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Charles Koch Institute On Mass Incarceration in the United States

Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, is focusing public attention on the extremely high percentage of mass incarceration in the United States. As a matter of fact, America imprisons 700 out of every 100,000 citizens.

Vikrant Reddy poses this bold suggestion: Instead of throwing everyone in jail, why not hold them accountable by having them “supervised” by the community?

In an exclusive interview with Bold Business, captured at the Impact Prisons 2017 event, Reddy cited the alarming statistics. “The problem is extremely severe. Let me quantify it for you. Canada locks up 114 out of every 100,000 people. Australia, started as a prison colony, will accept 130 out of every 100,000. The United Kingdom locks up 150 out of every 100,000. The United States locks up 700 out of every 100,000. The difference is enormous.”

a bar graph of rates of mass incarceration in the United States and three other countries

Accountability is Possible Without Mass Incarceration

He cites public safety and human dignity as among the specific reasons why excessive imprisonment in the U.S. should be taken seriously—stressing that at a certain point, incarceration becomes counter-productive.

And then there’s the cost. Reddy explains that in Texas, locking a person up for a single day already costs $50. On the other hand, if that person were placed on probation, it would only cost the state $2.29. He notes that communities are more than capable of monitoring offenders and holding them accountable for their actions.

“People commit crimes. I don’t want to let people off. I want to make sure that they are held accountable. But that can mean probation. It can mean drug courts. It can mean specialized courts, veterans courts, prostitution courts,” Reddy said, adding that probation will allow offenders to get back on their feet more easily and eventually pay restitution to their victims.

Mass Incarceration in the United States

According to Reddy, the United States was doing well in terms of managing its prisons in the 1950s throughout the early 1960s but somehow got away from that model. “It is true that crime was increasing dramatically and politicians felt that they really needed to respond,” he said. “They responded by locking more people up. But that pendulum can swing too far. You need to find a way to reel it back in again so I would look at what we have done historically in the United States in better times,” Reddy stressed.

Perhaps the citizens have become paranoid. The instinct is to throw offenders in jail rather than give them a chance to reform within the community. It has resulted in mass incarceration. Impact Prisons 2017, Vikrant Reddy and the Charles Koch Institute are boldly challenging that practice.

Vikrant Reddy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute. Before joining Charles Koch Institute, he served as a Senior Research Analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a Research Assistant at the Cato Institute, a Law Clerk to the Hon. Gina M. Benavides of the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas. Reddy is also a member of the State Bar of Texas, an appointee to the Executive Committee of the Criminal Law Practice Group of the Federalist Society, and an appointee to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights Texas State Advisory Committee.

How to Reduce Cost of Education? Information Technology Is A Useful Key

An Irish lecturer and online learning program manager is proposing a bold and unconventional solution on how to reduce cost of education. This solution involves the technology needed to strengthen distance and work-based learning courses. So, what are the details?

In an Irish Times report, Brian Mulligan of Ireland’s Centre for Online Learning at the Institute of Technology based in Sligo says that technology is essential in answering the question on how to reduce cost of education and keeping the population educated. For example, at the world’s first nonprofit online university called the “University of the People”, a student can get accredited for a degree in Computer Science for as little as $4,000. That is the total cost for completing a 4-year degree. (College Board has pegged the average tuition and fees for the school year 2016-2017 at $$33,480 in regular schools.)

“In 20 years’ time, fewer school leavers will go to college. Far more study options will be available, many on the internet – and much cheaper than what is offered now. Distance learning and work-based learning, including apprenticeships, will become more available, reducing the total cost of education by allowing school leavers to live at home and ‘earn while they learn.” – Brian Mulligan, The Irish Times (April 20, 2017)

Developing work-based learning will also give “drop outs” or college leavers a bigger opportunity to complete their degrees and apply their learning to the work they are currently doing. Mulligan added that while full-time students appear to have more time and focus to study, individuals who work and learn at the same time are the ones who “learn more efficiently and are much better prepared for the world of work.” Moreover, employers are now looking less and less at the degree a worker has finished. They are, instead, taking more interest in the competencies and skills that the worker possesses.

an infographic with a photo of a girl beside a short text that's related to the issue how to reduce cost of education

 

Answering the Question on How To Reduce Cost of Education

Mulligan was asked to sit as one of the resource persons in a higher-education panel which convened to discuss issues related to long-term funding of higher education. He, however, maintains that information technology should have a significant impact on higher education. He points out that distance learning and work-based learning—apprenticeships included—can be the answer to the question on how to reduce cost of education. “Students can be given access to online modules designed for distance learners, or many of the free online courses on the web. Online modules can be created cheaply, specifically to be shared by several campuses or colleges,” Mulligan explains.


Indeed, online courses can also benefit a greater number of students. Lecturers can make use of automated quizzes as well as rubric-based grading tools to deliver lessons to large classes and reduce their workload. The bold impact of implementing this idea is reducing the number of teachers and instructors in higher education institutions. Such a scenario will inherently address the shortage of teachers in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Apart from that, more technologically advanced and sophisticated tools, which make use of artificial intelligence, provide another positive outlook on the matter. Adaptive systems can analyze patterns and student behavior in order to help online learning programs determine which modules work best for them. However, a significant number of students are opposed to this type of predictive software which could prematurely mark them as underperforming before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves.

On the Conclusion of the Matter

In conclusion, Mulligan believes that information technology, ingenuity and courage are the bold solutions to the problem that’s asking the point on how to reduce cost of education. Shelling out more funds may be an obvious answer, but it is not the long-term and logical solution. Specifically, information technology will provide greater access, improve quality and reduce higher education costs—not just in Ireland, but also for the rest of the globe.

Is Flexibility the Next Uber?

Jay Walker isn’t one to think small. He founded Priceline, one of the earliest, most profitable and most disruptive digital companies of the entire internet era. He established a price busting consumer friendly commerce platform, at a time when 99% of us thought that a platform was a place where the speaker could stand.

So when Walker says he has identified an entirely new asset class, which he calls “flexibility”, and that it could be worth billions, with a “b”, it is worth taking notes. His newest venture Upside is a tiny step into the shallows of the flexibility economy. It is a model designed to offer flexible pricing with premiums for business travelers, to help align the needs of the company comptroller and the traveler.


“With the advent of big data,” Walker says in the accompanying video for Bold Business, “and the cloud and mobile computing, it suddenly becomes possible for a consumer to see all of the choices they could possibly make and what the value of their flexibility is for every one of those choices.

“It is possible for software to sort the most valuable or the most useful of those choices based on what the consumer says they prefer or what matters most to them.”

“It is possible for software to sort the most valuable or the most useful of those choices based on what the consumer says they prefer or what matters most to them.”

Walker assures us that Upside is just the first step, a trial more or less, as he develops the concepts and the mechanisms to create a flexible economy at every level of the marketplace. He is convinced that the small decisions and price differentials, once unlocked with consumer-friendly algorithms and platforms will be truly revolutionary. This technology can offer consumers more choices, better prices, and help them to optimize the value of hundreds of daily decisions for huge cost savings and benefits.

If Walker is correct, this would indeed be revolutionary, on the order of the industrial, electrical, and internet revolutions. Or perhaps a better way to think of it is as the culmination of these prior revolutions, a grand unification of all three.

Think of it this way, the industrial revolution provided the world with a plethora of things, physical objects in greater abundance than had ever been possible. The electrical revolution made life easier and provided the world with labor saving machines and devices that made the impossible possible. The internet revolution connected the people of the world.

Too many digital choices - consumer economy

Flexibility Revolution Changes Everything

Walker’s flexibility revolution brings all three together, allowing people to shop, travel and work in a manner that is personally optimized. It allows people to connect with the makers and sellers of products, the industrial revolution, through the power of the electrical and internet revolutions.

Optimization is the critical feature. Something as simple as buying a cell phone can be a complex and frustrating task. It is time consuming and difficult to sort through all of the plans and offers, the sales, the specials, the restrictions, the upgrades, the models.

The flexibility revolution would allow anyone input personal preferences into an algorithm program, that would then sort through and weigh all of those choices, presenting the best options.

This type of platform would save an incredible amount of time, and a significant amount of money. The AI tools to get the flexibility revolution under way exist right now, consisting initially of search and algorithmic numbers crunching. It’s a new way of approaching the problem of choice, and using the power of the internet and networks to optimize choices.

It must be clarified, before anyone gets the wrong idea, the flexibility revolution isn’t just a newer fancier search engine. It is a profound rethinking of the way we interact with vendors and services both on and off the internet. Flexibility is more about how choices and decisions are made, than how information is discovered and sorted. The latter is search. The former is highly personalized and can be altered as needs, wants, and circumstances change.

The flexibility revolution is based on personalized optimization, providing the means for each and every person to sort through vast databanks of information to find and optimize choices and performance. It may well be extraordinary and transformative, leading to greater efficiencies, greater value in myriad transactions, and truly optimized benefits.

 

Jay Walker is the Founder of Priceline.com, Upside.com, and Synapse Group, an entrepreneur and chairman of Walker Digital, and a curator of TEDMED.  Walker’s privately held research and development lab focuses on using digital networks to create new business systems. Walker was named “Most Influential New Business Strategist” by the Industry Standard in 1999, and in 2009, he was given the “Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year” at Cornell University’s Entrepreneurship Program.

For Drone Businesses, Problem Solving Is The Key To The Future

Creative Use of Off-the-Shelf Sensors and Robotics Gives Robosynthesis the Edge

The drone business is attracting a huge amount of attention and business investment, as venture capital and technology companies scramble to capture a piece of a pie that is projected to be nearly $130 billion within a few short years. New technologies, like better batteries, sensors, and software platforms have opened the possibilities to a world of mobile robotics that are poised to disrupt and change the world.

However, these high-tech gadgets don’t come cheap. And they take years to develop and build, often to accomplish only one or two tasks. The technology is changing and advancing so fast, that most drones are practically obsolete before they actually make their debut on the exposition floor. Recently, at the time of the AUVSI Xponential Show in Dallas, one large aeronautics company, which shall remain un-named proudly demonstrated their new small drone, which could carry 10 pounds for 50 minutes. The day after the Xponential show ended, SkyLift working with Cal Tech and DARPA successfully tested a drone carrying one-hundred pounds through an obstacle course at 60 miles per hour.


That rate of change makes any purpose-built drone a risky business venture. One which is guaranteed quick obsolescence.

Enter Robosynthesis, a drone concept that is the brainchild of Philip Norman. Their drone is a mobile programmable platform, not a flying drone but a wheeled drone, which can carry a variety of off-the- shelf sensors and arms. It is sturdy and practical, and saves both time and money in deployment. Rather than taking years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish a particular task, Norman’s drones can be adapted and deployed in months. Even more, once on the job, they can be easily adapted to new tasks as they become apparent.

A Breakthrough in How We Think About Drone Technology

Drones at CERN - Robotsynthesis
Robosynthesis at CERN

Philip Norman is one of those crazy-creative guys, back when he would have been called a renaissance man and in truth, the term does fit. A native of the U.K., where his company is now headquartered, he spent 20 years enjoying the good life in the French countryside. He has published numerous books, including childen’s illustrated books, had an architectural business and is working on a novel (yes, there are robots in it.) And he also has forty or so patents.

But what attracted him to robotics and drones is his love of solving problems and puzzles. He could see that a lot of what was happening in the drone world was simply impractical. High-tech glitz was overwhelming practical use and benefit. He saw that many of critical elements needed for drones to do practical work already existed and could simply be pulled off the shelf. What he needed was a platform to deploy them, rather than inventing every item from scratch.

So he set about building a drone that was sturdy and could be deployed anywhere. It has wheels for dealing with smooth surfaces, like concrete factory floors. It has traction strips that allow it to crawl up, around and over almost anything. And it can carry any sensor that is needed and arms that are easily purchased or designed for a specific use.

Norman describes it as putting a puzzle together, something which he enjoys doing. And it has allowed him to deploy his drones in a remarkably short time into a variety of business environments, from chicken farms to CERN.

Selling Solutions Rather Than Technology

Testing the Robosynthesis drones
Terrain testing Robosynthesis drones

His company also approaches the business model of drones in a revolutionary manner. Instead of taking awesome technology and then looking for what needs it might be suited for, Robosynthesis starts from the perspective of solving problems. They sell solutions rather than drones.

Thus, for example with CERN, there are parts of the giant collider which are highly radioactive, yet they still require maintenance. Even going into these areas is highly dangerous and unhealthy for humans, some areas technicians can only enter for 15 minutes per year. Drones are a perfect solution. The drones can go in, and perform the maintenance without endangering human life. In this instance, drones are critical to allowing CERN to continue to operate.

In chicken farms, the drones have sensing capabilities that can constantly monitor the entire chicken house, rather than just a few select places on the walls, providing for better growing conditions for the entire flock. Once the drones were deployed in the chicken houses to monitor conditions, it was realized that they could also clean and remove the soiled sawdust that is used for bedding without disturbing the chickens and retarding growth as occurs when this task is done by humans. And Norman and Robosynthesis continue to add more tasks to the drones’ repertoire as they become apparent.

“We don’t sell drones,” said Norman. “We offer solutions.”

“We don’t sell drones,” said Norman, “we offer solutions. In many places there are tasks that drones are perfectly suited for, and tasks humans are better at. We take into account the entire operation and find places where the drones can offer cost savings and do a better job.

“That might start out as a small piece, like transporting carts to pickers in a warehouse. Over time, as we continue to analyze, we often find more places where the drones can work alongside humans or on their own to solve problems and make things more efficient.”

While many companies are developing shiny new technology that goes in search of a market, Norman’s drones are already doing valuable work in many different and varied fields. Taking advantage of off-the-shelf technology that can work on a standardized platform has allowed Robosynthesis to build a viable market and deploy quickly. It’s a business model that is adaptable and can scale quickly. Expect to see more of this company as they become a go-to company for real world drone solutions.

 

Philip Norman is the originator of the Robosynthesis modular robotic platform and is the named inventor on a significant portfolio of patents relating to three-dimensional modularity, biomimetic mobility and coaxial power and data interfacing and connection. He has collaborated with work the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory forming part of a European Space Agency scheme on developing planetary rovers, as well as the UK Ministry of Defence and CERN.