Monoculture Thinking is Unnatural & Unhealthy
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Monoculture Thinking is Unnatural & Unhealthy

Biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus has wisely observed that Nature is a design studio, where optimizing sustainability (of planetary lifeforms) and resiliency (navigating climate, species and extraterrestrial impacts) comes through millions of years of adaptability experiments.

Nature Values Diversity

Nature relies on multiple species to sequester carbon and improve nutrients for soils in vastly different climates and geographies.  Nature relies on regular seismic, forest fire, flood and migration patterns to disseminate species diversity, and to capitalize on the extreme events as fortuitous opportunities for establishing new homes for life and species’ advantage.

Our species acts constantly to master Nature, to overcome its unpredictability.  In doing so, we seem increasingly to favor the politics of monocultures – where one “go right” thinker group tries to outshout the “go left” thinker group, setting in motion a battle of monocultural belief as the supreme goal, regardless of its impacts on people, their neighborhoods and the planet.

Natural human rights to a home, healthcare, a job, retirement and other refined benefits of modernity in the “Developed World” are  Nature’s goals for other species in repurposing their ecosystems and behavioral economics.  On the one hand, “survival of the fittest” rules the animal and plant kingdoms providing nutrition, shelter and reuse of organic waste.  On the other hand, each species’ grazing in close proximity and instincts for social response can assure more of a given species survive, especially when threatened from internal and external predators and hazardous conditions.

Monoculture Politics

While Nature cherishes diversity of adaptive response, as humans, our political dialogue seems often to steer by which monologue of belief system is being reinforced by bludgeoning the perceived “other side.”  Instead of “human rights,” champions of one demographic’s rights shrilly and gleefully can ignore other’s rights.  For example, opponents of universal health care seem perfectly happy to ignore the biological and economic pandemic effects of letting the sick remain in suffering, dragging down urban economic vitality and intergenerational family survival.  Likewise, champions of women’s rights go silent when it comes to supporting the equal parenting and economic survival rights of men.  These tugs of war set up and maintain monoculture beliefs.  They create tribes to in-fight ideals.  They consume vast bandwidth on social and mainstream media.  They obscure the basic human dignity that all demographies, geographies and contexts for human quality of life demand, with equal concern, just in their right to speak for consequential Natural good.

Nature, the Design Coach for Leveraging Diversity

It is time to shed monoculture politics as social ideal.  Where Natural Rights could life all boats, the results of letting everyone fend for themselves – for finding a good education, job, home, honorable work, healthcare, nutrition – pulls us downward.

To justify monoculture politics, certain actors in each expert community get funded to build standalone White Ivory Towers, replete with algorithmic math that “assumes away” most other real world constraints and interdependencies with other aspects of quality of life, in order to reach  their funder’s ideal optimization or preferred solution or pre-ordained status quo.

Big Data springs from Big Models.  It is time to begin linking the languages of Big Models so as to build more adaptation from the limited resources each expert group (community of practice) is likely to receive through the political reality of annual budget cycles and recurring recessions.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Vatican, Banking, Ethics & Money

Vatican, Banking, Ethics & Money

The Vatican has been a bell-weather of human rights concerns and research for centuries. His Holiness Pope Francis’ personal commitment to put actions in front of the Holy See’s words are having a profound effect in Vatican City and globally.

The Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, led by His Eminence Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson from Ghana, is responsible for developing policy and nudging its implementation on issues that include business ethics, and the conduct of business leaders and their bankers.  The Vocation of a Business Leader captures recent policy research and thought.

Initially in October 2012, and then as part of the Pontifical Council’s Colloquium  on the theme Banking on the Common Good, Finance for the Common Good on May 13, 2013,Urban Logic has brought forward our design work on high-transparency, impacts aware banking and related research to inform the Vatican’s (and our own) interfaith dialogue on creating banks and training bankers to handle money that is authentic in achieving its intent and impact, ethically.  From little acorns, giant chestnut trees grow!

For more on the May event, Cardinal Turkson’s interview and the Pontifical Council’s press release are here, and Vatican Radio’s coverage here.

Practicing What is Preached...As importantly, informal conversations with the new head of the IOR (Vatican Bank) on that Monday May 13th, were prelude to the Bank agreeing om May 22nd for the first time to release its financial monitor’s reports – Transparency momentum in action is good to see!

By September (2013), the Pope was speaking out regularly, decrying the idolatry of seeking money as an end goal or end game, and urging the globalized economy to return to the core functions of providing meaningful employment, and the honorable reality of a job creating meaningful lives.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Technology takes over the Law
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Technology takes over the Law

Our commercial world is becoming a cascade of EULAs:  End Use License Agreements, shrink-wrapping us and our rights and remedies into confirming to however the product or service offeror sees fit to treat consumers.  Not just software, but banking online, employment applications, job search sites, and even places where dinner reservations are made impose a daily diet of EULAs, beyond human reading capacity.

These agreements are so frequently a facet of our lives – a kindred spirit – that few of us read or have the time to read them.  So we “click-through” EULAs, unaware and seemingly uncaring of the risks, value-barter, and consequences of trusting merchants with consumer identity, credit card number, social security or their digital detritus from hours of browsing, dripping cookies through the cyberspace of disconnected lives connected for commercial and surveillance purposes through the Internet.

In a wired economy ruled by contract law speeding transactions faster and faster, the legal gymnastics of navigating what one’s rights are is attracting startups to build applications that can “read” what EULA or other document is being presented (e.g., EULAlyzer), interpret its variance from a “normal” contract or other document, and generate alternative verbiage as a negotiated compromise (e.g., Docracy).

Likewise, high legal fees for litigation drawn out over multiple years are being whittled down by various automated research and discovery services (e.g., Lex Machina for patents or Blackstone Discovery for litigation discovery), and mediation services to accelerate compromise or resolution of disputes in commercial, family and other litigation settings.

For lawyers, technology has moved beyond Microsoft Office’s Word  for creating documents, Excel for spreadsheets and Adobe PDF for storing documents.  Technology has now come to dominate the function of lawyering, and the tasksNYC Checker Cab that clients formerly paid only lawyers and paralegals to perform.

The technology-phobic lawyer, clinging to her barely “smart” Blackberry inside a New York City taxicab, may want to retool and reconsider the landscape created by technologies conquering the law.

The bedside manner of the national and state bar associations may not yet fully understand the profound changes coming to the practice of law.  To keep up with current trends, for starters, to glimpse into the future, check out Stanford University’s CodeX:  Center for Legal Informatics, where legal tech startup founders graze and launch from regularly.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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State-Owned Banks: why just after a crisis?
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State-Owned Banks: why just after a crisis?

In Colonial America, states issued their local currency so as to achieve independence from the banking and bankers of the Old World in Great Britain and Europe.  Today, the Bank of North Dakota formed in 1919  is all that remains of the state-owned bank tradition.

In response to 2008’s Credit Crisis, U.S. taxpayers pumped $608 billion into the banking system (of which $367 billion has been repaid as of August 2013).  An immense DC-Wall Street-Main Street public debate followed, along with passage of The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform And Consumer Protection Act (echoing reform measures passed after every previous domestic banking crisis), and the lobbyists on Capitol Hill carving the reforms into shards and loopholes without sufficient enforcement budget or the will to prosecute offenders at “too big to fail” banks.

Two options for public investment remain relatively unexplored:

  • Reviving State-owned banks who, by reason of being government-owned, would be subject to higher public purpose accountability, conflict of interest and transparency rules
  • Investing in a national program of banking services innovation and redesign, through smaller new banks and non-bank organizations

Urban Logic has surveyed global state-owned banking history, and posted it online at StateOwnedBanks.com (as a Wikimedia research site and to reduce spam, please create an account to access our work there).  For an illustrated timeline of multiple banking crises, recessions and other developments in the U.S., and legislative responses to them, download this PDF, and because it is 600 years wide, zoom in 12 times (12x).

 

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Banking for the Uninitiated
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Banking for the Uninitiated

Over the past few years, Urban Logic has looked at how banks reflect society’s priorities, and cause multiple impacts in doing so.

In order to understand “banking,” numerous books, professional journals and a deluge of popular works after the 2008 Credit Crisis have come forward to demystify the “black box of banking”, so that it can be simply understood.

Two of our favorite books that explain banking as it is currently practiced today are:

Other good reads on banking and money tell tales of bankers and banker hubris, and those are fun literature too!

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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