In the aftermath of the well-funded “Choose Children” campaign, we are left to ponder what Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019 budget really means for California’s children. Will he use his position to do the will of the people, or instead sacrifice the state’s youth on the altar of technological surveillance and venture capital? I see alarming connections between elements of his budget, early childhood education and healthcare pilots underway in Silicon Valley, and predatory social impact investment initiatives tied to digital identity that have surfaced abroad with support from Bay Area venture philanthropists, global banking interests, and NGOs.
For years, hedge funders have been building infrastructure for a futures market in human capital, a global poverty-mining enterprise. California is among a handful of states that are in the vanguard of such developments in the United States. San Francisco, Newsom’s stomping grounds, is home to the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which opened at the Presidio in the fall of 2017. Increased calls for transforming the “social” sector to fit the requirements of this technologized age were made this week at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos. See this whitepaper, which outlines a planned three-year process to re-align the social sector, “Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Preparation and Response.”
Newsom’s proposals reflect broader trends seen in many states where innovation, technology deployment, and adoption of an “evidence-based” approach to public services, including pre-k and digital learning, are being pitched as an answer to our current social ills. Money has been poured into branding digital enslavement as a fiscally prudent, even progressive option. I urge caution. Dig deeper; things are not what they appear.
Elements in his budget that are of particular concern include:
- The creation of a longitudinal database linking education at all levels with workforce outcomes and social service delivery
- $200 million for home visits and ACEs screenings
- $10 million to explore funding options for universal pre-school
- $500 million (one time) investment to expand childcare facilities and professional development among childcare workers
- $50 million to create an Office of Digital Innovation
Taken together these items could advance a repressive system of technological surveillance. Such a system would control not only lives of poor people, but also the lives of those employed to manage them. The latter will be expected to implement “evidence-based” services that supposedly add “value” to the “human capital” of those in need of care and education, even if the programs required are fundamentally dehumanizing.
Such a system would harness data extracted from privatized public programs to serve the financial interests of the global elite, many of whom live in the Bay Area and comprise Newsom’s donor base. Among these is close friend Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a cloud based computing and analytics company with sizeable contracts with US Customs and Border Protection and recent investments in the social impact measurement software and workforce pipeline programs.
Children of the poor, black, brown and indigenous children, are being set up for ongoing data harvest: cognitive, non-cognitive, and health metrics. This is not just happening in California. With the passage of the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act, the ball is now rolling on Universal Pre-K everywhere. Priscilla Chan’s “The Primary School” has been a test bed modeling integrated education and healthcare delivery to low-income families. And we have Jeff Bezos whose Day One “impact investing” Fund was trumpeted last fall. I wrote about it here, positing what a tech-oligarch managed pre-k might look like.
Far from the cozy, nurturing atmosphere most parents and educators want for children, particularly children in crisis or who have experienced trauma, this new pre-k model channels industrial agriculture. Children’s developing brains managed like hydroponic lettuce heads, given a precision mix of digital toxic waste, apps touting stamps of “efficacy” from some impact-funded outfit like Common Sense Media. An oppressed workforce compelled to chart the neural “growth” of toddlers whose human capital will eventually be offered up via e-portfolios to global markets, having been tracked (one day perhaps on Blockchain) so that “damaged” product can be traced to the source for a proper accounting. It is a bizarre world at our doorstep, a mash up of Ready Player One and The Hunger Games for infants.
We must find new ways to care for one another in the spirit of mutual aid. Submitting to data surveillance cannot be a pre-condition for accessing help or education. Care should not constitute an “investment” opportunity for global monopoly capital. The idea of “human bonds” must be anathema. Yes, it is our history, but the time has come for us to chart a new way forward. We will not allow people’s futures to become debt instruments traded on global markets. We will recognize enslavement and reject it, even when it comes cloaked in progressive branding.
Do not fall for the “pay for success,” “what works,” open-data, public private partnership pitches that will soon come your way. We must deny elite financiers their plan to foreclose on the commons. We must prevent them from managing those who most need support as holdings in their vast and corrupt social investment portfolios. Once given the right lens, I am confident people will see outcomes-based contracting of government social services and education for what it is, a perverse system of control that devalues human life and inflicts harm on historically oppressed communities. I will be following up with additional posts that offer a detailed analysis of the budget items above.
Given what is happening in Davos right now, I felt like I needed to get this out today. Consider this post an epic red flag. More to come.
This is the introduction to a series. More below.
Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond
Part Three: Interoperable Data To Fuel Human Capital Hedge Funds
Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?
Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?
Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab
I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.