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In the next five years, the Internet retail giant expects to use small drones to deliver packages to customer doorsteps within 30 minutes of their order.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows Charlie Rose prototypes of the delivery drones.

Amazon is testing a delivery service that uses drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes of an order being placed.

Dubbed Amazon PrimeAir, the service uses 8-propeller drones about the size of a remote-controlled airplane to transport shoe-box-size plastic bins from fulfillment centers to customers’ homes. The service, which still requires more testing and clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, could take to the skies as soon as four to five years, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Charlie Rose during an interview Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

The completely unmanned aerial vehicles rely on GPS to deliver their cargo, Bezos explained during the segment (see below), which included an Amazon film of the drones in action.

“I know this looks like science fiction — it’s not,” Bezos said.

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To further underpin this statement, I will share Peter Drucker’s quote, “…The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic…” And also that of Dr. Stephen Covey, “…Again, yesterday holds tomorrow hostage .… Memory is past. It is finite. Vision is future. It is infinite. Vision is greater than history…” And that of Sir Francis Bacon, “… He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator …”

And that of London Business School Professor Gary Hamel, PhD., “…You cannot get to a new place with an old map…” And that of Alvin Toffler, “…The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order…”

View the entire presentation at

Supermanagement! by Mr. Andres Agostini (Excerpt)


“…What distinguishes our age from every other is not the world-flattening impact of communications, not the economic ascendance of China and India, not the degradation of our climate, and not the resurgence of ancient religious animosities. Rather, it is a frantically accelerating pace of change…”

Read the entire piece at


Beyond the managerial challenges (downside risks) presented by the exponential technologies as it is understood in the Technological Singularity and its inherent futuristic forces impacting the present and the future now, there are also some grave global risks that many forms of management have to tackle with immediately.

These grave global risks have nothing to do with advanced science or technology. Many of these hazards stem from nature and some are, as well, man made.

For instance, these grave global risks ─ embodying the Disruptional Singularity ─ are geological, climatological, political, geopolitical, demographic, social, economic, financial, legal and environmental, among others. The Disruptional Singularity’s major risks are gravely threatening us right now, not later.

Read the full document at

The Future of Scientific Management, Today! (Excerpt)

Transformative and Integrative Risk Management
Andres Agostini was asked this question:

Mr. David Shaw’s question, “…Andres, from your work on the future which management skills need to be developed? Classically the management role is about planning, organizing, leading and controlling. With the changes coming in the future what’s your view on how this management mix needs to change and adapt?…” Question was posited on an Internet Forum, formulated by Mr. David Shaw (Peterborough, United Kingdom) on October 09, 2013.

This is an excerpt from, “…The Future of Scientific Management, Today…” that discusses state-of-the-art management theories and practices. To read the entire piece, just click the link at the end of article.


In addition to being aware and adaptable and resilient before the driving forces reshaping the current present and the as-of-now future, THERE ARE SOME EXTRA MANAGEMENT SUGGESTIONS THAT I CONCURRENTLY PRACTICE:

1.- Given the vast amount of insidious risks, futures, challenges, principles, processes, contents, practices, tools, techniques, benefits and opportunities, there needs to be a full-bodied practical and applicable methodology (methodologies are utilized and implemented to solve complex problems and to facilitate the decision-making and anticipatory process).

The manager must always address issues with a Panoramic View and must also exercise the envisioning of both the Whole and the Granularity of Details, along with the embedded (corresponding) interrelationships and dynamics (that is, [i] interrelationships and dynamics of the subtle, [ii] interrelationships and dynamics of the overt and [iii] interrelationships and dynamics of the covert).

Both dynamic complexity and detail complexity, along with fuzzy logic, must be pervasively considered, as well.

To this end, it is wisely argued, …You can’t understand the knot without understanding the strands, but in the future, the strands need not remain tied up in the same way as they are today…”

For instance, disparate skills, talents, dexterities and expertise won’t suffice ever. A cohesive and congruent, yet proven methodology (see the one above) must be optimally implemented.

Subsequently, the Chinese proverb indicates, …Don’t look at the waves but the currents underneath…”

2.- One must always be futurewise and technologically fluent. Don’t fight these extreme forces, just use them! One must use counter-intuitiveness (geometrically non-linearly so), insight, hindsight, foresight and far-sight in every day of the present and future (all of this in the most staggeringly exponential mode). To shed some light, I will share two quotes.

The Panchatantra (body of Eastern philosophical knowledge) establishes, …Knowledge is the true organ of sight, not the eyes.…” And Antonio Machado argues, … An eye is not an eye because you see it; an eye is an eye because it sees you …”

Managers always need a clear, knowledgeable vision. Did you already connect the dots stemming from the Panchatantra and Machado? Did you already integrate those dots into your big-picture vista?

As side effect, British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone considered, …You cannot fight against the future…”


3.- In all the Manager does, he / she must observe and apply, at all times, a sine qua non maxim, …everything is related to everything else…”

4.- Always manage as if it were a “project.” Use, at all times, the “…Project Management…” approach.

5.- Always use the systems methodology with the applied omniscience perspective.

In this case, David, I mean to assert: The term “Science” equates to about a 90% of “…Exact Sciences…” and to about 10% of “…Social Sciences…” All science must be instituted with the engineering view.

6.- Always institute beyond-insurance risk management as you boldly integrate it with your futuring skill / expertise.

7.- In my firmest opinion, the following must be complied this way (verbatim): the corporate strategic planning and execution (performing) are a function of a grander application of beyond-insurance risk management.It will never work well the other way around. TAIRM is the optimal mode to do advanced strategic planning and execution (performing).

TAIRM (Transformative and Integrative Risk Management) is not only focused on terminating, mitigating and modulating risks (expenses of treasure and losses of life), but also concentrated on bringing under control fiscally-sound, sustainable organizations and initiatives.

TAIRM underpins sensible business prosperity and sustainable growth and progress.

8.- I also believe that we must pragmatically apply the scientific method in all we manage to the best of our capacities.

If we are “…MANAGERS…” in a Knowledge Economy and Knowledge Era (not a knowledge-driven eon because of superficial and hollow caprices of the follies and simpletons), we must do therefore extensive and intensive learning and un-learning for Life if we want to succeed and be sustainable.

As a consequence, Dr. Noel M. Tichy, PhD. argues, …Today, intellectual assets trump physical assets in nearly every industry…”

Consequently, Alvin Toffler indicates, …In the world of the future, THE NEW ILLITERATE WILL BE THE PERSON WHO HAS NOT LEARNED TO LEARN…”

We don’t need to be scientists to learn some basic principles of advanced science.


Accordingly, Dr. Carl Sagan, PhD. expressed, …We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows about science and technology…” And Edward Teller stated,…The science of today is the technology of tomorrow …”

And it is also crucial this quotation by Winston Churchill, …If we are to bring the broad masses of the people in every land to the table of abundance, IT CAN ONLY BE BY THE TIRELESS IMPROVEMENT OF ALL OF OUR MEANS OF TECHNICAL PRODUCTION…”

9.- In any management undertaking, and given the universal volatility and rampant and uninterrupted rate of change, one must think and operate in a fluid womb-to-tomb mode.

The manager must think and operate holistically (both systematically and systemically) at all times.

The manager must also be: i) Multidimensional, ii) Interdisciplinary, iii) Multifaceted, iv) Cross-functional, and v) Multitasking.

That is, the manager must now be an expert state-of-the-art generalist and erudite. ERGO, THIS IS THE NEWEST SPECIALIST AND SPECIALIZATION.

Managers must never manage elements, components or subsystems separately or disparately (that is, they mustn’t ever manage in series).

Managers must always manage all of the entire system at the time (that is, managing in parallel or simultaneously the totality of the whole at once).

10.- In any profession, beginning with management, one must always and cleverly upgrade his / her learning and education until the last exhale.

An African proverb argues, …Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it…” And Winston Churchill established,…The empires of the future are the empires of the mind…” And an ancient Chinese Proverb: …It is not our feet that move us along — it is our minds…”

And Malcolm X observed,…The future belongs to those who prepare for it today…” And Leonard I. Sweet considered, …The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create…”

And finally, James Thomson argued, …Great trials seem to be a necessary preparation for great duties …”

The entire document is available at

Futurewise Success Tenets

“Futurewise Success Tenets” here is an excerpt from, “The Future of Scientific Management, Today”. To read the entire piece, just click the link at the end of article. As follows:

(1) Picture mentally, radiantly. (2) Draw outside the canvas. (3) Color outside the vectors. (4) Sketch sinuously. (5) Far-sight beyond the mind’s intangible exoskeleton. (6) Abduct indiscernible falsifiable convictions. (7) Reverse-engineering a gene and a bacterium or, better yet, the lucrative genome. (8) Guillotine the over-weighted status quo. (9) Learn how to add up ─ in your own brainy mind ─ colors, dimensions, aromas, encryptions, enigmas, phenomena, geometrical and amorphous in-motion shapes, methods, techniques, codes, written lines, symbols, contexts, locus, venues, semantic terms, magnitudes, longitudes, processes, tweets, “…knowledge-laden…” hunches and omniscient bliss, so forth. (10) Project your wisdom’s wealth onto communities of timeless-connected wikis. (11) Cryogenize the infamous illiterate by own choice and reincarnate ASAP (multiverse teleporting out of a warped / wormed passage) Da Vinci, Bacon, Newton, Goethe, Bonaparte, Edison, Franklyn, Churchill, Einstein, and Feynman. (12) Organize relationships into voluntary associations that are mutually beneficial and accountable for contributing productively to the surrounding community. (13) Practice the central rule of good strategy, which is to know and remain true to your core business and invest for leadership and R&D+Innovation. (14) Kaisen, SixSigma, Lean, LeanSigma, “…Reliability Engineer…” (the latter as solely conceived and developed by Procter & Gamble and Los Alamos National Laboratories) it all unthinkably and thoroughly by recombinant, a là Einstein Gedanke-motorized judgment (that is to say: Einsteinian Gedanke [“…thought experiments…”]. (15) Provide a road-map / blueprint for drastically compressing (‘crashing’) the time’s ‘reticules’ it will take you to get on the top of your tenure, nonetheless of your organizational level. (16) With the required knowledge and relationships embedded in organizations, create support for, and carry out transformational initiatives. (17) Offer a tested pathway for addressing the linked challenges of personal transition and organizational transformation that confront leaders in the first few months in a new tenure. (18) Foster momentum by creating virtuous cycles that build credibility and by avoiding getting caught in vicious cycles that harm credibility. (19) Institute coalitions that translate into swifter organizational adjustments to the inevitable streams of change in personnel and environment. (20) Mobilize and align the overriding energy of many others in your organization, knowing that the “…wisdom of crowds…” is upfront and outright rubbish. (21) Step outside the boundaries of the framework’s system when seeking a problem’s solution. (22) Within zillion tiny bets, raise the ante and capture the documented learning through frenzy execution. (23) “…Moonshine…” and “…Skunks-work…” and “…Re-Imagineering…” all, holding in your mind the motion-picture image that, regardless of the relevance of “…inputs…” and “…outputs,…”, entails that the highest relevance is within the sophistication within the THROUGHPUT.….. (69) Figure out exactly which neurons to make synapses with. (70) Wire up synapses the soonest…”

Read the full material at


Mr. Andres Agostini

As the Western media and governments continue poking fun and demonizing a very misunderstood country, there are a group of people who are taking it upon themselves in ignoring the propaganda and instead reaching out with compassion and understanding. These people are visiting and working in North Korea. They’re not North Koreans, but the love and connection they’ve gained with the North Korean people is real and deserve to have their stories told.

DMZ Northern Commander and former American commander, Michael Bassett, hug during the April 2013 Period of Brinksmanship. (Photo credit Joseph Ferris)
DMZ Northern Commander and former American commander, Michael Bassett, hug during the April 2013 Period of Brinksmanship. (Photo credit Joseph Ferris)

I’ve interviewed a few people of importance in gaining greater insight into the country, its people, its military, and its government. It is my goal in providing an open venue for them to speak out and hopefully gain enough attention for others to follow suit.

Here I’ve interviewed Michael Bassett and Felix Abt. Mr. Bassett is a decorated Army Veteran who holds a BA in International Communication from the American University in Washington DC, a graduate certificate in North Korean Affairs from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, South Korea, and is currently working on his MA in Public Diplomacy from the American University.

He’s served several tours on the DMZ Western Corridor, and has worked in South Korea for unification NGOs. He has been to North Korea several times since 2004 and is a widely published Asian Affairs analyst, a North Korean Affairs specialist, and is known for practicing public diplomacy by facilitating cultural diplomacy projects in the DPRK.

Mr. Abt is a Swiss entrepreneur and expert on doing business in North Korea. He’s the author of A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom. From 2002 to 2009, he worked as one of the few Western businessmen in North Korea. He was co-founder and first president of the European Business Association in Pyongyang, a de facto European Chamber of Commerce and the first foreign chamber of commerce. He also co-founded the Pyongyang Business School, imparting market skills in the next generation of leaders.

Previously, Abt worked all over Europe, Africa and Asia as a senior executive for multinationals such as F. Hoffmann-La Roche and the global engineering giant, ABB Group. In 2002, ABB appointed him first as resident country director in North Korea. He went on to become a point man for Western investments in the country, representing several multinational corporations and even founding a business of his own. He is a shareholder in several North Korean joint ventures, and a member of the boards of directors of SMEs of several countries.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Could you tell me your name and what your professional relation is with North Korea and its inhabitants, alongside how many years you’ve been doing so?

Felix Abt: I’m Felix Abt. I have lived and worked for seven years in North Korea and have been doing business with it for the last 11 years. In my e-book book A Capitalist in North Korea, which will also be published as a paperback soon, I’m telling my story. Currently I’m a shareholder in joint venture companies in the DPRK and I’m involved in trade and new projects.

Michael Bassett: I’m Mike Bassett, thanks for having me, BJ. For nearly seven years I’ve been studying North Korea in college through various academic lenses. Because all I knew about North Korea was acquired in my years on the DMZ in the US Army; I realized that I probably didn’t understand North Korea in its proper context. So as an undergrad I began by applying sociological theories to my understanding of them. Namely I began trying to decipher rhetoric from reality, by trying to understand human perceptions based on The Social Construction of Reality Theory. I also started studying US foreign policy around this time. From there my thinking progressed and shifted towards “constructivism,” which is a theoretical approach to understanding international relations; particularly individual state actors and their behavior. From there, I applied my “prism of understanding” to practicing Pyongyangology after I received a graduate certificate in North Korean Affairs. Pyongyangology is a Cold War-era methodology of understanding countries with whom we have little communication with, and who are generally considered to be our enemies.

Pyongyangologists basically look at an actor’s behavior on histograms and uses small bits of information as “indicators” from something such as a photograph, or sentence, in State propaganda or policy, and then compares it to trends and patters over time. Pyongyangology helps analysts to understand who they are based on their behavior. It’s not a complicated science to master, especially if you constantly pay attention to their trends and patterns over a long period of time. There are many Pyongyangologists — whom I call “The Oracles”. When the unprovoked bombing of Yeonpyeong Island happened, I thought it had nothing to do with anything else other than North Korea trying to convince their population of Kim Jung Un’s military “leadership capabilities.” Kim Jung Un was, at the time, a young Four-star General in charge of an Artillery Corps. Kim Jung Il had a stroke and elections appeared inevitable as Kim Jung Il’s health took a rapid decline. They needed “a leader whom they believed could protect their country” (I argue that Kim Jung Un was chosen and groomed for succession since he was a boy). Unprovoked attacks are unacceptable behavior, but I don’t think they meant for anyone to get killed. It’s important to be able to understand that in science, objectivity separates the fact from the fiction. In this case it helped me prove that North Koreans were rational actors and Kim Jung Un was preparing to take power. Pyongyangology isn’t an exact science, so I had to take it another step because it can be inaccurate sometimes and doesn’t really have an impact on anything.

I developed a pedagogical understanding of North Korean behavior and international perceptions/misperceptions of their historical development and worldview (through their eyes). I see them clearly enough to know that there are more effective ways of approaching the conundrum on the peninsula. Within academia and scholarship, “constructivism” and “smart-power” are on the cutting edge of contemporary international relations, and we have only slowly begun understanding and defining them. Training in public diplomacy is the most recent tool that I’ve acquired to my toolkit. I’m about one semester short of earning an Executive Master’s degree focused on Public Diplomacy. My pedagogical understanding and my toolbox have inspired me to facilitate cultural diplomacy projects in North Korea. I now try to take anyone who wants to go, and set up anything I can for them, to create the “space at the end of the bridge for handshakes and hugs.” As cliché as it sounds, my extensive education and experience has mainly taught me the importance of “handshakes and hugs.”

There are other non-State actors who do similar things there and we’re a small crowd that knows of each other. North Korea entered my radar when I was young because my grandfather told me about the orphan he took care of during the Korean War. I have their picture together in my office. My first “interaction” with North Koreans was on the DMZ, where I was stationed for several years and alerted to Imjin River standoffs on a regular basis. My relationship and views of North Koreans has obviously evolved over the years that I’ve made perpetual and relentless, often uncomfortable attempts at trying to understand and interact with them. Living in South Korea for seven years total, and having a half-South Korean daughter has also given me a unique vantage point in the situation. I put politics aside and get together with North Koreans and focus on the things we have in common. That’s essential to understanding their nature in its entirety. I often get a lot of criticism for going to North Korea and doing this. I do it because these are things that bond people together and allow people to grow together and build trust and understanding. If you really want know about anybody, you have to go break bread with them. These endeavors are risky for me – there, and here at home; as well as costly on a financial and personal level. You could call me an activist scholar. I’m only following my heart and being inspired by examples from prestigious role models. I’m doing what I believe in and what I’ve trained to. Nothing more.

Given your extensive visitation and studying of the northern region of Korea, how would you best describe the North Korean people – a collective goal perhaps; their thoughts on their leaders, past media bias on both sides; how they portray foreigners, especially Western ones?

Abt: North Koreans are better informed about the outside world than the outside world about North Korea. Since the U.S. have rejected many times the DPRK’s request to sign a peace treaty and to normalize the relations with the DPRK this country and its people feel stuck in a state of war and under threat to an extent perceived paranoid by Westerners. Westerners and other foreigners are therefore often considered as potential spies and trouble makers.

In a society as strongly Confucian as North Korea, people show respect to the leaders and expect that they take care of their needs, which is often misunderstood by Westerners living in, at least formally, more egalitarian societies.

Bassett: North Korea’s main goal is survival of the Kim regime, the State, and its people – in that order. In this sense, I call them a Machiavellian society. Everyone in North Korea understands the goal of survival and that their leaders sometimes have to make tough choices to protect the security of their state sovereignty. “Survival” is a central part of their collective psyche, like warriors who develop similar instincts in combat. They suffer a collective trauma from war, isolation, and starvation, rolling natural disasters, and perpetual cycles of proxy war “demonization” by the outside world. North Koreans, understandably, have trust issues and are paranoid, but when you can get past those issues with them, you begin to feel how genuine and sincere at heart they really are. They’re a very traditional society and they take great pride in their ability to maintain their traditional purity. When you realize the tremendous efforts they’ve endured to survive against all odds, you can’t help but be touched by their struggle.

North Koreans are people just like anybody else, but they are also products of their historical environment and also of an external environment that doesn’t understand them. Any country on the planet that experienced the same historical circumstances as they did would end up in the same state as them, in my opinion. All the good, all the bad, would be no different. They are misunderstood. They don’t want anything to do with violence, but like a porcupine, they show their “needles” when they feel threatened. Their bellicosity is a deterrence mechanism as well as a mechanism of survival. In reality, they rarely act outwardly aggressive without provocation. Learning to understand North Koreans is not much different to me than learning how to understand an abused child who has grown up with some emotional issues. They are very smart, very rational, and a little “emotionally sensitive.” But once you build some trust with them, they open up to you and become “friends for life” as Rodman said. They’re like the outcast on the playground that behaved badly because they got bullied a lot because nobody understood why they were an outcast in the first place. I’m like the guy at school who invites that kid to sit down for lunch and shoot some hoops afterwards because I want to help them fit in. I want to help them get better and live a normal life again someday. Maybe that’s why Rodman really is the perfect man for the job. He understands them without scholastic rigor because he is like them in many ways.

Their leadership is quite rational and genuinely cares about their people. I used to criticize them for having it considerably better than the lower classes of the population, but I realized that every country has elite classes who hold power and live lavishly while others live oppressed and in deprivation; so I couldn’t carry on with that criticism and still call myself objective. Ethnocentrism is a root of subjectivity and is a factor that contributes to our misunderstanding of a lot of things beyond our borders. North Korea is the ultimate mirror-state, meaning that we in the “Western world” do everything that we criticize them of doing, but we only hold up their reflection. We can compare anything they do to something that we have done at one point or are currently doing. I can’t demonize them and still call myself objective, and nobody else can either without being hypocritical on a direct or indirect level.

Kim Jung Un is a game changer, in my opinion. I’m sure you’ve read my publication on that. In my experience, westerners are starting to be portrayed differently in North Korea than in the past. Their propaganda art that was created decades ago still exists and portrays Westerners as scary-looking evildoers, but these days their state-run newspaper, Rodong Shinmun, is starting to portray westerners with more humanity, while still demonizing our governments when they’re angry with them. They focus on the positive things of our culture, like Disney and sports. It’s not uncommon to see some Disney backpacks on kids or Disney movies on TV; or to see something about sports diplomacy in their Rodong Shinmun’s.

How would you describe the socio-economic conditions of North Korea as a whole? And what would you propose for foreign countries and their governments in handling and treating North Korea to ensure socio-economic stability?

Abt: North Korea is a developing country which has allocated a very significant portion of its GNP to defense for the reasons mentioned before. A comprehensive security agreement as proposed by Nautilus and others is necessary to reduce tensions and to free resources for economic development. Such an agreement would also support the reform process which would allow more small and medium-sized enterprises to emerge, run by private entrepreneurs which would create numerous jobs and give a substantial boost to the economy as it did in China and Vietnam.

Bassett: Simply put, to me, North Korea is still largely maintaining an agricultural revolution, while barely maintaining an industrial revolution, and trying to skip ahead to the technological revolution. They’ve placed great emphasis on science, business, and education and are constantly finding ways to produce and develop, despite all obstacles. Even during total sanctions their GDP increased by about 1.6%. I went to an International Trade Fair in Pyongyang this Spring and they had everything for sale from ionizer watches to smoking cessation products, to dozens of styles of in-country-produced motorcycles, cars, trucks, and heavy machinery. While in the Rason Special Economic Zone I went to the Triangle Bank, exchanged Chinese Rinminbi for North Korean won, and did some shopping in the Free Market. It was basically a North Korean style Wal-Mart. They had basically anything you could find at a regular Wal-Mart. North Koreans have different classes of people. Their socio-economic class is dependent on loyalty to the regime. Those who have familial connections are trusted more to run restaurants, factories, farms, shops, malls, etc, because the economy can easily lead to the downfall of the regime. They maintain a capitalist type of economy while simultaneously being a Machiavellian socialist “monarchy” because they’ve mastered the art of rent-seeking. The government puts loyalists in charge of business and fills the ranks of the entrepreneurial class with their relatives and part of it goes back to the regime who overseas operations. Because of this delicate balance of survival, sovereignty, and development; the division of classes in a country structured so complexly, became a “necessary evil” that they live with to maintain their existence.

Many North Koreans, contrary to popular belief, are quite satisfied living a traditional and simple life, though their “basic needs” are developing. They want more stuff. Kim Jung Un is trying to appease his people and he’s walking a tightrope between providing security, and enduring sanctions. Thus, their conditions are still very harsh much of the year. People still die from simple injuries or preventable situations, though not as frequently as in the past. Freedom of the press is low, although writing and creative writing are very respectable professions because Reading is one of the most popular activities in North Korea and thus quality writers are in high demand. Every writer still follows some “regime guidelines” but they still have a lot of contextual freedom. North Koreans go without some basic necessities like hot water, electricity, some medicinal care. 5 percent of the population in North Korea is malnourished compared to 17% in the rest of Asia. ( ‚ Their justice system is improving, but still sentences people to life imprisonment, hard labor, kin crime persecution, and execution. Any country who does this is violating basic human rights of a citizen, criminal or not.

Still, these are human rights issues because anything related to quality of life can be seen as a human rights problem, and their human rights issues are partially a byproduct of failed policy and political sanctions designed to influence the regime’s behavior – or more bluntly; sanctions are designed to cause State collapse. I’ve never really believed in “regime changing” because it never ends well. Anytime we have collapsed a State, the people have become worse-off and the regions end up in a state of chaos and deprivation for decades. For this reason, it’s my opinion that sanctions, (and State collapsing) violates the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thus, sanctions should be lifted so States can trade and interact with North Korea more freely if they choose to. North Korea would develop at the pace South Korea did over the past thirty years if the State had the same opportunities and support South Koreans have. People will retort by saying that the South never had nukes or violated human rights, which is why we supported them and not the North. In reality, it was a power-balancing proxy-war. Also ignored are the facts that the USA once pressured South Korea to develop nukes while ignoring their dictatorial human rights abuses.

In many developing countries we’re witnessing technological advancement, from a growing usage of cell phones and laptops, adding in millions of more people into the online collective hemisphere of intellectual exchange. Where do North Korea and its people stand on this? Are they, too, advancing technologically and, if so, in which technological sectors?

Abt: This, too, very much depends on how secure the country feels. As long as any opening is perceived as creating a window of opportunity to those who want regime change and overthrow the DPRK, free access to internet by the general public will be considered as highly risky and undesirable. By allowing mobile telecommunication countrywide, the country has contributed to the development of distant rural regions.

Bassett: North Korea is embarking on a technological revolution. It’s hard for me to say specifically when this shift began, but Kim Jung Il had a state-of-the-art 27” Apple iMac in the train that he died in. He used this for running the regime more efficiently. The leadership used to be the only ones with stuff like this, but now technology is pretty common in schools, businesses, factories, libraries, museums, and cultural centers. I dare say 85% of the families in the country have access to cell phones, computers, TV’s, and DVD players. The intranet on their phones and computers can access North Korean media including news, music, and some video. They can text and I believe they can even transmit intra-mail messages. Nearly all sectors are using new technology in some form. North Koreans get a lot of use out of the satellite that they’re so proud of. Schools are benefitting greatly because now they have broad access to information they can use to strengthen their educational programs, producing smarter students who will grow be more informed leaders in their sectors. Interagency coordination is occurring and they’re becoming more efficient at dealing with crisis, and responding faster to it. Solar panels mitigate power shortages, and advanced irrigation methods are helping their crops survive draughts. I can’t comment with expertise on their light-water reactor but their “official story” is that “because of oil embargoes, they’ve had to shut down two oil refineries, which has resulted in a major portion of the population having to endure without electricity for almost eight years.” This reactor is an answer to that problem, and maybe their “security issues” as well.

I vehemently oppose nuclear weapons or human rights abuses, no matter what State they occur in. We should remember that due to human error, in 1961, a nuclear bomb 261 times the strength of the ones we dropped on Japan, almost detonated in North Carolina. We should remember that America has only 5% of the world’s population, while maintaining 25% of the worlds incarcerated population. In the American prison system, rape is considered “prison justice”, joining gangs and honing criminal skills becomes a means of survival. Statistically, most people are just there because they grew up in a lower class and had few opportunities to get education when growing up, and resorted to criminal activities to survive. We execute people within these systems, but what’s worse, is that some prisoners get locked in solitary confinement for decades, and have been later found to have severe brain disorders such as dementia at the age of thirty. One prisoner did four decades in solitary confinement and was found to be innocent of the crime in the first place and released! The American justice system is atrocious on so many levels. We cannot condemn any State for these two issues when we, here in America, are the world’s largest offender. Even if we just break it down to a per-capita comparative chart we still have a higher percentage of these cases than other countries. Sorry for getting sidetracked, but these things are all related and attention to these “mirrors” should be reflected on.

Speaking of technology, it’s becoming a growing fear among citizenry of developed regions of the world of a technological unemployment – robotic automation taking over human labor. We’re even witnessing signs of it in developing countries like China, i.e. Foxconn’s replacing 1 million workers for automated machinery. Are there any signs of this occurring in North Korea, and, if so, in which regions/provinces?

Abt: North Korea also sets on “high-tech” where it can, but this requires a significant amount of investment capital which it lacks. Therefore, manual labor will not quickly be replaced by machines. On the contrary, manual labor may even be cheaper and more suitable, at least in a number of areas, so that even Chinese companies outsource processes to North Korean producers.

Bassett: From what I can tell, a small portion of the population is in the industrial sector — my guestimation is several million. Most are in the agricultural sector or military. The military does more nation building than anything else, and the farmers do the nation feeding. There are machines that could replace manual labor by humans, but as far as I can tell, they’ve mostly been incorporated in the mines. Machines may make soldiers and farmers lives easier, but I doubt machines will ever put people out of work in North Korea. There’s always something to be doing there that only people can do.

How would you best describe the joint relationship between the common North Korean people, the country’s military, and its government?

Bassett: North Korean leadership travels around to every sector of their country all year long. That’s what their main role is. It’s one way of “showing the people they care”, as one North Korean put it to me. The military is seen as providing their security, but also builds their roads and houses and fixes damage to their “property” when it occurs. Because of this close interaction, both the military and the leadership are probably genuinely beloved by a majority of their people on some level. On the other hand, there is an element of fear of dissent, not strictly because of the judicial system but also because of the potential vulnerability of their State sovereignty. This is another example of why I refer to North Korea as the only true Machiavellian state to have ever existed. I wonder if Machiavelli were still alive right now, how interested he would be in North Korea and if he would refer to Kim Jung Un as a good, bad, or rational/irrational type of “Prince.” I think others would disagree with my assessment. I know what most of the books out there say, but from what I’ve seen, those assessments are often a bit fictionalized and exaggerated. Even some books about defectors, which are about the only kind of books about North Korea out there, are often fictionalized in some regards. There is no way to totally understand the truth about a defector and their story. But we do know that they are hopeless, damaged, and will do anything to survive. I wonder how many authors have whispered “we can’t make money like that” to them…

What are the North Korean peoples’ thoughts on reunification and what do they feel is the best means of achieving it? The military’s viewpoint of the same question? The government’s?

Bassett: I think everybody in the country wants unification, but not until they achieve mutual recognition, which is based on mutual trust and respect. Trust and respect are very difficult things to attain when there is little communication, and even less understanding, between the North and the South. There are those of narrow mind on each side who are against unification for personal reasons. In North Korea the hardliners seem to favor corrosive engagement to prolong the division. In South Korea the media is particularly slatternly. They value their mammonism – (worship of money – manna from god) more than anything else and believe that reconciling with North Korea will ruin their comfortable quality of life. They’ve programmed their kids in their education systems and through propaganda to be apathetic or anti-North Korean, just like they accuse the North of “brainwashing” their kids. It is more illegal to have North Korean items in South Korea than it is to have South Korean items in North Korea. In North Korea you will pay a fine if you’re caught, in South Korea you will go to jail. South Koreans are apathetic to the funding and schematics that are in place to facilitate a seamless transition during unification. They don’t care because the situation has gone on so long that the generations that this affected are dying off. Despite this, I believe North and South Korea will, in the next five years, attain a peace treaty, which is the first step toward unification. Before peaceful unification starts they’d probably become a confederate republic for about fifteen years until there is enough cultural exchange and economic development to cause a seamless transition and return to a united republic like the Koryo Dynasty.

Given your position in relation with that of North Korea and its people, would you argue that your actions are somehow contributing in the psychological and sociological bonding and understanding between North Korean people and foreigners, and in doing so will it help better pave the way for reunification?

Bassett: Most diplomacy professionals will quote the United States Information Agency moniker “the most important interactions take place at the last three feet of the bridge, where handshakes and hugs are given.” I try to facilitate a lot more than handshakes and hugs over there. I’m not trying to “erode North Koreans’ sovereignty or purity”; I’m trying to get everyone on all sides of the conundrum to stop demonizing each other and develop a peaceful coexistence. I’m “always up to some type of antics while I’m in DC”, as one reporter observed. I have, with assistance of local leaders, worked together to organize a small movement in DC, and we are planning to have a large-scale bike-ride through the district, with as many people as we can get. We want to promote de-demonization of the country and its people and advocate for immediate lifting of all sanctions and an end to Strategic Patience policy. We don’t have to sanction them and topple their regime; but at the minimum we can leave them alone and not obviate their survival. Regime-toppling tactics have infrequently resulted in positive change for anything, anywhere, for anyone, except for in WWII, which was a very unique situation in human history. The United States has been basking in the embellishment and glory of WWII for seventy years now; to the extent that this self-glorification has led us to believe that regime toppling is the solution to everything. We have a hero-complex, which misguides our rationality and prevents us from understanding and humanizing conflicts. Conflicts are all unique and don’t have a one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes we have to be the “bigger man” — the gentleman if you will, instead of the tough guy on the block. We haven’t learned to grasp that concept yet. Like ancient Greece, we have an innate desire to satisfy cultural bloodlust. Our government, media, and society will hopefully redirect its trajectory down a more peaceful path. Many things that we fear are threats are only threats because of the actions we take based on that fear. We’ve been programmed to fear everything and question nothing.

Armchair generals will try to convince people that we have to “stand up for morality, stability, and security”, or “maintain certain balances of power to maintain international order.” That’s all bullshit. Life gets better when people get along peacefully. Working together, people can achieve so much more than when there is conflict. Conflict is a natural occurrence but dealing with it smartly is not natural to us. There are no cookie cutter solutions. The costs of “soft power” are substantially cheaper and exponentially more effective than “hard power. I err on the side of “soft power.” Conflicts aren’t Game Theory, profit margins, or eugenics. These are human beings that have a right to exist. Failing to understand them is not an excuse for sanctioning them even if we choose not to engage them. I’ve seen the impact of cultural exchanges. When I give a North Korean school kid or waitress a polaroid pic of me and them doing something fun together like riding a roller coaster or singing karaoke, they hang on to it and show it to me when I come back. They keep videos of me in their phones and show it to me when I come back. They treasure those moments. They share them with their friends. They tell me about how they get together with their friends and family and “laugh at silly Michael.” I’d argue that cultural exchanges are the only thing maintaining stability there and are the only way to achieving peace and unification. I do my part in trying to help the world understand them, and I make happen whatever I can whether I’m in DC, Seoul, or Pyongyang. If that results in their unification then I’ll know my efforts weren’t all “pipe dreams that went up in smoke.” We will never know until it’s tried.

Economic sanctions are a very popular tactic in addressing certain countries’ governments who may not be playing by the rules established by others. North Korea, especially, suffers from economic sanctions due to the government’s wish to remain a nuclear state for deterrence purposes, and this upsets people like those in the U.S. government. Would you say that economic sanctions are a successful means of addressing hostility or, simply put, differences in opinion? If so, how? If not, how are economic sanctions truly affecting the country and subsequently its people?

Abt: Sanctions have an important impact on the economy. Let’s look for example at North Korea’s huge gold deposits which it cannot extract because the sodium cyanide necessary for it is a banned so-called dual-use product. (That is it cannot only be used for civilian purposes like gold extraction, pesticides and plastics production, but also to make the nerve gas sarin).

To name one more example: Switzerland and other countries banned the sale of ski lifts. How could North Korea develop a flourishing tourism industry, which became equally mountainous Switzerland’s most important source of income, if it is prevented from purchasing the necessary equipment? And how many alternatives does North Korea have with, like Switzerland, only about 17% arable land?

Among the numerous prohibited dual-use products, there are for example chemicals required for the processing of food items and of pharmaceuticals, as they can also be used in chemical weapons. Without these banned products the quality and safety of these consumer goods are compromised to the extent that the foreign-imposed sanctions cost lives of ordinary North Koreans.

Other “punitive” measures, such as the financial sanctions cutting North Korean banks off the international banking system, push legitimate businesses “underground” and force them for example to use unconventional payment methods such as cash couriers. Doing business with North Korea has therefore become difficult, more costly and dissuades many foreign enterprises from dealing with this country.

Bassett: I used to believe that sanctions were effective and justified tools to use against North Korea to influence their state behavior. But I’ve seen with my own eyes how blatantly stupid I was. What sanctions do, is give North Koreans less incentive to cooperate, more desire to behave badly, more justification of their governments propaganda, and significantly erode the quality of life of average citizens, while barely impacting those who we want to impact. Even when we do impact those targets, it only results in a minor impact on them and major ripple effects for everyone else. The best way to influence North Korean behavior is to lift all sanctions and give them de facto nuclear recognition. If we did those two things then the regime would change their behavior instantly; and if they didn’t, then we would be able to justify returning to such harsh policies against them. We can’t make policies based on fear. It will not be the end of the world if we take a leap of faith and then they stab us in the back. We could simply return to controlling their fate again. We are, after all, exponentially larger and more powerful than them. We have to be willing to try things that have never been tried before because the benefit of doing so is higher than the cost of miscalculation. In reality, they cannot do all those things we fear them of wanting to do. Those things the media uses to keep us living in fear of them. Those things the military industrial complex published by the researchers on their huge payroll. It’s all bullshit. In reality, they will probably do none of those things and if they do then we can easily deal with it. We are more likely than not, to see a stability and peace bloom in Asia unlike any other, if we were to take a “leap-of-faith” with them. This does not imply that their activities won’t be monitored. If sanctions were lifted everything would have to be monitored, accounted for, and inspected. It would be easy for them to succumb to temptation from illicit activities.

Could you give us examples that you’ve personally witnessed which contradicts many common viewpoints by foreigners and/or foreign media about North Korea – its people, culture, government, power structure, etc.?

A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom by Felix Abt
A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom by Felix Abt

Abt: I have given plenty of examples in my book.

Bassett: I watched a Mandela documentary before I went to North Korea during the ‘2013 Period of Bellicosity’. I remember when one soccer player tripped another, causing him to fall in pain. Memories of Apartheid South Africa and all the emotions that come along with it erupted within him. When they player helped the other one up and hugged him those feelings were washed away and it had a butterfly effect. I tried to recreate that situation by challenging a member of North Korea’s National Taekwondo team to a one-on-one match. Prior to the match I flexed my bicep at him, which had my US Army Staff Sergeant Rank tattooed on it. He knocked me out, as expected, in a half second, with a swift kick to the face. Next thing I knew, he was helping me up, hugging me, and peeling his foot skin off of my face for me. I expected them to be cheering and handing out medals for “destroying a Yankee imperialist,” but they responded with sympathy and care to my injuries. In another unforgettable moment, as I was mountain climbing in the extreme Northeast part of the country, we followed the trails of an anti-Japanese Revolutionary War battle, and I brought up the United States nuclear bombing of Japan. All morning we’d been hearing about how bad the Japanese were during decades of occupation, but they kept avoiding saying that it ended because America dropped nuclear bombs on them. This made me curious because Japan is perceived as the root cause of all their problems. So I brought it up and was stopped in my tracks and told very sternly that “IT WASN’T GOOD BECAUSE INNOCENT PEOPLE GOT HURT.” I said “yes, but it stopped your innocent people from getting hurt.” They said, “it doesn’t matter, we don’t believe in hurting innocent people.” I’ll never know if this was the “official story” or their genuine belief, but I’m inclined to err with the latter because I could see the sincerity in his eyes. North Korea truly is a country traumatized by their past.

Would you say that the North Korean government is willing to openly do business with foreign peoples and their companies? How about NGOs and nonprofit think-tanks for research purposes and better education of the country as a whole?

Abt: North Korea has been open for business for many years. The American think-tank Nautilus has been working with the DPRK for many years, too.

Bassett: North Korea is not only willing, but they are capable. They have been doing business with the external world for quite some time. They currently have a system in place, which allows for them to businesses, although I’m not sure how openly they’re willing to be about it. They desire longevity, independence, and sustainability in whoever they consider doing business with. Trust issues and mutual respect are important facets of that consideration. As far as capability, they have a central bank and the Triangle banks. They have Laws and structures in place to support foreign investment, joint ventures, contractual joint ventures, wholly foreign owned enterprises, foreign invested banks, businesses and enterprises and law offices supporting those structures. These are mainly for the Rason, Kaesong, Hwanggumphyong and Wihwado Economic Zones, but are applicable anywhere in the country. They have establishments in place for external economic contracts, arbitration, civil relations and civil law, compensation for damage, notary publics, inheritance, immigration, commercial banks, and even a claim to have a system in place to prevent money laundering (Laws and Regulations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Governing External Economic Matters, p. 417 2012). They have laws regarding insurance requirements, land leasing, trade and trade processing, a Chamber of Commerce, product origin tracking, inspections, invention, trademark, and copyright protection, which even apply to hardware and software technology. They are very serious about environmental impact, probably because they value their clean environment and because of the effect land mismanagement had on the regime in the 90’s. As stated in the cited DPRK Economic Law book, the laws are “enacted for the purpose of encouraging foreign investment in the DPRK and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of the investors” – p.9.

And finally, what would you propose for foreigners – peoples, companies, governments, etc. – to do in order to better establish a peaceful relationship with that of North Korea? Is the U.S. government’s aggressive approach successful or are better alternatives possible?

Bassett: Educate yourselves and unplug! Expose yourselves to information that doesn’t totally demonize the regime. Listen to what North Korea has to say. They have a small degree of transparency. Their Rodong Shinmun is online and the same in basic content (though slightly edited) as the North Korean version that you can buy there. NK News is run by expert foreign academics and practitioners in conjunction with defectors, and is packed full of useful information. Read something by Andrei Lankov, Felix Abt, B.R. Myers, or even me; though I’m not insinuating that I’m on their level of expertise. Listen to the practitioner’s point of view. Follow them on social media; many of us are on everything from Facebook to Instagram. Take what the government and the media say with a grain of salt. There are two types of actors in this situation. Those who know what’s going on and selflessly try to make matters better, and then there is the government and the media; who have special interests in maintaining the status quo, at least for as long as they feel that’s what the public wants them to do.

Nobody here can deny that there is perspectives emerging from highly educated and accomplished practitioners and experts alike that run in stark contrast to what the media and the government would have us believe. As I have said in many other publications, a lot of our misperception of North Korea is based on the information they get from human rights groups. I am against human rights violations, and I’ve claimed that the US has them on a larger scale. What if every country in the world looked at the United States of America and saw nothing more about it beyond what goes on within its disgusting prisons? That’s what the human rights organizations would lead us to believe and those organizations are largely behind presenting America with that perception. There is so much more to the country than the .08% of their population that is behind bars. It certainly isn’t one giant prison state. North Korean isolation and underdevelopment has more to do with their external problems, historical development, and worldview than it does the leaderships supposed “hateful dictatorial oppression” of their people. It’s just like everything that we do and see here in the West is a byproduct of the same factors. In the end we need to realize that “people are people” and we don’t have the right to hold anyone down just because we don’t like them or understand them.

originally posted @Ntegrationalism

This past week I was at the Canadian Consulate General in New York for their Celebration of Innovation in Financial Technology, which featured 10 start-ups or early stage companies from the most robust nation in financial terms, according the IMF & World Bank stress tests. I’ve been thinking about fintech and the use of technology to better distribute wealth via identifying the value that individuals possess for some time. The meeting hosted by @miriam_leia CanadaNY’s chief innovation officer compelled me to start piecing some of the writing that I’ve done on the topic of value. I’m unsure how to summarize things enough for a quick read, hopefully this isn’t too choppy.

Great Automation

We find ourselves at the beginning of a somewhat great automation. While formidable arguments exist from every political faction on the potential for job creation and depletion, forecasters can confirm that the growth trends of technology show no signs of slowing; continued automation of tasks in business services for enterprise are on the horizon.

·Demand side: Restore public-sector jobs and invest in infrastructure for immediate jobs and long-term growth.

·Supply side: Extend Bush-era tax cuts to spur economy. Cut spending to curb growth-crushing debt and deficit.

·Another way: Invest in community-based, member-owned cooperatives and reduce the workweek.

Even as the world economy reacts to the automation of the its most affluent and technologically advanced nations, we find ourselves unable to distribute vales well for physical laborers.

At McKiney & Company, David Fine quotes: Africa’s workforce, young and growing quickly, will be the world’s largest by 2035. Unemployment stands at just 9 percent, but two-thirds of the labor force are in vulnerable, non-wage-paying jobs.

I wrote to the IEET a few years ago to provoke some discussion on the ethics of automation from an information technology standpoint, as the ethnography behind automation has been a large focus of mine over the past decade with corporations as a consultant. According to, “Even as resistance was futile the protests continue at each firm I visited. It seems that the exponential growth of technology, not only from a hardware standpoint (via Moore’s Law), but also from a methodological and software standpoint, requires a new method of distributing values.” Jobs are difficult to generate in this great automation. Further, if our labor culture is changing for goods and services, I’m not aligned with the idea that we can restore historical methods. We must innovate out of joblessness.

Our inability to quantify the toiling of the individual and even the institution has hampered our ability to sustain gainful employment (jobs) during the accelerating changes. Note: I am not referring to sustainability, as it is illogical to seek, but to state that we are not agile. In the modern world individuals and institutions are participating more than ever in the process of development of goods/services through passive means. They are influencers. Specifically I mean: we are performing the act of development of goods and services without being compensated for it or even realizing our participation. Consider a long being in empty space, worthless. While human-kind can’t have inherent value, community can. We all generate values at the point we can interact with another.

In business CRM (customer relations management) and UX (user experience) are examples of how we leverage a consumer to be their own discoverer, developer, and deploy-er of solutions to problems. Via a conduit (profit seeking institution) as a platform, we interact. Sure there may be a single or group of experts monitoring the feedback, but the fact that feedback exists warrants some nominal indemnification other than the creation of new products for consumers, no? Figure 1. Represents a crude the CRM input process.

crm input

While the system is still new, culturally, functionally, and technologically – we’ve managed to build and identify better sensors for data points on participants in the crowd. Our ability to evaluate systemic risks and opportunities is actually an older statistical science that mathematicians and economists have been tinkering for decades. The fact that entrepreneurs who develop software solely based on customer reviews in the AppExchange to then distribute as an added service is justification enough to consider how we indemnify a society for its knowledge and experience as a user. Is it valuable to seek more useful or even intuitive experiences? Companies have dedicated efforts to understanding sentiment on news by consumers and reactors to information regarding their enterprise. Firms like, Finmaven: Tool for publicly traded companies to monitor, publish and analyze social media…or, Market IQ: Analysis of unstructured data such as social media to provide real time insights to traders.. Automation is much broader than marketing and customer relations; however, the processes around relations are at the core of automation.

Too Connected To Fail

Our relations in our close and extended networks are what provide the tangible value that other individuals and institutions derive from us. As social beings we are somewhat obligated to interact well. While this sheds no light on egalitarian ideals, it does provide an opportunity for less-introverted individuals and institutions to be indemnified for participation. For example, at HBS participation often accounts for 50% of the total course grade. That method is good enough to start with, no? Lowering our degrees-of-separation from our peers and attracting new connections is what elects the people at the top of the classes at Harvard Business School. People learn how to communicate more effectively through the rigor of participation, and their value sky rockets relative to the rest of the business community.

In the past decade the global “great recession” exposed our systemic vulnerability and ties to each other at the micro and macro scale. Financial innovations have enabled risk transfers that were not fully recognized by financial regulators or by institutions themselves, complicating the assessment of a “too-connected–to-fail” problem. Companies in FinTech are closing the communication gap like Quantify Labs: CRM and Content Platform for Institutional Finance. In plain English they show all communication between bank’s customers and vendors. Scenarios like, who checked which communications and the supply-chain of communication. Anyone who has ever watched a movie about finance and trading of equities knows that traders and brokers mostly talk to each other to buy and sell stakes in equities for mutual benefit. Expanding communications or even knowledge of existing communications on creates more threads to an ever-expanding web of connectivity. As an evolving species, we need our web to continue to grow in order to support our initiative for growth, or creating technologies on a more grand scale.

The mentioned initiative can be found in every facet of our lives. Form the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Figure 2. A diagrammatic depiction of co-risk feedbacks, presents the conditional co-risk estimated between pairs of selected financial institutions. In plain English, the numbers on the diagram are communication linkages between people/assets at these banks.


While there is some debate on exactly what the framework should be to quantify co-dependence or co-risk, the best solution should be a growing group of qualified rating methods and agencies evaluating data differently as it changes and expands, as it does. Similar to this type of co-dependence our civilization’s most important institutions, our most important individuals are also co-dependent on a group of near and distant peers. We are all dependent on other to discover, develop, and deploy solutions to problems of a more personal kind.

Software services like Klout, Kred, Peer Index, and at least a dozen more are making efforts to mine through the data that we communicate to influence, in order to deliver a score with regards to our varied value (depending on their methodology and focus). Similar to the IMF individuals need to evaluate co-dependence and influence on their peers but also on institutions. Applying Klout-like methods to measure our value will enable us to make formidable legal and political arguments for out just due. And perhaps a more manageable transition through structural unemployment and globalization is possible via what’s due. Note: I am using influence and co-dependence to reference social value on entities. We all play a role in the negotiation that is life’s happenings but those of us who aren’t entrepreneurs rarely know that we’re a part of the conversations affecting decisions.

Connectivity is starting to span beyond social connections and socialization in general. It is starting to be quantified in new ways, as there are no shortages in places to install sensors and things to understand. Physical sensors that help us recognize, colors, odors, heat, distance, sounds, etc are all being created as devices that empower an application programming interface (API), which is another way to allow information technology to quantify how we engage sensors. The appification of sensors like Node or Canary or Leap Motion are the next generation of sensors that we’ve used on watches and cameras. Looking forward to days where nanorobotics can monitor mitochondrial stability to forecast and avoid apoptosis to help cells cheat death, of course, we still have a long way to go. Today, the case can be made to spread some of the abundant wealth by validating the abundant value each individual creates through info tech.


From a political standpoint a new debate needs to be had around how we react to the types of joblessness that results from rapidly changing technology, as the rate of changing is seemingly increasing. In regards to technoprogressivism and structural unemployment via automation and other methods; it is ideal to embrace the end of work: meaning that there should be some equitable distribution of the leisure created by automation.

While ideas on the end of work have been around for centuries, the distribution of leisure within or succeeding a capitalistic system is quite new. The innovation in distribution of social values that needs to occur is separate from welfare. It is understandably just to enforce a pervasive welfare state for our inability to distribute value; however, it is not an adequate remedy to the wealth gap and technologies effort to quantify all things. The root of our problem is our inability to distribute values among those who actually participate in creating it, while managing risk (or insurances). A guaranteed basic income and/or a shorter work week are not elaborate enough to compel an agile system of developments in compensation, even while they are necessary.

Information technology and the manipulation of BigData, are enabling us to understand who is influencing which changes, even at a nominal rate. Incentivizing individuals and institutions to interact in a more transparent way is important in evaluating new ways to indemnify them for their participation in society. It helps them learn and others to learn about them. This may read invasive and unethical from a privacy stand-point. While that debate should be had, my stance in short: is that human-kind cannot achieve the interconnectedness it requires for distributing our relatively abundant resources through complete privacy or conservatism. Going forward, the next wave of value to exploit it not material but portable. Figure 3. Shows my Klout rating of 60/100 for influencing my social network. The question should be asked: who have I influenced? What decisions have they made based on my influence? Have they contributed to any gross domestic product (GDP)? Is that value portable?



Portable Value

In a short essay I wrote called “Portable Value”, influenced by Hernando de Soto I channeled his ideas that “adequate participation in an information framework that records ownership”, can spur economic growth. History shows that coinage in the exchange of good in local/international trade made portable wealth possible. The more transparent information-collection of purchase, stake holdings, and ownership of goods from legal-documentation to land to human-slaves made our modern economies grow. While I don’t agree with de Soto’s position on land titling and side with a more communal and democratic systems of collective land tenure because this offers protection to the poorest and prevents ‘downward raiding’ in which richer people displace squatters once their neighborhoods are formalized, I am aligned with the idea of an individual titling.

Neither de Soto nor his opponents wrote about individual titling specifically, and I’m not very fond of the phrase, but it’s fitting nomenclature assuming that they would have called the distributing of ownerships outside of land specifically some version of “individual titling” considering their democratic capitalism alignment. The significance here rest with ownership and the individual. The phenomenon of private ownership has pervaded and propelled the growth of humans and our technological extensions which make life more livable. Capitalism is the term of choice for the private ownership and trade of things. Per my views (@Ntegrationalism), Capitalism is merely an economic manifestation of human-kind’s technological evolution. While I’m aware of the rigid opposition to my last sentence, I’ve written it under the assumptions that

  • All things in existence are physiologically connected.
  • Humans cannot have nature.
  • Technology is deterministic when applied to the human condition.
  • Individualism spawns competition resulting in arbitrage.

Regarding information on ownership, economic growth requires a growth in participation of owners to in-turn expand the amount of wealth or wealth opportunities in the collective (system). Nostalgic and conservative ideas of constricting the potential growth of human-kind and the institutions that we’ve built is futile and unwise, as we live in a dynamic realm (world, galaxy, universe, multiverse) which renders life as we know it, unsustainable by definition. Even the home planet (Earth) warmed by the nearest star (Sun) will be an unsustainable body in due time. We need to be more agile in how we adapt to change.

As a species or parent of species, human-kind should be encouraged to compel as many participating owners of physical-properties (land) and nonphysical-properties (intellectual property, digital, and other) as possible to create a web of interconnected and integrated interest, per our vigilant growth. While land is scarce and in de Soto’s day, it was the end of the titling arguments, our ability to create valuable information and intellectual property has surpassed that of land property. The individual must be able to own the information that they distribute and monetize it. There is a firm called 4pay in Canada that aims to create the beginnings of a “data locker” by creating mobile applications that allow consumers to control transactions without giving personal or financial data to creditors or retailers. Knowing that this will be a heavy blow to the advertising industry and could hinder individuals from accessing valuable information on goods/services that they actually want and need, the delivery model may be flawed. While innovations away from the existing supply chain may prove formidable, I think that some legal and financial incentives to provide individuals with their own information footprint have to be implemented at the local and international scale not to protect the individual, but to empower them. Individuals have to know when they are being used as insights to make decisions about their peers lives.


Grindhouse Wetware is a collective of makers and engineers founded on a basic principle – human augmentation should be accessible and open. All of our devices are built off of open source platforms. This allows our users to peer into the hardware and code of their implanted device and truly control their augmented experience. Grindhouse Wetware’s devices are tailored to Makers and DIY Transhumanists that want to build a specific, unique augmentation. What do you want to be?

After three years of development, our flagship project – Circadia, is in its final stages. Grindhouse Wetware is seeking financial support from individuals or organizations to facilitate the production of this device.

The Circadia implant records bio-medical data and transmits it to the user’s phone via bluetooth. Instead of a snapshot of the user’s state of health, the Circadia records the up-to-date status of the their well being. Grindhouse Wetware firmly believes that once an implant has been installed in an individual, it becomes a part of their person. As such, the data generated by the Circadia belongs to the user.

If you are interested in supporting Grindhouse Wetware and the Circadia implant, please contact me at [email protected] or 631−715−9209

Below are pictures of our prototypes.

HELEDD Printed 2 DSCF1998 DSCF1996

Originally posted as Part I of a four-part introductory series on Bitcoin on May 1, 2013 in the American Daily Herald. See the Bitcoin blog for all four articles.

The last couple of months proved a very exciting time for Bitcoin and its new owners, with values increasing from $30 to $260 within a month only to come crashing down in days. It went from virtual anonymity to virtual ubiquity and back again — the only constant being that it’s virtual. The dust has now settled and the talking heads have changed topic, and Bitcoin is slowly regaining strength. But does this mean we can finally, in a quiet and rational way, contemplate what this Bitcoin really is and where it has room to fit into our lives? The answer to that is no, because the concept of Bitcoin is so strange, unintuitive and foreign, no matter when you discuss it and with whom, it will lead to very divisive arguments. So I say now is as good a time as any to dive in and discuss it.

So what is Bitcoin, anyway?

Bitcoin is a virtual currency. It is a string of 1s and 0s, much like a lot of what we interact with in this day and age. It’s something new. It’s unique. It’s controversial. The detractors say it’s only useful for terrorists or drug lords who want to move money around undetected, which no doubt they do. But much like the Internet is so much more than pornography, so is Bitcoin so much more than drug money. E-mail liberated the letter from the postage stamp, Skype liberated telephone calls from crippling AT&T long-distance rates, Facebook liberated photos from the dusty photo album sitting on your shelf unopened. You can think of Bitcoin as what will liberate financial transactions from the grip of the financial institutions and the state.

Technical/dictionary definitions can be found in many places. This short article cannot give a full account. But it will present analogies to make the concept of Bitcoin easier to grasp. Given that Bitcoin is virtual, the analogies can only go so far, but the first step is to think about bitcoins as though they were actual coins forged out of the shiniest and prettiest gold. This is the cornerstone to understanding that bitcoins are in fact a commodity, like a gold nugget turned into a coin and made to become money. The analogy is that the element from which the gold coin is forged requires to be mined. Sure enough, it exists in nature, but it is hidden from plain view. It has to be explored to be brought into useful existence, and this gets exceedingly hard as time goes by and as the easy pickings have all been found. Much the same is with Bitcoin. It is decisively unlike any other piece of software or any other electronic file to which we are accustomed. You cannot just copy and paste it and you cannot just reinstall it ad infinitum. The sense we should be getting is that Bitcoin is a scarce good.

Don’t let go of that mental image as I endeavor to explain a bit about the technical aspect. Bitcoin belongs to a new kind of asset class, one that is called a crypto-currency. Its very existence is predicated upon a network of computers that resides within the internet. This Bitcoin network consists of thousands of individuals who are online and connected to one another at every given second of the day, constantly communicating with one another through pieces of software designed with this one networking purpose in mind. Through complex cryptographic means, each coin and all of its transaction history is known to the network while keeping the identity of the owner of this coin completely private. Due to the fact that transmission from one owner to another (the financial transaction) is broadcast to the entire network, it is made virtually impossible to then use the coin again since everyone knows you’ve already given it away – thus it overcomes the problem of double-spending (think “copy & paste”) the same coin. The analogy to a gold coin (or any physical good) is that only one person can ever hold and own the coin, thus it is scarce (in the economic sense) and one person owning the coin prevents another person from owning it.

As to the technical aspect of ‘mining’ bitcoins, these again are computers running specialized software on this network. Miners solve complex algorithms to discover which string of characters would be the next Bitcoin to be produced. The computations are so complex, and increasingly so, that the computers required are expensive, state of the art computers using up time, space and energy. Inherent in the Bitcoin network design, there is a capacity to the network (21 million bitcoins) and inherent to the mining process, it becomes exponentially more difficult to solve these algorithms. Therefore, by nature, the rate of creation of new coins is decreasing and an upper limit is in place. Today over half are in existence, within 25 years over 99 percent will have been mined and by the year 2140 no more coins will be added to the supply. The analogy to gold mining is that gold is finite and it takes effort to discover it; ‘real world’ resources, time and money, are expended in the process. While, of itself, this doesn’t give Bitcoins their value, it does make it either profitable or not and it incentivizes entrepreneurs where the profit exists. Bitcoins cannot be created out of thin air by a Federal Reserve-like entity. It is a commodity that will attract miners should it be profitable, and likewise detract miners when loss-making conditions arise. It is a product of the free-market.

The value of money and Bitcoin

A brief mention was made that this is a new type of asset class. Also mentioned repeatedly is that this is a commodity. These definitions cause great discomfort to many who view assets and commodities as necessarily objects in the physical realm. Accountants have long held the view that a balance sheet can also be comprised of intangible assets. Value, it was argued, does not come from an object’s tangibility, but rather from its subjective utility by its owner and from its scarcity. Businesses, after all, pay great premiums to acquire others’ brands or to employ people for their talents or ideas. To be sure, a Bitcoin is a string of 1s and 0s and interacts only with software, but when this string of 1s and 0s is useful and its ownership boundaries are clearly delineated (meaning what I own, you cannot own at the same time), then it can be thought of as an asset and it can acquire value based on the subjective view of market participants.

Most discussions on forms of money invariably include references to ‘stores of value’ and to the money commodity as having ‘intrinsic value’. It is important to realize that any good arising from the free market will appreciate in value as more people want it and will act as a store of value as long as its popularity remains so. But with popularity dwindling or with marginal utility dropping any good is subject to its store of value diminishing, gold notwithstanding. Intrinsic value is itself a misnomer. Goods do not have intrinsic value. Goods may have intrinsic properties or characteristics that are valued by society or enable them to be well utilized for a specific purpose. Money’s properties, for instance, would include being fungible, divisible, recognizable, durable, portable, rare/scarce, etc. If a good or a commodity intrinsically has all of these properties, then it is likely, over time, to evolve to become a medium of exchange (money). This good will then acquire value with its increased recognition as a popular and well accepted form of money. But calling this ‘intrinsic value’ is fallacious, albeit somewhat common.

Historically, precious metals, especially gold and silver, have retained their values due to their intrinsic properties mentioned above. This has given rise to people’s perception of them as being a ‘store of value’ and of having ‘intrinsic value’. Another red herring introduced to the argument is that gold has other uses, say in dentistry, aerospace, or jewelry. True enough, this would imply that should the metals lose all perception as being money (a highly unlikely scenario, but theoretically possible), then at least the owner is able to sell off their existing holdings to goldsmiths and other industry participants. The resultant oversupply relative to demand would probably mean gold owners would salvage a few percent of the value at best. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the fact that gold has value other than money (a characteristic Bitcoin doesn’t share) is of little relevance when discussing it as a medium of exchange.

With Nixon’s closure of the ‘gold window’ in 1971, gold has ceased its official role as money. However it is quite evident that as an asset class, precious metals are still highly regarded and form a part of many prudent investors’ portfolios. Payment for goods and services with a Krugerrand or a Silver Eagle would constitute ‘barter’ if one were to go by today’s strictly legal definitions of money payments. But if (or when) the US Dollar system collapses, there is no doubt to an ever increasing proportion of the population that ‘payment’ with gold and silver would arise as legitimate forms of money. The creation of bitcoins has introduced another alternative, one which would be unwise to ignore.

Bitcoin adoption and its rise in value

As long as its acceptance as money is only to a narrow audience, its value will remain low and the possibility of a price collapse is a real risk. But one shouldn’t make the error in deducing, therefore, that it cannot acquire value as people learn about it and accept it. Every commodity starts its life as having no value until someone finds a use for it and starts exchanging it with others who also see the value in its use or its properties. If a commodity acquires value as a medium of exchange through voluntary free-market interactions, and is not forced upon the populace through legal tender laws (as fiat money is), then it no longer matters that it doesn’t have other uses. It will be acquired and exchanged for the sole purpose of acquisition and exchange. In a free market, after all, if people lose confidence or interest in the product – any product (money or otherwise), its value would decrease and potentially reduce to zero.

So why has its value gone up so greatly? Is it all attributed to an irrational bubble-induced craze? Perhaps. But perhaps ever more people are starting to realize that this invention fits the bill. It is fungible, divisible, recognizable, durable, portable, rare/scarce (an in-depth look at each will have to be the topic of another article). When one considers the design of this ‘product’ in light of these attributes, one begins to realize that the properties that led gold and silver to the fore as ‘natural money’ can exist in other goods. People gawk at miraculous inventions that enable us to perform heretofore unthinkable tasks. Transacting in money is no different. Money is simply the most marketable commodity. It shouldn’t surprise us, in this day and age, that someone was able to invent an alternative form of it – and let the free market decide what is more marketable. What we have witnessed over the last few weeks are volatile price fluctuations, as people rush into this craze wanting to make a quick buck. But with more people owning bitcoins and more businesses willing to accept payment in them, Bitcoin is gaining currency. This is exactly the process that took gold from ornament to payment, only instead of taking centuries, it is happening before our very eyes. For those seeking a return to free market currencies, consider Bitcoin as a successful alternative.