December 2017
【12/8 (五) 8pm Digital Money
【12/15 (五) 8pm The Evolution of Trust
【12/29 (五) 8pm The Power of Default

January 2018
【1/5 (五) 8pm The Danger of a Single Story
【1/19 (五) 8pm CANCELLED】

February 2018
【2/2 (五) 8pm Why Welfare States Are Important
【2/9 (五) 8pm Digital Money

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Why Welfare States Are Important

This is an excerpt from a chapter 21 of the book "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism". It's discussing how a strong welfare state is beneficial to overall economic health as it makes workers more secure and leads to less need for trade protections for industries.

This book is very worth buying and reading. It's written so clearly and covers some of the most important economic issues affecting everyone now.

Let's look at the first bit:

What they tell you:
Big government is bad for the economy. The welfare state has emerged because of the desire by the poor to have an easier life by making the rich pay for the costs of adjustments that are constantly demanded by market forces. When the rich are taxed to pay for unemployment insurance, healthcare and other welfare measures for the poor, this not only makes the poor lazy and deprives the rich of an incentive to create wealth, it also makes the economy less dynamic. With the protection of the welfare state, people do not feel the need to adjust new market realities, thereby delaying the changes in their professions and working patterns that are needed for dynamic economic adjustments. We don’t even have to invoke the failures of the communist economies. Just look at the lack of dynamism in Europe with its bloated welfare state, compared to the vitality of the US.

This is the standard narrative on government pushed in the US. Nearly everybody who talks about the economy or government feels the need to acknowledge or reinforce this narrative.
How is this different or the same as the narrative about government in Taiwan?

The Evolution of Trust

This game investigates how trust and distrust operates in a community.

Let’s go through the game together and talk about the modelling and the conclusions.

Digital Money

There’s seemingly a lot of information about mobile payments on the internet in English, but most of it is breathless, “Omg the future is here”-style reporting, and not much that thinks about the implications for people and economies.
Let’s talk mobile payments on the personal level first:

Have you ever used mobile payment, like Line payment?
Why and why not?
What’s the advantages and disadvantages to using mobile payment?
Is there a privacy issue in using mobile payment?
Is there a security issue?
Can you accept a world that does not have coins and bills?

Below there are (way too many) articles I found discussing various aspects of both mobile payments and cryptocurrencies.
The main thing I learned is that cryptocurrencies and mobile payments are not at all the same thing, but that mobile payments have the potential to function as international currencies, which have a lot of interesting implications.

Applecash, an unintentionally international payment system?
Money you receive (via Apple Messages) from others is added to your Apple Pay Cash card that will live in your Wallet app.
While you can transfer this cash to your bank account if you want, you will also be able to use it directly to make purchases using Apple Pay in stores, in apps, on the web, or anywhere else that may eventually support the payment system.
That’s important because it means Apple has taken a fairly large step toward creating its own take on cryptocurrency.

This is real money, after all, that exists only in Apple space until you turn it into something else — a purchase, a service or "real" money in your account. You’ll also be able to share it with other people.
While the service will be U.S.-only on launch, it will extend, and it will be interesting to see how Apple supports person-to-person payments across borders. To enable the service, Apple is working with Green Dot Bank.
The partners will need to unravel complex questions, such as: If someone in Ireland chooses to use Apple Pay Cash to send money earned in Ireland to someone who works at an iPhone factory in China, in what location is the “value of that exchange created”?

What is Fair?

Imagine two possible worlds:
In World A, all the income and material wealth is owned by men. Women have no right to earn money or to own property of any kind. They are given the use of resources by the men in their lives, but they have no legal right to this. It is always done at men’s discretion, and men retain the power to take back property they have given to women at any time. However, it so happens that the men in World A are all perfectly just and compassionate, and always use their income and wealth wisely and judiciously. They never squander their resources or use them in ways we might consider immoral. They ensure that women and girls, while having no legal right of their own to control property, nonetheless have all their material needs met, and are provided with everything they need.

In World B, both women and men have a legal right to earn money and to own property, and the income and wealth of that world is equally distributed between men and women. However, the women in world B are not perfectly just and compassionate women, and frequently use their share of resources unwisely or immorally. They sometimes squander resources through foolish gambles, and sometimes spend money on immoral projects, such as buying weapons to pursue imperialist conflicts.

Critical Reading

This chart is pretty useful, but here are some other questions that also could be asked:

Who benefits?

Who decides how it’s carried out?

Why is this any of our business?

What’s the evidence?

What’s the most reasonabe counterargument?

Architectural Design: When Context Matters

So we’re going to look at design again this week, but from the perspective of city planning. The tech magazine Wired published a critique of Apples new headquarters recently, and it makes some interesting points about how global companies interact with the physical places their offices are in, and how the architecture they build helps or hurts the community around them. What I’d like to know is if the situation in California correlates to situations with industrial park developments in Taiwan, for instance in Hsinchu or the more recent development in Nangang. Are things working as intended in terms of helping businesses contribute to the economy? But I also want to talk about what you think Taiwan is getting right or wrong in terms of transportation and housing as well. So let’s talk design!

The context of a building is just as important as the building itself
You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general. People rightly credit Apple for defining the look and feel of the future; its computers and phones seem like science fiction. But by building a mega-headquarters straight out of the middle of the last century, Apple has exacerbated the already serious problems endemic to 21st-century suburbs like Cupertino—transportation, housing, and economics. Apple Park is an anachronism wrapped in glass, tucked into a neighborhood.

Cities or Nations, which is better governance?

Are cities a better locus of government than nations?

Which is to say, there have been some serious drawbacks to the relatively new concept of nationhood, including but not limited to:
1. arbitrary borders not matching tribal/social divisions
2. border control and passports
3. arbitrary limits on economic opportunity and migration
What are some of the benefits of nationhood?

What are some of the potential drawbacks of city-based governance?
What might be the benefits?

Here's a TED talk touting the idea:

Here in the recent news is an interesting example of city-government acting on the world stage. When the US government pulled out from the Paris accords on June 1, suddenly on the same day the "US Climate Alliance" was announced.

Check this out:

Leadership and the Excercise of Power

The saying goes: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But is this always true? This article in the NY Times says there are mitigating factors. Let’s discuss!

Freedom or Responsibility
Some psychologists separate power, defined as the control of valued resources, into two concepts: power perceived as freedom, and power perceived as responsibility. How you view power can affect how you use it. When you see power as a source of freedom, you are likely to use it to serve yourself, selfishly. But when you see it as responsibility, you tend to be selfless.

Contextual Clues
Who you are — your character and cultural background — affects your approach to power. But contextual clues about how power should be used can be surprisingly effective in altering leadership behaviour.