Living in a Trump World
Welcome to the latest edition of Disrupting your Month, wherein I attempt to talk about the latest in Disruption news for as long as possible before breaking down and ranting about Donald Trump. Again. As I write to you from my partially-constructed bunker made up of discarded ‘Madam President’ paraphernalia, I discuss some tech and labor policy, traffic hell, and the difference between Policy and the Muslim Ban.
Your Usual Disruption News
Digging Deep for Traffic Solutions
Elon Musk, who won’t be discussed later, wants to build a tunnel under Los Angeles to decrease traffic, without the required permits. He said that building a giant tunnel was the only way to avoid “traffic hell” forever. Not only is this a move that that typifies Silicon Valley (ignoring regulations due to hubris), it’s also very Los Angeles to forget public transportation exists. As an LA native, I’d much rather have a tunnel with a metro line connecting The Valley to the civilized world.
Disrupting the Internet
With Republican Ajit Pai running the FCC, the organization has already stopped trying to lower crippling prison phone call rates and de facto ended subsidized internet for the poor. After such ambitious policy changes, Trump’s FCC may pursue the end of Net Neutrality – rules forbidding favoring some data over others. Overturning these rules will let internet service providers charge more for some websites than for others, or bundle them up like TV packages (you’ll be forced to buy Yahoo! the same way we are all forced to buy ESPN). Worse, Netflix will afford the privilege of not getting throttled, but your Spaghetti Western streaming startup will not. The gig economy and tech startups, warts and all, should not be crippled by a perverse bandwidth market.
If you have $15 million and can’t open more than 5 tabs on Chrome, I’d recommend buying the first commercially available quantum computer. Their first buyer is a cybersecurity firm, as the spread of this technology could threaten modern encryption. When quantum computers reach their potential, they may be able to ‘brute force’ (try every single possible password until getting it right) almost anything encrypted. This has huge policy implications: the NSA may be able to read your encrypted messages, and foreign governments may be able to read the NSA’s archives, and so on. Delete that poem you wrote when you were 13 while you still can.
Labor is Gendered
The working class white men that helped Trump win still have low labor force participation numbers, but don’t want retraining programs, as they lead to “girly” jobs. They want their old lives back, which, frankly, won’t happen. The article recommends demand-based retraining, co-ops, strengthening unions, and more healthcare access… all options proposed by Hillary, ironically enough. Women, not discussed enough, are also leaving the labor force, but for an entirely different reason: despite their success, they are brought down by being the primary caretakers of their families. Lack of access to childcare or retirement homes leads working mothers to become stay-at-home mothers, taking care of their kids and elderly parents. Essentially, men choose not to work because they don’t like their options; women are quitting their jobs because they have no other option.
Facebook Quiz Actually Predicts Something
Data helped Trump win but didn’t predict it. Statistical models took a huge credibility hit when Trump defied all of them. Huffington Post’s prediction will go down as the new ‘Dewey defeats Truman,’ but the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook quiz data revealed Clinton’s vulnerability in Wisconsin and Michigan. In this, we have an ironic lesson on the importance of data, but Guardian reports a more ominous story: the privatization of data. As publicly available polls become more unreliable, our increasingly predictive private data is being sold to the highest bidder, whether it be advertising or far-right campaigns. It’s a threat to our privacy and our democracy. Also, stop taking Facebook quizzes: it’s 2017.
The “Not a Ban” Muslim Ban
It’d be impossible to summarize the flurry of executive orders signed by Trump without making Disrupting your Month my own personal Trump journal/scrapbook. All I can say is that the common thread between these orders is a lack of communication with relevant federal agencies before the orders were signed. The Wall was ordered without notifying either Congress or Mexico for appropriation funds, while the Muslim Ban was drafted and signed without telling the DHS. The topic today is Trump’s executive order banning non-Christian people from seven countries with majority Muslim populations. I was worried this was a Muslim Ban, but Sean Spicer reassured after handing me some gum. Here are some ‘disruption vignettes’ from Trump’s travel ban:
#DeleteUber, Lyft, and also…
Uber is in hot water after drivers were told to head to JFK airport because the local taxi union was on strike, protesting the Muslim Ban. As a result, thousands are deleting Uber from their phones. The boycott backfired, as Carl Icahn, a prominent Trump supporter, made millions from Lyft’s higher stock prices. This story is reflective of the difficulty of boycotting in a globalized world. More importantly, how am I going to get around without either app? Public transportation? Underground tunnel? Anyway, as part of a damage control measure, Uber’s CEO quit Trump’s business council.
The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2017
You can feel Elon Musk’s blistering rage.
Nerds Stand Up To Local Bully
With a portion of their employees no longer able to enter the country, tech CEOs condemned the Muslim Ban. The Verge helpfully ranked tech leaders by the strength of their individual responses. Elon Musk had the weakest one; he sounded like he was working for Trump in some kind of business council, oh wait. Musk didn’t condemn the ban, but suggested a series amendments to ‘fix’ the order banning innocent people from a nation of immigrants. Musk explained his closeness with Trump by saying that someone needed stand up to him during council meetings, which is strange, since I can’t find any evidence that he’s done so. The backlash against Musk got him to eventually quit working for Trump and finally join the major lawsuit the other tech leaders filed against the White House.
Fake Policy is the new Fake News
Reading the stories of chaos and protest at airports around the world, through the tragedies and small victories lived by refugees, leading up to the ban being lifted, one wonders: how did we get here? Who was this short-lived executive order for?
— Nuccio DiNuzzo (@ChiTribNuccio) January 31, 2017
The Trump administration claims that the ban would protect against infiltration from Muslim refugees, immigrants and visitors. The executive order banned travel from from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all countries that have produced no terrorist threats. The countries that have actually produced terrorists, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are not included in the ban.
However, too many in the media, like Vox, focused on how to “fix” Trump’s executive order so that it would ban the “right” Muslims. While well intentioned, this kind of analysis legitimizes the entire enterprise. Instead of focusing on Trump’s excluding the countries he has hotels in, these analyses take the premise of banning Muslims for national security reasons at face value. We should instead call out this executive order as fake policy. The chaos inflicted on innocent people is real, but the premise behind their suffering is not; an analysis from CATO shows the chance of getting killed by a refugee is negligible. Policy without logical backing is fake policy, just like news without a source is fake news.
Although the ban is no longer in effect, and thousands have gotten their visas reinstated, it’s only been one month of Trump. There is more to come. At this point, I could discuss truth being disrupted or anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States, but we should probably relax instead. Read a book or two, take a walk, look at a policy card, but stay vigilant for more disruptive news.
Thanks for reading the latest Disrupting your [time] article! Keep an eye out for more Disruption articles, and our 2017 Spring Edition.
Image Source: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images