Monday, November 27, 2017

Universal Basic Income

Experts Say Universal Basic Income Would Boost US Economy by Staggering $2.5 Trillion
a $2.48 trillion increase in the nation's GDP after eight years of UBI. ....... In recent months, everyone from Elon Musk to Sir Richard Branson has come out in favor of universal basic income (UBI), a system in which every person receives a regular payment simply for being alive. ......... a “basic income” of $1,000 per month given to every adult, a “base income” of $500 per month given to every adult, and a “child allowance” of $250 per month for every child. The researchers concluded that the larger the sum, the more significant the positive economic impact. ...... the $1,000 basic income would grow the economy by 12.56 percent over the course of eight years ........ the researchers assumed that the UBI in the U.S. would be funded by increasing the federal deficit

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Demonetization: A Year Later

How India Is Moving Toward a Digital-First Economy
On November 8, 2016, India’s government did something that no other government had attempted before at the same scale: It decided to remove 86% of the country’s currency notes by value from circulation. Over the months that followed, more than 1 billion people participated in a “reboot” of the country’s financial and monetary system. .......... a threshold moment in India’s digital transformation. .......... a government payment system created in 2016 that was processing 100,000 transactions per month in October of that year, prior to the sudden demonetization. A year later, after demonetization, the same system is processing 76 million transactions per month. ........ the country’s economy is operating with $45 billion less cash than it did prior to demonization ......... the largest-scale tax reform ever implemented at a single time: the replacement of a complex web of 17 different taxes with a single Goods and Services Tax (GST). ......... in the first month after the introduction of the GST, over 1 million businesses registered with the system. In only the first few weeks after implementation, the increased transparency and digital data availability that are integral to the GST began to open up new sources of lending to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). .......... the “India Stack.” ........ At the base of the stack — and thus at the beginning of India’s story of digital transformation — is a nationwide system of digital identity, generically termed the UID (Unique Identification) system, but more often in India referred to by its project name, Aadhaar. ........ Of the systems that have broken the 1-billion-user mark, many originated in the U.S. and are private-sector efforts — Facebook and Google being among the prominent examples. An exception is Aadhaar, which means “foundation” or “base” in a number of Indian languages, including Hindi. ........ Aadhaar is both the only non-U.S. technical system globally to have broken the 1-billion-user threshold and the only such system to have been developed by the public sector. ....... Aadhaar has the distinction of having reached 1 billion users the fastest; the services built on Aadhaar, through the interoperability that defines the India Stack have, in turn, built their own record of scale and scope. ......... India launched Aadhaar in 2009 with the then-improbable goal of giving every Indian a single digital identity in the form of a biometric authenticated 12-digit number. ....... a unique number based upon de-duplication of the applicants’ biometric information, their submitted iris scans and fingerprints. ....... the search for a “killer app” to prove the value of Aadhaar was elusive. While the ability to authenticate identity was now digital, bank accounts and payment systems were still paper-based — requiring separate and laborious Know Your Customer validation procedures that had the result of continuing to exclude a majority of people in India from accessing the benefits of banking. ........ Modi not only backed the system developed by the previous government but also dramatically increased its funding, broadened its scope, and — most important — amplified its impact. ........ Among the first actions the Modi government undertook was to launch the Pradhan Mantri Jan–Dhan Yojana (PMJDY, or Jan Dhan) financial inclusion program on August 28, 2014. On the very first day that Jan Dhan was implemented, the government created 10 million bank accounts using existing Aadhaar IDs in a paperless manner, at a fraction of the minimum previous customer acquisition costs. Since then, the government has created more than 300 million new, no-frills bank accounts. In additional to a free, zero-balance account, the Jan Dhan provides accident insurance coverage of 100,000 rupees (about US$1,500), along with an overdraft facility of 5,000 rupees (US$80) available for account holders — the point being to incentivize people to participate in the formal banking system. ......... Having a biometrically-verifiable identity number and a bank account created the potential for adding another layer to the service stack: mobile payments. With an identity to create a bank account, and a bank account to receive funds, the hundreds of millions of people eligible for the receipt of government services in India suddenly had a way to access those services digitally, from beginning to end. In India this digital infrastructure is nicknamed the “JAM” trinity, referring to innovative interlinking of Jan Dhan (low-cost bank accounts), Aadhaar (identity), and mobile numbers. The India Stack could now have four layers: an identity layer, a documents layer, a payments layer, and a transactions layer. ......... To understand the human impact of these changes, consider the plight of a mother in an Indian village who is eligible for a government subsidy to send her two daughters to school. Until less than two years ago, in order to avail herself of those funds she would have needed to fill out a form verifying her daughters’ attendance, get that form validated by the school, and bring that form to a government office. Assuming there were no impediments in the processing of the form — a big assumption — she would then have waited as the form traveled up the system to the point when a check would be issued to her in the amount of her benefits. To collect the check she would have needed to travel to a government office. If there turned out to be corruption in the office, she would have needed to produce a sum in cash equal to 15%–20% of the total amount before finally receiving the check. Then, of course, she would have needed to travel to a bank to cash the check. In the end, of the 2,000 rupees to which she was entitled, she would (in a good outcome) have received about 1,400 rupees, with the balance having gone to travel and corruption money........... If we consider this same situation using India Stack, the mother can use a tablet or smartphone to validate her identity using her Aadhaar number in the office of her daughters’ school. Her eligibility for the program is already in the system, and her Aadhaar number is now linked to the zero-balance bank account created for her under the Jan Dhan financial inclusion program. The workflow approves her request in a batch process. Within 24 to 48 hours she gets an alert on her phone that the full 2,000-rupee amount has been transferred to her bank account. ............ the India Stack is envisioned as new social infrastructure with the capacity to increase the resilience of Indian society to change, and thus to help propel India into the 21st-century digital economy. The deployment of the India Stack was one significant precondition for major structural reforms undertaken by the Modi government. This brings us back to demonetization and implementation of tax reforms. ........ The idea of accomplishing a dramatic shift in the nature of the economy with a set of suddenly implemented policies is not new. The “shock therapy” programs of the early 1990s, intended to accomplish the shift from socialist to market economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, were based on a similar premise. However, where those programs created an environment in which a few powerful individuals were able to appropriate vast quantities of formerly government-held assets, India’s digital shock therapy has — measurably and verifiably — accomplished the opposite: It has eliminated vast concentrations of “off-the-books” wealth, resetting the clock of development at a more equitable starting point. ........... When India underwent demonetization, the India Stack was suddenly and dramatically thrown into action. India’s own payments corporation launched the BHIM application, a digital payments platform using the Universal Payments Interface underlying the JAM trinity. BHIM became one of fastest-downloaded financial payments applications in recent history. The Universal Payments Interface system is very inclusive, such that it serves both smartphone and non-smartphone users, so every Indian can access banking and make payments digitally. .......... the Indian economy is operating with about $45 billion less cash than if demonetization had not taken place. Banks have far greater liquidity, SME lending is at an all-time high, and digital transactions have multiplied 760 times over in some cases. ......... Prior to the introduction of the GST, companies of any size in India had to keep track of no fewer than 17 different categories of taxes on sales and transactions, including state-level value-added taxes and levies on the interstate transportation of goods. On July 1, 2017, all 17 of those taxes were subsumed into one tax: the GST. ......... an opaque and irrational system that had developed over decades, and that varied across states, was replaced by a simple, transparent system applicable nationwide. ........ India is adding almost 110 million smartphone users every year, and is on the verge of launching Aadhaar-compliant devices with biometric authentication built into phones and tablets. The power of the JAM trinity will come into full force when transactions are enabled using Aadhaar and biometric authentication, creating a system that is not only cashless but cardless. Already, a new entrant into telecommunications service in India has succeeded in using the India Stack to enroll 108 million consumers in 170 days with a totally paperless, mobile-centric manner — in the process achieving customer acquisition costs of less than $1 (USD) per customer, compared with the prior industry standard of $25. ......... India’s development was inequitable and inconsistent for far too long; the country still has a long way to go. The societal challenges created by digital disruption, challenges both expected and unintended, are real. They will be addressed only with a combination of administrative humility and entrepreneurial determination. But the long-term benefits are real. The reality is that India is moving into the future at an unprecedented rate. And the path it is taking to get there is digital.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Binge Watching Two Seasons Of Quantico

Binge Watching Two Seasons Of Quantico
  • The Big News Is Priyanka
  • Too Much Reliance On Unexpected Plot Twists
  • The Setting Is A Concrete Message
  • Cultural And Gender Diversity Is Social Sci-Fi
  • Gunning For A Global Audience From The Get Go
  • TV: A Medium All Its Own
  • Wither Hollywood?
  • Season 1 Dramatic End: Well Handled
  • The Segway
  • Democracy's Propaganda?
  • What Next?
  • Season 2 Vs Season 1 Vs Season 3
  • The Trio: Alex, Shelby, Raina/Nimah
  • Critique
  • Quantico

I have binge-watched a few others as well: House Of Cards, 24, Amitabh Bachchan's Yudh. And Quantico is of comparable quality. It too is gripping. But this is not a movie on TV, it is just a different format. A marathon is not just a longer race. It is a different flavor, a different animal altogether. I can't imagine a movie Quantico. But I can imagine a gaming experience Quantico. The show relies heavily on unexpected plot twists and would be a perfect game plot.

The Big News Is Priyanka

Priyanka is a first. A Bollywood-Hollywood crossover has not happened before at this level and scale. She is a cultural phenomenon or rather a cross-cultural phenomenon. There is a reason the Alex Parrish and not the Ryan Booth character has made it to Time 100 or the Forbes 100. although both play very important roles in the show.

PC's move is borderline geopolitical. It is also a gender statement. Hollywood remains white. But TV has thrown up Quantico and several other shows where people from non-traditional backgrounds are in starring roles. But India is not just another country. It is a continent all on its own. And that's what makes PC different. That she has not broken into the LA scene with an equal splash - yet - might be a hint at the fast-changing movie making trends. Maybe the right positioning for her is global and not necessarily the US proper. Quantico Season 1 was a big hit worldwide.

Too Much Reliance On Unexpected Plot Twists

It must be the need to get the viewers to keep coming back week after week. Granted you have to get the eyeballs or you are no longer in business. Granted holding attention for 20 hours is more than 10 times as challenging as holding attention for two. But the FBI is the FBI and movies are movies. The dramatic pace has to be kept up. But I thought there was a little too much reliance on unexpected plot twists.

The Setting Is The Concrete Message

I read somewhere once one thing Robert DeNiro made a point to work on was to make sure he dressed and looked just like the character he was set to play. It was not just about the thought process and the emotion of the moment. The physicality mattered big time. The physical settings of the show's episodes and the component scenes are a major accomplishment. If the idea is to make the audience more sympathetic to the institution that is the FBI, mission accomplished. If the idea is to get the FBI to attempt and become a more culturally diverse place, message delivered. If the idea is to get the audience to step inside the FBI for a second, done and done.

Cultural Diversity Is Social Sci-Fi

There is science fiction, and then there is social science fiction. An FBI agent is a white male. Everyone knows that. That is the image. That is the bias. That is the fact. That is the stereotype. That is America's original sin. In the show trainees and instructors come in all sorts of cultural and gender flavors. That is the social sci-fi part. It has not happened yet but will happen down the line. One hopes so. I mean, if you can make a hijab or two sit comfortably on heads, that is a point to be noted.

Gunning For A Global Audience From The Get Go

Hollywood makes the majority of its money outside of America these days. PC taking the lead in Quantico has been a top Bollywood star coming to America. That gets said. But equally it has been Hollywood prying open the Indian market, the global market. There are a lot of young women around the world today who work professional jobs and spend money on entertainment, among other things. PC's face speaks to them.

TV: A Medium All Its Own

TV is not lesser than the movie theater. At least, not anymore. It is self-sufficient as a medium. Shows like Quantico celebrate that. In fact, the web is a more natural extension to TV, it's not the movie theater. I binge watched on Netflix.

Wither Hollywood?

Hollywood has its advantages in LA just like Silicon Valley is a geographical location with its advantages. Both are doing great. But just like you could launch a tech startup most places on the planet today, you can make a good movie anywhere these days.

Season 1 Dramatic End: Well Handled

As I watched the final episode of the first season, especially the final moments, I was prepared to forgive the overuse of dramatic plot twists, because the end was very well planned, and even the dramatic plot twists perhaps drive home the larger point that the FBI as an organization struggles with itself as much as it struggles with the world it finds itself in. After all, it is people on both sides of that thin membrane that separates.

One season is almost 16 hours. This material could not have been given the right treatment in a two-hour movie. This is not a mini-me version of a blockbuster movie. The movie format is small. This format is bigger.

The Segway

9/11 caught the intelligence agencies of this country napping at the wheel. They were caught not talking to each other. A major counterterrorism effort since has been about breaking down the walls and barriers, about intelligence agencies not only within but also across countries talking to each other. The segway from one season of Quantico to the next pays homage to that. The FBI and the CIA kind of talk. Agent Parrish is a human bridge. It is symbolic.

Democracy's Propaganda?

Both seasons of Quantico do a wonderful job of the viewers becoming a little bit more informed, a little bit more sympathetic to the doings of the FBI, the CIA, and the like agencies. But this is a private sector venture hinging on the size of viewership. It is democracy working. The hard questions do get asked, scenarios do get imagined in the process. Is the FBI its own worst enemy? Is the CIA its own worst enemy? Viewer discretion is advised. Democracy or no democracy, Quantico is great drama, makes for great television.

What Next?

Baywatch was a dud (not in China, though), and not Priyanka Chopra's blockbuster Hollywood debut her fans expected it to be. But Quantico is still on, there is a season 3, and PC will likely have the last laugh on bigger things. She did 50 movies in Bollywood. Many top Hollywood actors have retired before hitting that kind of number. But nothing she did in Bollywood remotely approaches her role in Quantico, her best screen persona yet. The role is the woman taking her rightful place in the most precarious of situations. Perhaps there is a corporate version of that that would be even more riveting, more global and fitting multiple screen sizes all at once, gaming included. When you have India, America, and China already in your bag, you perhaps target Russia next.

Season 2 Vs Season 1 Vs Season 3

Data shows the viewership for Season 2 has been lower than the viewership for Season 1. I can see why. The formula of relentless plot twists does not work as well for political intrigue as it does for sheer physical action. The mind starts spinning and you lose people. Also, Season 1 had the freshness of the FBI training school. I don't know yet what Season 3 is about, but if it be about physical action in the Global South (like Jason Bourne in Tangiers) the viewership could again spike. But, I must say, it was kind of nice to see a woman president.

The Trio: Alex, Shelby, Raina/Nimah

Alex, Shelby and Raina/Nimah make for a powerful trio. The Alex-Ryan pairing does a good job of showing the toll life as a FBI/CIA agent can take on one's private life. Often it is hard even for a fellow agent to understand you. But once it is firmly established as to who the more gifted partner is, it is smoother sailing. Some small roles like Simon and Harry truly stand out. Conflicted emotions make for great drama.


The writer(s) of the show obviously is better at spy action than at political intrigue and should go back to spy action. An international backdrop would be exotic now. Alex and team collaborating with foreign intelligence agencies on their territories (the narco wars in Latin America, the Middle East with the obvious terrorism angles, Pakistan, South China Sea, Korea, Kenya) would provide so much more room for unexpected plot twists. Street scenes in densely populated countries look great on camera. Fight scenes on such streets give so much more room for choreography. There are numerous movie parts, and there is a huge in your face human element.


It is a great TV show that would make for a great XBox game. You would allow gamers to let decide on multiple outcomes. There is also market for merchandise. There are women out there who would like to the Alex Parrish look, obviously. Creating multiple revenue streams might give the show a Season 4, and a Season 5, and a Season 6 perhaps. It should not be a US first release. The release ought be global. There's terrorism, there's cybercrime, there's human trafficking, there are civil wars, there are riots. Alex Parrish would shine in each such scenario. And it would be exotic to show the ground reality of law enforcement across diverse countries.