2018 Harold Hotelling Memorial Lecture

The 2018 Harold Hotelling Memorial Lecture is coming up on October 15th. This year is the first time one of dad’s former students will be giving the lecture. Douglas Harris will be giving a lecture titled “Charter School City: What Detroit Can Learn From New Orleans”:

The changes in New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina represent the most radical school reform in the nation’s history. The state took over almost all schools and turned them over to private charter school operators working under performance-based contracts. Teachers no longer worked under union contracts or with tenure protections. School attendance zones were eliminated. These market-based school reforms increased accountability, school autonomy, and parental choice in ways not seen in more than a century of American public schooling. Harris will show that the reforms led to considerable improvement in a wide range of student outcomes. He will also explain how the lessons for other cities, and for the role of markets and governments, are more complicated than these results might suggest.

Dad supported of school of choice in the 90’s. He was an economist, and economists believe in markets. I think even published an op-ed in the newspaper pushing for school of choice.

I wish I could get his take on the intersection of school of choice and privatization. Now that I have kids, the state of education is suddenly a much more pressing matter for me.

Come by the Mary E Marburger Science and Engineering Auditorium at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, at 7pm on October 15th. The lectures are always interesting and, if you’re on the fence, there’s a dessert reception after. The anecdotes at the start always get me, but it’s nice to hear new stories 9 years later.

Jessica Rosenworcel on Net Neutrality

A friend of mine gave me the heads up  that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was giving a policy interview about net neutrality yesterday. Sometimes things just drop in my lap like that. Rosenworcel dissented with the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality protections:

The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed. I raised my voice to fight for internet freedom. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too.

She also wrote this tweet, which you may have seen:

Rosenworcel summed up her net neutrality argument as “your broadband provider doesn’t make decisions for you.” I think that resonates with anyone who uses a big ISP.

She spoke a lot about the interaction of net neutrality and broadband competition.

Right now half of Americans don’t have a choice in broadband ISPs. She was clear that net neutrality was needed in the absence of a robust market for broadband. She also said that if Americans had access to multiple, competing broadband ISPs that she would reconsider whether net neutrality was still needed.

Rosenworcel argued that there’s a financial incentive for ISPs to favor  established players, and when there’s no regulation stopping them, you are going to see ISPs selling your traffic to those established players. That means letting the incumbents buy traffic and stopping disruptive innovations. When ISPs compete, consumers can vote with their wallets. When ISPs don’t compete, you get what we have in America today.

She side-stepped a question about whether broadband is a human right, but she did say “You do not have a fair shot at prosperity in the 21st century without access to broadband.”

I’m on board with Commissioner Rosenworcel’s platform. I was also very happy that the moderator asked her to make the case against net neutrality, and that she could do so fairly and without slinging mud. It reminds me of Daniel Dennett’s rules for criticism:

You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Ultimately protecting a free and open internet comes down to freedom – either freedom to choose what you want to use the internet for, or freedom to choose an ISP that will. Maybe, one day, we won’t need net neutrality. But until then, let’s keep up the pressure.

You can watch the full video of the conversation on the event’s page.

Slashdot Comment Spam

On Slashdot (which I am likely dumber for reading) comment spam takes a slightly different form. Instead of earning PageRank, commenters earn karma. The end result is that instead of creating links to sites in order to screw with search engines, the spammers try to post good comments with the least amount of effort.

Take a comment on a new largest prime number for example. It sounds pretty good, but the tone of the comment is familiar; a rote collection of facts with a neutral point of view. Sure enough, I found the exact same text in the Wikipedia article on prime numbers.

While it’s questionable whether the comment adds value to the discussion, plagiarizing the Wikipedia is certainly deceitful. I guess whenever you create something of value like karma, some people will ignore social norms to do whatever they can to get it. Someone should come up with a name for that behavior, and then someone else should come along and add the word “freak” to the beginning of that name.