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Is ownership a human right?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Friday, September 27, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program evaluates ownership as a human right in her ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Every minute of every day data about us is created, collected and stored somewhere. As more and more of the goods and services that we use every day become digitised, it is inevitable that the service providers and their downstream supply chains will want information about their customers (or potential customers), so that they can ‘service you better’, or create a supply-driven market-place. Our liberty to live the lives that we choose is scrutinised and forecast to drive demand, and thus supply. Who owns this data that is created and collected about you? Is it the service provider? Or should it be the ‘data subject’, the person about whom the data is collected?

 

There are rules and interpretive algorithms set up around the data, but have you stopped to consider what if these systems could be wrong, that the data is flawed? That the data does not really describe what you want or believe in, or what you want to do? And after you die, your digital representation may live on well after your death, like a digital Henrietta Lacks.

 

Our data selves live a shadow life that resides within the world’s data warehouses, often located far away from where we live. Economic decisions were made to locate our data there, and often our data selves are traded between various companies for a fee, so that they can get to know us too – or their representation of us. However, that is where human values and the freedom of the individual, and economic value sharply collide. Because ‘human values’ and ‘liberty’ are only considered where legislated imperatives such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation are in operation, which forces the user of the services to explicitly consent to their data collection and storage, and the service provider to have some accountability for collection of private information.

 

How can human value and human values be used to protect our shadow selves that exist in the internet’s servers and data warehouses of the world? Only by thinking about data as part of ourselves, and valuing it with the same care. We, as consumers of digitised services, should and must demand that our shadow selves be given the same digital rights as our human selves. We must be able to trust that the representation of ourselves is shown in truth, and is not abused or compromised.

This assurance should be the noble principle on which to base our aspirations for a better future.

 

In the future, could each of us fully embrace the online world, and create and own a digital avatar existing in cyberspace? A representation of our own personal human values, beliefs and thoughts that we are willing to share with others, and more importantly, owned and controlled by us? Could our digital agent be entitled to the human rights law under codified International Law? Could we use this personal image to ‘play’ with futuristic representations so that we can build a better world together? To try out different economic, governance, legal, technology and social structures through a range of scenario building, in much the same way as online gamers try out different virtual worlds? Perhaps this could create participative governance, citizen engagement and dialogue, as well as resultant political structures to promote the common good for society.

 

How would we then protect our own personal avatar from the creeping tendency for governments and corporations to undermine human rights to privacy under the guise of cyber security, ‘for the purpose of securing morality, public order and general welfare’?

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  ownership  right  value 

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Can resources own themselves?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tim Morgan inspects the ownership of resources by themselves in his ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

In April 2016 the world’s first decentralized autonomous organization was launched. This crowdfunded organization, aptly named “The DAO”, was a collection of interlocking digital smart-contracts designed to use the Ethereum blockchain to fund investor proposed projects. The only human interactions allowed were voting on new projects by shareholders. All other management activities were conducted according to its founding smart-contract rules. This organization worth US$150 million existed as a purely digitally managed company with no legal charter, no physical address, no board of directors, no CEO, and no human management. It was the world’s first stateless autonomous company. Though The DAO was shut down later that year after hackers compromised it, new frameworks like the Aragon project and DaoStack are actively being developed.

 

Decentralized autonomous organizations (Daos) represent a new stage in capitalism, one that embraces the idea of giving ownership control to non-human algorithmic entities. This is a continuation of a centuries old trend of owners progressively giving up more and more control of capital to managers, corporations, investment funds, and the like. This takes that progression one step further. A Dao controls itself and all the value associated with it. It can have investors. It can pay people for work performed. It could even own physical property if a government chose to charter a Dao as a corporation. We are one legal step from autonomous organizations getting personhood-like rights of a human-chartered corporation. Is it plausible we could take the next step? Can non-human entities have human-like legal rights?

 

The International Center for the Rights of Nature maintains a timeline showing the accelerating adoption of legal rights for nature. Ecuador wrote Rights of Nature into their constitution in 2008. Mexico City put language into its city constitution in 2017 that would “recognize and regulate the broader protection of the rights of nature formed by all its ecosystems and species as a collective entity subject to rights”. There are many other examples. However, one right seems to always be neglected: the right for nature to engage in commerce. That leaves even legally protected natural resources at the mercy of market pressure on governments and the court of public opinion.

 

What happens though if we put Daos and rights-holding natural resources together? What we get are autonomous resources that can become full active participants in markets and the legal system. These “deodands”, as futurist Karl Schroeder has named them, could protect themselves from exploitation by entering into commercial contracts for sustainable extraction of their resources, hiring security, funding scientists to monitor their health, and maintaining lawyers to sue contractual or rights violators. They could even hire programmers and engineers to improve their own decision-making algorithms and sensing technologies as the state-of-the-art progresses.

 

Can resources own themselves? They can if we let them. If we blend a bit of technology with a dash of nature and a smidgen of legal rights, then a whole new level of ecologically sustainable development will be unlocked. Best of all is that markets will be working for sustainability. Their new owners will demand it.

 

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  economics  ownership  resources 

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Can transforming capitalism solve global inequality?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Friday, September 20, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the possibility of resolving global inequality in her ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Global wealth has been increasing and is predicted to grow by 43% in the next 10 years. While global poverty has reduced in the last few decades, this wealth is mainly driven by markets and is held by a tiny proportion of the population. The current form of economic structure is defined by short-termism. It is focused on optimising returns to owners of capital at the expense of all else and the long-term good of the society. It is not sustainable. Can capitalism be transformed to solve global inequality? What could it transform to?

 

A good place to start in exploring the possibility of transforming capitalism for the prosperity of society is to first understand what is broken. Businesses have one key agenda: to optimise profits. Yet capitalism does not operate in isolation but within the broader society which has clear planetary boundaries. Businesses need to demonstrate this consciousness and should be held to account regarding serving the long-term good of society. Natural resources are limited and likely to be depleted in future unless deliberate action is taken to ensure sustainability. It cannot be profits at whatever cost to the environment. Measures such as green taxation for business could lead to a more sustainable economic system.

 

A heightened sense of industry self-regulation driven by an appreciation that, in the long-term, society together prospers or perishes could trigger the right change. Another pillar to sustainable capitalism is the need for economic inclusion. This can be realised through government policies aimed at taxing business resources and not labour which would lead to unemployment and further inequality. Businesses could also invest in upskilling their workers to fit within the new business environment.

 

The current wave of digital technology characterised by use of personal data and machine learning has fuelled unprecedented economic growth. The challenge is that this wealth is not shared equitably across society. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. This situation is likely to get worse in the future as more low-skills jobs get taken over by machines and unemployment rates rise globally. It can be addressed through the effective use of taxes to equip the labour force with skills that would enable them to effectively engage in the emerging digital economy.

 

What can governments do to transform capitalism for the prosperity of society? Effective regulation of markets could transform the economic system of the future. This would include consumer and data protection. As the economy becomes more data driven, personal data should be made more public and portable across businesses. This could lead to greater benefit to the owners of data and reduce the current monopolies that have entrenched inequality.

 

The digital wave is sweeping through all sections of society. Many governments are transitioning to the use of digital platforms for delivery and payment for public services. Considering this and the growing use and importance of digital rails in the economy, digital infrastructure should be made a public good just like roads and other physical infrastructure. This might not necessarily mean nationalisation of the existing private investments. By assuming this responsibility, states could drive economic inclusion. Ensuring that the majority have access to the infrastructure and skills that are needed to gainfully engage with the emerging digital economy in the long-term will reduce the economic divergency.

 

Finally, a broader stakeholder representation in business ownership and governance could make capitalism more sustainable in future. The biggest aspect of capital in today’s data driven businesses is the knowledge and skills which is brought in by management and other employees in the business. This argues for an employees’ share in the profits and wealth of the businesses thus reducing inequality. Capitalism could transform itself by taking on cooperative characteristics to avoid potential future crises.

 

Capitalism has proven itself effective in delivering goods and services to the global society, but its long-term sustainability is threatened. It could transform itself to serve the collective good of the society and solve global inequality.

 

© Felistus Mbole, 2019

Tags:  capitalism  equality  global inequality 

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Ought education necessarily to satisfy the requirements of work?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Esmee Wilcox inspects the usefulness of education in her ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

A simplistic, causal relationship between success in work and learning falls down in our mid-21st century globally connected, digitally enhanced, rapidly automating world. The institutions, corporations and capital that determine whose work we are preparing people for, risk the perpetuation of global skills shortages and rising income inequality. In the latter half of this century, what might the purpose of education become, that more effectively addresses the issues we face and the modes of work we are choosing? Should we attempt to create such a system that spreads the risk, or accept unevenly distributed effects of enviro-economic disruptions?

 

We face a conundrum: complex issues such as moving to zero-carbon cities by 2030 require a level of critical thinking and innovation that will disrupt the modes of operating of government and the corporations that fund education. They will require longer periods of education – lifelong and life-wide – that may reduce short-term economic output. That disrupts the balance in the funding relationship between the young, the workers, and pension beneficiaries. Governments intervene to equalise access on the basis of accepted social norms. Yet are increasingly ineffective at reducing the polarising impact of parent income on childhood attainment.

 

We might imagine a system that redefines the purpose of work first. Where the norm becomes dynamic self-managed teams within organisations, and self-organised networks of freelancers without, which rebalance our ambition for individual status with collective value. Our need to travel, to eat, to care for our families is dependent upon our ability to align paid work with the rhythms of community co-operation. We might – looking to millennials now in the gig economy - see paid work as essential but secondary to the roles we take on in exchange not for currency but usable commodities.

 

A more efficient system – that educates more of the population to be capable of tackling tomorrow’s problems – would alter the balance of power away from near-term beneficiaries. Educational returns on investment no longer felt solely by profitability or tax revenues: but also by longer term, distributed social and community gains. Financing mechanisms no longer the preserve of government and corporations, but flourishing community interest bonds. Lifelong learning the norm, and not dependent on personal wealth, fit with government strategy, or sponsorship by large employers. Accessible through communities prepared to invest in long-term resilience, understanding the purpose of work as aligned with community impact.

 

Or corporations may continue to sponsor and polarise the deployment of mobile elite labour as effective in addressing their need for innovation and profitability. Governments may be less able to equalise access to education, with greater dependence on risky private financing, and a reduced democratic mandate to intervene. Even in highly planned, nationalist economies governments may justify focussing on elite education for the ‘greater good’. Or to diminish the impact of disposable income in exacerbating socio-economic advantages and access to learning.

 

Enviro-economic disruptions may force many of us to redefine the purpose of work and the values that we ascribe to it. Such that learning systems satisfy the requirements of the innovation, collaboration and community we need to succeed in the 2050s and beyond. We can look to communities and work organisations that are developing collaborative learning networks. Yet these are still an, albeit plausible, step-change away from funding mechanisms that achieve longer-term, distributed social and community outcomes. These may emerge through necessity in the development of closed-loop zero carbon systems in the 2030s. This could enable the purpose of education to shift away from the requirements of work to solving the issues raised by the complex problems we’re increasingly facing.

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  education  government  work 

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The Bank of Facebook?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Thursday, September 12, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program devotes his ninth blog post to Facebook’s digital currency innitiative. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

When Facebook first premiered their idea for a digital currency Libra in 2019, the reactions ranged from eye-rolling to predictions of a vast conspiracy to control the world. Most pundits could not understand how or why a social media platform would create or need a currency. The calls for regulation or legal action to disallow the notion were immediate.

 

However, within just a few years of introduction, more governments turned to nationalism or authoritarianism, and the Trumpian trade and currency wars of the early 2020’s disrupted global markets. Despite their mutual needs for trade and economic growth, the use of national currencies became a point of contention as the world fragmented into tribes.

 

The group most affected were entrepreneurs in the countries once called the third world. For them, globalization had brought a connection to the wider world of consumers, especially as 7G broadband and localized electrical grids were built out. The initiatives began by the Chinese in the 2010s to build out transportation infrastructure in Africa were bearing fruit by the mid-2020s. Small companies and farmers found they could directly market and ship to global customers. Into this currency void stepped the technology companies that were enabling the global marketplace.

 

Although Facebook was the first to market with a digital currency, Amazon, Alibaba, and a few regional upstarts began using their positions as marketplaces to promote their in-house digital currencies as a means of global trade. They created means to earn additional currency, such as an exchange for personal information, reviews, actions as beta or market testers, or selling and buying on the marketplace. The member could earn additional Amazonians or Alibablers to spend within their respective marketplaces, and even at many outside venues.

 

As the reach of the tech companies expanded beyond supply chains and into services, the ability to negotiate paying for goods in services in their own currencies was greatly expanded. This allowed many companies to offer the option of being paid in corporate or domestic script. The corporate script became highly preferable as the companies offering it were able to better manage it for inflation and deflationary pressures. Additionally, by restricting it from most secondary markets the ability to manipulate the currency via speculation was taken away from those seeking to make money off other’s misery.

 

Companies also created a social scoring like the system China implemented in the late 2010s. This system was more reward than punishment and sought to incentivize behavior in line with the company’s values and social conscience. By allowing the company to track the individual throughout their day, including conversations and actions, the company could determine if they were acting as a good citizen of the planet.

 

When a person’s interactions were friendly, helpful, informative, and advanced civility or relationships, the score could potentially increase. Energy and water usage, recycling, using public or personally powered transportation were also monitored and properly rewarded. The opposite of these positive actions lowered the score. Higher scores were rewarded with extra currency, merchandise, or socially with offers of more prestigious jobs or responsible public positions. By 2040 these new scoring systems had replaced nearly all other methods of determining financial trust for an individual or organization.

 

By the year 2050, most smaller countries had outsourced their treasury functions to either Amazon or Alibaba. For most of these countries the new currencies offered access and stability and an opportunity to grow their economies. Entering the global marketplace on an equal footing allowed many countries to shake off the ‘third world’ label, and this was especially true on the continent of Africa.

 

© 2019 E Alex Floate

Tags:  digital economy  economics  Facebook 

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Who are the people democracy is supposed to serve?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Robin Jourdan inspects the real audience of democracy in her ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

In the past governments tended to serve the governors before the people. Inspired by Magna Carta in England, the US’s Bill of Rights serve as starting gates for the idea of government designed so that the people can exercise control over their governing representatives. Governance bending to build future strengths for all, rather than fortifying old victories took its first tentative steps.

 

A myth is that every generation’s youth go through non-political periods. This can translate into a cynicism about government; but not always. A “Youth LEAD” trend seems to be appearing with data points going back at least 50 years that show the youth of an area, region, and nations pulling together to represent their interests in environmental and climate actions. They acknowledge that problems are complicated; but angry over the inaction about the conditions they’re due to inherit.

 

Today, nearly half of the world’s inhabitants is under 30 years old. It’s known that educated, healthy, employed, and civically engaged youth drive economic growth, democracy, and prosperity. However, less than 6% of parliamentarians globally are under 35 years old. Young people are under-represented and excluded in policy related decision-making. Fewer than 2% of parliamentarians around the world are in their 20s and only 12% are in their 30s. In the early part of the 21st century, efforts have sprung up, Millennium Development Goals, to increase youth representation in advisory capacities, constitution reviews, reporting, and more. For example, since the Arab Awakening young people have remained politically active through “political movements” instead of engaging with and in political parties. The United Nations (Development Program) formally recognized that when young people engage in peace-building via new and mobile technologies, these can lead to non-violent change. A Nigerian Youth Agenda on political participation was developed to encourage collaboration. Bangladesh and Jordan launched similar actions with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program. Even with this progress, this generation at the beginning of the century have been left behind and denied opportunities. Some suspect there may be a far-reaching re-negotiation in the social contract between generations approaching.

 

What could change in the last half of this century is multi-tiered: from AI advances, security issues, to social media. Youths around the world will turn to smartphones rather than adults for what they need. Younger people use these fingertip tools for change and impact can only strengthen. Reforms for who government serves may be waged from the inside out and change the global narrative.

 

The end of the century may bring well-practiced socio-emotional skills and growth mindsets. Continuing the Youth LEAD trend of youth-motivated leadership, education, advocacy and development, has long-term potential to raise their global political power. Forward acting nations may pressure laggards by limiting access to their workforce. Instabilities for isolated regimes due to internal power struggles and energy could erupt into battles.

 

Going forward, if a business as usual approach continues, focus on skills-gaps and employment can go on to distract influencers, and a lack of real engagement with residents will continue in pockets. A grim retaliation could result. AI may diminish unwanted interactions with police due to autonomous mobility, but jobs may be even more scarce. Again, a distraction. To the second half of the twenty-first century, if people live longer, mixed with low pay, decreased employment opportunities, and constrained health care may strain even the most resilient of systems.

 

When in the past has one generation sacrificed for the benefit of future generations? Two examples: medieval cathedrals were built for future generations and fighting wars meant risking your life now to keep your country free for future generations. Wishful-thinkers may dismiss the trend for young people’s stand on environmental issues.

 

Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that each generation must get the knowledge, skills, and traits of character that underpin a constitutional democracy. It’s relatively easy to produce competent people. Lobbyists today teach us an essential lesson about the service of democracy. Regardless of your side of an issue, they’ve figured out how to work the system for their sponsor.

 

Young people will continue to demand their right to a healthy inheritance when their elders fail to act on their metaphoric cathedrals. Knowledge and education can’t be sequestered anymore. Democracy is intended to serve everyone in its borders. Reality says it serves best those who take responsibility to make it work for today and tomorrow. Youth-motivated leadership and actions could reach a tipping point in this century to catch responsibility into their increasingly capable hands. Who is government supposed to serve? There are two kinds of people, those who focus on something to gain, and those treading water over something to lose. Democracy must move forward with its people and with energy, gusto and everything to gain.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  democracy  governance  politics 

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Who and what is holding us back from a fully digital economy?

Posted By Paul Tero, Friday, September 6, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program discovers the future of digital economy by adding one more piece to a series of blog posts devoted to this topic. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Consider the fields of human affairs in which we are experiencing change. There’s environmental change, shifts in international and domestic politics, technological advances and the constant innovation in the health and human services sectors. Let us not neglect the spheres of finance, education, and governance. The list goes on. Trends, change and drivers of change. All threads in the dynamic tapestry of early 21st Century life.

 

In amongst all of these changes that we are witnessing this article is focusing on one thing. We are examining the unfolding phenomena of the digital economy. In particular, who and what is stymieing the realisation of a fully digital economy in the decades ahead. As we attend to this, we need to be mindful of our own responses to this particular phenomenon. Are we more sanguine, saying: “Yes, bring it on. We will be utterly enmeshed in a fully digital economy by 2050”. Or are we more phlegmatic: “Don’t know. We could be more reliant on the digital economy by 2050!

 

However, asking questions is the key to the examination of the digital economy. Questions like: Who benefits from the status quo and who loses if we go fully digital? What are the social, political, economic, legal, environmental or technological barriers to realising a fully digital economy? Are cultural worldviews and belief systems the obstacles in the path to building an economy that is fully digital?

 

Turning firstly to the status quo. Benefiting from the status quo are those whose influence, power and profit are founded on the world of atoms. If these attributes of prominence do not translate to the world of bits, change is resisted. Remember the retailers of a few years back? To them the internet was but a passing fad. They saw no need to embrace the digital economy.

 

Our reference point for an examination of the social barriers could be the introduction of Facebook. Once Metcalfe’s law kicked in, ordinary people could see the inherent value in sharing their lives online and overcame their reluctance to enter their personal and private details into the Facebook database. Turning to one potential aspect of life that could be with us in the time ahead: personal artificial intelligence assistants (we do have Alexa, Cortana & Siri now don’t we?). Our uneasiness with being second guessed ahead of time by artificial intelligence may be rendered moot because of the value and ease these new machines bring to our lives, relationships and careers.

 

And what of the governing class and the way political life is conducted. Is it because of the Machiavellian dictum “never attempt to win by force that can be won by deception” that political barriers will remain? For with this category of barrier the perspective that “a fully digital economy is equivalent to full transparency” may well be the non-negotiable impediment raised by its stakeholders. An anathema to the political class.

 

And what of legal barriers? Consider the difficulties presented by cryptocurrencies, the machinations we have with privacy in a digital world, and the conundrums with copyright. And let us not forget the implications of RegTech, the jurisdictional challenges faced by taxation authorities in this digital world, and the quagmire at the interface of human bodies and technology.

 

Finally, there is who we are as individuals, as members of families, communities, tribes and nations. All revealing a rich and complex global panoply of worldviews and belief systems. We can conjure images of dystopia, pockets of doomsday preppers, and activists driving the techlash movement. All as symbols of resistance to a fully digital economy. And similarly we watch the countervailing forces of progressives and conservatives. Progressives seeking a better way, conservatives seeking to only incrementally improve the way things are. And then we have the reactionaries who are bent on impeding any forward movement that the forces of improvement show.

 

Given all this, is it any wonder that we have so far been able to thread the needle of change. Is it any wonder that the quality of so many parts of our daily life for so many lives is better than what it was decades ago? There is no single “who” or “what” holding us back from a fully digital economy. But there is this: a multitude of challenges that are to be overcome on our collective arc of accumulation.

 

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  digital economy  economics  finance 

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Is Regulation Destined to be Behind Corporate Change?

Posted By Charlotte Aguilar-Millan, Monday, September 2, 2019

Charlotte Aguilar-Millan inspects the relationship between corporate change and regulation in her ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

The purpose of regulation is to enable the transparent and trustworthy operation of businesses. This includes the regulation of how employees are treated, regulation on where goods are received from and also regulation of the figures reported to shareholders. It is this last example which has come under a great deal of scrutiny in the past few years: the external auditing of accounts.

 

The purpose of an external audit is to provide an independent opinion to the shareholders on the truth and fairness of the financial statements. It provides accountability to the stakeholders the company about how the directors operate the company. The standards to which an audit is completed were first introduced nearly 100 years ago; the 1930s for America and 1940s for the UK. Since then, regulations have been tacking on new requirements but not overhauling old requirements to reflect how businesses operate in an age of very different technology.

 

Carillion, previously the UK’s second largest building company, collapsed in January 2018 as a result of soaring debt and cashflow issues. KPMG, Carillion’s former auditors, gave Carillion a clean audit opinion up until it’s collapse. According to the regulations, it would appear that Carillion did not raise any red flags. As the Financial Times points out “auditors who want to work for and retain a client — and its fees — may be less inclined to scrutinise”. All auditors are reliant upon the client to pay their fees, yet they must also retain objectivity and independence.

 

During 2018, the year Carillion collapsed, KPMG were fined £3 million and £4.5 million for the inadequate audits of Ted Baker and Quindell respectively. Yet no Partner in firm was fired, demoted or even struck off. This means that those involved are still able to provide an opinion on whether companies are operating appropriately. In the same year, KPMG’s divisions expanded (including audit by 8%) leading to a Partner profit share jump to over £600K per person.

 

Where the Partners are reliant upon their client’s long standing, it is little wonder that levels of scrutiny by auditors is put into question. Further, as demonstrated in the previous few years, there are no material consequences if they do not. The fines auditors have received represent a ripple in the ocean when compared to the profits they are generating. Public trust is at a loss. The private sector is not willing to be held accountable by their actions.

 

True independence should be demonstrated through a regulating body used to allocate audit clients to auditors. This should be based on experience, risk profile of the client and the resources the audit firm have available. Once an auditor is appointed, this should be fixed for a set number of years.

 

Currently the private sector can select an accommodating opinion and ditch those who do not align with their methodology. Further, the Big Four would no longer be able to cherry pick their clients. This was demonstrated in August 2019 with Sports Direct seeking new auditors with the largest 5 audit firms declining to tender.

 

By using an allocating intermediary, the private sector could make transparent their resource available, whilst also demonstrating objectivity where their fees are not reliant upon keeping the subject of audit placated. Reform from within the corporate sector has proven to be ineffectual. Only once external oversight is placed on corporates will they change. The only form of change that will boost corporate change is a true reform of regulation.

 

© Charlotte Aguilar-Millan 2019

Tags:  corporate  organization  regulation 

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Alternative Finance: Power to the people?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Friday, August 30, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program devotes his eighth blog post to the possibility of establishing an alternative finance. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Access to information creates an informed populace, makes people’s lives better and democratizes society. That was the idea behind the public library, and the mantra of idealists in the early days of the internet. Twenty plus years into that era we are still waiting on the full promise of a connected world. In the area of personal finance, we have seen small successes as banking, credit scoring, money and investment management have moved online. Increased access and information have been realized in these areas, and in some cases has brought investing and money management opportunities to people who never considered anything but savings account. However, these improvements have not brought life-changing experiences to most, and the economic paradigm we operate under appears to be more of the same, but with apps!

 

Where the most success has been achieved is with those who previously did not have access to mainstream banking or financial systems. Some of the early players, such as PayPal and Alipay created the means for moving money from one entity to another. Doing so allowed many who did not have conventional accounts to participate in the broader economy by having a cost effective alternative. Personal investing companies like Acorns are bringing saving and investing to the masses by stealthily increasing every transaction you make with your debit or credit card to the nearest dollar, then investing those extra pennies into exchange-traded index funds. The appification of finance is the first and most obvious sign that personal finance is changing, but there are bigger movements ahead.

 

Open banking is a new concept that relies on networks and the sharing of both personal and financial institution data across these networks. The goal is providing consumers with better information as institutions provide data about their services that conform to an unbiased and transparent standard. This allows for better competition between participating banks and institutions resulting in lower fees and borrowing costs for consumers. Conversely, institutions have access to the history of potential customers and allow them to more accurately configure and offer products based on the risk profile as seen through transactions, and not through 3rd party credit agencies.  

 

As the world becomes a global marketplace for finance, blockchain will be the technology that will facilitate it. Blockchain will be the means by which transactions are secured, trust is established, and value is traded. Currently we use intermediaries to reduce the risk of transacting with third parties, especially when crossing jurisdictions or borders. This raises the cost and complexity of those transactions which blockchain promises to reduce. This may even result in a complete remake of retail import/export chains as people are able to transact directly across borders. Additionally, blockchain coupled with open banking will elevate peer-to-peer lending to a level where nearly anyone with assets can participate in the capital income economy.

 

Empowering individuals is the promise and goal of personal fintech and alternative finance. However, as with any economic system there are issues and areas that the promise may not cover. How will the average person create value that can be leveraged across fintech and the web? Those with assets, products or services that are in demand will be poised to take the most advantage; those whose only asset is non-skilled labor will be left out. Although technology is just a tool, those tools enable humans to create and build better lives for the creator, owner and user of those tools. There is never any promise that a tool will bring universal prosperity, but we should be aware of the potential effects of any new technology. For these new financial tools and systems, we need to understand will they truly help the greater good, or just create another seemingly insurmountable divide in our society?

 

© 2019 E Alex Floate

Tags:  banking  Blockchain  finance 

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Could ‘cyber-humans’ have personal liberty?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects cyber-humans’ liberty in her new blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Can we judge technologies to be helpful in promoting our personal liberty? Could they grant us physical or cognitive freedom to push the boundaries beyond our human limitations? Or may they actually undermine our liberty by inviting unwanted invasions on our privacy and coercion of our thoughts? What happens if the technology that we are considering is embedded within the body or the brain, effectively becoming part of our own bodies?

 

Wonderful advancements are currently occurring in the field of biomedical engineering, enabling people who suffer severe pain, limb loss, brain injury, neurological diseases or psychological conditions to be monitored and their conditions therapeutically managed. Symptoms of your bodily condition can be tracked through local or remote monitoring of sensors implanted within the body. With electrical stimulation applied automatically or manually as required. In today’s world these implants, called neuroprostheses, may save your life, or make life tolerable. These devices enhance the freedom of action of people who have limited or no mobility, giving them the possibility of aspiring toward an independent life.

 

Such current technologies are the basis for speculation about an evolution toward ‘cyber-humans’, when body and brain enhancement with intelligent implanted technology may be commonly available. This may be for therapeutic purposes, or to enhance and extend the brains’ cognitive or memory capacity. It may grant extraordinary abilities to see, hear, understand and communicate (even without voice). Enhancement may provide physical strength and endurance well beyond the means of a normal human being. The application for such devices, will grant the freedom of extra-human capabilities. When used for the greater good, they may overcome many help societal issues. However, with speculation, it is possible to imagine a number of future scenarios where the personal liberty of the individual with technologically intelligent implants may be challenged.

 

Imagine that you receive subliminal or overt messages into your brain implant that induce you to like or buy a new product, to influence you to behave a certain way or suggestions that may be against your natural inclination. This is not so far removed from current practices of media bombardment through broadcast or pop-up advertising, or even practices of ‘brainwashing’. With clever messaging, these inducements may be indistinguishable from your own ‘true’ thoughts. This manipulation of the mind may undermine your cognitive liberty to your own opinion, or against your ability to explore alternative points of view.

 

In another scenario, your implant may receive subliminal instructions to activate your limbs, causing your body to perform actions that were not of your own choosing. Would you be able to distinguish these actions as being incited from outside of your body? Would you be held accountable or even liable for your body’s actions if you were to perform a criminal action, when the instructions may have come from a foreign source? And how could you prove your innocence in such a circumstance, to prove no motivation, even if you had the physical means to harm other people or property?

 

In a third scenario, imagine that brain implants may provide significant uplifts in standard human capabilities, such as intelligence, memory, attractiveness or even inter-implant communication. Would you create a class of ‘sub-capable’ natural-form humans compared with the implant-enhanced? Would this mean that you should have the freedom or the right to be implant-modified, or alternatively to refuse modification, even if it meant that you may become part of the sub-class of ‘purely biological’ beings? And finally, after modification, would you have the right to turn off or even remove your cyber-modification, at a time or place of your choosing?

 

Technology itself cannot judge what is open or honest, what values are good and what are bad. These values must be defined within the ethics frameworks of the society that we live in, and then encoded within the rules of the technology. Our governance frameworks must above all anticipate and protect our established rights to liberty and self-determination, protect our privacy of thought and independence of deed, rather than recognise these factors afterwards.

 

Technology is to data what the human body is to the blood. Data and information exchange provide the lifeblood of the scenarios described above. In order to understand and analyse these scenarios, we need to understand how liberty will be affected by ownership rights to the data supplied to or extracted from the implants in body and brains of cyber-humans.

 

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  cyber-human  liberty  rights 

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