Civic: Privacy after Coronavirus

Yuval Noah Harari:

Under-the-skin surveillance

In order to stop the epidemic, entire populations need to comply with certain guidelines. There are two main ways of achieving this. One method is for the government to monitor people, and punish those who break the rules. Today, for the first time in human history, technology makes it possible to monitor everyone all the time. Fifty years ago, the KGB couldn’t follow 240m Soviet citizens 24 hours a day, nor could the KGB hope to effectively process all the information gathered. The KGB relied on human agents and analysts, and it just couldn’t place a human agent to follow every citizen. But now governments can rely on ubiquitous sensors and powerful algorithms instead of flesh-and-blood spooks. 

The First MBA Course on the Longevity Economy

Carol Hymowitz

A sneaker designed for runners who want to move slowly, rather than sprint. An app that helps caregivers keep track of their schedules and communicate easily with their older clients. A company that helps retirees who want to reenter the labor force — and encourages employers to give them a chance.
These are just a few of the existing products and services that MBA students analyzed in a new Stanford Graduate School of Business course, “Longevity: Business Implications and Opportunities.” The course — likely the first given on the subject of the longevity economy at a business school — explored why business executives and entrepreneurs should focus on the 50+ demographic.
“Whether you want to launch a start-up or work for a large established company, the longevity market is a huge and still mostly overlooked opportunity,” said Robert Chess,  a business school lecturer and serial entrepreneur who co-taught the course this winter with Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Longevity Center.

My Wisconsin DHS Emergency Order #12 Open Records Request

I sent the following to


I hope that you, your family and colleagues are well.

I write to see who drafted (partial and complete) Emergency Order #12, the “Safer at Home Order”? Were non DHS employees involved with the drafting? If so, who?

Thank you and best wishes,


A friend mentioned that Governor Evers’ chief legal counsel is Ryan Nilsestuen, who, according to his Linkedin bio, spent 6 years, 8 months at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

Governor Evers ran the DPI amidst declining reading scores [Compare] and the extensive administrative use of teacher mulligans.

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The Defiance of Florence Nightingale

Joshua Hammer:

She’s the “avenging angel,” the “ministering angel,” the “lady with the lamp”—the brave woman whose name would become synonymous with selflessness and compassion. Yet as Britain prepares to celebrate Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday on May 12—with a wreath-laying at Waterloo Place, a special version of the annual Procession of the Lamp at Westminster Abbey, a two-day conference on nursing and global health sponsored by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and tours of her summer home in Derbyshire—scholars are debating her reputation and accomplishments.

Detractors recently have chipped away at Nightingale’s role as a caregiver, pointing out that she served as a nurse for only three years. Meanwhile, perhaps surprisingly, some British nurses themselves have suggested they are tired of working in her shadow. But researchers are calling attention to her pioneering work as a statistician and as an early advocate for the modern idea that health care is a human right. Mark Bostridge, author of the biography Florence Nightingale, attributes much of the controversy to Nightingale’s defiance of Victorian conventions. “We are very uncomfortable still with an intellectually powerful woman whose primary aim has nothing to do with men or family,” Bostridge told me. “I think misogyny has a lot to do with it.”

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Germany’s “Corona Aid Package” for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Der TagesSpiegel:

The “Bazooka” – this is what Federal Minister for Finances Olaf Scholz (SPD, also Deputy Chancellor) calls the Corona Aid Package, announced on Monday. The cabinet has set aside a sum of €122.5 billion to help individuals and businesses. Solo entrepreneurs and small businesses are set to receive financial aid of €9,000 to €15,000.

Civic Technology Can Help Stop a Pandemic

Jaron Lanier & E. Glen Weyl:

The spread of the novel coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have provided a powerful test of social and governance systems. Neither of the world’s two leading powers, China and the United States, has been particularly distinguished in responding. In China, an initial bout of political denial allowed the virus to spread for weeks, first domestically and then globally, before a set of forceful measures proved reasonably effective. (The Chinese government also should have been better prepared, given that viruses have jumped from animal hosts to humans within its territory on multiple occasions in the past.) The United States underwent its own bout of political denial before adopting social-distancing policies; even now, its lack of investment in public health leaves it ill-equipped for this sort of emergency.

The response of the bureaucratic and often technophobic European Union may prove even worse: Italy, although far from the epicenter of the outbreak, has four times the per capita rate of cases as China does, and even famously orderly Germany is already at half China’s rate. Nations in other parts of the world, such as information-manipulating Iran, provide worse examples yet.

Taiwan’s success has rested on a fusion of technology, activism, and civic participation. A small but technologically cutting-edge democracy, living in the shadow of the superpower across the strait, Taiwan has in recent years developed one of the world’s most vibrant political cultures by making technology work to democracy’s advantage rather than detriment. This culture of civic technology has proved to be the country’s strongest immune response to the new coronavirus.


The value of Taiwan’s tech-enabled civic culture has become abundantly clear in the current crisis. Bottom-up information sharing, public-private partnerships, “hacktivism” (activism through the building of quick-and-dirty but effective proofs of concept for online public services), and participatory collective action have been central to the country’s success in coordinating a consensual and transparent set of responses to the coronavirus. A recent report from the Stanford University School of Medicine documents 124 distinct interventions that Taiwan implemented with remarkable speed. Many of these interventions bubbled into the public sector through community initiatives, hackathons, and digital deliberation on the vTaiwan digital democracy platform, on which almost half the country’s population participates. (The platform enables large-scale hacktivism, civic deliberation, and scaling up of initiatives in an orderly and largely consensual manner.) A decentralized community of participants used tools such as Slack and HackMD to refine successful projects. (Much of our analysis is based on open interviews through these tools with leaders in the g0v community of civic hackers.)

Tracing the American cemetery from the colonial age to the Gilded Age.

Allison Meier:

Tombstones have always been tools of memory. “If a man do not erect in this age his own tomb ere he dies, he shall live no longer in monument than the bell rings and the widow weeps,” Benedick warned in Shakespeare’s sixteenth-century play Much Ado About Nothing. And few want to be forgotten, as the rows of carved granite and marble that fill cemeteries across the United States attest—even if the methods of rendering that remembering into a symbol or setting have changed and the context of these memorials has altered enough to make it hard to understand what we were supposed to remember in the first place.

The image of cemeteries that people in the United States might be familiar with—verdant hills and quiet—is a product of changes in how the living chose to remember the dead that culminated in the nineteenth century. In previous centuries people were often memorialized as part of a collective, whether that was a church, society, or family. In the Victorian era, the emphasis was much more on the individual and their glory, both on this earth and in a believed next life. The American rural cemetery movement that established many of the spaces we know today expelled the dead from the urban centers. There they had been part of neighborhoods in churchyards, private burial grounds, and potter’s fields. The movement relocated burials to garden-like spaces where the dead could be mourned in rustic settings that didn’t impede city development. For the elite, this meant more space for elaborate memorials and mausoleums; for the middle class, there were the orderly lines of plain granite tombs promoted by the newly burgeoning funeral industry. For the marginalized, the public burial grounds were also pushed to the edges but often in more hidden areas, such as New York’s Hart Island, where they were interred in mass graves.

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A Look at AirBnB’s Business Model

The HFT Guy:

What’s wrong with AirBnb?

AirBnb is reportedly around 15000 employees with 3 billions in revenues.

They are as large as related conglomerates comprising tens of companies, except AirBnb is a single company running a single website!

They don’t even operate in as many countries or currencies.

Needless to say their strategy has been to burn as much VC cash as possible and hire has many employees as possible. A standard strategy to inflate valuation and raise even more money.

2020 Madison School Board Election Candidate Discussions

Logan Wroge (Gomez – Schmidt vs Pearson):

Pearson views full-day 4K and incorporating other cultures into classroom curriculum — “outside of one month” — as strategies to close the gap.

Gomez Schmidt sees a new reading curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade as crucial in improving outcomes, along with “relevant and rigorous” coursework at the middle and high school levels.

(Nicki Vander Meulen and Wayne Strong):

Strong, a retired Madison police lieutenant, lost a close board race in 2013 and by a larger margin the following year. When Vander Meulen was first elected in 2017, she and incumbent Ed Hughes were the top two vote-getters in a three-way primary, but Hughes dropped out of the race before the general election.

If elected to a second term, Vander Meulen, 41, said she wants to prioritize the “inexcusable” achievement gap, boosting “shameful” reading scores and improving graduation rates for students with disabilities — 50% of students with disabilities graduated on time last spring.

Strong has two main priorities if he joins the board: Putting a “laser focus” on what is causing students to receive out-of-school suspensions and reducing the disproportionate rate of black students who receive those suspensions and ensuring schools are safe for students and teachers.

“If the school climate is such that our kids don’t feel safe, they’re not going to be productive,” the 60-year-old Strong said.

Much more on the April 7, 2020 Madison School Board election, here.