lead it themselves, because I have a new solution: from now on, I’m a tribe too.
And the mainstream turned into a tribe.
For our purposes, and this is very topical, you can call it “the middle-class tribe.”
It said to itself: I don’t need the government in order to do business, I can get married in Cyprus in a civil ceremony, and I have to defend democracy because the other tribes, instinctively, are either non-democratic or less democratic, and I’m sick of the fact that a boy in Bnei Brak and a boy in Um El-Fahm whom I’ve never met are funded by my taxes, and I certainly don’t need to be told that I oppressed them.
If I’m so oppressive, let them get along without me. I’ll do what everyone else does. I’ll look out for Number One. I’ll take care of myself and my people. And that’s how things have stood in recent years.
Instead of a state with one mainstream surrounded by tribes, we’ve become a country of nothing but tribes.
And there’s just one small problem with that: The country won’t survive like this. Not only Israel but no country in the world can survive without a common center, without a broad base on which every can agree.
And that leads me to the second reason why we lost and you won: the spiritual reason. When the Zionist fathers came to Israel they said they wanted to build a melting pot for the Jews, and they truly looked for a broad base of agreement between the different sectors. They ignored the fact that the Jewish people already had such a base. Because the Jewish people had a Father. They wanted to build a secular, socialist melting pot and ignored the fact that the Jews had an ancient Father who had maintained and protected them for 2,000 years, and this ancient Father of course is the God of Israel.
I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about faith, because faith is something else, I’m talking about the question: What is the societal and cultural foundation of the Israeli ethos?
The founding fathers tried to skip from the Bible straight to modern times. They wanted to establish a Biblical ethos, not a Talmudic one. Because the Bible took place here. Because King Saul went to find his donkeys on Highway 443. Open a map and you’ll see where he looked. They planned to base the bond between the Israeli people and the Land of Israel on the Bible because almost all of them were yeshiva scholars who took off their kippot and to them, the Talmudic tradition belonged to the exile, to the home they had decided to leave.
So in order to establish this Biblical ethos they decided to skip over the Mishnah and the Midrash and the Talmud and the Golden Age of Spain and the Ramhal and the Hatam Sofer, as well as Bashevis Singer and Shalom Aleichem and Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. And instead of a multi-dimensional, multi-sectoral vision that could include all the different types of Jews, they created an ethos that suited secular Ashkenazi socialists and they wanted all the other tribes to submit to this ethos. This wasn’t done out of malice or stupidity, it was… secular thinking. The founding fathers’ way of thinking was: If God hasn’t brought the Jews to Israel in 2,000 years, it’s time to let someone else try, it’s time to create a new myth. And when the Holocaust came they saw it as proof that you can’t rely on the God of the Jews because he’s an unreliable father, we can only rely on ourselves.
So we tried to rely only on ourselves, but our attempt failed. If failed because it caused everyone who wasn’t secular, Ashkenazi and socialist to withdraw even more into his tribe, especially when he realized that the vision he was being offered had no room for what was most precious to him – his God. And it failed even more because the founding fathers’ explanation was… unsatisfactory. It didn’t justify our being here. Because if we take our ancient Father out of the picture, what are we doing here? Why would a secular person choose to live in the worst neighborhood in the world, among a billion Muslems who hate him, in this heat, if he doesn’t believe in an external power that makes it worth living here. We realized that this was a problem in 1967, just after the Six-Day War.
Because although the war was run by secular people, the reaction to the war was utterly religious. Following the conquest of regions of our historical homeland… You’re too young to remember this,
but there was a tremendous outburst of religious sentiment that led to the founding of the settlement movement, but even more so, it led to a sense of the miraculous. It was felt by widespread sectors of the nation, a feeling that was lost in the Holocaust: that there’s someone watching over us, that there’s a reason we’re here that we may not understand, that may not oblige us to keep all 613 commandments, but we have to admit that it isn’t arbitrary.
And once we admitted that life isn’t arbitrary, we lost. So we lost and you won. It’s a fresh victory, just a few years old, but it’s already here. And the initial significance of this victory is that we, the secular Jews, have to admit that our vision, the vision of a state that we run without you and in which you’re only guests, was a failure. Because we can’t run the Israeli economy without you as partners,
and it’s no coincidence that the “cottage cheese revolution” was started by a Haredi from Bnei Brak.
And we can’t decide where Israeli education is going if you won’t be our partners, and we can’t decide where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going and we can’t decide what the democratic nature of the country will be, or the relationship between the citizen and the Supreme Court, if you aren’t partners.
If an Ethiopian child in Netivot is hungry, it’s your responsibility as much as mine. And you can’t say: I only give to Haredi charities. If missiles are being fired at Ashkelon or Kiryat Shemona, it’s your responsibility as much as mine. You can’t just send ambulances, you’re responsible as a sector, you’re responsible as part of the State of Israel. And if another huge fire breaks out on Mt. Carmel
I want to know what you plan to do about it, because it’s your responsibility as much as mine.
You won, and that means the time has past when you could stand on the sidelines and say: “You have to consider my needs.” You’re the winners, which means I can say to you: You have to consider my needs, too. You’re responsible for me, too, isn’t not only me who’s responsible for you. It’s not only me who has to find a way to make your life possible in this country, you also have to find a way
to make my life possible in this country.
Because victory has its costs. Losing has no cost. Losing is always its own cost. But victory has its cost because it imposes responsibility. You’re responsible because you’re no longer a tribe or a museum or a zoo, you’re the State of Israel just like me and you influence the Israeli way of life just as much as me, so you have to ask yourselves the question: What responsibility does this impose on you? You’re the lords of the land. What does this oblige you to do? Can you still tell yourselves that only secular Jews should join the army because it’s not your business? Can you still tell yourselves that the only poor people you care about are poor Haredim, and you don’t care if secular poor people die of starvation? Can you still look at the problems that concern Israel, first and foremost the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as secular people’s problems? Can you allow yourselves to remain silent when a group of Haredi extremists tries to force the State to endanger human lives and move the Emergency Ward at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon?
Because taking responsibility means you can’t automatically support Haredim just because they’re Haredim. You’ll be just as supportive of doctors who save lives there every day because you’ll be just as Israeli as them, and that makes you responsible for their children because you have to help their children where your parents wouldn’t help them.
I’m not casting aspersions, heaven forbid, on your parents, I’m sure they were good parents and they loved you and tried to give you the skills that children need who belong to a privileged minority living among an indifferent or hostile majority. Your parents taught you to protect yourselves and your friends and relatives and your lifestyle.
One of the classic Haredi claims against core studies is that they’re not necessary because Talmud study sharpens the mind and Haredi students can easily make up for them later. This claim has two parts, one true and one untrue. The true part is that Talmud study sharpens the mind. We’re talking about thousands of years of wisdom, and whoever studies it becomes both a better person and better trained intellectually.
And the very untrue part is that if you don’t teach children math and English they have no trouble making up for it. They do, because the human mind simply takes in languages and sciences
much more easily at an early age. A few months ago there was a big conference at the Technion on employment in the Haredi sector. Shimon Weiss spoke, he’s the principal of the Jerusalem College of Technology, the oldest academic institution for training Haredim, and Shimon Weiss revealed the incredible statistic that more than 50 percent of Haredi men who are accepted to the college prep program in the technological fields drop out before they graduate. More than half. Among Haredi women who do study math and English the dropout rate is between 5 and 7 percent.
When Weiss was asked why they drop out he said: “They’re basic things. Simple math and fractions and basic spelling in English.” You’re familiar with this. I realize you want your children to study Torah too,
who am I to argue? But just in case they don’t grow up to be great rabbis, give them a chance. 6 hours a week. 4 hours a week. Something. After all, you want to give your children the skills of winners.
They should know not only math and English but also what financial planning is and what law is, a propos this department, so they’ll know what their rights and obligations are, and they should understand technology because they live in a technological world which will be much more technological when they grow up.
And they should know something else, they should know their neighbors across the street, they should know us.
I’ll give you an example that I always use when talking about Haredi-secular relations in Israel, which is the Yom Kippur Law. Israel has the hametz Law, but still, all over Israel people eat hametz on Passover and buy and sell leaven on Passover. And Israel has the Pork Law, but still, all over Israel people eat pork and buy and sell pork. And the only law that they keep scrupulously is the Yom Kippur Law.
On Yom Kippur, not one secular Jew in Israel drives out of his driveway. And not one secular Jew in Israel would even dream of eating in public on Yom Kippur. Do you know why secular Jews keep the Yom Kippur Law so stringently? Because there is no such law. The Yom Kippur Law was never passed in Israel. It doesn’t exist. All that happened was that it’s clear to us that it’s important to our religious and Haredi neighbors that we don’t drive or have barbecues on Yom Kippur. And we’re glad to keep it because they asked us to, because it’s a neighborly act of mutual respect and it’s part of our responsibility towards you to do our best to enable you to live your lives in your way and based on your beliefs.
Yom Kippur is an example of how someone who doesn’t only care about his own tribe acts, someone who sees himself as part of a broader society, as part of a nation. It obliges you to act with the kind of generosity and courtesy that oppressed minorities may not be able to afford, but you can afford.
I don’t want you to be shocked by the fact that you won. Victory has tremendous advantages, this campus is a good example of that, because thanks to this victory the next generation of Haredim, or at least many of them, won’t suffer from the kind of poverty that is intolerable in a modern society.
And thanks to this victory you can speak to us about public space in Israel which will eventually break down the Haredi ghettos. I realize you don’t want your kids to play with my kids in the public playground, and I try very hard not to take offense. But there’s no reason why we can’t find a way to live next door to each other without my having to fear that you’ll proselytize my kids and without your having to fear that I’ll corrupt your kids. Because winners can always afford to fear less. Thanks to your victory you’ll never feel like guests or foreigners in this country which is just as much yours as mine,
and thanks to your victory you’ll never feel threatened again.
And maybe then it won’t be the extremists in your society who set the tone in issues such as modesty or Kashrut or women’s rights. Because if we secular Jews aren’t so threatening any more, your lives don’t have to be such a reaction against secularity and you can ask yourselves questions that you couldn’t ask before. About the general culture and poverty and how extremists rule every aspect of your lives.
Just as wherever you Haredim don’t threaten us we can respect you. We can honor Yom Kippur and circumcise our sons, which isn’t a law either, yet secular parents circumcise their sons.
And we can hold midnight study sessions on Shavuot with thousands of secular participants dressed in white who come to study Talmud and Judaism. By the same token, now that we don’t threaten you,
you can take your future in your hands and decide what your relationship to us will be. This victory enables you to be first class citizens, not second class citizens, but you’ll find that first class citizens
work quite a lot for their country. First class citizens take responsibility for its security, for the welfare of its people, for equality, for its international relations, and more than anything else they’re responsible for enabling people who are very different from them, just as I’m different from you, to live side by side with them.
Thank you very much.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Digital Cash and the “Intellectual Property” Oxymoron

By Steve Jurvetson
Many of us will soon be working in the information services or technology industries which are currently tangled in a bramble patch of intellectual property law. As the law struggles to find coherency and an internally-consistent logic for intellectual property (IP) protection, digital encryption technologies may provide a better solution — from the perspective of reducing litigation, exploiting the inherent benefits of an information-based business model, and preserving a free economy of ideas. 
Bullet-proof digital cash technology, which is now emerging, can provide a protected “cryptographic container” for intellectual expressions, thereby preserving traditional notions of intellectual property that protect specific instantiations of an idea rather than the idea itself. For example, it seems reasonable that Intuit should be able to protect against the widespread duplication of their Quicken software (the expression of an idea), but they should not be able to patent the underlying idea of single-entry bookkeeping. There are strong economic incentives for digital cash to develop and for those techniques to be adapted for IP protection — to create a protected container or expression of an idea. The rapid march of information technology has strained the evolution of IP law, but rather than patching the law, information technology itself may provide a more coherent solution.

Information Wants To Be Free
Currently, IP law is enigmatic because it is expanding to a domain for which it was not initially intended. In developing the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson argued that ideas should freely transverse the globe, and that ideas were fundamentally different from material goods. He concluded that “Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.” The issues surrounding IP come into sharp focus as we shift to being more of an information-based economy.
The use of e-mail and local TV footage helps disseminate information around the globe and can be a force for democracy — as seen in the TV footage from Chechen, the use of modems in Prague during the Velvet Revolution, and the e-mail and TV from Tianammen Square. Even Gorbachev used a video camera to show what was happening after he was kidnapped. What appears to be an inherent force for democracy runs into problems when it becomes the subject of property.
As higher-level programming languages become more like natural languages, it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish the idea from the code. Language precedes thought, as Jean-Louis Gassée is fond of saying, and our language is the framework for the formulation and expression of our ideas. Restricting software will increasingly be indistinguishable from restricting freedom of speech.
An economy of ideas and human attention depends on the continuous and free exchange of ideas. Because of the associative nature of memory processes, no idea is detached from others. This begs the question, is intellectual property an oxymoron?

Intellectual Property Law is a Patch
John Perry Barlow, former Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder (with Mitch Kapor) of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that “Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted or expanded to contain digitized expression... Faith in law will not be an effective strategy for high-tech companies. Law adapts by continuous increments and at a pace second only to geology. Technology advances in lunging jerks. Real-world conditions will continue to change at a blinding pace, and the law will lag further behind, more profoundly confused. This mismatch may prove impossible to overcome.”
From its origins in the Industrial Revolution where the invention of tools took on a new importance, patent and copyright law has protected the physical conveyance of an idea, and not the idea itself. The physical expression is like a container for an idea. But with the emerging information superhighway, the “container” is becoming more ethereal, and it is disappearing altogether. Whether it’s e-mail today, or the future goods of the Information Age, the “expressions” of ideas will be voltage conditions darting around the net, very much like thoughts. The fleeting copy of an image in RAM is not very different that the fleeting image on the retina. 
The digitization of all forms of information — from books to songs to images to multimedia — detaches information from the physical plane where IP law has always found definition and precedent. Patents cannot be granted for abstract ideas or algorithms, yet courts have recently upheld the patentability of software as long as it is operating a physical machine or causing a physical result. Copyright law is even more of a patch. The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 requires that works be fixed in a durable medium, and where an idea and its expression are inseparable, the merger doctrine dictates that the expression cannot be copyrighted. E-mail is not currently copyrightable because it is not a reduction to tangible form. So of course, there is a proposal to amend these copyright provisions. In recent rulings, Lotus won its case that Borland’s Quattro Pro spreadsheet copied elements of Lotus 123’s look and feel, yet Apple lost a similar case versus Microsoft and HP. As Professor Bagley points out in her new text, “It is difficult to reconcile under the total concept and feel test the results in the Apple and Lotus cases.” Given the inconsistencies and economic significance of these issues, it is no surprise that swarms of lawyers are studying to practice in the IP arena.
Back in the early days of Microsoft, Bill Gates wrote an inflammatory “Open Letter to Hobbyists” in which he alleged that “most of you steal your software ... and should be kicked out of any club meeting you show up at.” He presented the economic argument that piracy prevents proper profit streams and “prevents good software from being written.” Now we have Windows.
But seriously, if we continue to believe that the value of information is based on scarcity, as it is with physical objects, we will continue to patch laws that are contrary to the nature of information, which in many cases increases in value with distribution. Small, fast moving companies (like Netscape and Id) protect their ideas by getting to the marketplace quicker than their larger competitors who base their protection on fear and litigation.
The patent office is woefully understaffed and unable to judge the nuances of software. Comptons was initially granted a patent that covered virtually all multimedia technology. When they tried to collect royalties, Microsoft pushed the Patent Office to overturn the patent. In 1992, Software Advertising Corp received a patent for “displaying and integrating commercial advertisements with computer software.” That’s like patenting the concept of a radio commercial. In 1993, a DEC engineer received a patent on just two lines of machine code commonly used in object-oriented programming. CompuServe announced this month that they plan to collect royalties on the widely used GIF file format for images.
The Patent Office has issued well over 12,000 software patents, and a programmer can unknowingly be in violation of any them. Microsoft had to pay $120MM to STAC in February 1994 for violating their patent on data compression. The penalties can be costly, but so can a patent search. Many of the software patents don’t have the words “computer,” “software,” “program,” or “algorithm” in their abstracts. “Software patents turn every decision you make while writing a program into a legal risk,” says Richard Stallman, founder of the League for Programming Freedom. “They make writing a large program like crossing a minefield. Each step has a small chance of stepping on a patent and blowing you up.” The very notion of seventeen years of patent protection in the fast moving software industry seems absurd. MS-DOS did not exist seventeen years ago.
IP law faces the additional wrinkle of jurisdictional issues. Where has an Internet crime taken place? In the country or state in which the computer server resides? Many nations do not have the same intellectual property laws as the U.S. Even within the U.S., the law can be tough to enforce; for example, a group of music publishers sued CompuServe for the digital distribution of copyrighted music. A complication is that CompuServe has no knowledge of the activity since it occurs in the flood of bits transferring between its subscribers
The tension seen in making digital copies revolves around the issue of property. But unlike the theft of material goods, copying does not deprive the owner of their possessions. With digital piracy, it is less a clear ethical issue of theft, and more an abstract notion that you are undermining the business model of an artist or software developer. The distinction between ethics and laws often revolves around their enforceability. Before copy machines, it was hard to make a book, and so it was obvious and visible if someone was copying your work. In the digital age, copying is lightning fast and difficult to detect. Given ethical ambiguity, convenience, and anonymity, it is no wonder we see a cultural shift with regard to digital ethics.

Piracy, Plagiarism and Pilfering
We copy music. We are seldom diligent with our footnotes. We wonder where we’ve seen Strat-man’s PIE and the four slices before. We forward e-mail that may contain text from a copyrighted news publication. The SCBA estimates that 51% of satellite dishes have illegal descramblers. John Perry Barlow estimates that 90% of personal hard drives have some pirated software on them.
Or as last month’s Red Herring editorial points out, “this atmosphere of electronic piracy seems to have in turn spawned a freer attitude than ever toward good old-fashioned plagiarism.” Articles from major publications and WSJ columns appear and circulate widely on the Internet. Computer Pictures magazine replicated a complete article on multimedia databases from New Media magazine, and then publicly apologized.
Music and voice samples are an increasingly common art form, from 2 Live Crew to Negativland to local bands like Voice Farm and Consolidated. Peter Gabriel embraces the shift to repositioned content; “Traditionally, the artist has been the final arbiter of his work. He delivered it and it stood on its own. In the interactive world, artists will also be the suppliers of information and collage material, which people can either accept as is, or manipulate to create their own art. It’s part of the shift from skill-based work to decision-making and editing work.”
But many traditionalists resist the change. Museums are hesitant to embrace digital art because it is impossible to distinguish the original from a copy; according to a curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, “The art world is scared to death of this stuff.” The Digital Audio Tape debate also illustrated the paranoia; the music industry first insisted that these DAT recorders had to purposely introduce static into the digital copies they made, and then they settled for an embedded code that limited the number of successive copies that could be made from the a master source.
For a healthier reaction, look at the phenomenally successful business models of Mosaic/Netscape and Id Software, the twisted creator of Doom. Just as McAfee built a business on shareware, Netscape and Id encourage widespread free distribution of their product. But once you want support from Netscape, or the higher levels of the Doom game, then you have to pay. For industries with strong demand-side economies of scale, such as Netscape web browsers or Safe-TCL intelligent agents, the creators have exploited the economies of information distribution. Software products are especially susceptible to increasing returns with scale, as are networking products and most of the information technology industries.
Yet, the Software Publishers Association reports that 1993 worldwide losses to piracy of business application software totaled $7.45 billion. They also estimated that 89% of software units in Korea were counterfeit. And China has 29 factories, some state-owned, that press 75 million pirated CDs per year, largely for export. GATT will impose the U.S. notions of intellectual property on a world that sees the issue very differently. 
Clearly there are strong economic incentives to protect intellectual property, and reasonable arguments can be made for software patents and digital copyright, but the complexities of legal enforcement will be outrun and potentially obviated by the relatively rapid developments of another technology, digital cash and cryptography.

Digital Cash and the IP Lock
Digital cash is in some ways an extreme example of digital “property” -- since it cannot be copied, it is possessed by one entity at a time, and it is static and non-perishable. If the techniques for protecting against pilferage and piracy work in the domain of cash, then they can be used to “protect” other properties by being embedded in them. If I wanted to copy-protect an “original” work of digital art, digital cash techniques be used as the “container” to protect intellectual property in the old style. A bullet-proof digital cash scheme would inevitably be adapted by those who stand to gain from the current system. Such as Bill Gates.
Several companies are developing technologies for electronic commerce. On January 12, several High-Tech Club members attended the Cybermania conference on electronic commerce with the CEOs of Intuit, CyberCash, Enter TV and The Lightspan Partnership. According to Scott Cook, CEO of Intuit, the motivations for digital cash are anonymity and efficient small-transaction Internet commerce. Anonymity preserves our privacy in the age of increasingly intrusive “database marketing” based on credit card purchase patterns and other personal information. Of course, it also has tax-evasion implications. For Internet commerce, cash is more efficient and easier to use than a credit card for small transactions. 
“A lot of people will spend nickels on the Internet,” says Dan Lynch of CyberCash. Banks will soon exchange your current cash for cyber-tokens, or a “bag of bits” which you can spend freely on the Internet. A competitor based in the Netherlands called DigiCash has a Web page with numerous articles on electronic money and fully functional demo of their technology. You can get some free cash from them and spend it at some of their allied vendors.
Digital cash is a compelling technology. Wired magazine calls it the “killer application for electronic networks which will change the global economy.” Handling and fraud costs for the paper money system are growing as digital color copiers and ATMs proliferate. Donald Gleason, President of the Smart Card Enterprise unit of Electronic Payment Services argues that “Cash is a nightmare. It costs money handlers in the U.S. alone approximately $60 billion a year to move the stuff... Bills and coinage will increasingly be replaced by some sort of electronic equivalent.” Even a Citibank VP, Sholom Rosen, agrees that “There are going to be winners and losers, but everybody is going to play.” 
The digital cash schemes use a blind digital signature and a central repository to protect against piracy and privacy violations. On the privacy issue, the techniques used have been mathematically proven to be protected against privacy violations. The bank cannot trace how the cash is being used or who is using it. Embedded in these schemes are powerful digital cryptography techniques which have recently been spread in the commercial domain (RSA Data Security is a leader in this field and will be speaking to the High Tech Club on January 19). 
To protect against piracy requires some extra work. As soon as I have a digital $5 bill on my Mac hard drive, I will want to make a copy, and I can. (Many companies have busted their picks trying to copy protect files from hackers. It will never work.). The difference is that I can only spend the $5 bill once. The copy is worthless. This is possible because every bill has a unique encrypted identifier. In spending the bill, my computer checks with the centralized repository which verifies that my particular $5 bill is still unspent. Once I spend it, it cannot be spent again. As with many electronic transactions today, the safety of the system depends on the integrity of a centralized computer, or what Dan Lynch calls “the big database in the sky.”
One of the most important limitations of the digital cash techniques is that they are tethered to a transaction between at least three parties — a buyer, seller and central repository. So, to use such a scheme to protect intellectual property, would require networked computers and “live” files that have to dial up and check in with the repository to be operational. There are many compelling applications for this, including voter registration, voting tabulation, and the registration of digital artwork originals.
When I asked Dan Lynch about the use of his technology for intellectual property protection, he agreed that the bits that now represent a $5 bill could be used for any number of things, from medical records to photographs. A digital photograph could hide a digital signature in its low-order bits, and it would be imperceptible to the user. But those bits could be used with a registry of proper image owners, and could be used to prove misappropriation or sampling of the image by others.
Technology author Steven Levy has been researching cryptography for Wired magazine, and he responded to my e-mail questions with the reply “You are on the right track in thinking that crypto can preserve IP. I know of several attempts to forward plans to do so.” Digital cash may provide a “crypto-container” to preserve traditional notions of intellectual property.
The transaction tether limits the short-term applicability of these schemes for software copy protection. They won’t work on an isolated computer. This certainly would slow its adoption for mobile computers since the wireless networking infrastructure is so nascent. But with Windows ’95 bundling network connectivity, soon most computers will be network-ready — at least for the Microsoft network. And now that Bill Gates is acquiring Intuit, instead of dollar bills, we will have Bill dollars.
The transaction tether is also a logistical headache with current slow networks, which may hinder its adoption for mass-market applications. For example, if someone forwards a copyrighted e-mail, the recipient may have to have their computer do the repository check before they could see the text of the e-mail. E-mail is slow enough today, but in the near future, these techniques of verifying IP permissions and paying appropriate royalties in digital cash could be background processes on a preemptive multitasking computer (Windows ’95 or Mac OS System 8). The digital cash schemes are consistent with other trends in software distribution and development — specifically software rental and object-oriented “applets” with nested royalty payments. They are also consistent with the document-centric vision of Open Doc and OLE. 
The user of the future would start working on their stationary. When it’s clear they are doing some text entry, the word processor would be downloaded and rented for its current usage. Digital pennies would trickle back to the people who wrote or inspired the various portions of the core program. As you use other software applets, such as a spell-checker, it would be downloaded as needed. By renting applets, or potentially finer-grained software objects, the licensing royalties would be automatically tabulated and exchanged, and software piracy would require heroic efforts. Intellectual property would become precisely that — property in a market economy, under lock by its “creator,” and Bill Gates’ 1975 lament over software piracy may now be addressed 20 years later.