Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Transparency

Danial Roth's prescient article about real transparency and Wall Street has implications that go far beyond the raison d'ete of keeping tabs on an industry run amok. It's really a blueprint about how all significant business on planet earth should operate. Instead of regulation, you

  1. Systematize content organization via XBRL.
  2. Use clear language to define financial transactions and
  3. Provide universal access to investors and the public alike by putting the data on the web, thus eliminating the costly and often inefficient regulatory agencies (SEC ?) that don't guard the hen house due to budgetary constraints and hidden pressures from businesses that don't want to be regulated.

"That's why it's not enough to simply give the SEC—or any of its sister regulators—more authority; we need to rethink our entire philosophy of regulation. Instead of assigning oversight responsibility to a finite group of bureaucrats, we should enable every investor to act as a citizen-regulator. We
should tap into the massive parallel processing power of people around the world by giving everyone the tools to track, analyze, and publicize financial machinations. The result would be a wave of decentralized innovation that can keep pace with Wall Street and allow the market to regulate itself—naturally punishing companies and investments that don't measure up—more efficiently than the regulators ever could.

The revolution will be powered by data, which should be unshackled from the pages of regulatory filings and made more flexible and useful. We must require public companies and all financial firms to report more granular data online—and in real time, not just quarterly—uniformly tagged and exportable
into any spreadsheet, database, widget, or Web page. The era of sunlight has to give way to the era of pixelization; only when we give everyone the tools to see each point of data will the picture become clear. Just as epidemiologists crunch massive data sets to predict disease outbreaks, so will investors parse the trove of publicly available financial information to foresee the next economic disasters and opportunities."

Because the web is the connect to the world, why not use this powerful resource to eliminate or improve relegatory guidelines in all of government. For starters, patent application is now going online with peer review of same, something long overdue in this era of patent trolls in search of a quick buck. To see where this is going, click on the icon below.

Extensible transparency can be applied in many different ways. In The Transparent Society, David Brin talks about Tit For Tat as the only intelligent way to dealing with privacy now that we have none.


"Street crime has nearly vanished from both towns.

But that is only a symptom, a result. The real change peers down from every lamp post, every roof-top and street sign.

Tiny cameras, panning left and right, surveying traffic and pedestrians, observing everything in open view.

Have we entered an Orwellian nightmare? Have the burghers of both towns banished muggings at the cost of creating a Stalinist dystopia?

Consider City Number One. In this place, all the myriad cameras report their urban scenes straight to Police Central, where security officers use sophisticated image-processors to scan for infractions against the public order -- or perhaps against an established way of thought. Citizens walk the streets aware that any word or deed may be noted by agents of some mysterious bureau.

Now let's skip across space and time. At first sight, things seem quite similar in City Number Two. Again, there are ubiquitous cameras, perched on every vantage point. Only here we soon find a crucial difference. These devices do not report to the secret police. Rather, each and every citizen of this metropolis can lift his or her wristwatch/TV and call up images from any camera in town.

Here a late-evening stroller checks to make sure no one lurks beyond the corner she is about to turn.

Over there a tardy young man dials to see if his dinner date still waits for him by a city fountain.

A block away, an anxious parent scans the area and finds which way her child wandered off.

Over by the mall, a teenage shoplifter is taken into custody gingerly, with minute attention to ritual and rights, because the arresting officer knows the entire process is being scrutinized by untold numbers who watch intently, lest her neutral professionalism lapse.

In City Two, such micro cameras are banned from some indoor places... but not Police Headquarters! There, any citizen may tune in on bookings, arraignments, and especially the camera control room itself, making sure that the agents on duty look out for violent crime, and only crime."

Last but not least, isn't it about time for people to have the right to directly vote on issues that affect us all? Why should Congress have complete control over the voting process on such vitally important matters such as war or the economy because in many instances, they were wrong (Bank Bailouts, Iraq & Vietnam anyone?). Prior to the web, the notion of direct voting by the public was not possible but now it is.

Changing the Constitution to enable direct voting on national issues is more than idle speculation as Thomas Jefferson stated repeatedly that the Constitution should be revisited every 20 years and changed as needs warrant because he realized society and technology would change and governance should change with it.

"No work of man is perfect. It is inevitable that, in the course of time, the imperfections of a written Constitution will become apparent. Moreover, the passage of time will bring changes in society which a Constitution must accommodate if it is to remain suitable for the nation. It was imperative, therefore, that a practicable means of amending the Constitution be provided."

Now that we are connected, the opportunity to build a direct republic with proper constraints becomes possible. The ancient Greeks had one so why not us.

It's food for thought.
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