Daily Bits April 5th, 2017

According to Tearsheet, you can now go a range of stores in the US and hand over cash which then gets dropped into your Amazon account.

And yet, no banking license is needed.

I wonder if they’ll be allowed to offer some sort of interest in that account – if not monetary, then maybe, say, a coupon for groceries?

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MIT’s Brian Forde argues in the Harvard Business Review that the government is waging a war on public data. And that we need to find a way to protect it.

For instance, the public can no longer see the visitor logs of the White House. How, then, can we know who the President is seeing? So much for open democracy.

This is clever:

“In response to this very issue, Democrats have introduced the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or MAR-A-LAGO Act, legislation that would require the Trump administration to publish visitor logs for the White House and any other location where the president regularly conducts official business.”

It’s not just the government. Companies are doing it, too.

The answer? Public blockchains.

“The public blockchain establishes that a specific person or entity had possession of a file at a specific date and time. Useful for patent or copyright claims, the blockchain could also ensure that a government agency or company verifiably published its data — and allow the public to access and confirm that the file they have is the same one that was signed and time-stamped by the creator.”

The public blockchain could also help governments to regulate private companies, by streamlining and verifying data collection.

“Rather than asking companies and consumers to downgrade their digital interactions in order to comply with the law, the government would create an adaptable system that would reduce the amount of paperwork and compliance for businesses and consumers. Rather than force emerging technologies and business models into legal gray areas, the government would use algorithmic regulation to create a level playing field for incumbent companies in their respective industries.”

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A fantasy land – abstract neon lighting on the ceiling of Tate Britain, by artist Cerith Wyn Evans.

installation at Tate Britain by Cerith Wyn Evans, via Colossal
installation at Tate Britain by Cerith Wyn Evans, via Colossal

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Going back a bit, the Wikipedia article on the “propaganda model”, which is worth a read, for the light it sheds on media business models and the structural obstacles they have to overcome on the road to profitability. The concept stems from the book “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, which took a magnifying glass to systemic bias in media, and whether or not it was possible to be neutral.

It dishes out an interesting take on media and influence, especially in the light of “fake news” and recent political coverage on both sides of the spectrum.



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