No One Should Be A Commodity To Profit Goldman Sachs: Testimony Opposing Pay For Success Finance For Housing

Philadelphia City Council created a “Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention” on March 28, 2019 (resolution here), and with it the machine of human capital impact investing in our city of deep, deep poverty roared to life.

The purported goal of the committee is to create an action plan to lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2024, though how that will happen given stagnant wages and rising cost of living is unclear. See dismal workforce projections and plans to harness our education system to deliver a ten-dollar-per hour workforce here.

City Council commissioned a white paper, Narrowing the Gap, from HR&A Advisors, a New York real estate and economic development consulting firm, to inform the work. Resolve Philly/Broke In Philly (Solutions Journalism) boosters NBC Philadelphia (Comcast), Billy Penn, Al Dia, and PlanPhilly /WHYY provided, as supportive impact media partners will, expansive coverage of the development.

Three subcommittees have been set up: social safety net, education and workforce, and housing. A kick-off gathering of the full committee was held in October and hearings for each subcommittee are scheduled for November.

Transcript of the October 10, 2019 full committee hearing here.

Transcript of the November 18, 2019 “Safety Net Subcommittee” hearing here.

Below is video of testimony I gave at the November 25, 2019 Housing Subcommittee hearing held at Temple University Medical School. In seven minutes I make make clear my opposition to the poor being surveilled and transformed into data commodities to profit transnational global capital through pay for success contracts. If you are not familiar with pay for success, find out more here.

I express concern about Philadelphia’s municipal ID program, and how it could evolve into a “federated citizen” or digital identity system to track “impact” for the purposes of investors.

I note that we must understand Philadelphia’s deep poverty as the legacy of structural racism and recognize that continued automation of work will lead to a world of increasingly concentrated wealth and power. In this world those at the helm of the finance and technology sectors will rule over the masses through the Internet of Things, Big Data, and predictive analytics.

I state that pay for success finance is already being piloted in Philadelphia by Project Home, and that Sister Mary Scullion gave welcoming remarks at the first Total Impact conference in Philadelphia last year. Omar Woodard of the Green Light Fund was a speaker at this year’s gathering, and. Tayyib Smith, a Green Light Fund board member, serves on the housing subcommittee.

Making the poor jump through hoop after hoop on behavioral pathways to prove their worthiness to earn a right to have their basic needs met won’t fundamentally change our situation. Good behavior on the part of the poor won’t redistribute the resources of billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates to those in need. In fact, pay for success finance is designed to enable the rich to make money off the misery of the poor. Dispossession is the raw material of impact investing. It is central to the enterprise.

At the end of my remarks I ask members of the subcommittee if they are familiar with the concept of pay for success. Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanches replied, “Yes, we’ve heard the term.” Remember that.

A partner in this initiative is the Reinvestment Fund, lead investor in several “pay for success” deals including the Welcome Home social impact bond in Santa Clara, CA, which I wrote about here, and the Family Stability program in Connecticut, which I wrote about here. The Reinvestment Fund collaborates with Palantir (predictive policing, ICE contracts) in their deal evaluation. See Santa Clara’s Data-Mining Deal With Palantir Draws Scrutiny From Privacy Advocates, covered by SanJoseInside in August of 2018.

I will continue to work on mapping those involved with this effort, but after reading this brief post, Philanthropy represented on new Philadelphia City Council Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention, there were immediate red flags including the participation of:

Bill Golderer “progressive” pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church and relatively new CEO of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (see collective impact and ALICE here).

Sidney Hargro of the Philanthropy Network, a planning partner in the Federal Reserve’s 2015 Capital for Communities event and stakeholder in the development of the city’s Out-of-School-Time network.

Pedro Ramos CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, former member of the School Reform Commission, and advisor to ImpactPHL, an accelerator of the “impact economy.”

Andrew Frishkoff head of Philadelphia LISC, an initiative of the Ford Foundation spun off facilitate the redevelopment of distressed communities in the late 1970s. Note the Ford Foundation set aside a billion dollars of its endowment for impact investing in 2017.

Kristin Romens former program innovator for Big Brothers, Big Sisters who consulted for Bridgespan (Bain Capital’s non-profit impact investing consultancy) and now runs the Pew Fund, which is pouring money into pre-k, child mental health, and out-of-school-time learning-all impact investment sectors.

The final hearing, which will discuss education and workforce, is December 5, 2019 from 4 to 6pm at Dobbins High School, 2150 West Lehigh Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19132. To testify, you will need to email Andre Delvalle, Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Quinones-Sanchez, at

Below are the members of the Education and Workforce Subcommittee. Members of the full committee include Superintendent William Hite, formerly affiliated with merchant bank Ridge Lane, LP; Otis Hackney of the Mayor’s Office of Education to whom I protested about pay for success previously; and Dr. Donald Guy Generals, head of the Community College of Philadelphia a pilot for Digital On-Ramp human capital management programs described here.


Jessica Cunningham Akoto, KIPP Philadelphia Schools
Rafael Arismendi, Congreso
Steven Scott Bradley, The African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, and DE
Malik Brown, Graduate Philadelphia
Rev. Bonnie Camarda, The Salvation Army
Katherine Clupper, The PFM Group
Carol de Fries, Community College of Philadelphia
Pedro Ramos, Philadelphia Foundation
Jennifer Rodriguez, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Esteban Vera, Jr., The Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union #57
Rhonda Willingham, Menz Fit
Tara Williams, PA Department of Human Services
H. Patrick Clancy, Philadelphia Works Inc.
Otis Hackney, Mayor’s Office of Education
Yvette Nunez, The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia
Alexandrea “Ali” Robinson-Rogers, The School District of Philadelphia

The Family Friendly Schools Act: A Set Up For “Soft Policing” Schools To Profit Impact Investors?

On November 6, 2019, former San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General, Senator, and presidential candidate Kamala Harris introduced the Family Friendly Schools Act. If passed, the bill would create a five-year grant program to restructure 500 elementary schools to “better align” schedules to the work day. The legislation authorizes $1,300,000,000 per year from 2020 to 2024 to pay for the program.

Co-sponsors include five Democratic senators: Kirsten Gillibrand (NY); Richard Blumenthal (CT); Jeff Merkley (OR); Sherrod Brown (OH); and Michael Bennet (CO). Ostensibly this legislation is to aid  working families by extending the school day with support from community partners. It is being presented as an “economic growth and child development strategy.” In my assessment, child development = human capital management for impact investment purposes.

While it is true that families struggle with child care before and after school, the motivation behind this bill has less to do with taking care of vulnerable communities and more to do with the planned expansion of pay for success finance and “cradle to career” pipelines for impact investors.

The collection of data and the monitoring of students and families this entails will require an expansive system of what I am calling “soft” policing. We may replace school police officers with social workers, but control of Black and Brown populations is still the primary goal. This shift will be justified as fiscally prudent, “what works” public policy, though it is predicated on predictive profiling.

Harris’s bill will usher in a new era of privatization, one in which community based organizations (CBOs) through data sharing agreements target turnaround schools for predatory “evidence-based” interventions; schools as data factories.

What would be truly family friendly would be legislation advancing stable, living wage employment such that an adult could be home with children at the end of a normal school day. In such a world, children would have time to decompress, have a snack, and enjoy a bit of unstructured play without having to conform to a PlayWorks recess rubric or wear a fit bit.

There would be opportunities for families to build community instead of being forced to navigate crises alone where safety nets have been torn asunder. Sure, it’s aspirational, but the “help” being offered here is not motivated by altruism but rather with an eye toward profit. Besides, what does a “normal” work day for low-income parents cobbling together gigs and driving for insta-cart look like? The days of a single nine-to-five job are rapidly coming to a close.

Careful consideration must be given to the context in which this legislative proposal has emerged. Deconstructing language matters. Relationships of money, power, and influence matter. Harris’s career as a functionary of the carceral state matters. It is at our peril that we accept any politician’s framing of an issue at face value. Just because a bill professes to be “family friendly” doesn’t mean that it is.

Restructuring The School Day

The Center for American Progress (CAP) is a liberal think tank affiliated with the Clintons that promotes evidence based policy, impact data, and social finance. It also supports the Family Friendly Schools Act. Catherine Brown, a CAP senior fellow and former Vice President of Policy at Teach for America, provided a ringing endorsement stating the bill would advance “educational equity and provide a needed boost to our economy.” CAP has been pushing extended learning time for over a decade. Kamala Harris, a regular at their events, presented at the 2017 CAP Ideas Conference and at a maternal health disparities event in October.

As indicated below, the language of the Family Friendly Schools Act states a preference for applicants willing to restructure the school day rather than simply adding extra time. This is a red flag.

Family Friendly Schools Act Restructure

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act

This approach aligns with CAP’s assertion that “At the core of expanded learning time is a critical and fundamental principle that cannot be overlooked – the complete redesign of the school’s educational program. Successful implementation of expanded learning initiatives occurs in tandem with other reform strategies and practices that take place through the redesign process. Without conjoining expanded learning time with the redesign principle, more time risks being “more of the same” and a promising school improvement strategy becomes a band aid.”

The image below is taken from a white paper funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for CAP in 2007. More about that foundation’s ed reform and impact philanthropy efforts here and here. Two years later, Arne Duncan created flexibility waivers through Race to the Top that allowed turnaround schools to use 21st Century Community Learning Center funds to “personalize” learning for college and career using “evidence-based” practices IF they partnered with organizations that “demonstrated experience improving student achievement.” The report goes on to laud KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), noting ELT provides “flexibility to exercise innovation in a very deliberate manner.”

Center for American Progress ELT HP Funding

Source: Choosing More Time for Students: The What, Why and How of Expanded Learning

You’ll notice an emphasis on data and community partners both of which are prerequisites for outcomes-based contracting. The United Way has developed a sizeable network of Out Of School Time community service providers, as well as playing matchmaker for the questionable Salt Lake City pre-k social impact bond.

With Obama’s gutting of FERPA and the United Way’s campaign to get parents to sign waivers, the floodgates are now open for the data that will place children on “lifelong learning” pathways to digital indentured servitude. Imagine the number of community partners that will be involved with these 500 “family friendly” schools.

That’s going to be a lot of data!


National League of Cities After School Data

Source: Data-Sharing Federal Rules and Best Practices To Improve Out-of-School-Time Programs and Student Outcomes, Partnership for Children and Youth, Funded by Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Source: Youtube: United Way, “Helping Students Through Data Sharing”

The video above was created as part of a United Way campaign to get parents to waive their FERPA rights. Materials for the Salt Lake City’s Promise Partnership community school program were created in both English and Spanish. For more information read Save Maine School’s post, United Way To Parents: Give Us Your Gold.

Another supporter of the bill is the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a Gates and Lumina-funded “anti-poverty” think tank with ties to Connecting Credentials and the Workforce Data Quality Campaign. The organization prepared a white paper on Social Impact Bonds for the MacArthur Foundation back in 2014. Olivia Golden, Executive Director, noted it was a positive step towards job stability, child wellbeing, and economic security. I guess she hasn’t read the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reports. The ones where they say a majority of jobs will be automated and the ones left are going to be gigs that pay less than a living wage. More on that here.

There’s yet another think tank behind the bill, the bipartisan First Focus, a lobbying outfit that advocates for the breaking down of program silos (all the better for the creation of data lakes for profiling) in support of federal budget policies having to do with children and families. First Focus has ties to the Institute for Child Success that ran the groundbreaking South Carolina maternal home visit pay for success project. More on ICS here.

And Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers are backing the bill. Of course. They’ve already embraced reimagined education with partners, and they’re holding the door wide open for community schools. In her statement of support Weingarten talked about “solutions that work.” Sounds about right; “what works” government.

Other supporters are shown on the map below.

Family Friendly Schools Act Supporters

Source: Supporters of the Family Friend Schools Act (click link for interactive version)

Expanded / Extended / Out-of-School Time Learning

The After School Corporation, ExpandEd, Wallace Foundation, Mott Foundation, United Way, YMCA, and Boys and Girls Clubs, among others, have been constructing a national Out of School Time Network (OST) that is poised to extend its reach into the school day through Extended or Expanded Learning Time (ELT). These folks are more than happy to participate in all the “restructuring.” In fact, they can hardly wait.

The seeds for this were planted decades ago by affiliates of Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy. In a 1987 presidential address, Learning In School And Out, Lauren Resnick, Pitt research professor and close collaborator with Tucker on what would become Common Core State Standards, goes into considerable detail about Out-of-School Time and Extended Learning.

As technology for digital credentialing (badges) and education/training vouchers (ESAs) begins to scale, the extended school day Harris has proposed would be a logical precursor to un-bundled “anytime, anywhere” learning. See recent coverage of IBM’s Blockchain credential platform launch in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse and this article on new payment systems linked to alternative education delivery, Charter Schools and the Unbundling of K12 Education Services.

Folks at the Heritage Foundation are eagerly anticipating the day fin-tech links up with free market education “choice,” but traditional homeschooling/un-schooling families need to be paying attention.

Heritage Foundation Fintech choice

Source: Financial Technology and School Choice in Education, Heritage Foundation

Digital vouchers are meant to control and commodify out-of-school, informal community learning, too. Libraries, arts organizations, recreation centers, robotics leagues; all the resources home school families have used in the past will be sucked into the “what works” data vortex. Organizations accepting ESAs or awarding digital credentials WILL be harnessed to the standards-aligned, data-surveillance pipeline. We all need to get on the same page. Unbundling schools, if conditioned on standards-aligned competencies for the gig economy, is going to be bad, really bad, for EVERYONE (but especially for Black and Brown communities).

Cicada Killer.jpg

In a previous post I compared hyrid-blended learning to cicada killer wasps (above) that paralyze their victims while consuming them from the inside out. I warned that privatization was taking place from within AND without. Still, too few people are paying attention to the “within” part. While school closures and charters have unquestionably been destabilizing forces for public education, the end game is outright colonization of remaining neighborhood schools through “personalized” learning and outsourced instruction to non-profit providers (teaching artists, etc.) as would be permitted by this bill.

Now we are seeing the rise of innovation networks and portfolio schools that remain titularly “public,” but have been handed over to private managers. These operators are often given free reign to be “innovative,” deploying all sorts of reformist practices often centered around ed-tech. This transformation is coming to fruition, make no mistake. The $6 billion+ behind the Family Friendly Schools Act would take this game to the next level.

The letter below shows how community partners offering out of school time instruction are well suited to participate in alternative (read Competency/Mastery/Proficiency) assessment pilots authorized under ESSA.

APOST Out of School Time Leaning

Source: Open Records Request, Comments on Pennsylvania Education Plan

How much time is there before gig tutors and “citizen school” mentors largely replace full-time certified teachers? With mastery/competency/proficiency based education we are seeing a shift with credit flexibility to individual student contracts, coursework set up as ELOs where students can earn graduation credit “learning” at a local rock climbing gym, on the job, or even teach themselves! I’ve written a number of posts about how ELOs and after-school programs have opened the door to Ed Reform 2.0 here, here, and here.

Blended Learning: Digital Data Theft

It is hard to ignore the fact that schools are now data factories: academic data, behavioral data, health data, and mental health data. The language of this bill says as much given the “evidence-based” services they plan to provide. Tele-medicine and tele-therapy consultations carried out in educational settings under weakened FERPA protections will open new frontiers in data extractivism. Meanwhile, the populations creating all of this value remain uncompensated and surveilled.

Family Friendly Schools Act Mental Health

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act

Of course the mother lode remains digital curriculum and online behavior management. That data is mediated through screens and wearable tech, an apparatus through which the elite plan to to exert sustained discipline over the minds and bodies of the masses. In unstable times controlling volatile populations becomes a priority, which loosens the wallet and makes the funding of “family friendly” initiatives like this more of an imperative.

In the summer of 2011, Karen Kator, head of the US Department of Education Office of Science and Technology, convened a meeting in partnership with The After School Corporation (TASC) to discuss the nascent “blended learning revolution” that would be carried out through Community Based Organizations (CBOs)  in extended day programs, the type of program being promoted in this bill.

Out-of-School-Time instruction was seen as a great opportunity to expand online learning, because CBOs were viewed as risk-tolerant team players, that would tap into a predominately youthful workforce deemed to be “unafraid of technology.” Note close ties between the Boys and Girls Club and Comcast and the YMCA and United Way.

Meeting participants from City Light Capital expressed excitement about obtaining access to “users in early stages of product development” and the “variety of testing environments” offered.

Community Partners Ed-Tech ELOs - 1

Source: Blended Learning Partnerships For Community Based Organizations, US DOE, 2011

Extended day programming would allow privatization interests to refine Ed Reform 2.0 strategies like digital badges, e-portfolios, and interoperable data systems, the latter being incredibly important to the future of human capital impact investing. Over the past decade the Wallace Foundation (money from Reader’s Digest) led the creation of OST data systems and pushed for student information sharing as well as the collection of social-emotional learning data.

Blended Learning Community Based Organization CBO - 2

Source: Blended Learning Partnerships For Community Based Organizations, US DOE, 2011

Among the thirty-five attendees were:

Tom Vander Ark, Learn Capital and Global Education Futures Forum

Jaime Casap, Senior Education Evangelist at Google

Matthew Wicks, Vice President of Strategy iNACOL

Gary Chapman, Executive Vice President of Communities in Schools

Ursula Helminski, Vice President of External Affairs at the Afterschool Alliance

KJ Lavoie, Senior Director of Government Relations, Boys and Girls Club

Ivana Alexander, Senior Public Policy Manager, YMCA of the USA

Community Schools

During the week the Family Friendly Schools Act circulated through my social media feed, many teachers voiced anger and frustration at the prospect of longer work days. They shouldn’t have worried about overwork though;  the whole point of the bill is to push teachers out of schools as much as possible.

Mercedes Schneider, blogger at deutsch29, said the problem with the bill was a presumption that schools were “stable” places. She hints at the real issue in the closing line of her post where she notes the program should “exclude schools operated by third parties that are not directly responsible to the public.” Her analysis stops short, however, sidestepping the fact that the proposed legislation overlaps with the roll out of “community” school initiatives; initiatives enthusiastically supported by union leadership through AROS (the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools) and many social justice activists who seem not to realize what is actually going on.

Community schools have an important role to play in this privatization/financialization scheme. The Family Friendly Schools Act would create a vast network of schools tasked with collecting detailed family information, including social determinants of health. The plan is to bring intervention services (tele-medicine, tele-therapy) into schools where data is less protected and can be leveraged for impact investing purposes.

The selection below is taken from a US Department of Education FAQ on Expanded Learning Time under the ESEA Flexibility Waiver. Note references to anytime/anywhere learning, digital instruction, data sharing, e-portfolios and badges.

21st Century Community Learning Center Data Sharing

Source: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Frequently Asked Questions, Expanded Learning Time Under the ESEA Flexibility Optional Waiver.

There continues to be deep denial about the plan for “community” school wrap around services to be delivered by outside organizations funded through pay for success finance; that the system will run on data. Wake up everyone. When they say “community,” they mean the United Way. “Community schools” is Orwellian doublespeak, and it is diabolically hard to get double-thinking people to recognize that.

In a 2015 whitepaper Where It All Comes Together: How Partnerships Connect Communities and Schools, Martin Blank, former president of the Institute for Educational Leadership (supporter of the bill) and director of the Coalition for Community Schools, states that Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, made community schools a central part of her platform when she assumed leadership in 2008. That is the same time GIIN (Global Impact Investment Network) and human capital data markets (see Gambling With Our Futures) in privatized public services were getting off the ground. Coincidence?

The Coalition for Community Schools  is funded by foundations known for investing in human capital: Annie E. Casey, Ford, JP Morgan, and Atlantic Philanthropies. It has partnered with the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), the grandfather of wrap around service providers, carefully tended over the decades by billionaire hedge funders Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller. HCZ is where hundreds of impact equations have been refined, equations that will be leveraged across Promise Zone communities once conditions are right. Do Harris’s backers think that time is now? See this series of posts for further information.

While not as yet on record as supporting the bill, I want to bring to your attention Communities In Schools(CIS), the other high-profile “community” school organization with a national reach. They have advanced adoption of ISS or Integrated Student Supports and lobbied for it to be part of ESSA. In Work To Be Done: 2018-2022 Business Plan they describe their planned market expansion where affiliates are trained in evidence-based culture and data collection and pay for success targets and guidelines are developed. The following screen shots make it clear that “community” schools are in the business of “collective impact.” Affiliates that don’t deliver desired outcomes lose access to the “Communities In Schools” license and branding. This is not at all about altruism, but earned income, a growth model built on poverty and misery.

CIS Community School Licensee.jpg

Communities in Schools Pay for Success

Source: Work To Be Done: 2018-2022 Business Plan, Communities In Schools

SEL Investment Markets in Behavior Modification

Speaking of mental health, the timing of this legislation has everything to do with a growing demand for student social-emotional data (SEL). This is ostensibly for the purposes of “safety,” “well-being,” and career pathway alignment. While it may be a bit of that, the real deal is that engineering SEL data on dashboards creates opportunities for investors sold on the Heckman Equation to gamble on child data. Gross, right? They want the data to assess how “investible” students are, according to the numbers.

Proponents of SEL recognize that for a variety of reasons, listed here, they’re not going to get as much data as they want during a TRADITIONAL school day. But they DO want the data. So they’re planning on pulling in ELT/OST partners to get it. A 2015 study out of the Center for Cost Benefit Analysis in Education, Teachers College Columbia University suggested a whopping 11% return on investment for every $1 put into SEL programming. The Novo Foundation (Buffett $ via Warren’s son Peter) funded the study. They’re also one of the primary supporters of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning).

Cost Benefit Analysis SEL Columbia

SEL ROI 11 Percent Columbia

Source: The Economic Value of Social Emotional Learning, Center for Cost Benefit Analysis in Education, Teachers College Columbia University 2015

That’s an outcomes-based contract opportunity impact investors are not about to walk away from; so if Harris’s bill creates new opportunities to get that data through a “restructured” school day with complicit partners, they’re all in!

In fact, the language of the bill says each school receiving a grant must come up with a 10% match. The total award could be up to $5 million over five years per school. Right there is the open invitation for impact investors. Even with a bit of money in the game, they’ll be able to demand outcomes-data tied to grant performance. In this way they can exert pressure on partners to adopt digital “solutions,” because they provide “evidence” “with fidelity.” Among the supporters of the bill in Harris’s press release is the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), home to the Coalition of Community Schools. Current president Johan Uvin expressed excitement over enacting “innovative policies.” Martin Blank, president of IEL until 2017 was a promoter of student data sharing, touting the potential of community schools to expand partnerships (outsourcing) and leverage outside investment. See screenshot below from a report Blank co-authored.

Community Schools Expanded Learning Time ELT

Source: The Afterschool and Community School Connection: Expanding Learning Opportunities and Partnerships

Community school data sharing agreements brokered within the context of a reimagined school day open up quite the treasure chest. In the diagram below I show the interrelationship between extended learning, social-emotional learning (SE), community schools, and student data sharing..

Student Data Sharing Communities In Schools

Source: Community Schools / SEL / ELT / Family Friendly Schools Act (click link for interactive version)

Pay for Success in California

Kamala Harris is allied with Governor Gavin Newsom, Silicon Valley’s golden boy. Newsom is making strides setting up infrastructure for speculative human capital investing through early childhood education and trauma screening initiatives. Tech interests poured a substantial amount of money into Harris’s senate race. Her donors include Marc Benioff of Salesforce, the company that developed ImBlaze for Big Picture to track student behavior competencies; recently launched a social impact investing fund with Lumina and the Robin Hood Foundation; and partnered with China’s Jack Ma (Alibaba, social credit scoring).

Harris also helped found, with California’s first Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, the Youth Wellness Center that focuses on childhood trauma. The center has a deep stable of funders, many of whom are playing major roles in the development of data-driven human capital investing: Annie E Casey, Google, Tipping Point, JPB Foundation, Irvine, Packard, California Endowment. As I have written previously (here), my feeling is that the universal ACEs screenings reimbursed through Medicaid and promoted by Newsom and Burke Harris will be weaponized and fed into the machine of Big Data, creating the baselines required for NGO management of the lives of the poor.

California is five years into a pilot program to advance pay for success finance with support from the Irvine Foundation. Santa Clara County, in particular, has been a test-bed for various data-driven “innovative” financial contracting schemes, see my post on Silicon Valley Surveillance here. Harris’s co-sponsors all come from states that have pay for success pilots in the works. Make special note of Michael Bennet, because Colorado (along with Washington State) is in the lead position to adopt work-based education tied to digital identity and 5G / IoT infrastructure.

Family Friendly Schools Act Sponsors

Source: Family Friendly Schools Act Sponsors (click link for interactive version)

Kamala Harris: Ventura County Re-Entry Project, Project Welcome Home, Just In Reach, Partners in Wellness, Alameda County Asthma, Alameda County Justice Project, First 5 LA, Nurse-Family Partnership Orange and Sonoma Counties, San Diego REDF/CEO, San Francisco Homelessness

Richard Blumenthal, CT: Connecticut Family Stability Pay For Success Project

Sherrod Brown, OH: Partnering For Family Success, ResultsOHIO

Jeff Merkley, OR: The Way Home: Lane County Re-Entry Collaborative

Kristen Gillibrand, NY: Employment To Break The Cycle of Re-Incarceration, Rikers Island Social Impact Bond

Michael Bennet, CO: Denver Collaborative Runaway Youth, Multi-Systemic Therapy, Fostering Opportunities, Denver Supportive Housing (proposed)

As we consider the implications of an “anytime, anywhere” system of education where oversight is limited and pay for success profit derives from “fixing” poverty and trauma, it is worth noting that the when Harris was the District Attorney of San Francisco, her office refused to release information about their investigation into the sexual abuse of children by individuals associated with the Catholic Church. This non-disclosure continued despite repeated public records requests. San Francisco’s Archbishop William Levada was instrumental in the suppression of information about those crimes not only in the Bay Area, but nationally.

Compiling vast electronic dossiers on children, including the status of their families, mental health, and trauma scores, could put them at grave risk. We must give serious consideration as to the ethics of collecting and sharing sensitive data with community partners and mentors knowing full well that predators exist, and the most vulnerable children will become targets of abuse.

Even though it is unlikely that the Catholic Church will have a presence in a public school setting, the Vatican is a major investor in social impact projects globally. It has hosted three conferences in Rome on the subject in partnership with Notre Dame’s Mendoza Business School, and numerous representatives of technology companies from Silicon Valley, including Omidyar Network, attended. Many social welfare programs, including housing and healthcare, are administered through Catholic affiliated entities. There could easily be overlap with referrals for housing or other services made through “community school” networks. More on the Vatican and impact investing here, here, and here.

Kamala Harris and the Carceral State

Source: Kamala Harris and the Carceral State (click link for interactive version)

Policing Truancy

As California Attorney General, Harris established a Bureau of Children’s Justice with federal funding from Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative. The effort was aligned to “My Brother’s Keeper” an early-stage human capital management effort launched by Arne Duncan. Harris is a close friend of President Obama.

Truancy was a central focus of the bureau. In her acceptance speech for Attorney General, Harris stated “In San Francisco we threatened the parents of truants with prosecution, and truancy dropped by 32 percent. So, we are putting parents on notice. If you fail in your responsibility to your kids, we are going to work to make sure you face the full force and consequences of the law.”

Kamala Harris Attorney General

Harris spearheaded a 2010 law under which a $2,500 fine or a year prison sentence could be imposed on parents whose children missed too many days of school. A March 2019 feature, The Human Costs of Kamala’s War On Truancy, shares the story of one such parent, Cheree Peoples who at the time of her arrest was in the process of challenging the school district to obtain an IEP for her daughter who was chronically ill with sickle cell anemia. Harris then pushed for an expanded statewide data system to track truancy. That was a recommendation of her 2013 report on the “absentee crisis” In School + On Track. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it in 2014.

Truancy Data CA

Source: In School + On Track: Attorney General’s 2013 Report on California’s Elementary School Truancy and Absenteeism Crisis

Of all the pressing justice-related concerns in the state of California, why would Harris make truancy such a high profile issue? Well, it turns out that in the United Kingdom where social impact finance is considerably more advanced, truancy is an impact metric for investment purposes. This screen shot is taken from a 2015 Brookings Institution report that documented lessons learned from five years of social impact bond development.

Truancy SIB Rate Card UK 2015 Brookings

Source: The Potential and Limitations of Impact Bonds: Lessons From The First Five Years Of Experience Worldwide, Global Economic Development Brookings Institution, 2015

AttendanceWorks is a non-profit that spun out of the Casey Foundation in 2006 just as the human impact markets were getting set up. Since 2010 they have been advancing national policy around the truancy issue. Same old funders: Gates, Open Society, Casey, Kaiser Permanente, United Way. So it comes as no surprise that the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 combined provisions for pay for success with a requirement to select additional measures of school quality, one of which was attendance!

In the lead up to the passage of the ESSA, Harvard conducted an attendance study using Philadelphia School students as test subjects, Reducing Student Absences at Scale By Targeting Parents Misbeliefs. It was the quintessential nudge effort where parents were sent form letters comparing their child’s attendance with peers. Our family opted out, but I remember a flurry of negative parent comments when the ridiculous letters came home. Even the title of the paper, published a number of years later, speaks to the industrial nature of this intervention. The system doesn’t really care why a child is absent. The system is not willing to devote material resources to addressing problems. They just want to get data and game it for their benefit.

When you consider whether or not you believe Harris’s Family Friendly Schools Act is truly intended to be “family friendly,” think about Cheree Peoples and these truancy rate cards.

Cheree Peoples

Source: Molly Redden, Twitter


Pay for Success finance presumes/predicts a degree of future criminality and/or brokenness for targeted populations: Black, Brown, poor, disabled, and LGBTQIA. Through data analytics people are pre-emptively designated “broken” so they can, in turn, be “fixed” by “evidence-based” programs documented on data dashboards. This is the sleight of hand that allows financiers to filch the profit built into outcomes-based contracts for privatized services run by community partners.

These predictions are not in any sense “real,” but asserting pre-crime/ or pre-disease characterizations further marginalizes individuals identified as “at risk.” The judicial system, where Harris launched her career, is the largest cost-off set for impact investing, though chronic illness and under-productivity are in the mix, too.

According to James Heckman, the data that can be most readily manipulated for impact investing purposes is character data, or SEL (Social Emotional Learning) data. Informal learning provides a wealth of opportunities to gather SEL data via projects and group activities. The passage of Harris’s bill would expand opportunities to collect behavioral and workforce data and link it to speculative pay for success investments.

I have been theorizing the imposition of impact interventions and the profiling that goes along with it as a form of “pre-carceration.” In a world driven by predatory human capital investments, the poor are designated “pre-criminal,” because that is how they become valuable to fin-tech. In an augmented reality (AR) future, the world becomes a digital prison with an overlay of geo-fencing that can be arbitrarily deployed to restrict a person’s rights. This is what we are hearing about in China with social credit scoring. Privileges are conditioned on one’s compliance to prescribed behaviors. It is the role of compulsory education to prepare youth for such a future.

As a former Silicon Valley prosecutor turned faux-progressive policy maker, Kamala Harris embodies this pivot towards pre-carceration aligned to the interests of surveillance capitalism. We’re swapping the school to prison pipeline for a “cradle to career” pipeline, and yet the humanity and self-determination of Black and Brown students continues to be subordinated to the interests of transnational global capital. 

Old Wine, New Bottles

Capitalism is a violent enterprise that expands through primitive accumulation, taking value without paying for it. Education and social welfare data are part and parcel of this enterprise. Given the explosive growth in the ed-tech sector and the “community” school movement, it is not at all surprising that this bill would aim to expand the school day and further commodify social relations and facilitate the harvest of ever more stolen data.

As Dr. Justin Leroy, professor of African American history at UC Davis, notes, the afterlife of slavery (and I would add Indigenous genocide) persistently interrupts the presumption that history follows a progressive course; that its arc must by its very nature bend towards justice. While we desperately want to believe “family friendly” school legislation will bring justice, if you scratch below the surface, even a little bit, the charade starts to fall apart.

Because racial capitalism is embedded within the settler-colonial economic systems of the Americas, new manifestations of oppression and struggle play out as slavery re-emerges and adapts to new conditions. Our present condition is one characterized by the combined influences of technology, debt-finance, globalization and militarism. We organize and protest. They replace police with social workers. The control systems recalibrate, and the cycle of resistance begins anew.

I’d like to adapt a quote attributed to Jay Gould, nineteenth century railroad baron. Recognizing seismic changes are afoot with anticipated automation of worldwide labor, including platformed service and knowledge work, I anticipate we’ll see global capitalists attempt to impose systems of control along Gould’s line of thinking. One half of the population will be deputized to police the other half. This policing will take many forms from overt, state-sanctioned violence to subtle yet insidious forms of data surveillance carried out by outsourced social welfare providers, including educators. That is the “soft” policing of “community” schools. The elite are hoping this move towards pervasive “soft” policing will keep the pot from boiling over, and it might…for awhile.

Schools have always been sites for the powerful to instill societal expectations, such that everyone knows their place, fears stepping out of line, steady as she goes for those at the top and to hell with everyone else. In a world of ever-greater uncertainty teachers are no longer trusted to teach, but must cede their autonomy to playlists of scripted lessons said to produce “results.” Free thought, creativity, and self-determination in schools are extinguished in the name of accountability and safety. In schools today few feel safe, and that is by design.

How better to manage surplus labor than to sort the masses into oppressors and oppressed? Those “fortunate” enough to escape oppression thus become accomplices in unfolding atrocities, triggering self-delusion that makes it difficult to acknowledge let alone escape the circumstances into which they have been thrust. This may account for the profound sense of torpor and denial I see as technologized carceral systems lock into place. Where is the outrage over putting toddlers and un-housed people on Blockchain so people can gamble on their lives? The surveillance play tables? The nudges? So many desperately want to believe nothing bad is happening, because there isn’t yet an obvious Plan B.

This is not to imply struggle is for naught. Leroy notes that history moves in unexpected, cyclic, and palimpsestic ways. See Chilean protestors demanding their Pinochet-era constitution be trashed and Indigenous opposition to the Bolivian coup mounted in El Alto. Resistance to neoliberalism is demanded, tactics of non-compliance with the forces of transnational global capital must be embraced.

And yet those of us attempting to advance the cause of justice must proceed with caution. We have to recognize the ways the powerful seek to confuse and control the narrative. When does a “community” school imprison the community? When does a family-friendly school turn children into a speculative data commodities? Strategic framing is being used to conceal venal intent. We have to be savvy and alert and expose the hypocrisy.

Frederick Douglass spoke of pouring “the new wine of liberty into the old bottles of slavery.” That is what I believe is happening with Harris’s plans for an extended school day and expanded family services. Under the pretense of providing “help,” this law will install an apparatus of “soft policing” tied to pay for success finance to discipline and manage the poor for the profit of investors while undermining the social fabric of targeted communities.

I so appreciate Dr. Leroy’s analysis, and it was a gift to stumble across a new talk of his as I pondered how to write this post. His speech was delivered as part of an “Archiving Colonialism” panel given at Barnard in February of 2019. If you have fifteen minutes, watch it here. It provided me with a valuable framework within which to situate the digital carceral systems I see emerging with breathtaking speed under a banner of data-driven social justice. Eyes open everyone. Things are often not what they appear. A good rule of thumb; look at everything through a lens of racial capitalism. It’s amazing the clarity that brings.

Justin Leroy Archiving Colonialism

Source: Archiving Colonialism, full panel


A Letter to Chicago’s Teachers On the Perils of Pay for Success Finance & Wrap Around Services

I am writing this letter to the teachers of Chicago as you continue your strike.

I realize you probably won’t have time to read this until after your contract is resolved, but I felt it was important to put my thoughts down now while they are fresh in my mind.

I know you care deeply for your students, colleagues, and the communities you serve.

As the parent of a Philadelphia public school graduate, I know conditions for teaching and learning in under-funded urban districts are deplorable, and that is by design.

I commend the networks you have built to make your vision for well-resourced public schools a reality.

I appreciate the sacrifices you have made to bargain for “the common good.”

I am heartened to hear that you’ve already secured agreements to limit pre-k class sizes, ensure adequate staffing, and safe facilities, as well as guaranteeing the basic human right of toddlers to nap for an hour each day. Bravo.

In reading this contract briefing from July I sense your frustration with CPS’s cost cutting around staffing, especially with regard to the attempted automation of enrollment services. As CPS aims to open over 100 new pre-k classrooms by 2020, I’m confident you will continue to fight for the wellbeing of the children in your care.

Be advised that this will very likely require taking strong stands against pay for success finance and digital identity. Blockchain identity is being set up to underpin a new system of human capital speculation that will target the poor.

That Illinois Blockchain pilot?

Those Blockchain birth registries?

That data pouring into Evernym in Salt Lake City?

These are tools of racial capitalism that build on the Amply pre-k Blockchain identity app implemented by Innovation Edge in Cape Town, South Africa. Several of the parties involved in its development participated in a business-only, global pre-k summit held in New York last fall. The host, ReadyNation, has close ties to Pritzker and Heckman.

Amply is a social impact scheme where pre-k providers are reimbursed via Blockchain impact tokens earned through children’s daily attendance in the program. All the data runs through an app and children build “social capital” on Blockchain, while their families are monitored for compliance.


It’s the type of system that could easily evolve into social credit scoring of the type we’re hearing about in China. Last October GovLab, a MacArthur (Chicago) and Google-funded venture, based out of NYU’s Stern School created a case study for the Illinois Blockchain birth certificate pilot.

The value proposition presented was that individuals would eventually be able to aggregate into their “native digital identity” experiences and attributes “that they have gained throughout their lifetimes that allow them to do certain things or be eligible for certain benefits.” Universal pre-k and early intervention programs are being groomed to be the launch pad for imposition of digital identity. The crew from GovLab did a case study for Amply the very same month. The formatting is identical. It’s a package deal.

IL Blockchain Birth Certificate Social Credit Scoring

Source: Case Study Registering Births on the Blockchain Illinois

Blockchain and pay for success are well established in Illinois, and as the Chicago Teachers Union continues to advocate for equity, it is vital that members invest in the research they will need to grasp the immense threat that this “innovative” system of human capital finance linked to digital identity poses and to be able to articulate that threat to others.

As unions across the nation embrace social justice and expand bargaining positions to include community needs, there is a dire need for members to be able to effectively communicate to one another and their communities the ways in which emerging technologies and finance have combined to codify and automate longstanding systems of structural racism.

A good place to start is a report, Connecting Finance to Results: Can Emerging Technologies Make Impact Bonds More Impactful, that was prepared this spring by Frontier Technology Livestreaming for UK Aid. It features five platforms linking digital identity and Internet of Things tracking to outcomes-based finance funding for “social impact” initiatives.

Emerging Tech Impact Bond UK AID

Source: Connecting Finance To Results

Pay for success initiatives use a veneer of progressive language, like “engineering opportunity gaps,” to candy coat their poison pill of financialization. It is moving forward with bipartisan support, characterized as “what works” government. We need to teach people to decode their duplicitous messages and inoculate themselves against the propaganda that is to come. As the story goes, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. When  you do, you could find strings attached that create even greater problems than the ones you already had. Housing is a big concern in that regard.

Chicago Student Homeless

Source: Chicago Teachers’ Strike Highlights Student Homelessness

Imagine a union winning services for students experiencing housing insecurity, BUT the financing follows the  Project Welcome Home model. Well that is going to be a BIG problem, because this “homelessness breakthrough” was launched in Santa Clara, California and utilized a social impact bond that runs participant data through Palantir! Yes, Palantir, Peter Thiel’s evil company that develops secretive predictive policing software and maintains contracts with ICE. The pay for success projects in Santa Clara also pulled in regional health systems with ties to Catholic Charities, the largest community foundation in the nation, and Rocketship education. It’s a very messy business, which you can read more about here. Be sure to note the scorecards for poor families designed to track their “self-sufficiency” metrics. Grim stuff, very much in the vein of Boots Riley’s “Sorry To Bother You.”

Palantir Santa Clara

Source: Palantir “Welcome Home”

The co-founder of Palantir, Joe Lonsdale launched a cloud-based “government performance management system” in partnership with researchers from Stanford University back in 2012 to advance data-driven government using California local government budgets as case studies. It was framed as an effort to provide “efficiency” and  “transparency” in the post-economic crisis climate of enforced austerity.

The name of the venture was OpenGov, and it is one of a number of emerging civic-tech enterprises that will ultimately meld “smart” city, 5G,  Internet of Things sensors (that is Array of Things Chicago) with device-based government service provision. As “federated citizens” of the cloud, we will emerge as free-market data commodities. The growing ranks of the poor, even though they have limited purchase power, will continue to offer value to predator investors, this time as rich data commodities. Their compliance (or not) to the terms of pay for success will fuel the deals managed by Palantir among others.

The idea of “open” government data is meant to sound like a positive thing, but it was Robert Cheetham who successfully lobbied for open data policies in Philadelphia. He then used our data, a public asset freely handed over to corporate interests, to create predictive policing software that was then SOLD to the Chicago police department, among others (see HunchLab). People are not looking critically at these digital systems as they are being set up to control us. Big-data oversight is being integrated into the social welfare programs that caring teachers, including all of you in Chicago, have been demanding for students.  If you don’t have this information and can’t see the bigger picture the results for vulnerable families may end up being exactly the opposite of what you had intended.

Meanwhile, Opengov just completed another $50 million venture capital round. Their major backers include Andreessen-Horowitz, Emerson Collective, JC2 Ventures, and 8VC. The first two are heavily invested in disruptive education ventures. Additional investment has also come from Thrive Capital, managed by Josh Kushner, Jared’s brother.

OpenGov Palantir

Source: OpenGov The $50 Billion Startup

The affordable housing you seek for your colleagues? That too is a pay for success market. See below the teacher housing social impact bond set up in Richmond, CA.

Richmond Teacher Social Impact bond


The Federal Reserve System is deeply involved in pay for success affordable housing finance. Their success metrics focus on achieving “mobility,” that is moving low-income families OUT of their neighborhoods with “choice” vouchers. The vouchers are a tool that is being used to facilitate displacement and catalyze gentrification of properties that were subjected to redlining and disinvestment for decades.

I have seen this first hand in North Philadelphia, where a historically-Black community in a formerly red-lined zone had thousands of properties leveled and taken by imminent domain by the government for “affordable housing.” Four years later very little housing has been built and the lots are being flipped to New York developers for market rate developments. All of this overseen from the new $45 million HUD-funded headquarters of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Long time tenants are being pushed out of PHA housing and sent to the outer suburbs as the neighborhood’s rich Black history is eroded with each new pre-fab townhouse condo.

Now that these communities are becoming attractive to higher-income folks looking to move back into cities, the pay for success “mobility” program (Opportunity Atlas) provides cover to remove Black and Brown residents from their own neighborhoods. Of course the “improvements” in their life outcomes data is what creates the profit for the private investors in the pay for success deals. All of it amounts to abuse and cultural erasure. All those news articles about the benefits of moving a child from one zip code to another to “improve” their lives. Yeah, ultimately it’s about global capital shuffling the poor around to suit their own purposes. Did you think those in power would put a pause on austerity to redirect resources into communities for the CURRENT residents? Um no, not happening.

PFS Affordable Housing San Francisco Fed

Source: Leveraging The Power of Place Using Pay For Success To Promote Housing Mobility, San Francisco Federal Reserve

It is important to note the success metrics in the excerpt above. In this case the ones referenced are health and academic performance. You might ask how they intend to capture that impact data through housing. That is where Internet of Things sensors come in: home monitoring systems (NEST), virtual assistants (ALEXA), “smart” appliances (RING doorbells), digital content for education or mental health. All of this can become embedded in “supportive” housing, and it doesn’t have to be some futuristic house, many people already have these items in their homes. As with the Obama phones, these monitoring systems will be provided to low-income families in order to collect their behavioral data for the deals. Their right to shelter will become conditional on having their digital shadows harvested for global finance.

This excerpt from a white paper, Proof of Impact: Unlocking the Intrinsic Value of Impact Through Global Capital Impact Markets, outlining IoT “impact” verification tied to digital identity and finance shows the intended progression of the tracking systems as they become increasingly automated. They start out with individuals self-reporting with the ultimate goal being a reporting system that doesn’t involve humans at all, “end-to-end machine verification.” Some sensors exist in mobile phones: GPS, cameras, and biometrics. While others like satellite imagery and QR codes are become more commonly used. The price of obtaining real-time, “verifiable” data is dropping all the time. The data flows are what will drive the derivatives markets linked to the debt in the pay for success deals. That is why it is so important that the data collection be massive and always in motion, so the gamblers can play their games.

Proof Of Impact Sensor Blockchain

Source: Proof of Impact: Unlocking the Intrinsic Value of Impact Through Global Capital Impact Markets

Tiny houses are a perfect set up for IoT impact data capture, because they can be readily fabricated with all the required wiring and once complete become self-contained pods for individual data-extraction. They also limit social gatherings. It’s hard to organize mass movements in 200-square foot sheds. You get a sense of this watching a video promoting integrated ALEXA and NEST systems in a tiny house model using the Intel hub. While the appointments are slick and modern, you can’t help but get the feeling this is the new manifestation of the carceral state, life in a panopticon (see Yevgeny Zamyati’s 1923 novel WE for a preview). The finishing touches might be inserting a chip in the hand and a drone outside your door. Don’t think the tech oligarchs haven’t been thinking about this already…

If unions plan to wade into the affordable housing debate, their members need to know the terrain, ALL OF IT. Real estate developers eyeing up opportunity zones and hedge funders sizing up human capital in Promise Neighborhoods have staked out their positions. They’re planning to lead folks into the quick sand, so it’s best to know where you’re headed up front, stay focused, be clear, and keep on the right path.

Pay for success is not new to Chicago. Your city issued one of the first education social impact bonds in 2014 shortly after Salt Lake City. But Rahm and Pritzker did one better, because your city’s bond extends all the way from pre-k to third grade and includes reading scores as a success metric. In 2016, Goldman Sachs netted an initial maximum “success” payment for kindergarten readiness. There are many more payments to come. Pay for success has been incorporated into the Every Student Succeeds Act and there is seed money flowing in from the Social Impact Partnership Pay for Results Act. The technocrats are working really hard to bring this to scale.

Goldman pre-k SIB Chicago


In the July contract briefing Mayor Lightfoot noted her intention to expand pre-k access and wrap around services in “Education Zones” through a variety of funding mechanisms including “business and philanthropic communities.” That last bit is what you really need to pay attention to. The hedge funds are planning to target low-income communities, Promise Zones, for human capital investment schemes that will short the lives of children. It’s sickening, but true, and you need to be prepared.

James Heckman, a Nobel-prize winning economist based out that hotbed of neoliberalism the University of Chicago, developed a toolkit with funding from Pritzker that guarantees a 7-10% rate of return on private investments in early childhood programs. The catch is that the “success” metrics they want to use in their outcomes-based contracts are tied to character change. This requires the capture and analysis of social-emotional data that is increasingly pulled from software systems.

For your youngest learners this could look like digital surveillance play tables with fisheye lens cameras.

Hatch Table Monitoring

For older learners platforms created by hometown companies like OTUS, NWEA’s data partner, will be tracking behaviors including neuroticism. Only they’ll find another other more “user-friendly” term, because they don’t intend to pack the school board meetings with angry parents.

OTUS Neuroticism.jpg

OTUS and the neuroticism tracking clip here.

As you lobby for wrap around services to be offered IN schools, you must be mindful that since Obama gutted FERPA, data collected there is not nearly as secure as data collected in healthcare settings. Pay for Success has now been linked to Medicaid through value-based payment systems. This “innovative” form of finance relies on big data and predictive analytics to assign people degrees of anticipated brokenness, so investors in “evidence-based” “solutions” can take their profit. In this sick worldview, lead poisoning, asthma, diabetes, anxiety, and depression become potential sources of profit, cost-offsets for impact investment interventions.

Texas Telemedicine School.jpg


To secure private investment for these interventions copious amounts of data must be collected to prove the deals. Thus the “care” delivered must increasingly be mediated through devices so it can be precisely measured and efficiently scaled. As a result, we see growth markets in school-based telemedicine and tele-therapy. We are also seeing new markets develop in gamified digital medicine, which is pretty terrifying. It is not hard to imagine there will be strong financial motives to medicalize students and channel them into “evidence-based” treatments. When this happens will parents have the right to refuse? Or will access to public education be conditioned on agreeing to treatment programs that are designed to profit pay for success investors?

Teletherapy on Screens

Source: Teletherapy Fills K12 Mental Health Worker Gaps

You’re asking for more social workers, and I agree there are tremendous needs and deep trauma in our public schools. However if systems being set up to “help” families are also funded through pay for success, we will see families pushed onto “pathways” that involve prescriptive “non-solutions” designed to milk their poverty. In the world of “smart” Internet of Things-mediated digital surveillance, non-compliance will become harder and harder.

As mass ACE screenings are being advanced in California with growing interest in other states, we should pause to consider how those “scores” might be used in ways that reinforce existing systems of oppression and stigmatize children. There are indications that pay for success is being woven into ACEs treatments, too. Given the serious ramifications of putting sensitive information into hackable cloud-based systems, we must use great caution as we seek to find humane solutions that will truly heal communities rather than reinflict harm.

Social workers, while they may individually be very caring people, are ultimately agents of the state who are compelled to carry out policies with which they may not agree. I’m sure you can, as teachers, relate to being forced to work in ways you know are fundamentally harmful to children. I encourage you to watch this short video about Kathy, a community health coordinator whose job it is to assign treatment plans to multiple members of a formerly incarcerated person’s household. Kathy is paid each time a member of the family jumps through their assigned hoop. The world of social work is becoming more and more automated, data-driven. Their autonomy has been eroded. It is situation with which you can empathize.

I live in a city with extremely high rates of family separation from child protective services. You are probably aware that the State of Illinois had used an artificial intelligence program, Eckerd Connects, tied into its social welfare data system to predict abuse. The contract ended after disastrous results occurred, mistakenly flagging thousands of children as at risk. As you expand in-school services, an unintended consequence could very well be more families losing their children if their housing instability or food insecurity becomes officially known, uploaded as data to the cloud where algorithms might surface it later in unexpectedly damaging ways.

What Works Centre Machine Learning AI

The question is will the treatments offered be ones of care or coercion? When we know Goldman Sachs is lurking around in the shadows, how do we ensure children get the help they need without becoming a data commodity? Their needs, including housing, must not become the basis for a new data-extractivist economic house of cards. Their futures must be their own.

You all in Chicago are on the front lines of a coming techno-dystopia. You can’t wait to get what you bargained for and THEN ask about the financing. Don’t wait for the bait and switch, because once it happens it will be too late to roll back.

We need to demand structural change that addresses systemic racism and creates communities of care rather than pre-carceral systems of soft social welfare policing.

Let us work together on that. Your destiny is our destiny. Solidarity!








Pay for Success & the Opioid Crisis: Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign Radical Social Work Breakfast Presentation

The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign hosts a monthly breakfast to discuss radical social work and issues relating to the non-profit industrial complex. Follow us on Facebook here. I was invited to participate this month and wanted to post my presentation on pay for success and the opioid crisis, so the information could be shared more widely. Below is a video matching the voice recording to my slideshare, which can be accessed here.

Select resources mentioned in my presentation:

Blog post on the Connecticut Family Stability Project: here.

“Meet Kathy” community care coordinator video: here.

Saving Maine Schools on Tripp Jones, Mentor Network and New Profit: here.

Scottish Named Person legislation: here.

Machine Learning on social welfare records in the UK: here.

Harvard’s Next Generation of Human Services: Realizing the Vision: here.

Obama White House Pay for Success Opioid Report: here.

Illinios Blockchain Task Force Report: here.

Blockchain Disability Payments (Programmable Money) Australia: here.

Digital nudges in healthcare: here.

Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative: here.

Intel and Amazon “smart” tiny house video: here.

Philadelphia City Council Resolution 19077900″

“Authorizing the establishment of a “Special Committee on Child Separation In Philadelphia” to investigate child separation in Philadelphia’s child welfare system and develop recommendations to ensure compliance with State Child Protective Services Law to protect children and due process rights of families and prevent the unnecessary break-up of families. Sponsors: Councilmember Oh, Councilmember Bass, Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez, Councilmember Blackwell, Councilmember Johnson, Councilmember O’Neill, and Councilmember Squilla.”

David Oh Resolution On Child Separation in Philadelphia

David Oh Resolution on Child Separation in Phialdelphia Part 2


Has the Chamber of Commerce Hijacked YOUR Education System? Engineering Students For A Low-Wage, Gig Economy

I remember it well, a casual conversation with a neighbor on the sidewalk. It was a brief exchange, the kind that should’ve been quickly forgotten. At the time I knew nothing of Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary Letter” or the National Center on Education and the Economy. I hadn’t yet started mapping IBM and Digital On-Ramps, and Ideas42, the behavioral science research institute incubated at Harvard. I can’t remember the exact year, though it was probably some time after the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) but before Colorado and Washington State started talking about adopting the Swiss Apprenticeship model.

But it happens sometimes, certain moments stick with you over the years, important, even if you didn’t know exactly why at the time. Over the course of this particular chat, it came up that the board of the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) had begun to weigh-in on what courses would be offered at the school. Evidently classes were expected to align to economic indictors. For example, pre-architecture courses would need to be phased out, because “the numbers” indicated there wouldn’t be enough architecture jobs.

Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Education

Source: Closed Door Event on Business and Education, January 29, 2018, more here

Whose numbers? Not enough architecture jobs? At the time the city even had a charter high school specifically for architecture and design. Philadelphia’s four-year universities, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and Temple, all offered architecture coursework. So why should students choosing to pursue an Associate’s Degree first be shut out of the field?

In 2012, then mayor, now what works, Moneyball government talking head, Michael Nutter, appointed himself and six allies to the fifteen-person board of CCP. The president would be let go within the year, replaced by Dr. Donald Generals. Generals had formerly worked as an administrator at a questionable, now defunct, for-profit secretarial college in New York. The faculty did not support the appointment.

All of this happened shortly after the city accepted a Smarter Cities Challenge grant from IBM to develop our “human capital” via Gates and MacArthur Foundation-funded badging and career pathway initiatives. Did I mention Lisa Nutter, wife of the mayor now social impact investor, was executive director of Philadelphia Academies, the Digital On Ramps project lead, at the time?

IBM Smart Cities Grant Philadelphia

Source: IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, Philadelphia Report, 2011

MacArthur Badging

Source: Josesph DeiStefano, Philadelphia Inquirer

Quite a few of Nutter’s new board members were cozy with the Chamber of Commerce. You remember, that influential group that held a closed-door meeting on business’s role in public education at Girard College during the winter of 2018 (see below).


Well, this is the current board of CCP:

Patrick Clancy: CEO of Philadelphia Works who implemented Pennsylvania’s Welfare to Work program and helped draft the state’s WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) plan.

Harold Epps: Philadelphia Director of Commerce and co-chair of Comcast’s National African American Advisory Council

Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend: CEO of Philadelphia Youth Network, data-driven school-to-work effort and Digital On Ramps partner

Lydia Hernandenz-Velez: Long-time board member of Aspira charter schools and retired administrator from the city’s Department of Aging

Steve Herzog: Former Vice President at Philadelphia Energy Solutions and board member of Philadelphia Academies, work-based learning and original host of IBM’s Digital On Ramps Program

Sheila Ireland: Executive Director Philadelphia Office of Workforce Development and co-founder of West Philadelphia Skills Initiative

Sharon A. Jean-Baptiste: Regional Director for Solutions and Technology at Jacobs, an architecture, engineering, and science firm

Rosalyn McPherson: President of The Roz Group, publishing and cultural consulting, former President of the Urban League and board member of the National Philanthropic Trust

Mindy Posoff: Managing Director of Golden Seeds, institutional investor on board of the Philadelphia Foundation and Ben Franklin Technology Partners

Hon. James Roebuck: Pennsylvania State Representative 188th Legislative District, board member Philadelphia NAACP

Michael Solieau: Vice President of Strategy at Comcast (Comcast was a sponsor of the Chamber event above)

Jeremiah White: CEO White Associates, business development and non-profit fundraising and co-founder Intercultural Family Services

A scan of credentials indicates a group representing the interests of technology, finance, and data-driven human capital investment. No educators in the mix. Skills, skills, and more skills! For the past few years the media has been beating the drum around the “skills gap.”

Skills Gap

Industry needs more “middle skill” workers they cry. Harness education to industry and re-skill as needed to facilitate “pay for success” payouts. Earn a badge, and investors take their cut. That’s the program Bill Gates and the tech sector have been setting up since at least the early 1990s.

Leverage research coming out of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative.

Turn education into training.

Put it online.

Track people, especially the poor, using screens, phones, and wearable tech.

Internet of Things “life” shifts to “anywhere” surveillance.

Collect data, lots of it.

Profile people through their digital competency badges.

Predict their futures.

Gamble on their life outcomes.

As in the matrix, people will be the batteries for these hedge fund games.

The image below touting Pay for Success finance for workforce training from the Federal Reserve? That is a direct descendent of Art Rolnick and Steven Rothschild’s Human Capital Performance Bond program, developed in the mid 1990s in Minneapolis-St. Paul (more on that here).

Pay for Success Workforce Skills Federal Reserve

Source: Pay For Success: How Emerging Finance Tools Are Supporting Workforce Development, Federal Reserve of Richmond white paper, 2019

So, I think it best to pause a moment and reflect on the nature of today’s globalized economy. Is it serving the interests of the legions of precarious workers with erratic schedules, heavy workloads, and few, if any benefits?


Is it killing the planet?


Now imagine the consequences of allowing corporate interests to dictate what coursework can be offered in public education institutions. What happens once members of the chamber of commerce are able to order up talent in quantities to flood the markets? They’ll be able to  to cherry pick top applicants for bargain-basement wages, and tax payers will have footed the bill for this just-in-time training, too.

Good for c-suite executives, bad for regular folks.

And what happens when a majority of gigs are STEM-related and entail people building and maintaining the technological infrastructure of the “smart” (extremely hackable) police surveillance state? And why do we have to have so many STEM jobs? Because those in power are systematically diverting manufacturing, service, and knowledge work to robots and synthetic humans. So all that is left for most us to do is to code the shadowy surveillance mixed reality world?

No thank you.

Epic Games Mike Seymour Unreal Engine Synthetic Humans

Does it make sense to feed coming generations into a machine designed to shred their souls, while lifting up a few exceptional individuals whose role it is to convince everyone to stay in the game in the hopes that they, too, can come out a “winner?”

As the mom of a nineteen-year-old, humanities-loving kid, that’s a definite NO from me.

Once the career pathways programs are locked down, plays and poetry and foreign languages and philosophy and history will be pushed so far to the margins as to be almost non-existent outside some dumbed-down Common Core State Standard. Books? Who reads books? They’re raising up cadres of students that know little more than screens and video games.

Already, many young teachers are in a bind. Their education took place under regimes of standards-based repression. They don’t know what it was like before everything was tied to a rubric. Corporate interests play a long game. They look 20-30 years out. They’re patient. Over the past few decades they systematically pushed out veteran teachers and created a school culture that would meet their requirements for a marginally-educated, compliant labor pool that would play well with robots and know their place (or be too afraid to step out of line).

So what exactly is going to happen in this brave new world of “work” and engineered economies when people want to leave their home state or get off their assigned pathway? Where are you supposed to go if regional workforce boards control the types of careers on offer and act as gatekeepers for required credentials? If you do a certain type of work can you only reside in a certain region?

It’s strange to me that so few are talking about any of this as corporate America builds out the cradle-to-gray “lifelong learning” pipelines, and Naviance and Clever and the ACT are tracking our children data point by data point to calculate in precise measure their future productivity ratings for a wretched, broken system.

I direct you now to Pennsylvania’s 2018 WIOA plan. It notes the fastest growing employement sectors in my state are dominated by low wage jobs, wages that are insufficient to support a family especially in areas where housing costs are rising. In addition, many of the jobs are physically taxing, unstable, and come with few benefits. As people are working into their 70s with no retirement security, what are they supposed to do? Now Walmart is eliminating greeters and embracing robot shelf scanners. Even THAT work is gone. People’s labor is being made redundant as levels of wealth inequality grow precipitously.

High Growth Industries 2018 WIOA Plan for PA

Source: WIOA State Plan for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania FY-2018

The excerpt below, from another section of the 2018 WIOA plan for Pennsylvania, makes it crystal clear that the state is looking to short-change its OWN staff, giving preference to online self-serve CareerLink portals over bricks-and-mortar centers with actual people who can assist job seekers face to face and develop relationships with them.

We are aligning education to a crap economy AND the most vulnerable are going to be the ones harmed in the process. They will be funneled into jobs that will never let them achieve independence and they will become ALICE data fodder for the impact investment predators.

WIOA Pennsylvania 2018 Areas of Improvement

So WHO set up these pathways?

The effort really started to gain traction in the mid 1990s after Bill Clinton took office. It very much parallels advances in technology, the idea being that as economic changes speed up, human capital will have to do the same. Over the past twenty-five years education has become more and more data-driven, because Clinton harnessed it to the tech sector when he created the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative through Executive Order 13111 in 1999. IMS global emerged from Educause, heavily funded by Gates, and education was pushed more and more towards the banking model of information consumption to feed growing global computing markets and eventually human capital investment markets via Pay for Success.

Advisory Committee on Training 13111

Source: Advisory Committee on Training Opportunities and Executive Order 13111

In addition to creating a federal infrastructure to grow online learning for government employees and ALL Americans, Clinton also created an advisory committee tasked with linking that digital training to employment. The two committee co-chairs were Christine Hemrick of Cisco Systems and Hilary Pennington who served on the Clinton transition team as a tech advisor and had for many years been CEO at Jobs for the Future (JFF). Eventually Pennington left JFF to work for the Gates Foundation and is now Vice President for programs at the Ford Foundation. In 2017, the Ford Foundation made a commitment to place $1 billion of its endowment into impact investing over a ten-year period.

For Foundation Impact Investing

Source: Ford Foundation Is an Unlikely Convert to ‘Impact” Investing, NY Times, April 13, 2017

Kairos Ford Foundation

One of the Ford Foundation’s current grantees (above) just happens to be the Poor People’s Campaign based out of the Kairos Center. I can imagine the workforce pathway impact investment program dovetailing with this initiative.

Clinton had signed the School-to-Work Opportunities Act in 1994, a year or so after Marc Tucker sent the “Dear Hillary Letter.” That jump-started work-based learning efforts. Jobs for the Future, the American Youth Policy Forum and the National Association of Secondary School Principals developed a paper on “revitalizing” high schools to advance the career pathway effort. This 1995 report embraced many of the ideals promoted in Tucker’s letter to Clinton and includes concepts I have called Ed Reform 2.0: certificates of completion, alternative work-based learning programs , competency-based education with performance assessments, and alternative credentialing systems. The plan was to create a workbased-learning program that would be attractive to employers due to its flexibility, responsiveness, and alignment to regional workforce goals. Excerpts from the report below.

University of Wisconsin CBE Competency Based Education

Peformance Asseessments

Certificate of Initial Mastery

Workforce Education Flexible

It is no coincidence that JFF brands itself as a social-impact enterprise. Tracking “opportunity youth,” immigrants, and returning citizens into training and employment has become an enormous “pay for success” investment sector in recent years. In fact the US Department of Education awarded JFF and Social Finance $2 million in 2016 to pay the cost of giving technical assistance to partners interested in piloting pay for success financed work-based learning initiatives. This award was one of the first two issued after the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA included authorizing language for the controversial pay for success finance initiative. These are JFF’s partners.

Jobs For the Future Partners

Below is a list of grants from four of the organization’s major funders, including a combined $120 million in grants from the Gates Foundation.

Gates Foundation Grants Jobs For The Future

Nellie Mae grants link JFF to the competency based education model.

Nellie Mae Grants to Jobs for the Future

Lumina Foundation grants link JFF to talent development and alternative digital credential systems.

Lumina Foundation Grants to Jobs For The Future

William and Flora Hewlett foundation grants link JFF to Open Education Record (OER) meta-data and impact philanthropy.

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to Jobs for the Future

So now we imagine college students placed on digital on-ramps to lifelong-learning pathways defined by plug-and-play competencies. Students set up to exhaust themselves curating portfolios of high-demand micro-credentials in the hopes they can successfully run the algorithmic, gig-economy gauntlet that is being built around them.

In this current landscape of economic uncertainty, education at all levels is becoming less about knowledge creation and more about training for the next job and the next and the next; because the only constant is that there will always be the NEXT job. The idea of career stability swept away as the door closed on the twentieth-century.

Jobs for the Future Little Sis

Interactive version of map here.

People are expected to suck-it-up-buttercup, because life on the Blockchain is coming. Earn your badges and integrate yourself into the borg. That’s why schools are pushing ten year olds to start career portfolios; why middle schoolers must have Naviance accounts so Hobsons can data-mine them; and why high school students are expected to participate in work-based learning so they can find their “passions” while having their “soft skills” assessed, even though most experts agree the “future of work” in a mixed-reality world industrial automation remains one big question mark.

After that conversation I wondered what other changes were underway and what was motiving those changes. Fast-forward a few years. I now see how we’re moving towards an engineered economy designed to serve the interests of transnational global capital. Our futures increasingly shaped by the mandates of workforce-planning boards, each region assigned a handful of growth industries.

The letter Marc Tucker sent to Hillary Clinton as Bill prepared to take office in 1992 proposed a vision that was “very complex, will take a long time to sell, and will be revised many times along the way.” And so it began, this kernel, evolving over twenty-seven years into a tech-mediated program of global human capital management where people are reduced to the stackable credentials in their learning lockers and predictions about their productivity as workers.

Lumina Salesforce Robin Hood Workforce

Source: New Alliance Will Invest In Education And Workforce Development Companies, October 29, 2018

Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, Every Student Succeeds, all advanced the vision fronted by Tucker, step by step with the support of Democrats and Republicans and the computer industry and the military research often carried out in the labs of esteemed universities. It was a vast network of public-private partnerships that generated the framework for this coming cybernetic dystopia.

And so as I went back over the “Dear Hillary Letter” in detail, it sunk in that these people must have envisioned a future of financialized humanity. Maybe they didn’t know it would involve Blockchain smart contracts, but they certainly understood the policy changes that would be needed to turn people into commodities in vast talent marketplace managed by transnational corporations who expected to be able to bend the law to their will, operate above it if need be. IBM, Exxon, Battelle, the true “globalists” would harness people to an Internet that was insinuating itself into our lives in unsettling and intrusive ways.

Tucker carried the ball as far as he could and recently retired after a long career at the National Center on Education and the Economy, founded under the guidance of the Carnegie Corporation. This January he turned the reigns over to Australian Anthony MacKay, ushering in a new era of openly globalized education for digital age learners. MacKay also co-chairs the Global Education Leaders Partnership with Valerie Hannon of the UK Innovation Unit and has ties to the OECD, “deeper learning,” and innovative schools across a dozen countries.

OECD Impact Investing.jpg

Interactive version of map here.

I suspect given levels of economic uncertainty, some find solace believing this digitally engineered system will work for people. I mean who wouldn’t want students to have good options? Isn’t that what they are pitching? Follow the pathway to prosperity. Trust us… we’re the techocrats.

We WANT for students to be able to get good jobs that allow them to pay back their debt. But do we REALLY think schools and employers will prioritize the interests of students and workers over those at the top of the economic pyramid (looking at you Bill Gates)? Especially when those students and workers are Black and Brown and poor?

It doesn’t take much looking around to realize the Fourth Industrial Revolution is offering no guarantees of living wage work that might enable a majority of people to support their families in dignity and contribute to their communities. Keyword searches “Task Rabbit,” “gig economy,” or “just-in-time workforce” for confirmation of that. In fact, the workforce plan for Southeastern Pennsylvania specifically references the gig economy as a GROWTH AREA.

SE PA WIOA Gig Economy

The top ten high-growth jobs for our region? Six of them pay well below $15 per hour.

SE PA WIOA Plan 2017-1

How will we ever escape our collective Stockholm syndrome if we allow our public institutions to be subsumed within toxic public-private partnerships? Testimony given by former Ohio Senator Ralph Regula on the High Skills Competitive Workforce Act of 1991, stated that “Business knows what sort of formal education is best and what would help their employees and their profit margins, and I think if this is to be successful, the business and industrial community needs to be very much a part of shaping a final package.”

But education, alone, is insufficent. Credentials are meaningless if after 13, 15, 17, 21+ years of knowledge creation young people are pushed into a world where their talents have no perceived economic value. We must reimagine an economy of care, not austerity. One that is just, cooperative, and works within the environmental constraints of our dangerously compromised planet. That will not emerge from this straight-jacketed model. Chamber of Commerce-endorsed pathways of human capital processing will only usher in greater inequality and ever more repressive labor tactics.

To successfully navigate the immense challenges coming our way, the next generation needs a system of education that acknowledges past harms and pushes towards collective liberation. It will have to heal the damage caused by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, no small task. It will require free thought, creativity, human relationships, and opportunities to experiment freely and learn from mistakes. It will require culturally responsive practice and time and space to relearn how to be together in community.

It will also require a decisive redistribution of resources and power away from predatory consultants, think tanks, bean counters and “vulture philanthropy” back into the hands of people at the local level. If we hope to get to a future that is less financialized, less data-driven, less debt-burdened, less racist, there will have to be a great reckoning and a rebirth. It won’t be easy, but what else is there to do but try?

I highly recommended the book Between Earth and Empire by John P. Clark. It includes some difficult truths but is balanced with a sense of hope, too.

Between Earth and Empire


Vanquishing the Windigo: Standing Up to Marc Tucker and Digital Capitalism

I’ve embarked on some intense Internet peregrinations lately, and work has been super busy. But it keeps me grounded in the real, physical world for which I am eternally grateful. It is captivating, full of generous people and natural wonders. It’s worth fighting to protect, which is why I continue to wander and try to share the information I stumble over along the way.


I’m excited to finally have a free weekend to write. I feel a growing sense of urgency as I connect with more and more folks across the country. Alaska, California, Utah, Illinois, North Dakota, Oklahoma…the pressure is intensifying, everywhere. If these thoughts seem somewhat scattered, bear with me. This is more an exercise in unburdening than some of my other posts.

Our current education system, admittedly far from perfect, is in the process of being dismantled. Its replacement? Digitally mediated, “lifelong learning,” workforce-aligned pathways. They’re being pitched in Colorado and Washington State as the “Swiss Model.” Other states are seeing the emergence of Markle Foundation-funded Skillful initiatives. Then there’s the normalization of gamified behavioral compliance tied to digital economic incentives paralleling this transformation.

Frighteningly, it appears education settings from P-20 are being set up to train future generations to accept and participate in the construction of STEM-centric worlds steeped in cyber-security. No hard hats required, just an up to date eyeglass prescription. Everyone expected to do their part to build and secure these new “worlds.” No one spared, not even preschoolers.

We must understand the nature of worlds built in code.

They will exist as augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality.

They will be digitized, data-rich, and surveilled.

They will come with embedded nudges imposed by algorithms.

They will become automated, eventually beyond human control.

These are worlds where human agency could be extinguished.

They will be alluring, tempting by design.

They serve the interests of finance, technology, and incarceration/defense.

They are fraught with danger, and the oligarchs want our children to build them.

pre-k coding

Source: 250 Preschoolers Learning Coding, Global Hour of Code, School4Kidz

If you take a peek behind the curtain, you’ll see transnational global capital is strategically lining up new profit centers to feed off the social disruption wrought by impending (or in many corners of the world, ongoing) economic and climate catastrophe. As the real world falls apart, the masses will be herded into gamified shadow worlds where they can be data-mined and controlled. Norbert Weiner saw it coming decades ago, and now technological advances are catching up. Life processes, including education, are data-driven with a laser focus on performance management and “growth.” Our behaviors are sources of profit, human capital an investable commodity where the elite play with lives, predict futures, and gamble on outcomes. If this is new you, take a minute to read this post.

Given recent remarks by Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, it seems likely today’s toddlers will be navigating a 5G world of ubiquitous computing where wearable technologies track their every movement, and perhaps emotions, in real time. Our interactions in Internet of Things environments will generate the data to run human capital impact markets.

AT&T 5G Randall Stephenson

Source: Randall Stephenson, Banking At The Speed Of Light, Fin-Tech in a 5G World

Exactly what kind of education does one get in a panopticon, especially a mixed-reality panopticon where state surveillance and military interests had a hand in building the simulations that surround you? I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by the military’s keen interest in weaponized narrative. In the dreams of Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Pierre Omidyar, our AR future will be navigating worlds with “personalized” digital overlays (see Vernor Vinge’s book Rainbows End for insights into this) that maintain tight control as populations are acclimatized to volatile environments of violence and scarcity.

It continues to amaze me what we attempt to normalize. I learned today that SoftBank’s Nao mini-robots are being piloted for handwriting instruction, and in a cruel plot twist it’s the children who are supposed to be teaching the robots! Scroll through the project list for GAIPS, a Portuguese lab specializing in human-computer interaction, social robots, intelligent agents and synthetic characters. Seriously, take your time and get an eye-full; maybe then you’ll begin to feel the intense dread rising in my gut.

Nao CoWriter Project

Source: Nao CoWriter Project

What does the rise of social robots and avatar companions portend for the future of work, the digitization of personal relationships, and even our grip on reality? Who put the computer scientists in charge, and why are they building a world where robots replace people?

This, for me, is a somewhat rhetorical question, since I recognize that as we exceed the carrying capacity of the earth, capitalism really has no choice but to jump into the virtual realm and take us, as digital commodities, along with it. That is the logic of overconsumption united with lean production: a redundant workforce continually performing material acquisition on a dying planet. I had a fleeting insight into this back when my child “played” with Webkinz a decade ago. We’re conditioned as consumers to think plush animals “mining gems” in order to furnish virtual rooms is perfectly normal. In retrospect, I’m rather appalled that I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.

Human Robot Interaction Robot Work

Source: ACM / IEEE Human Robot Interaction Conference

Epic Games Mike Seymour Unreal Engine Synthetic Humans

Source: EPIC Games, Unreal Engine Presentation, Disney Accelerator 2017

Notre Dame is coordinating a team of researchers tasked with refining wearable sensors to predict workplace performance based on biomarkers including sleep, stress, and daily patterns of behavior. I-ARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency) funded Project Tesserae to the tune of $8 million. Imagine how that will interface with these workforce pathways programs.

Tesserae Project

Source: The Tesserae Project: Large-Scale Longitudinal, In Situ, Multimodal Sensing of Information Workers

It’s the type of labor surveillance Frederick Taylor and the scientific management crew could only dream of. Bluetooth beacons tracking movement throughout one’s home, and based on the data predicting one’s future performance. Precision tools to rate productivity; it’s just the thing for an era in which only top-tier applicants will actually be allowed to work. The Hunger Games funded with our tax dollars, rolled out in cooperation with esteemed institutions of higher education. Are we getting our money’s worth?

Project Tesserae Beacons

As the Davos crowd gears up for a Fourth Industrial Revolution that doesn’t need all that many people, employment desirability is going to hinge on a worker’s proof of compliance, conformity, flexibility, and resilience. The elite want cogs that can be re-machined as needed. No squeaky wheels allowed in a digital economy that moves like the wind. Schools are being re-tooled to accommodate the new industrial system. With that re-tooling comes disruption and destruction. The existing system has started to crumble, but not enough people realize the nature of what is to come.

According to a talk Robert McChesney gave in 2016 for his book “People Get Ready: The Fight Against A Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy” major industrial firms are poised to gut their workforce. They have the capacity to do it now, but the transition would burn down the middle class, and so they’re trying to figure it out. See the excerpt from his talk below:

Robert McChesney

Source: Robert McChesney and John Nichols-The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy, 2016

“Just a couple of professors at Oxford researching artificial intelligence, economists actually, now have determined that roughly fifty percent of existing jobs in the United States will be eliminated within the next ten to twenty years by robotics and artificial intelligence. That’s not an uncommon feeling at all.

There’s a leading CEO a few months ago, of one of the largest industrial corporations in the world, in a private meeting a former PhD student of mine was able to attend recently in Germany. He gave a very interesting presentation. He’s head of a large company, several hundred thousand workers in Germany and factories all over the world, and his workers in Germany are union workers. They have really good wages, the sort of jobs American workers had forty years ago. They’re the backbone of the German middle class, and someone in the question and answer period asked the CEO, he said is all that stuff about automation and robotics really something serious that we should be concerned with?

And he (the CEO) said, not only is it serious, we have the capacity right now to completely automate every factory we have in the world, including Germany. And he said, but we can’t do it politically right now; that’s the only thing that is stopping us. Because, and this is the quote translated from German, “If we were to automate our factories in Germany, the middle class would burn.” German social order would collapse. That’s how serious, in his view, it was. In Germany companies like the one he has, has workers on the board of directors by law, so it makes a bit dicier to do things like that than it would be in the United States, but he also said it’s just a matter of time until that happens.”

People sense something is wrong. They realize neighborhood schools are becoming places of dread: toxic buildings, live shooter drills, teachers held captive to rigid curricula, and students data-mined in ever more intrusive ways. Universities are merging, shuttering whole departments, reinventing themselves as digital diploma mills, an outcome predicted by David F. Noble. All of this this is happening as a full court press is being made to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. If you’re not already aware, education is UN SDG 4 and fully embraces digital technology as the “solution” to global poverty. Not coincidentally it creates markets for ed-tech, cloud computing, and human capital social impact investments, too.

UN SDG 4 Playbook ICT

Living wage employment opportunities shrink as student debt grows, and we are confronted with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) gatekeepers that deploy facial recognition technology to determine if a job candidate’s smile is fake or if they’re prone to boredom. It’s looking pretty bleak out there.

With all of that weighing me down, it’s hard to motivate myself to sit and focus and sift through my scattered thoughts to bring some order to these trends that are both grim and overwhelming. So, before I took to my chair I made a batch of scones, chocolate chip scones. And as I prepared the dough I listened to the reassuring words of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s audiobook “Braiding Sweetgrass.” I so love her voice.

In the chapter I was listening to Kimmerer spoke of the Windigo, a mythic beast of the north woods’ winter that stalks families during the hunger time. It represents insatiable, destructive, all-consuming greed. The Windigo’s nature is isolation. It stands in opposition to the affirming qualities of reciprocity, connection, and belonging. It is cast out, a prisoner to a hunger that can never be satisfied. You see, the Windigo is a manifestation of capitalism, a force that would turn all our social relations, including knowledge creation, into commodities to be devoured and obliterated.


As Tim Scott notes in Common Schools and the Nationalistic Aims of Public Education in the U.S., “compulsory mass education serves as an essential element in cultivating dutiful citizen subjects who will consent to (or champion) the demands and interests of those in power.” In the United States those are the capitalists, the ones who demand the digital worlds be built.

With the rise of technology public education has become a node not only of social reproduction, but also of profit extraction. The Carnegie Corporation (Andrew Carnegie, steel money) created the “Carnegie Unit” credit hour to ensure children would be systematically exposed to the ideas that would maintain the his social order. Schools were set up to transform agricultural laborers into the factory workers needed by the new economic system. Scott notes this social order was born of a marriage of nationalism and industrialization. For over a century, children had to be physically present in a school building with other children and a teacher to accomplish the required conditioning.

Now we have new system, one where robots will push out human labor: physical labor, service labor, and knowledge labor. For this new age Carnegie plans to jettison the eponymous credit unit, along with the old-fashioned notion of “seat time.” Adoption of 1:1 device-based education means learning IN school buildings is no longer required. The ruling class will soon be able to farm out young children under pay for success contracts to non-profit providers and send the older kids home.

Work-based learning is the new thing. “Learn to earn.” People are drawn to it, hoping such a program will offer their children stability, when precisely the opposite is true. Regional workforce plans being adopted under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act foresee a world where a majority of folks are yoked to the gig economy; the education level required only a bit above a high school diploma. It doesn’t serve the interests of the elite to over-educate people they plan to control. Too much free thought is a threat. Washington State is on the leading edge. Seattle is tech’s test-bed.

WIOA Washington Workforce Plan Precarious Labor

Source: Talent and Prosperity For All: The Strategic Plan For Unlocking Washington’s Workforce Potential, 2016

Personalized learning will advance social efficiency in ruthless new ways, turbocharged by AI feedback loops. Gamification will condition students to loyalty and competition. Instead of relying on school communities to instill social cohesion, the elite are tapping learning engineers to maximize the profit that can be squeezed from the “educational process,” while tracking students into career pathways that will replicate long-standing patterns of oppression tied to race and class. In digital systems of education, students have no idea how the system is set up (rigged). Those who make the rules have the advantage as Wharton professor Kevin Werbach points out in the clip below. Rules can be surprising; therefore it’s always better to be the person making the rules. Thus, hegemony is maintained even as the population transitions to digital “second lives.”

Kevin Werbach Rules Matter 1 .jpg

Source: Professor Kevin Werbach on Gamification, Wharton Lifelong Learning Tour

Today, playlist education is becoming the default. Device-based instruction isolates children, making them vulnerable to the Windigo. Ed-tech conditions students to see themselves as the center of their own universe, to view their accomplishments numerically, to work within the set system, to be obedient. In the “knowledge” economy, brains are commodities to be mined and shaped through “evidence-based” interventions. As digital worlds gain prominence, we will see a doubling-down on systems of control, discipline of body and thought. In a world of centralized power, creativity will be seen as a threat, unless channeled into acceptable outlets like video game design.

Minecraft Education

Thus a new system of education will be established to meet the needs of the new world of digital capitalism as it is being constructed, for it is a very substantial undertaking that will require extraordinary effort. This education system will be designed for a globalized gig economy; “human capital” futures traders; and carceral systems tapped to police surplus labor. As STEM takes center stage, the humanities and arts are left to wither. How will the digital worlds be built on schedule if students are given the option to paint, write stories, perform concerts, deconstruct historical mythologies, or theorize new economic systems? Those in power do not want alternate thinking. Executive function, focus, grit and resilience are traits they deem desirable for a world where the speed of technological advances will constantly test the mental endurance of the global labor pool.

WIOA Washington State Hiring Difficulty SEL

Capitalism continues to evolve. Many say that the system cannot hold; it is has come to a breaking point. That I would dispute, because I can see its tentacles already reaching into nascent virtual worlds. I suspect the Windigo is already poking around the corners of Minecraft, seeing what it can turn up. Gates knows this and has been preparing along with the Entertainment Software Association. Disney, the military, the simulation experts are out there setting the templates for the worlds to come. They will attempt to herd us into false universes, populated with avatars and synthetic people. For many it will be hard to tell what is real from what is not. It will be difficult to construct a cohesive identity. It will be a strain. Those in power know that, which is why we are seeing a ramp up in mental health assessments. They will use Big Data to cull those perceived to be weak, even in the trans-humanist realm.


Source: Decentraland

The building of these new worlds and the plan to track private property as digital assets on Blockchain demonstrates the flexibility and tenacity of empire. As in previous eras, colonizers are bound to seize assets. While some contemplate a utopian crypto-commons, the reality is corporate and carceral interests will have already staked out the choicest amenities well before commoners make themselves at home. The crypto valley is the playground of global finance and the state (surveillance / military). Battalions of cyber soldiers are being assembled across the country in places like the Virginia Cyber Range.

Virginia Cyber Range

Source: Virginia Cyber Range

Assets will be seized as they are created, new worlds stolen, even as they are made manifest, through the unwaged or under-waged labor of refugees, prisoners, and students. It is their lives that will be sacrificed to the creation of the virtual realm. After the frontier was closed and imperial pursuits exhausted, Silicon Valley stepped up to offer a new world ripe for plunder. They’ve been laying the groundwork for nearly fifty years. Capitalism always has a back up plan.

In closing, I want to bring in Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Tucker made a lengthy career as a tool of Carnegie. In the late 1980s NCEE floated the idea of restructuring education, planting the seeds of the Competency-Based Education agenda that would eventually be wedded to technology through SCORM and xAPI interfaces. Its progressive branding cloaked the toxic elements it advanced, including a technology-based “total quality management” approach that relied on national standards and constant assessment. Marc played a key role in setting up the “cradle to gray” human capital pipeline.

Marc Tucker C-Span

Source: Marc Tucker Testimony, Competitiveness of the American Worker, 1987

In revisiting Tucker’s 1992 “Dear Hillary Letter,” it is clear the NCEE program is well underway. I’ve shared a summary of its recommendations at the end of this post, so you can see for yourself. The problem is that few on the Left have directly engaged with the content of the letter, which was read into the Congressional Record six years later in 1998. Why? Because it has been taken up by conservative interests as evidence of a globalist Socialist or Communist plot to undermine the United States Constitution.

The letter Tucker sent to Hillary Clinton on the eve of Bill’s inauguration has become a touchstone for those on the right who oppose Common Core State Standards and the United Nation’s education initiatives. Now is the time to move beyond partisan politics and do a “close read” of NCEE’s extensive proposition. It is remarkable how much of the program has been put into place with bipartisan support over the past twenty-five plus years.

In that time, data-driven device-based learning has replaced authentic human instruction for even our youngest learners; ten year olds are being pressured to choose career pathways; third-party software programs are tracking the social-emotional traits “soft skills” of students; community college course offerings are being shaped by regional labor boards; as four year colleges are dismantled through debt, austerity, and mismanagement.

What many conservatives fail to recognize is that we (the United States) ARE the “globalists.” Sure, the United Nations has been structured as a vehicle to turn the dispossessed into human capital for “impact investment” purposes. That’s what ID2020 is about after all, the interests of Microsoft and Accenture are inextricably woven into the advancement of digital identity systems. But is it vital to understand that the UN is doing this in service of transnational global capital, which in turn is dominated by US technology, finance, and manufacturing interests.

We are fighting the Windigo, that which would consume through greed and destruction, all that is good in the world. We are at a point of crisis. That crisis is capitalism. We are rapidly approaching the creation of a techno-fascist state the likes of which has never before been seen.

Abuse of Social Robots Japan

Source: Escaping From Children’s Abuse of Social Robots

How do we organize to stop this? My bet is on the kids from Kyoto. I think they’re on to something and should probably be tapped as leaders in the anti-robot resistance.

We must wake people up and collectively knit back together the rent social fabric needed ward off the Windigo’s depredations. It is community versus corporatism; but the community must be mobilized. We can refuse to code this world of domination. It cannot be built against the will of the people, but the people have to know what is happening and unite.

Can we embrace lessons of Indigenous resistance and begin to reclaim our humanity in the face of those who would perpetrate a planet-killing Fourth Industrial Revolution? Can we in unity stand up to techno-fascists and expose the digital “freedoms” temptingly proffered by oligarchs for the lies that they are? Can we stop capitalism’s next phase of colonization by creating an education system that starves digital worlds rather than feeds them?

In this liminal time, we must come to terms with and own up to the destructive history of this nation. It is imperative that we look to the example of those who have continually resisted both the destruction of human relationships and of the planet. We must build something new, in right relationship. There is not an “ism” out there that can do what must be done, stand up to the Windigo, cut the Doctrine of Discovery off at the knees. We must look hard at the destruction wrought by Whiteness and begin to set it to right. I want so much for us to make it past this Hunger Moon to the sweetness of the Sugar Moon beyond.

Summary of the Dear Hillary Letter recommendations for an engineered economy where people are re-skilled as human capital in service of global investment markets:

Emphasize perpetual skill development.

Create a board to set uniform professional and technical standards, performance standards, licensures, and to administer related exams.

Align national standards, exams, and licensure systems to international benchmarks: K12, sub-baccalaureate and four-year degrees, technical degrees, and certificates established by employers.

Modular system of occupations established, each with specified skill requirements.

Institutions taking public funds must provide outcomes data in a uniform format.

Data remitted to government includes client characteristics, program costs, and “success rates.”

Consolidate dislocated worker programs, adopt national vouchers, and integrate those programs into the national education and training system.

Free market “choice” embedded into standards-aligned pathways.

General education certificates awarded at age 16 to students meeting basic standards.

A certificate makes students eligible for additional education or training.

Combine the last two years of high school with the first two years of college into a three-year program resulting in sub-baccalaureate degrees / credentials.

Shift to work-based learning, “learn to earn.”

Phase in national implementation starting with a cohort of willing states, some with big cities. Later scale it up through “voluntary” federal government grant incentives.

A single unified training system is used by all: young adults, dislocated workers, unemployed, and returning citizens.

A comprehensive computerized database of job openings and candidates is maintained.

A system of local, state and federal labor market boards is established to oversee training and placement, linking education to the workforce.

Deregulate, eliminate means-tested programs, tie compensation to outcomes.

Make service providers compete.




“Sustainability” for Financiers: What Climate Marchers Need to Know About the UN Sustainable Development Goals

I’m writing the day after the climate strike. With so many people taking to the streets, it made me wonder how much people actually know about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)? Why is that important? Well, there are powerful interests seeking to misdirect people who want to do the right thing. If we go down the wrong path, irreversible harm will be inflicted in the name of “carbon trading,” “green” growth, “financial-inclusion,” and “resilient cities.”

Global Green New Deal UNEP


In 2009 the UN advanced a Global Green Deal. The policy brief was prepared in the aftermath of the housing crisis with the intention of directing stimulus money into “green” economic activities managed through the World Bank, centering technology and innovative finance. 2009 was also the year the Global Impact Investment Network was founded, having been shepherded along by former University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin and the Rockefeller Foundation. It now has over 20,000 members.

Today, the United Nations Development Program is working in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to set global standards for impact measurement that will drive investment, in part, into SDG projects. This effort, the Impact Management Project, has too many participants to list (2,000!) but includes Ronald Cohen’s Social Finance, Bain spin-off Bridgespan, and Larry Fink’s Blackrock, the largest asset manager in the world.

Clearly there is an endless supply of money to throw at the environmental crisis, but only if profit can be readily captured for those who already have most of the resources. Capturing that profit means data, and in today’s world obtaining, storing, and processing that data comes with its own immense environmental consequences, and that is something few are eager to discuss.

Impact management project

Above is only a selection of participants in the Impact Management Project. Source

In a previous post I touched on The Red Deal and explained my belief that the environmental movement is split. One path, grounded in right relations and the Indigenous sovereignty struggle, might begin to heal the planet IF the masses stand with the colonized people of the earth and reckon with the immense harm wrought by capitalism, especially racial capitalism.

The other path, grounded in technology, Internet of things, 5G, artificial intelligence and Big Data, will, through financialization, probably kill it. But before the final nails are put in the coffin Goldman Sachs and other financiers will have wrung out the very last drops of profit. The UN SDGs are of the second path.




Seventeen goals were adopted by the 193 member states of the United Nations in 2015. The stated intention was to eliminate poverty and protect the planet. They’ve essentially set the rules for the global hedge fund game that will run on data extracted from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. There are two parallel programs of financialization: 1) people as human capital and 2) nature: carbon, energy, stormwater, etc. The sensor networks will be incorporated into smart city planning via programs of the type being hotly contested with Google’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto.


I suspect folks might be surprised to find out twelve of the goals are human-centric. So, there are a dozen different opportunities where data can be used control populations: education, employment, health, and housing to name a few. Only four of the sustainability development goals are, in fact, climate and energy-focused. The final goal deals with implementation, picture public-private partnerships with social impact financiers.

These goals must be seen for what they are, an apparatus crafted by vulture philanthropists to maintain flows of transnational global capital at a time when growing wealth inequality renders the purchasing power of the masses woefully inadequate. Goals 4 and 8 also play into the results-oriented “evidence-based” techno-solutions being imposed on our education and training systems. Don’t get me wrong; poverty and displacement from environmental, economic and political upheaval are, and will continue to be, an immense humanitarian catastrophe. We must commit ourselves to caring for our neighbors, the land, and our non-human kin. What we must grapple with now is how to do that from a place of justice and caring rather than data-driven opportunity engineering that is fundamentally dehumanizing, disrespects the earth, and flies in the face of community self-determination, ceding power to the cloud bosses.

We know the game is on. The question this is how does it play out in the United States? Not many people seem to be talking about it. It’s puzzling.

There is much to commend in House Resolution 109: Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal. Public investment, creation of good jobs, an emphasis on frontline and vulnerable communities and Indigenous consultation are vital elements of any just transition program. Yet we must carefully consider if FDR’s New Deal, a deal designed to save US capitalism, preserve a fundamentally racist social order through select accommodations, and reign in radical labor, is the right conceptual framework. In this time of crisis, let the scales fall from our eyes, let the myths be disrupted. We need a new path.

My other concern is that House Resolution 109 will be vulnerable to cooptation by these predatory impact investors. Senator Markey who co-sponsored the resolution with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spent his legislative career in Boston, home to Harvard, MIT and a powerful venture capital community. It is where many elements of of the pay for success program have been refined: Internet of Things, Blockchain, crypto-economics, and data-driven, neoliberal privatization policies. He will be lobbied hard to craft legislation that fulfills the desires of the Global Impact Investment Network. Digitally mediated social impact investing is the tool intended to save capitalism this around.

In 2018 Senator Markey lectures at MIT on “Combating the Climate Crisis From Regulation To Legislation.”

As the Green New Deal moves from aspiration to legislation we must be prepared to go toe to toe with transnational global capital interests to refuse to allow public private partnerships or outcomes-based contracting  to be inserted into the legislation. We must not open the door to “pay for success” finance, an “innovative” abomination that would weave lives and lands into vast data-gathering networks to serve the rich. Bottom up organizing, outside the limits of electoral politics, must also continue, and we should be following those who have been resisting the longest, Indigenous people.

If we’re not careful, the outpouring of energy from these well-intentioned climate marches could be channeled to dangerous ends. If we don’t take the reigns from the Davos crowd, instead of healing the planet they’ll end up incentivizing things like monoculture genetically modified forests, Liquefied Natural Gas processing, and biometric monitoring of the poor. Worst case scenario we end up in an eco-fascist police state where the masses are forced to live off meager Universal Basic Income (UBI) allotments, farmed for data like aphids milked by ants.

Ok, so that last one might a bit sound extreme, but people DO sense something is not right. There is palpable feeling of anxiety. While not everyone can pinpoint the source, a growing number of communities are on the right track, opposing the imposition of “smart” surveillance technologies and the roll out of 5G cellular networks needed to scale the coming Internet of Things (IoT), mixed-reality world. They need this infrastructure to capture the impact data for the financiers.

AR Simulation Training


To get a sense of the imperative pushing 5G deployment you can watch this 2016 press briefing with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, puppet of the cable and telecommunications industry and Obama bundler. We will be told we need IoT to fight climate change and solve poverty (more data!), when in fact the technocrats want it so they can turn people and ecosystems into a cybernetic bonanza of signals intelligence to be tapped for manipulative investment schemes and social control as required. We can look to the “Smart Nation” policies of Singapore and China’s social credit scoring protocols for a preview.

Internet of Humans


Many people know about the kind of sensors that track pollution, storm water run-off, and air quality. Those are sort of things most people imagine technology will be used for in order to achieve “green” outcomes. What people are probably NOT prepared for is the Internet of Humans. The European Union and the Institute Electrical and Electronics Engineers are already planning that out with fair trade data markets and harmonized digital citizens. The push towards single data markets and self sovereign identity systems seems to be the logical conclusion for the GDPR privacy regulations. We are our data. We own it, but most of us, the poor, will have to sell it to survive. It is the new global currency. When I stumbled upon this I really wondered if perhaps the EU had been set up with this in mind all along.

For years we’ve been groomed to accept the primacy of STEM, the imperative of closing the digital divide. Now as our precious actual world is flooded and burned, they’re planning to scale up their fictitious worlds where digital people will be easier to manage. They’re also going to have to maintain it and police it. It takes a lot of people to build a parallel universe. Why do you think Microsoft is pushing Minecraft in schools? They need workers. What? Did you think Ready Player One was just a book / movie? And while this may seem a bit over the top, I have been reflecting on a panel discussion hosted by Atlantic Magazine I attended in Philadelphia during the 2016 DNC.

The topic was “Teaching for Tomorrow in the Creative Economy,” and it was all about video games and IoT. There was nothing about actual education. During his portion of the panel president of Epic Games, Paul Meegan, emphasized how crucial it was for him to have access to talent to build out his video games. Epic Games, in case you aren’t aware, developed Fortnite with capital from Chinese company TenCent.

The next phase of capitalism is virtual, gamified worlds in which avatars consume digital products and earn and transfer value through crypto-economic systems. It will take awhile, but we’re definitely baby stepping our way there. And to make that transition, the tech oligarchs need masses of kids to be funneled into coding and cyber-security career pathways, humanities be damned. Reduce your carbon footprint, spend your life in a video game!

While the mirage of high-paying coding jobs remains out there, the reality is for every hoodie-wearing tech executive playing foosball, there are many, many poor people doing the soul-sucking sweat shop work of annotating photos and cleaning and organizing the training data for the robots with whom they intend to replace us. These are the hidden “Task Rabbits” that do the work of teaching the autonomous vehicles how to move.

Increasingly those are going to be high school kids doing “work-based” learning, houseless people earning their keep in “pay for success” shelters, or refugees in detainment camps. Bottom line is we’ve been pitched faux digital liberation, one that if embraced will ultimately render us fuel for a “smart” world where human labor, human contact, human relationships are digital and disposable.

Tech Jobs for Refugees

Fake worlds are not the answer to climate change.

IoT social impact markets are not the answer to climate change, either.

Under the auspices of a climate emergency, one so many have unthinkingly demanded, the technocrats will have free reign to ensnare the earth in digital webs of sensors and EMF radiation. They’ll have our blessing to “count what matters” as the IXO Foundation video says. And count it they will in the most brutal, Orwellian ways. Given the present imbalance of power and growing militarization of police, whose interests are going to be served through such a declaration? Sounds like an excuse for martial law to me. I have seen nothing to convince me elected officials favor the interests of regular people over those of Google and Goldman Sachs. I guess all of this is to say be careful what you ask for; you might get it.

In this pending augmented reality, digital surveillance future each person will be expected to be an entrepreneur of the self, curating a digital brand, interacting with sensors in the world around us. Probably even our encounters with nature will be fed into some damn data channel. These sensors will monitor our behaviors and nudge us to make the “right choices,” so investors can achieve the success metrics that will allow them to siphon profit from the public trough.

That’s what those dozen UN SDGs are really about. That’s the reason Ideas42 was developed out of Harvard, to leverage research in behavioral economics to force compliance in a world of precarious employment and environmental devastation. Behave or starve, technology as enforcer. Behavior change, or else. But that change is always individual change, not the structural change that could lead to actual redistribution of resources and the healing that is needed.

At the next march, it is vital to understand what the demands are.

To be prepared to make the vision of the Green New Deal one for the people, not GIIN.

We must be vigilant that the right vision is advanced, that collective power is not diverted to bitter ends.

We demand a future  grounded in right relations not financialization.

The change we need doesn’t come from a line of code.

It comes from the work being done face to face. Keep going.

If you haven’t looked over The Red Deal, check it out.

I’ll spend more time talking about this map later. But if any of this seems to come out of left field, it didn’t. It’s real. You’ll find it in here.