Thursday, 31 December 2015

21st Century University

I absolutely love this. For the longest time in my own life I've wanted to redefine the education system and how it operates. This seems to be almost a perfect model for how I thought it should be. Bravo.
YouTube Comment 
This is the future. I would totally opt for this if it was available 7 years ago.
YouTube Comment

A few months back I posted on Abundant Education and how we will get there. This video illustrates my point exactly. We have a crisis in higher education both in the US and Europe (well in education as a whole). Costs are spiralling out of control and the quality is not what is used to be; the classic hallmark of socialism. The incorrect conclusion is that Universities make great workers/thinkers when in fact its the other way around. Great workers/thinkers go there because for Centuries it has been the only option. Now that monopoly is falling apart and better alternatives are being created by the free market. 

Consider the above example. You pay nothing up-front. You only pay dependant on the job you get once you graduate. This means the school has a massive incentive to ensure your employable so that you can maximise payments back to the school. They take around 25% of the first two years of your earnings and then that's it. Compare that with hundreds of thousands of University Graduates who have large debts and the universities don't care what you do after; its basically a pump and dump scheme funded by Government. Students end up paying for it years after they graduate. The worst part of it is people who decide not to enter into further education end up paying for others who do in the case of general taxation. The whole system is in desperate need of disruption.

Business models like this basically solve the crisis in higher education. Contrast my recent post of where a progressive believed she could carry on with the existing system and just give it more money, thus not actually fixing anything and not even having a credible solution to anything. Entrepreneurs in contrast, rather than moan about the current state of affairs go about solving problems they see. They don't beg for peoples money but rather disrupt the conventional wisdom and turn industries on their head. Higher Education is going to completely transform over the next few decades once people start to scale the above example. Theres many different schools all trying to disrupt the current model.

If I was 18 once more and these new concepts scale to where I live I wouldn't do University again I would enrol straight into one of these programs. Retrospectively I view my whole education as largely a waste of time, full of tests, theory and talk with no value. Wouldn't it be better if we got the youth to create value for society and learn new skills at the same time. If we instilled that culture of a can do attitude; one where real world problems were not to be shied away from but to be tacked head on. It seems our Governments and many people in society have become fixated with sending more and more people to traditional University thinking this is the way to create the minds of the future when in fact the minds of future just go there because its the de-facto option. No longer in the 21st Century will this be the case. In fact the future minds will shun University in favour of alternatives listed above. Bravo to the Universities of the 21st Century!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Broken Record of Socialism

Generations have always believed Socialism has all the answers to what they perceive as societies problems. Yet whenever it is implemented it not only fails to solve these so called problems but makes conditions far worse. Some of the below is extracted from the realities of life in Venezuela, a country that has tried and failed with Socialist policies. There's free food, free healthcare, the only catch that there is no food or healthcare when you need it. It can be added to the never ending list of Socialist failures.

Santiago Ortiz is lying, eyes closed, on the bed. He is no picture of repose. Above his jaundiced, swollen belly, his thin chest is pumping fast. His face twists into the pillow. An oxygen mask is strapped tight across his mouth and nose. Santiago is two years old and has acute myeloid leukaemia. What he does not have is adequate treatment. Inside his cramped room, on the 10th floor of the University Hospital of Caracas, his doctor, paediatric resident Joam Andrade, points to the cockroaches on the walls, and the sticky tape holding his oxygen tube together. But those are details. Santiago lacks medicine. "This is the third time since last year that he's relapsed and we've had to admit him," Dr Andrade says. "All we can do is try to control the pain." She writes in my notebook what she wants to prescribe, and cannot, because there is none in Venezuela: "Cladribine. 5-6 ampoules. 10mg."
It was against this wreckage, in a bare hospital lecture-room, that Dr Andrade joined a group of doctors, students and heads of department to talk to me about the state of the hospital. I had asked to speak to one or two. Over the course of an hour, more than 15 - I lost count - walked in, off shifts, off ward-rounds. They waited their turns and then listed their woes. No syringes. No operating equipment. Violence from patients' relatives, furious that the hospital management had assured them of high quality care. The paediatric emergency department closed for repair; the temporary site had, one student doctor told me, "no oxygen, no medicine for asthma, no antibiotics, no food".
But that is information Dr Machado imparts just as an aside. What matters to him is that his department has not been able to perform a single heart surgery in the past three weeks. "We have gone from 450 open heart surgeries a year to 20. And from 1,200 cardiac catheterisations per year, it's now at most 300. "I'm almost at the point where I have to say we need to close our department of cardiology, because it's not fair to make us just look at our patients, and see which way they are going to die." He and his colleagues have looked for answers. The BBC has seen a letter sent in June, by Dr Machado and other heads of medical departments to the government ombudsman explaining the depth of the crisis and suggesting "concrete steps".
They have received no reply.

Earlier this year this is what the leader of UK labour party had to say about the country.

Venezuela is seriously conquering poverty by emphatically rejecting the Neo Liberal policies of the world’s financial institutions. 
Success for radical policies in Venezuela is being achieved by providing for the poorest, liberating resources, but above all by popular education and involvement.

Socialism. I have discussed the moral issues in previous posts. Even overlooking this it always has one outcome. It always ends badly for everyone.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Chairman Mao

It goes from bad to worse for the Labour Party. To use a mass murder as the basis for a joke is a new low; most people will be quite worried about the fact that Britain's main opposition party has become a complete joke. Moderate Labour MPs won't need to oust Corbyn and his team, at this rate they will self implode on their own accord.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Income Myths

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as "bad luck.”

Robert A. Heinlein 

There are so many modern myths concerning income a few are highlighted in the video below. I've got plenty more to say on the subject as this only scratches the surface.

I was once in the poorest 20% in so called "poverty" as progressive would say. This was back in 2005 just after I graduated and landed my first job just to pay the bills and gain experience at first. Fast forward 10 years to 2015 and I am now in the so called top 10%. I don't feel it as I'm still the same person with lots of enthusiasm and a will to try and make a difference. That 10 years makes a world of difference, I have gained real world experience, employees now value my skills and knowledge. The whole point is people do not stay poor. I'm a real life example and can comment it on it. I'm not the only one. My dad had a similar journey. He started on very low wages, in fact he constantly reminds me that everything was very expensive back when he was young compared with now. He was chuffed to get a brand new car at around the time I was born in 1983. It was a basic Ford Fiesta. Today it would look like a tin can on wheels but back then it was a high priced item.

Washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves - that was living the dream, I still remember my parents buying the various appliances as they became more affordable. Now we buy them when our existing ones break; they have become so cheap its mostly too expensive to pay someone to fix the broken one. From growing up on a council estate my dad has elevated his income into the top percentiles by hard work and a passion for what he does for a living. He started at the bottom like me and gained skills and knowledge as he matured over his 40 years in the workplace. People look at the snapshot statistics and say "the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer!". This misses the vital point that people move through income percentiles during their life and when this is analysed then the whole premise of the Socialist sob story begins to fall apart.

Tom Woods did a recent podcast doing a wonderful job of highlighting some of Thomas Sowells recent book with snippets about incomes. At the bottom I've attached the podcast for anyone who wants to listen with many myths completely torn apart. When tracking people over a ten year period the phrase "the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer" actually turns on its head. The bottom 20% find their incomes rise by on average 91%. Meanwhile the top 1% see their incomes fall by 26%. Now we are tracking individuals rather than static income percentiles, the picture becomes rather different. The phrase lies, damned lies and statistics rings truer then ever.

What we also find is that the elite brackets of the so called 10% and 1% are not as elite as people would have you believe. In America over 50% of the population enters the top 10% of earners during their lifetimes. Even in the top 1% of earners, over 10% of Americans are associated with this bracket at some point in their lives. In the study they also found that 10 years later most of the people in the top 1% were no longer there.

Now of course certain individuals may remain in the bottom 10% all of their lives for whatever reason but even these people gain tremendous due to the advances and wealth of others. Even if we were to look at the most lazy and incompetent individual in society they actually gain the most from Capitalism and free markets. Innovations such as cars, electronics, Internet, travel; all of these have now become accessible to the common man and all were once only available by elites. They became affordable because markets continually drove innovations and price reductions. People who create such goods may get very rich in the process, but to succeed they may have had to take huge sacrifices. 80 hour weeks. Taking lower pay when they could be earning a higher and more reliable income with an employee. Risking their assets, relationships, bankruptcy. Truth is, most of us can't handle these sorts of pressures. Thats why we should be grateful for the people who can. Meanwhile the lazy person who has a job but does as little as possible, gets a steady income, doesn't risk their own net wealth or deal with the pressures listed above, gains from all the innovations of the people who do go through such trauma.

So why has the share of incomes increased for the top 1% or the top 0.1% in particular? There are a number of reasons the most obvious one is technological change, the world has become more connected and richer. Now companies operate in places that historically were never available. India, China, South America - all are opening up and if you can create a global product then you can sell it to more people who are all wealthy than 30 years ago. Computers and the Internet now allow global reach to any budding entrepreneur. CEOs have to manage global supply chains and can consequently scale to larger markets, therefore they are paid more due to the global impact they have. During the same period taxes for the rich have fallen significantly. In the UK top tax rates used to be well over 90% and are now around 45%. Despite this halving of tax rates the rich have never paid more as a percentage. Back in the 1970's it was around 15% of total tax, now it has risen to over 30%, ironically there has never been more socialist distribution from rich to poor despite what the progressives will tell you. Consequently people on higher tax rates now declare their income rather than go through the bother of escaping tax when the tax rates were too high. Back in the 1970's CEOs would get their income in other ways; off book assets, or dividends or any other clever accounting trick. They always had the higher income in the past - they just never declared it.

Its time to abandon the politics of envy. The bashing of the 1%. The demonisation of the millionaires. We should all be more civil to one another rather than allowing the socialists and progressives to divide us all into tribes and to create hate against one another - the politics of envy. Peoples incomes change over time. People generally do not stay poor forever. To envy certain income percentiles is to envy yourself. Limiting peoples freedoms has never done anyone any good. The poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer is just another Socialist myth.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Whos going to pick up the tab

"Free" University, cancellation of Student Debt and a $15 minimum wage for people who work on site in a University. All we need to do is go after that "greedy" 1% minority. Simple?

Like with anything if wealth was just as easy as changing a couple of laws and clicking our fingers there would be no such thing as scarcity. The interview is an embarrassment towards people who still hold socialist beliefs, that all one has to do to make society better is take from their fellow man.

Are the 1% hoarding all that money? How did many of them become the 1%? Do they contribute nothing to society? I could pick any multi-millionaire businessman who at one time had next to nothing but made staggering wealth not by just taking from others but by creating something from nothing. They obtain this wealth by meeting consumers needs better than what previously existed. I don't shop at Amazon to enrich Jeff Bezos, I shop there because I value its competitive prices, convenient service and the fact I can check real consumer reviews against products. Prior to services like Amazon I had to go to a physical shop that was only open at certain hours. I had no simple way of comparing prices with other retailers without walking from shop to shop and could only get prices from my area rather than the whole world. There was also no real consumer feedback on what I was buying. Companies like Amazon changed all that. They created wealth from nothing, from nothing more than a garage and one guys vision. Now it provides jobs to thousands of people and millions of consumers value it. Did Jeff Bezos ask anyone else to pay for this? No he went out there and earned that right.

Has Jeff Bezos contributed nothing to society? Is he hoarding his money or is he constantly innovating looking at where to invest and create wealth for us all? That money is genuine capital and is either in a bank paying for your mortgage or starting the next great startup or ready to invest in creating new jobs and capital goods. What the Student in the video is proposing is for the Government to take that money, spend it now - instantly, with the institutions no doubt asking for more money in another few months time. Jeff Bezos couldn't provide that capital to startups, or for your loan or to re-invest back into making Amazon even more efficient. Remember everyone else is greedy - especially the 1%. Its never people who ask for someone else to pay for their education, its never people in Western Countries who can be unbelievably bone idle if they please but still enjoy a life of luxury compared to their fellow human beings born into a country where odds really are stacked against them and who earn a dollar a day and have to toil and suffer to get that dollar. And in most cases countries that are in that state because they persecute the 1%.

The idea that we need to spend more on education is a joke and shows how little creative thought many have, in particular Socialists/Progressives who just want to maintain the status quo and spend more of other peoples money on it. As I've already posted we can have better education at a fraction of the cost if we just allowed people to try different solutions rather than a single top down approach we currently have. Society generates wealth when people disrupt what currently exists and do something completely different, not pursue the same course. The funniest thing about the video above? Turns out the person getting interviewed isn't working class or remotely close. She went to an expensive private school and now goes to one of the most costly Universities. Also it has been posted that her dad has a home with an estimate value of around a million dollars. Doesn't that make her the 1%, the people she believes who never contribute anything to society? 

Friday, 13 November 2015


I recently went out on a night in London with my Brother. It was the usual night out with him. Lots of alcohol; drinks at the start of the night at his house in London, bar then club. One thing was different. We decided to use Uber, a new taxi application, to navigate around. My brother had already used the service before and I had the app, albeit it I had never used it as they currently don't operate where I live.

After finishing at the bar the London underground was no longer running so we decided to try get a bus to the club. We ended up waiting for twice the scheduled time at which point my brother had had enough and ordered an Uber cab. Within minutes it arrived. We jumped in and got to our destination very much quicker and more reliable than the bus. The cost? Around £8 for a journey in Central London on a Friday night at around 1am and we arrived right outside the club.

Later that night we left at around 3:30am. Usually its a pain to get back to his house. Its either a night bus that takes an hour or trying to flag down or call a private taxi. Again tooled up with Uber we called a cab and it cost us around £13 to drive from south of the river just past Waterloo all the way back to the East of London on the other side of the river. Any other taxi would have cost a fortune by comparison.

Why do I mention all of this? Because various vested interests all over the world are in the process of using Government agencies to try and restrict Uber in the marketplace. Uber offers a fundamentally safer, more efficient and cheaper form of transport than currently exists. Instead of the taxi companies innovating or the Governments removing existing arcane regulations they are trying to stop or limit the service. Uber recently won a court case against the TFL (Transport for London), however the TFL are now fighting back further. They are trying to demand 5 minute waiting times - in the form of once the taxi turns up the passengers are not allowed to enter the vehicle for 5 minutes. The bogus claim is to state its a "safety issue". Last time I checked waiting around on the streets in London at 3:30 in the morning is less safe then being in a moving car.

Uber is the most valuable unicorn company with a valuation of around 50 Billion Dollars, a symbol of the recent tech boom. Its investors include Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Richard Branson to name a few. Theres even Shawn Fanning as an investor who you may remember created napster, another disruptive technology. Uber is nearly as valuable as British Petroleum, despite having 5% the number of employees and while BP generates annual profits of 4 Billion Uber yields non. Such is the power of software and in Ubers case the potential of future profits. Uber is a disruptive technology along with other similar companies in this space and will do huge good for us all.

They will make taxis safer. With ratings bad drivers can potentially be banned. It works two ways. Bad abusive passengers can also be banned. Currently there is nothing stopping an abusive passenger getting into a taxi on multiple occasions as there is no way for the taxi driver to communicate this information with other drivers. With Uber the person can be banned for their bad behavior as Uber tracks all this data. No more trying to hail down a cab late at night on the streets. With Uber you call a cab and get an ETA of when it will arrive. Not only that but you can see it real time on a map just before it arrives and go outside to get it. All Ubers cars are tracked some may see this as a curse and its possible alternative businesses could opt not to do this. But personally I value this. You can imagine a future where parents tell their young Children to get a taxi back after a night out. As it currently stands sometimes the child may pocket the money their parents give them or fail to organise a taxi in time. Well not with Uber, with Uber the parents would be able to track it all. All your previous journeys are there for you to view, time, cost; its all there.

Uber is very efficient. No longer do taxis drive round aimlessly looking for passengers. Ubers algorithms can now match up taxis with passengers in real time based on location, even before the current taxi journey finishes, its algorithms are already seeing potential next matches. Uber has recently proposed a car pool service, where it will match up passengers going in similar directions to the same taxi. This brings down the costs of fares for the passengers, gives a slightly higher rate for the taxi driver and is a more efficient use of petrol and road space. Ubers dynamic pricing system generates the correct incentives for taxi drivers to be on roads to match passengers real time demands. At busy periods Uber ups the price of journeys as an incentive for drivers to take to the roads. At quiet periods the price drops to avoid idle cars on the roads.

Uber are even advertising it's social benefits. Black people in America have claimed that existing taxi drivers would avoid them in favour of white people. Uber solves this as the driver has no idea who the next customer is and picks them up regardless of race, sexual orientation or appearance.

Like all disruptive technology the majority of us wins but there are a minority of losers. The established taxi model is broken, it can't be fixed, we can't undo Uber like technology. Until engineers solve self driving cars (and they are well on their way to doing this - Uber is also prototyping these) there is still a need for taxi drivers so rather than fight the new innovations, existing taxi drivers should join in the revolution. The existing regulations are broken and were never about consumer safety but about cartelising the work and limiting newcomers. Uber is breaking this and giving power back to the people. Drivers can work wherever and whenever and take more polite passengers. If they don't like a passenger they give them a bad rating and Ubers algorithms will not match them up next time. Passengers get a better service at cheaper prices. Business = Data and Algorithms. We're only just beginning to scratch the surface of this concept and change the world for the better.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Libertarian is within all of us

"There was a time when we honored those who created the prosperity and the freedom that we enjoy. Today we honor the complainers and sue the creators. Perhaps that is inevitable in an era when we no longer count our blessings, but instead count all our unfilled wishes"
Thomas Sowell

When engaging in a discussion with someone I find an effective technique to get them on board with your argument is to identify points you have in common with them. Once you have identified common ground it becomes easier to explain a certain point of view as the other person is more receptive to your ideas. In political spheres it is a popular myth that people of both right and left are diametrically opposed and share nothing in common. As can be seen with the recent Conservative conference where chants of "Tory Scum" and eggs been thrown by some of the people, they actually believed the other side to be pure evil. The difference between the participants entering the conference and the protesters outside were not as different as the scenes would make you believe.

If I was to ask a couple of questions to the protesters and the conference delegates first would be, do you believe in not taking other peoples stuff? Second, do you believe that we should not do harm to others? I would bet over 99% of people would agree with both points, in that people have a right to their own bodies and property and that we should respect one another and not cause untoward harm. You may not realise it but these two questions are central to Libertarian thought. Many people agree with such broad statements but in practice many seem blinded by their own contractions in life.

The classic example is when Governments decide to embark into conflicts. To pay for such skirmishes instead of asking for peoples money it rather takes from the citizens in order to hurt others, breaking both principles above. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring uprisings - non of this was a direct threat to own bodies but yet our Governments decided it was in their interest to engage in armed conflict. Rather than protect our liberty we now find they have destabilised the region further, armed ISIS and created power vacuums in many countries. Why can Government take money from all of us in the form of taxation? We may all agree that a chunk of this money goes to good causes but there are many other good causes I could force others to support but as a society we view this as unacceptable and quite right. People have no right to tell others what to do with their fruits of their own labour.

The protesters outside the Conservatives Conference view themselves as morally superior yet their actions contradict this premise. Their belief is the rich should pay more into schools and hospitals. In essence their moral argument boils down to taking from people who work very hard and create wealth for the poorest; claiming they have the moral high ground as it benefits the poor. All they are advocating is organised theft, they themselves are not giving or creating solutions to combat poverty but instead believe that taking from their fellow man is compassionate. I could advocate the same policy its not hard, its no skin off my back. I wouldn't pay the extra money as I'm just taking it from others. Instead of holding such a view these people should instead enter business and come up with new innovations, products and make goods more plentiful for everyone including the poorest. Rather than complaining about their lot be grateful of the abundance they have compared with many billions in the world. Rather than plotting to take assets from others be the change that they wish to see in the world. Food used to be expensive. We now have diets of abundance because people put in hard work to create wealth and find better ways to produce goods. Everything good we have, has come about not by protest, self pity or complaining. It has come about from hard work, action and a can-do attitude. People from modest backgrounds have achieved astonishing things all because they dreamt they could. 

If the protesters believe that taking other peoples stuff is acceptable then would they also advocate that people in the slums of India or Bangladesh should take from the poorest worker in the West? This gulf is far greater than if we compare a millionaire and the poorest worker in a western country. The millionaire can own a few houses, a plane, a yacht, or a fancy car but an average worker can afford to use all these products just to a less extravagant extent. Compare that to people on less than a dollar a day. They have no clean water and have to walk miles to obtain their "drinking" water that could kill them. They have one meal a day of gruel, a subsistence diet and are lucky to live beyond their 40's. The millionaire and western worker has no difference in all the above. Both can also get drunk, have the latest iPhone and entertain themselves with large TVs and endless content. The only people in true poverty are the ones in 3rd world slums but many of us would not agree if those people were to turn round and demand we give them money against our free will. 

Regardless of your political beliefs ask people if they want better schools, hospitals, transport and so forth; again the majority of people would also share this view. We all have these end goals in common but its the means to achieve them that differ. I would argue we all have a little Libertarian in us. We just need to learn to express it more and understand that liberty is the only true moral system to resolve conflict with one another in a civil manner. It holds up to the two questions I asked at the start of the article that we all believe are right; yet all our mainstream political parties break these principles all the time with the majority of the public unwittingly supporting such actions.

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Morality of Taxation

Paying tax is not a burden. It is the subscription we pay to live in a civilised society.
Jeremy Corbyn

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul.
George Bernard Shaw

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Ronald Reagan

There are some great probing questions in the video above, well worth a watch if you haven't seen it. When I suggest to people that I don't think we should have taxes, full stop, its hard for many to comprehend. Looks of disgust or the fact I must be mentally ill are common responses. How will the world work if we didn't have taxes? Liberty is a belief in voluntary co-operation with one another. For example when I go to work I do it for my own self interest. I sacrifice my time in order to get paid. My company pays me not because it wants to but because they need someone to do a job in order to stay in business. Thus we both enter into a voluntary agreement and where these two self interests meet we end up with co-operation with one another. Taxation doesn't work under this model instead it forces people to enter into agreements they may disagree with. I may not support intervention in Syria or money spent on the latest rail projects. Yet if I don't pay I go to jail. There is no voluntary agreement; no choice to opt out; my individual choice is taken away from me.

The majority of people are dormant Anarchists. We all believe one another has a right to their own bodies and actions and to pursue their own interests. However when it comes to the concept of taxation we have become so passive to it that we actually don't even question it. I think we all should give it great pause for thought. Some say its the price we pay to live in a civilised society when in fact taxation is a direct contradiction to the statement. How can initiating force on one another be civilised? How can it be civilised to allow a majority to decide if we should go to war then force the minority who opposed it to also pay for it? As the video states I may believe a cause is worth giving to but I do not have the right to force other citizens to also give against their free will.

So if you decide that taxation if immoral then your next question is, how would society function without it? What if it could, in fact what if  society could prosper far more than is currently the case, in fact the poorest and most vulnerable would gain greatly under such conditions. The de-nationalisation of money will allow asset poor people to accumulate wealth far easier than the current government fiat monetary system that constantly erodes in value thus leading people to speculate, generally favoring able investors. Education could be done far better by voluntary co-operation and level the field for all. Healthcare is undergoing a revolution - its the free market and liberty that will solve Americas $90 Trillion projected shortfall in healthcare spending. The price of land and housing is a blight which highlights the vested interests of successive Governments maintaining high house prices. The UK has over 90% of land as empty space. For most of that the Government pays the largest landowners to just sit on the land giving less incentive to sell (taxpayers subsidise it unwittingly). Planning is controlled by Government bodies. Londoners bemoan the price of housing and we are told there is no space in an attempt to explain the rising costs yet New York is half the size with the same population but their house prices are not double the cost (and still with New York the planning is a mess). They have built vertically to fully maximise the land and give people larger homes to live in. For the vulnerable of society, the 1-2% that can't pay, there would be ample good will to help those in need by the use of voluntary action. People would not only be wealthier but would also be more compassionate rather than the current rob thy neighbor mentality in order to get as much "free" stuff as possible.

Rather than fear a collapse if there was no Government we would in fact flourish. So ask yourself, is taxation the price you pay to live in a civilised society? Or is being civilised not using force and co-coercion; instead co-operating with one another in a voluntary matter?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


“I stuck by this party through three election defeats. Can you not stick with me through three victories?"
Tony Blair after 3 General Election Victories

"He scares the Tories. He even scares the hell out of me."
John Prescott on Tony Blairs Election as Labour Leader in 1994

"Who has the Toughest Job. You or Me?" William Hague
"You." Tony Blair
On William Hague becoming leader of the Conservatives, 1997

The Recent Election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the Labour Party is a fairy tale for some a horror show for others. He came from nowhere with 200-1 odds and emphatically won the contest. Persuaded to put his name forward by John McDonnell, now the new Shadow Chancellor, "I've stood twice, it's now your turn to put your name in the mix"; it's not entirely clear Mr Corbyn wants the job. He probably didn't think he would make the ballot. Then when he did, he thought maybe he could come third, but to take over 50% of the votes, more than all other three candidates shows how mutinous the mood of the general public is. Over 90% of Labour MPs did not vote for him and since he was known to be on the leadership ballot there was a huge surge in Labour party membership. I think a lot of his votes were from disgruntled Socialists from various organisations. It is evident over the world. Far right movements in Hungry, France and Greece; Syrzia a supposed far left Government; Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump who are storming for the Democrats and Republican leadership. People have become weary of politicians with hot air and no principles.

Politics however has always been about people with soundbites and little principle. The whole point of a politician is to try and appeal to as many people as possible, it is not as people believe to represent them. Tony Blair was one of the greatest politicians of the modern era. Regardless of what you think of him his ability to appeal to almost everyone and anyone was astonishing. He stood for everything and yet nothing at the same time. He was a Socialist but never took offence at being called a Tory in disguise. He was a big spender but didn't raise taxes. He could be tough when needed but compassionate when required. He courted business leaders and union bosses simultaneously. What he understood was how to win elections. David Cameron is now replicating this exact formula. He supports the NHS but believes in enterprise and free markets are the engine to prosperity. Again he is tough when required but compassionate when needed. He has announced the living wage and declared the Conservatives to be the true workers party, going straight for Labours Jugular. Their intention is not to destroy Jeremy Corbyn; instead they want to discredit the Labour Party itself for a generation.

Why do I mention all this? Because Jeremy Corbyn is not of the same mould, one of the reason his supporters went for him. He is compassionate but not tough. He is a Socialist. He stands for a clear set of principles. This is why he will struggle to appeal to the general electorate, more specific the 2 million of so who decide the marginal seats that determine who the Government is. First question is - will he still be leader in 2020? There are a number of reasons he may not. First he may quit. He's never had a frontbench job never mind actually a leadership job. Second, the Blairites and center of the party may try to get rid of him before the election. This could happen if the party starts to implode, and as Mr Corbyn seems a very principled and pleasant person may even step down to save the party he loves. In saying all this I have already seen some political manoeuvres to appeal to the broader electorate. He has been playing down comments he's said in the past about Hamas or the IRA, given open ended answers on Europe and stated that he will sing the national anthem at his next public appearance. John Mcdonnell his shadow chancellor recently appeared on question time and had to face questions about comments that he "Wish he could go back in time and assinate Margaret Thatcher" and regarding the IRA "It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.". Only now when in a potential position of power did he apologise for those remarks (he didn't retract them). Despite being told that that team Corbyn has no spin, we are seeing plenty of it. He also came up with a story as to why Jeremy Corbyn didn't sing the national anthem which many of the panel didn't buy.

As Margaret Thatcher once said never underestimate the appeal of Socialism. It works on the premise of having simple solutions to complex social interactions. Your problems can be solved by a few people whose premise is to take money from one set of people, give it to another group and then claim credit. Yet whenever it is tried it fails with brutal reliability. The get out clause is it either wasn't "pure" Socialsim or Capitalism brought it down,, and so the process repeats for another unsuspecting generation or group of people. Many in the UK lived through the 1970's when we tried Socialism, the post war consensus and don't want a return. It was interesting that a lot of Corbyns support came from younger people who have not had to go through such traumas. Corbyn still thinks Venezuela is a model for social cohesion and prosperity, despite the fact that crime and inflation are rampant and the President there states toilet roll shortages are because Venezuelans eat to much. Mr Corbyn goes on Iranian TV but doesn't challenge them on their views on women and the fact they hang homosexuals but because they have an anti-western view they are his "friends" like Hamas. Nick Cohen has explained why he's deserted the left. If he's left then the majority of Britons won't vote for him.

Labours post war history has always been a battle of the moderates vs the leftists. After their historic 1945 landslide win and the mass program of Socialism that followed the party has only ever been elected since when they moved back to a more market friendly stance. The people of Britain have never voted for Socialism since when others in the world did. First Bevan vs Gaitskell. For over a decade Labour were out of power, they only got back into power when Harold Wilson moved the party back to the Center ground during the 1960's (in his early days Wilson was to the left of the party). Then came the 1980's, again the left said Britain wanted true Socialism, Michael Foot was seen as the only one who would unite both the right and left, a compromise to Dennis Healey and Tony Benn. Instead the party split and the SDP was formed by people within Labour who thought they were un-electable. After the crushing 1983 defeat to the Tories Neil Kinnock came in and moved the party once more back to the center ground (similar to Harold Wilson in his early years he was to the left of the party) battling the left wing militants, the Marxists. It took 18 years until Tony Blair formed another Labour Government and had to move the party right over to the center-right in the end to regain the British peoples trust. Then the battle of the Milibands; Ed the more left leaning than his brother David. Ed lost the 2015 election quite badly in historic terms. Yet the left still claimed "We need a purer message", "people didn't vote for us because we weren't left wing enough". So Jeremy Corbyn was elected. Labour have always had to contend with the battles between left and right - their whole party history is based on it. And they have only ever gained power post 1945 when they have abandoned their Socialist history and had a more moderate stance.

Therefore when people say this is the end of the party I have to disagree. Jeremy Corbyn will leave one day and so the Labour party will thus move back to a more central position. They have been in worse nick. When this will be I have no idea. Some have described Corbyn as an extreme far left candidate, when actually historically he's quite moderate compared with 30 years ago. He has so far "only" wished for a 50% top rate tax when at one time it was well over 80%. He advocates the re-nationalisation of the railways when in fact the railways are already heavily owned by the State. The Government controls the tracks, the stations, the signalling. It sells access to the lines for the private companies to run on, it sets many fares and determines how many trains can run at certain times. The only thing that is private is basically the carriages. So actually nationalisation is not much different to what we have now, which an inquiring mind would ask "what will nationalisation solve?". When John McDonnell was asked about renationalising BT (which was the first of the Tory privatisations back in 1984 and was actually unpopular among the general public initially with the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock vowing to re-nationalise it) he said he would love to, but said it was too late now. I suspect the real reason is the fact it wouldn't be popular and people could not see the point of the Government going into telecom's as they've witnessed the advances in the sector with the absence of Government (not complete absense - again Government has a lot of regulatory power with OfCom). With all this actually Jeremy Corbyn is to the right of the SDP back in the early 80's, more aligned to Tory Policy back then. He may be a Socialist but he's not made any Socialist commitments yet.

This is what the power of the market does. People don't need to read textbooks on liberty, free markets or the virtues of Capitalism. They can just witness prosperity with their own eyes and observe what works and what doesn't. We are on the cusp of a new era of prosperity - Banking, Law, Education, Healthcare, Transportation - all traditional areas of Government management are going to break free from this straight-jacket. Entrepreneurs are using technology to subvert these current sectors. Whether that be de-centralised legal contracts, currencies or peer-to-peer banking; doctors in America voting with their feet to abandon their Socialist-Corporate-Racket Healthcare they currently have in favor of cash based payment models or people creating abundant education for all. Its all coming and it won't be Socialism that will deliver this. Jeremy Corbyn is still stuck in a time hole; people have moved on since the Cold War and the collapse of Communism. He will only win power if there is a Financial Crisis (which is due) during the 2020 election and he is able to con the majority that it is the fault of Capitalism. Or he abandons his Socialist stance. British people, as can be seen post 1945, have never voted for a Socialist movement.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Abundant Education and How we Get There

Abundant Education is coming. Mark my words the next couple of decades will revolutionise how we all learn. Education will be of the same standard for anyone, regardless of income, geographic location or background. Families on less than a dollar a day in third world countries will get access to the same standards as the children of the richest parents. Technology and liberty will yet again level the field for all, a Socialists Dream, ironically they will fight it the most because yet again its Capitalism that will deliver these benefits.

Education is going online. Everyone is going to have access to the best teachers. If you want to learn algebra then the worlds best teacher in this field will put their lessons online for all to watch. Now think of our current system. We have millions of maths teachers all over the world that teach the same content hundreds of times in their lives. They each teach around 30 students and most are no where near to being the best algebra teacher. They do this for 30-40 years. Meanwhile basic algebra hasn't changed for centuries. Why do most of us not view this as madness? The potential savings to the global economy is astronomical. Meanwhile the quality of Education will go up. I remember my days in class, daydreaming, switching off as it was either too slow or too fast. An interesting study into Video based self learning has found students actually prefer to watch lessons on their own as they can pause, rewind and fast forward as they please. They can even repeat the entire lesson if they wish at any point in time.

The next big question becomes what about if the students have questions? Well this is possibly where a school could come in (in the future schools may look completely different to the schools we are accustomed to). With online Education the system flips on its head, homework is done in school, practicals and interacting with one another and the lessons are done at home each student learning at their own pace. In terms of students getting help as the technology gets better I would argue we don't even need teachers you just need to open your mind to see such an alternative. For example we could have forums based around the specific classes. Here questions could be posted and answers or explanations could be posted. Answers I argue could be posted by the students themselves, even past students who have completed the course in the past. We are all students and teachers in the end. Actually having an on-hand geographic teacher now becomes not even a necessity.

So why would children decide to answer other students questions? Simple, badges and rewards. Mozilla for example have an Open Badge platform whereby people are rewarded for answering other peoples questions. Its a similar concept to the site StackOverflow which is used by Software Developers. People answer other peoples questions to gain badges and thus have a public profile that all can see. They can use this profile to attain mastery in a given field which greatly aids in getting the job they want. It would be similar for Children. If they demonstrate they can answer questions they show to Universities or employers that they are problem solvers and helpful. Over time these forums could even be searched by the next generation of students. All prior questions and answers can be shared for all to see globally. When Artificial Intelligence improves computers may provide the answers automatically.

Education is becoming more interactive, in fact its becoming more like a game. Like it should be, learning is going to get fun. Children will move onto higher levels as they can see their progress just like in a computer game, gaining badges and completing courses similar to levels on the latest computer games. Parents will be able to track their child's progress they will even be able to do courses with their children. Everyone starts at level 0 and only moves up. Children can choose from a far wider range of subjects than with existing schools. Why only have a dozen subjects that I had at school, why not learn about Cars from the worlds best Mechanical Teacher, or the history of renaissance art from someone who has a great knowledge for the subject but also the passion and ability to convey that information to children.

All achievements could be uploaded to an Education Blockchain (using Bitcoin Blockchain technology). Each person would have an immutable record of their various achievements in their life signed by themselves and the education authority that supplies the content to verify their achievement. Now imagine this profound shift. When I finished 16 years of School I got a piece of paper that said "1st Class BSc Computer Science". It didn't even say what modules I had taken, if I had specialised in anything. People even lie about the degree they get. Now imagine if we use a blockchain to store all specific modules and courses we take. If an employer wants to validate what I had done they would only need to scan the blockchain. People could opt-in as they wanted but I would bet most of us would opt-in. Education doesn't stop when we get a job. Its a constant process, I would argue I've learnt far more when I left education. Now when an Employer wanted someone with skills in Spanish or a programming language like Python, they could scan the Education Blockchain, see relevant candidates in the area and check the real life qualifications as a means of filtering people. Recruitment could be done by computers - data and algorithms, the model for 21st Century business.

With all the above I hope you are beginning to get a picture of what is to come for all our Children and Grandchildren. Abundant, world class education. Best of its being built right now by various Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists. Coursea and edX offer a range of courses, known as MOOCs. Its early days but I can see the potential of such offerings. A course was run on edX by a World Leader in Machine Learning that is taught to students at Stamford, one of Americas leading Universities. Thousands of people signed up and of those many beat the actual Stamford students. In fact the best performing Student at Stamford came around 400, showing how such a platform is going to level a field and provide access to University Education for free. People talk of rising student fees - yet this is our old education system (why are we even debating Student fees here in the UK?). We can do it for free, student fees will be a thing of the past. Students will be able to meet on their own accords with services such as p2pUniversity. We don't need vast educational complexes for the best and brightest amongst us. I left University a decade ago and yet I am still immersed in intellectual discussion on the internet, in the form of various blogs, forums and media. Nanodegrees such as the ones offered by Udacity will revolutionise the concept of a degree. For example there are highly practical degrees for Android Mobile Application Development designed by Google employees, the people who make Android. Again, if you don't have commercial experience with Android then anyone can get a degree on their own terms to get into a particular field. More of these will appear and people will be able to get certifications online. Science experiments don't require classrooms. With Google Camp children can learn real life about science from their own home. Udemy already have over 30,000 courses. With the Khan Academy you can learn all manner of schools topics from age 5-16. Its all there for free and the lessons have interactive questions as you go along. People build up badges as they complete certain tasks giving it an appeal to Children. My Daughter is only 3 and is still a bit young for the content but was captivated when I showed her the badges section. 

The field is exploding and more and more choice will be offered over time with the content getting better and better. Education is no longer regional but global, enabling costs to be slashed as it scales and quality to be driven higher and higher. If anyone thinks lessons in algebra are not up to scratch they can do some themselves. In fact that's exactly what people are doing. On youtube you can teach yourself nearly anything. I learnt how to fix my car by just looking at videos posted by mechanics and various forums. The amateurs are even turning professional if they get good. Many of them get sponsorship from companies due to the fact they can attract millions of viewers and generally the viewers are interested in a particular topic. Contrast that to regular TV where the audience isn't global and many of the viewers may just be watching just by the fact its background noise or something to watch. Companies can target their ads using Googles algorithms as they know your location and what interests you.

The thing that gets many really exited by the advances in education is that this will also reach the poorest in the world. With projects such as School in a Box and Google Loon to name a couple, Children who don't even have the internet or electricity will be getting online to learn and share in this new found wealth of educational resources using innovations such as these. Why is this great? Because the more people become educated, the more intellectual capital we have to tackle the problems of our time. We need all the brains we can muster to solve these issues. These projects will help drive equality throughout the globe as Education is the most valuable investment you can make. In fact it will slowly eradicate absolute poverty as generations are able to earn more money and live comfortable lives that many of us in the West take for granted every single day of our lives. 

So with this abundant Education will all the teachers have no jobs apart from an elite few? Their jobs will just change, however in all reality there will be less need for the quantity of teachers we currently have. Teachers will not give lessons but inspire students to learn. They will become enablers not gatekeepers. Parents will become more involved in their children's education, fellow students will also play vital roles with one another in education. Teachers will be more accountable. The vast paper bureaucracies that have been created will be gone, it will all be digitalised. 

Abundant Education is coming and it's inevitable. Its another victory of human creativity under the conditions of freedom to try an idea. Schools today have not changed for 100 years despite the world we live in now being far different. That's what years of stifling Government interference does. It hampers progress, protecting the status quo at the expense of abundance. Most people in the UK will say "we need to spend more money on our schools!", a classic socialist line. For an ideal that describes money as evil they sure like to spend other peoples. I say no, we need smarter ways to educate us all. These smarter ways will not only deliver better results than the current system but will slash the costs for us all, driving them close to zero and leveling access for all. We currently view world class education as scarce. Lets banish that to the footnotes of 20th Century history.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Techno Libertarians

I wanted to follow on from my previous post which detailed how this century is going to be dominated by software with wealth for all of us growing at exponential rates. The de-materialisation has already begun in the West whereby we now live in an age of disposable computers and material goods that were once highly prized items. Modern Entrepreneurs are a different breed to previous generations. Many aren't motivated by riches, power or prestige. They think they can change the world for the better, viewing themselves as noble people in a race to create prosperity for us all. Many of us can see what has been done in the technology field. In the past 50 years we have seen Moore's law give billions of people access to computing power that was once science fiction. Yet many other areas of society continue to stagnate. Public Transportation systems have been stuck in a state of stasis for the past century. Schooling still resembles Victorian methods despite the world we now live in being completely different. There has been good progress in heath treatment and the understanding of human biology but costs have continued to go up and if anything we are no where near to achieving abundance after decades of state control. Drug innovation has been the reverse of Moore's law. Controlled by bureaucratic big corporations who patent up everything has stifled the field for decades. Now the Techo-libertarians, many with unwitting classical liberal values are fighting back. They are not just trying to change the world through software but exploring other sectors to try replicate the model of silicon valley.

Facebook has become an integral part of many of our lives but its a classic tale of a visionary spotting value in a small niche and building a platform for people from around the world to communicate. Mark Zukerberg has since become a billionaire (on paper) but took incredible risks to get where he is now. He toiled for days and nights non-stop building the initial application. With little or no money he also was going against much larger competitors at the time the MySpace or Bebo's for example. As Facebook took off Yahoo offered one Billion dollars for the company. Mark was only in his early twenties, Facebook wasn't even making any money. He could have sold out there and then and been comfortable for the rest of his life. 99.9% of us would. Instead he went to his board at the time and said along the lines of "This is more of a formality, we're not going to sell out now right?". This was an extremely courageous thing to do. His company could have been wiped out by the competition, it could have failed, he could have took the easy life. He didn't because this was his mission he felt compelled to finish what he started; this was his chance to change society for the better he could still see Facebooks true value to us all and it was going to be more than one billion. This tale is similar to many other tech entrepreneurs who create a company and don't sell out until they go the full distance.

Mark Zukerberg is not finished. Facebooks new office has been designed to have an unfinished appearance, Mark wants to remind all his employees that Facebook never can be finished there is always something else to improve, to add, to refine. He's not just stopping with Facebook he has recently invested in a new type of School that remodels education with the use of computers. Using teachers as facilitators, the pupils now drive their own education. There is no set hours, you can learn at your own pace in your own time. Progress is tracked using the software but it doesn't discipline students based on results. Students don't fail rather everyone starts on base zero the only direction is to move forward from this base point giving a sense to the pupils that they always progress - never going backwards. Exceptional students can progress faster thus ensuring boredom is not an issue. Pupils can investigate subjects that interest them. Creative thinking is encouraged, not swept aside like the conventional schooling of sticking to set curriculum's and everything a teacher says is gospel. Other Entrepreneurs are taking on the States hold of Education. The Khan Academy is a superb resource to educate adults and children. It enables Children to learn at their own pace and re-watch material as many times as they wish. Coursea allows people to take University courses for free. Its only matter of time until the content becomes just as good as the real thing and young people decide to save thousands of pounds and get a world class education for nothing. In the UK we currently spend tens of billions on Education. We can not only make it free but also provide world class content for all. The Internet is a great leveller enabling people of all backgrounds the same platform to learn from.

Many Tech Entrepenurs are trying to tackle problems in different verticals. Elon Musk, co-creator of PayPal is trying to come up with the next generation of electric cars with his company Tesla. A serial entrepreneur he is also trying to revolutionise public transportation building Hyperloop Transportation. The idea is to build a series of tubes where people are shot around in pods at the speed of sound. They will use air and be near friction-less thus consuming less power than many other forms of current transport. Using surge pricing and advertising the other idea is to make the service free at non-peak times. One day the plan will be to replace planes with such a service and have it nationwide. It may fail and still needs to raise the initial investment capital but here are a bunch of people with the audacity to change the world for good. Not talking about it or lobbying politicians to tax people more; no talk just action. Compared with HS2 or the similar Californinan Rail project which is going to use Billions of Tax Payers money regardless of if those tax payers want it, Hyperloop is all voluntary. If it suceeds it will cost $0 to the taxpayer (unless the Government decide to buy it - but in my opinion it should always be privately funded just like the railways were a long time ago when they revolutionised transport).

The other paypal co-founder Peter Thiel is joint venturing Seasteading a concept to use an Island that is devoid of Government control. Its a far fetched idea but again its people putting a concept out there and seeing if it has demand. Many see it as crazy which is exactly what the founders want. If no one takes it seriously and it takes off then it will be hard for the powers to come down hard on it. Many people have shown interest that want to escape draconian regulations. Drug Startups for example think progress in this verical is being stifled due to big pharm.

An ex-google employee decided to apply the principles of open source software to robotics creating the Willow Garage project with the PR2 Robot. They are sometime of consumer prime time with both utility and price but the principle is to try and encourage collaboration to solve common problems that could help automate our daily lives. Again, starting to build something with zero cost the consumer.

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin believe themselves to be on a noble crusade to improve people lives. They too think they can change areas of society. Making software is easy - little regulation, dynamic people, no central power. But trying to revolutionise other sectors using software proves to be tricky. When talking about using google wearables for healthcare Brin has talked about the current stifling environment. I'm sure their automated cars will also have initial hurdles to get regulators on board. Still if you don't try you will never know and that's what drives them, not the zeros on their net worth. 

Many technologists are not driven by ideology or dogma, but rather they see what works and wonder why the pace of innovation that occurs in silicon valley can't be replicated throughout all areas of society. In a nutshell many are sceptical of the state. They see what they do and what they can achieve with little or nothing. While Bureaucrats get hundreds of billions of dollars taken at will from people who then provide very little benefit to society. Meanwhile the 'techies' start with nothing but a garage. Jeff Bezos, Amazons founder, famously packed it all in and set up shop in his garage. His desk was a sawn off door. Despite starting with nothing he built a company that consumers value. Entrepreneurs work relentlessly, risking their time and capital to meet what they perceive are consumer demands. While many of us would sell at a drop of a hat, they continue risking their time and energy for the fact they believe they can change the world. They build hundred billion dollar businesses from nothing. The cost to the public is nothing. Services keep getting better. Google used to just index the internet (actually many thought it couldn't be done at the time for free with no obtrusive ads - but Google did) then offered email back in 2004 with 2GB of storage for free which I thought was insane at the time ten years ago when I got invited. It blew the competition away. Now all my priceless photos are backed up for a lifetime for free - it even syncs in the background. Costs stay near zero, services just keep getting better. Entrepreneurs are modern day heroes, no "Predators" as Ed Miliband once remarked.

Computers were once believed to be only for large organisations and that there would only ever be a handful; they were once scarce. In came the entrepreneurs, the dreamers the misfits who turned computers into an abundant resource for all; rich or poor. Now they want to replicate that technological abundance to other areas of our lives; healthcare, transportation, education. They want to replicate the principles of silicon valley - namely that anyone who has an idea can try it out, that's how wealth is created. Governments will try to hamper the progress as they see their prominence in peoples lives eroded away. But people are pragmatic and once these ideas are out and in use there will be no turning back. Snap-chat CEO sums up our generations millennial attitude in the video below on why he didn't sell his company for 3 Billion dollars despite it not even making a profit. Money is not the driver for most of our generation; finding a purpose with ones life is the goal. It epitomises everything that is good with humanity. The spirit of the individual combined with the responsibility to make society better for all. Markets - not Governments - can only create such abundance for all. We are witnessing the slow death of Socialism and a new era of ever increasing human prosperity, where freedom not State tyranny is the model. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Programmable Society

Computers have always intrigued and fascinated me. Since an early age I have enjoyed pulling them apart and putting them back together once more. I also enjoy programming them which is now what I do for a living. If you have kids then I recommend you introduce them to programming. Building software is a great career option and will get even better as the century goes on. We are entering a new phase in computers; the programmable society. Business = Data + Algorithms. Not just for software companies but all business will depend on this concept. Software will continue to be everywhere and embedded in every sector and every company. If you can program there are literally no limits as to where you can work.

So what does it mean to become a Software Developer? It potentially involves working from home, flexible hours, freebies (drinks, snacks, phones and so on), lots of varied jobs to choose from, always learning lots of new things, working in different sectors and interesting business applications, working with smart people and many other benefits. All the perks are only going to get better. Software Developers are going to be the new rock stars of business. Salaries have been rising very sharply, not only due to the Governments monetary policies but down to the fact that shortages are already becoming more pronounced all around the Globe. All the time new applications for software take root, so you need more people. Existing applications require to be maintained and eventually re-written, requiring yet more people.

If we consider where computers have come in the past 60 years it is truly remarkable. A true example of anarchy in action, chaos theory. Back then computers could be counted on one hand and were in the hands of large corporations or Governments. Most people didn't interact with them at all. Applications were simple and few. Since then we have had the microchip revolution with Moores law enabling processing power in peoples pockets that is more powerful then bygone supercomputers. If ours cars had dropped in price as dramatically as computers we could pick up our car from the showroom for under a dollar. We all use computers everyday, we run our lives on them. Holidays, TV, our Social lives, photo collections, travel directions, our nutrition and health. Buying our homes, our cars and our coffee makers - its a booming industry. Devices are now obtained for pittance meaning we all have become used to owning several of them each. Our phones are computing marvels, computers are in our glasses, our cars, our watches, our TVs, our heating systems; there are no limits and we are only getting started. Soon they will be so small and embedded in our contact lenses or skin, we won't even see them.

Now think about business today, think about your own company you work for? Now think does it rely on computers? Not only do all our companies now rely on computers but new businesses are forming that are really turning old business on its head. Uber in essence offers a taxi service. Only they don't own any cars, drivers or call centers. Their business model is data and algorithms - its software. A multi-billion dollar company has little staff, little physical assets, they just give consumers and small entrepreneurs a service that enables them to hook up by knowing which drivers are where and which fare payers need a lift.

Facebook is essentially a content publishing service. People put content up and share it with others. Facebook own no content, no writers, little physical assets and little staff, yet are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Again their business is nothing more than data and algorithms. Airbnb has a similar story and many other recent startups - too many to name and they are growing at an ever increasing rate. We will witness exponential growth and innovation in this sector, there are no limits. The playing field in the software industry keeps getting flatter meaning startups are increasingly done by no more than kids with an idea and bags of enthusiasm.

I recently attended the AWS london conference as part of my work whereby Amazon talk about their on demand compute services (the keynote can be found here). As part of the keynote there was a talk from a 20 something year old on how he and his friends started gosquared, a company that provides analysis on how users use a companies application (again using nothing more than data and algorithms). As was noted in the past they would have needed at least 5-10 million dollars just to get this off the ground from an operations point of view. They were 14 years old at the time who would have never got access to money like that. AWS enabled them to use a platform based on usage but as they grew, could scale to meet their needs allowing them to focus on their core application. This low cost to startup is seen time and again with dynamic startups and its getting cheaper all the time. Many of the software used - databases, source control, message technology - all of it is free to use. The heavy lifting software is now all free, allowing great products to be created. The only cost to start a software company these days is time. Hardware will be handled by the experts, be that Google, Amazon or some other company who are able to squeeze every watt of energy out their appliances to maximize efficiency. More people will contribute more and more to open source software making the heavy lifting frameworks with no upfront costs allowing people to focus on the business logic of their applications.

So what happens if a company starts and needs capital? Not only is the industry full of Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists but there now exists crowd-funding and soon micro-lending. People are raising money from hundreds of thousands of users who want some application to meet their needs. Once we have micro-lending with crypto-currencies this is going to get even easier. People will be able to bootstrap company's with millions of people contributing, allowing people with similar interests but very different geographic locations to fund such endeavors. We will all have the capability to be an Venture Capitalist. That is a truly revolutionary concept.

We have moved from the industrial economy and then to the information economy. Now we are transitioning to the ideas economy, one where people become enabled to be more creative and pursue their own interests. The vast decentralisation will also bring about hypergrowth, technology will keep getting ever more sophisticated and more pervasive all around our lives. Take Ubers business model of allowing anyone to become a taxi driver. Softwares only limit is the creativity of the human mind. Ubers model will constantly evolve over decades requiring more and more software to be maintained and new code to be written. Currently the system uses human drivers but eventually it will be self driving cars; taxi-bots. Then you will need algorithms to mange these cars to obtain optimum efficiency. The cars will become self autonomous, fixing themselves based on the fares they obtain. There will be less need for car parking in busy urban areas as people will just use cars as on demand services as the costs are slashed more and more. Smart traffic systems will need computers to determine how many cars are on the road at certain times, dynamically changing traffic light systems for example. In fact at that point the cars will talk to each other determining how best to optimise traffic flow, yet more data and algorithms. On top of all this there will be my kids generations ideas and their kids; all will come up with some brilliant novel ideas and thus require more and more software. My generation is more dynamic and entrepreneurial than my parents who had unions and so on. My kids will be yet more dynamic with self employment continuing to explode.

Software is after everyones jobs its not just taxi drivers or other blue collar jobs, white collar jobs will also come under attack. Smart contracts will replace many legal and financial positions, offering the ability to have programs uphold legal contracts. Smart Property will mean your house, your car will all be held on decentralised ledgers, again with software determining the legal status of them.The Internet of Things is only just starting and soon your fridge will be smart enough to order your groceries. Cryto-currencies will completely disrupt the finance sector and will remove a whole host of jobs.

An entrepreneurial revolution is underway, our children and grandchildren will be far more dynamic and comfortable with risk then we ever were. Software will play a prominent role in this and encourage many to go it alone. Formal qualifications will become less relevant as the Century moves on. University Degrees are continually being watered down, its only a matter of time until a generation starts to abandon them. It will not be what you know but what can you do that matters. People will pursue things that interest them like never before in history; lines between work and play will become ever more blurred and in a good way. Already we have seen the abandonment of the 9-5 culture in Software but some companies are now taking it to the next logical level. Netflix now mandates no holiday to its employees. Instead they can take holiday whenever they want and for however long they wish, in fact they encourage it. Their culture is not what hours you put in, but what value you actually produce. They run regular hackathons where they allow employees to do what they want, even if its not related to their business, encouraging creative thinking and providing a stimulating environment to attract the best and brightest. Middle managers are virtually no where to be seen, instead engineers are encouraged to be self starters and to have the enthusiasm to deliver autonomously. Process is also looked down on, instead trusting people to do the right thing and put them in power. This won't be right for every company right now but will become more prominent over the decades especially as younger, more dynamic people enter the field.

Every sector will be run by computers. Your recruitment will be done every more by computers and its only a matter of time until someone creates an automated system. Finance and legal will fall to algorithms. Anything manual is due to be automated. Already MacDonalds are looking to replace people with automated robots that can make and serve burgers. Our road networks will be run by computers. Our microwaves, TVs, Fridges, watches, phones and appliances will become computerised ever more. We will organise our lives ever more with the help of computer, Siri and Google Now are just the early prototypes. Computers will recommend our entertainment to consume be that music or films or events. It will tell us great holidays we could take, who to be friends with and who to marry and spend our lives with. It will continue to help us raise our children, to help communities come together more. It will help us to all keep in touch, I know my parents both love the fact they can see pictures of their Grandchildren grow up even though they are hundreds of miles away and we are just getting started. The Internet is the greatest educational resource we could have, if I never see another innovation I'm just elated that I got to live in a time of its existence. When my kids ask what we did before there was the Internet I will say "We got bored, information was scarce and as kids we would argue over trivial facts when now all you have to do is talk to your phone which gives you the information". You health will become run by software. Software will exist that enables custom organs, limbs, tailored to your individual needs. Tools to predict future events will become ever more sophisticated enabling elections to be called, to deal with future consumer trends, what people may want to buy or information they may wish to consume; we are still in the early game for all of this.

So if you are a parent and you are reading this then get your kids into code. Tell them how important software will be in their lives. If they end up showing no interest then at least they were exposed to it, programming is not for everyone. Throughout my life in IT I have been told I shouldn't bother. "They are going to automate software", "India, China or Eastern Europe will take all your jobs", "We will eventually make all the applications we need" - I've heard all the excuses over 15 years now and none have come to pass. My salary over the past 10 years since I have entered the field has continued to rise, Over this period I have averaged 30% plus pay rises each year by moving jobs, despite the fact for many workers pay has stalled. In fact for the majority of those years the country has been either close to, or in recession. I haven't even done this by following a corporate path, climbing the ladder or crossing the 't's and dotting the 'i's, I never could I'm too free minded to bother. I've essentially kept the same job title over that time and been knee deep in the code. I don't talk about code I write it. We all won't need to code. We will still have sales people, HR, Creative Marketing and a whole host of jobs that will be hard to automate - such as the guys who fit my tires to my car recently (until they come up with a dexterous enough robot). But we should all code more. As a society we will collectively have to write a whole lot more code over the course of the 21st Century.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

United Kingdom 2015 Election

History was written in the recent UK General Elections. There were many historic shocks and yet again the opinion polls were wrong. The Conservatives and Labour were neck and neck in polling however managed to gain a majority. Labour meanwhile have been routed, not only in Scotland but have failed to make any significant gains in England and Wales. The Greens and UKIP despite all the hype only got a seat each. The SNP shocked everyone, gaining near complete control over Scotland and removing the Westminster parties from power. The Liberal Democrats were torn to bits and it remains to be seen if they can once more be a credible third party in UK politics once more, possibly not in this generation. UK politics has become fragmented - SNP in Scotland, England has gone blue once more with the South becoming a sea of blue.

Despite no one predicting a Tory majority I did mention the possibility a couple of weeks back in a recent blog post. Once the exit polls came out it did not surprise me, in fact I still thought they underestimated the Tory vote and decided to blog to twitter to state that the Tories would not only get the numbers claimed would get more and get their majority despite all the coverage still talking of deals. Once the results starting coming in, other commentators started comparing it all to the 1992 election, something I said in my original blog post. What did surprise me was the extent of the SNP vote in Scotland. I knew they would do well - possible 20-30 seat gain, but 50? The swings broke historical voting records, something I just didn't see coming. I thought people like Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and so on would retain seats but it appears people just wanted SNP regardless of old ties (I think also the "No" vote to independance would have been split between the various other parties, while the "Yes" vote was concentrated in the SNP).

Of course this was a fascinating election whichever tribe you support. Here are my thoughts.

Strengthened their English vote. Cameron has successfully positioned the party in Center territory and was able to pick up a number of Liberal Democrat seats. People have felt the recovery and it showed as the Tories not only defended their seats but actually increased their majority.

A bit of irony. For years under New Labour they had moved too far to the right and Scottish people showed their distaste by voting in spades for SNP who have a socialist stance. However Labour actually moved too far left for English voters therefore Labour never made any real inroads in middle England. They were talking of price controls (on rents), "mansion" taxes, more tax on upper earners and scapegoating banks. Obviously the south of England completely rejected these anti-aspiration policies and went Blue.

Liberal Democrats
Annihilated. I don't know where they go from here. Labour swept up any progressive votes they had, the Tories taking the moderate center ground voters. They are traditionally a progressive centrist party but went into coalition with a Tory Government. Its core voters therefore administered punishment. There was also SNP fear in England so many also voted Tory.

A clear message; Scotland want more powers. This will be interesting and I will discuss below.

Despite all the hype, only got a single seat each. They will both say we need Proportional representation. I've covered why thats a bad idea (I also mention in that post I thought Labour would come to power in this election - however this was before Ed became leader and I thought it would his brother David that would replace Brown at the time, who is more center, and I'm sure would have got more Tory and Lib Dem seats than his brother - already people are saying he should come back to British politics. If Labour want to win the next election, they need to move back to the center ground and elect a leader like David Miliband).

What will happen with the SNP? A lot of people are prematuratly stating that UK parties are dead in Scotland. They could be correct however if I was David Cameron I would offer fiscal autonomy to Scotland. This would be easy to pass as it doesn't affect other UK nations and is what the SNP want but also still preserves the union. He should call their bluff for a number of reasons.
  • I don't think they want it. They are a party who have heavy spending commitments due to their socialist agenda but due to the current low price of oil would have no money to fund such spending. Many high tax payers reside in England, thus they would struggle to generate money that way. 
  • If they did they would bankrupt Scotland. They would run out of money and it would be clear to the Scottish person that they are inept. There would be no "Westminster" to blame as fiscal autonomy gives that control to Scotland
If this happened I believe many seats would once again move back to Labour/LibDem/Conservative hands and the Scottish may once more wish to not have autonomy over their finances or try to elect the above to manage the budget in a better manner. This move, if Cameron would be brave enough to do it, would preserve the union and discredit the SNP. It would also potentially push Scottish mentality towards a more center right wing stance.

The Liberal Democrats meanwhile were decimated. I'm sure Labour will once more move more towards the center-right a Blairite position once more and the tories are already there which is where the majority of English voters are politically. The party surely will gain some of their seats back over time; I think a number of freak factors contributed to the collapse; rise of SNP, Coalition and other tactical voting.

Labour didn't completely abandon New Labour politics. Ed Miliband was in fact the first Labour leader to actually say he wanted to cut spending but he did move the party ever so slightly left and thus did not gain the middle England vote. Socialism is dead in England (well I'm sure the North East would disagree). Margret Thatcher once said her greatest achievement was "New Labour" (although it was the British electorate that created it). British people took a profound shift the right during her time, nearly killing off the old Labour party. Under Neil Kinnock, then under Blair, Labour continually moved towards the center then to the center-right position in order to eventually defeat 18 years of Tory rule. Blairs first term kept to Tory spending plans and they were the first Labour Government during 1997-2001 to actually run a budget surplus. Labour had also abandoned any notion of tax rises - Blair was ruthless in this agenda removing any of his politicians who suggested such a policy. Thatcher meant that both main parties actually now encompassed Tory values, so it didn't really matter who got in power (hence one reason for recent voter apathy during Tony Blairs rule and the rise of the SNP in traditional Socialist areas such as Scotland).

This is also how I came to my conclusions of a Tory majority and that the polls would be wrong just like the 1992 election, Labour had moved once more to the left and all the "Shy Tory" voters would appear once more (in fact, whenever Labour did this in the post war period they always got a lower eventual vote than the polls suggested). They will no doubt under their next leader move back into the center-right ground. But heres a problem how would they re-gain Scotland if they were to do this? Put simply they can't; its either England or Scotland. I think their best chance is to support any devolved power to the SNP and just watch the party self implode.

England meanwhile is now firmly in the right-center of the political spectrum; Socialism is virtually dead. People believe in aspiration, business, profits, capitalism and so on. New Labour success was built on these principles the center-right ground which David Cameron now occupies. People have felt the recovery, indeed I see it with my own eyes as my own salary has kept increasing during the Coalition Government. Most of all people voted for why I thought the Tories would get a majority - stability. They saw too much of a risk with Ed Miliband, either with the economy or deals with the SNP so opted for the conservatives. Do not underestimate this victory. Not since Thatcher in 1983 has an existing PM increased their number of seats; and to actually increase the proportion of votes we have to go further back.

What are the main conclusions that can be drawn from the election? With all the drama and historic records that were set the actual outcome is quite boring. Its the same PM who wants to keep the status quo and is actually a reflection of the English people. Above all else they wanted stability and I actually applause such an outcome. Its a triumph of the first past the post as all other outcomes would have been fraught with battles from the off - no one would have a majority and there would have been deals that would have never worked for the long term. That doesn't mean David Camerons new Government is solid; far from it. With such a slim majority all those rebel backbenches may think it's time to raise their concerns knowing full well the actual majority has been reduced compared to the coalition. History has once more repeated itself just like in 1992 as I predicted a couple of weeks back.