Monday, 22 October 2012

A very short but excellent lesson in Economics

A very clever reader in the New York Times has summed up the fundamental essence of economics as follows:

Income Inequality May Take Toll on Growth
Brookhawk Maryland
In the end, the economy is about passing money around, from hundreds to millions of people to hundreds of millions of other people. The more people the money passes to and from, the more vibrant the economy. When the money begins to move largely into one group and fewer people have it to pass around, they pass it only to each other or don't pass it at all, and the economy withers and dies.
Why is this so hard to understand?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Adult literacy in the UK

I recently contacted the administrators of adult literacy departments of two London boroughs - Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham.  I offered my services as a literacy expert free, together with our program, ReadingWise English, to help them in their efforts to make adults literate in their boroughs.  I was terribly polite.  Both persons did not take up my offer.  I don't understand what's wrong with these people.

Outline plan for anti-petty-corruption projects

This is a tentative series of actions to take in a corrupt area.
The purpose is to begin to show actions that work, and actions that don't work.
We're starting from scratch here.
We can hopefully piggy-back on other development projects so there is minimal cost.

The theory is that by observing something, you change its behaviour.
This is a well known principle in quantum physics, but we are now trying to apply it to ethics.
We are going to perform a series of steps on a gradient, starting off with something very simple.

These steps involve the suspected person, and an observer.  The observer is employed by us for the purpose of this project.  They will have a "cover story".  Something like they are doing an independent monitoring project on behalf of a prestigious UK/US university.  

Note that the suspected person will often be the bottom of a corrupt pile, and not our main target.  But we use them as a  conduit to their superiors.

Step A1a
Principle: Notice something is wrong, and be seen to be observing it.
Action: The observer with a clipboard wanders around silently. Preferably the observer is foreign.  A recent study in Bangalore found that Bangaloreans are 2.4 times more likely to learn something if the person imparting it is a foreigner.

Step A1b
As per #1a, but in addition to the clipboard, the observer wanders around with a recording device.  Note that most smartphones and tablets have recording apps.

Step A2
Principle: Notice something is wrong, and point it out to the person concerned.
Action:  The observer tells the suspected person that they will receive a copy of the report, but no one else will.

Step 3
As per step 2, but let the suspected person know that their superiors will be informed.

Step 4
As per step 3, but let the suspected person know that findings will be published widely.

In all the above, the suspected person is NOT informed beforehand about the presence of the observer.

Steps B1-B4
The above steps can and should be repeated where the suspected person and his seniors ARE informed beforehand that an independent observer will be present.