Tech Stoa
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Tech Stoa

Focusing on Community

Save what you can
Behind us the old world in flames
Lower the lifeboats, take us to her
Steer the way

— Frank Turner: The Lifeboats

In my opinion, the majority of large scale problems in the world are caused by greed at the top. This has been a problem since the mid 1970s at least, but it is especially true now that the rich have taken over our Federal Government.

“Too Late to Flee” by failing_angel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We’ve put the foxes in the hen house. Put parasites in charge of production.

Our Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross saw COVID-19 in China as an opportunity for American business. This is the same man who thought that government workers without money during the shutdown could go to the bank and get a loan to hold them over.

The 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it.

— Wilbur Ross

Our Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, profited greatly from people’s misery during the housing crisis, buying a failed bank that had been selling predatory reverse mortgages in a sweetheart deal that let him squeeze homeowners and get paid by the government for any loss in value during a sale. This created an incentive to foreclose on suffering families.

With these people in charge of our economy, we could watch as each decision was focused on short term cash instead of long term Wealth of the Nation. These aren’t Capitalists, these are parasites.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s Director of the National Economic Council, was a President at Goldman Sachs. His policies gave massive tax breaks to these parasites, even as they destroyed the rest of Government.

If you are focused on Cash, you will try to eliminate people from the businesses, since they are the biggest cost in production.

True wealth isn’t money though. Money can be a product of wealth. A country full of employed skilled and engaged workers is lasting wealth. Underemployed Americans are our nation’s largest underutilized workforce.

What’s our path forward? I believe it is in enabling people. That requires investing in people. That requires helping them achieve more.

As we go through a pandemic, I see people standing up.

I see Jeff in Sacramento making it easier for people to ask for help, and actively working to redistribute surplus supplies from house to house. I see Chyle in Royalston organizing communities online. I see Kristin in Miami finding ways to deliver supplies to the elderly.

We need to build the tools to ease this process. We can’t let survival continue to require heroic efforts, and I really don’t see sufficient solutions coming from Government or existing industry.

Jeff Bezos is trying to grow Amazon enough to handle the delivery load we’re putting on them. Centralizing a solution to a global issue is never going to scale.

Communities need a few core services, and I believe we can build open source collaborative tools to enable it.

Inventory (Retail)

Our communities have food. Our communities have supplies. We have no idea where the bulk of them are.

There’s a lot of large box stores around here. Grocery stores, retailers, pharmacies and more. The supplies there can go fast, and they’re struggling to keep up with demand.

There’s also a lot of small mom and pop shops. These stores are more spread out and are less likely to be pilfered. When something critical is needed, it may be on a shelf at a tiny shop no one has been considering. The shop may even be closed.

Amazon, if you put aside it’s own retail service, is a platform for connective retailers with consumers. A locally run platform that can integrate with existing inventory systems would allow us to solve this problem. Allow people to order from *within* the community instead of outside of it.

For shops that will be closed for a while, we could create centralized warehouses for the critical supplies. Much like an Amazon drop ship service.

If we’re going to enable retailers to run without a shop being open, then we can also make it easier for people to sell other goods in better times. Paying rent on a shop can be less critical for starting a local business.

Inventory (Home)

Many of our homes are full of stuff. Tools, supplies, medical equipment, or whatever else may be needed.

If you look at places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, you can see people offering to sell or give away stuff they don’t need that they believe someone else may have a use for.

A centralize inventory of items that people wish to make available to sell, gift, loan or lease would allow us to keep more money with people. Need a generator? Buy from a neighbor who just replaced theirs and you ensure you keep more of your money, and your neighbor gets the rest. Buy from a local retailer, and the money stays in your community. Buy from Amazon, and you feed ultimately the people who profit from Wall Street.

Local Manufacturing

We’re running out of critical supplies like masks.

Supplies that are needed locally can sometimes be produced locally. This could allow a community to remove it’s outside dependency on this key resource at a minimum.

Christian in New York put the resources of his design business to work creating masks for medical professions.

Online instructions and designs for masks could enable local production, if we can connect people with sewing skills with supplies. A distributed solution for a distributed problem.

Masks are certainly not the only thing that can be produced locally. Connecting local manufacturing with local needs is critical. As is creating new local manufacturing. This is a time of opportunity for those willing to pitch in.

Delivery

The last decade has shown us a new breed of delivery services. Doordash can bring you food from local restaurants with crowd sourced delivery. Uber and Lyft can bring you from place to place. Amazon has been building a fleet of independent contractors that they can use to ship packages.

These are all sources of potential drivers, and a model for how to manage them. These are the people who need can enable a local economy during an pandemic, if they are fairly compensated for their risk, and are trained in preventing the spread of illness during the delivery process.

A locally run service like this could be instrumental in ensuring that goods get to where they need to be.

These are the tools we’re designing and trying to build.

None of the concepts are new, but I believe our focus is. We don’t want to own retail or a piece of the transactions. We want to create tools to enable local communities to weather the storm in a self-sufficient manner as much as possible.

Self-sufficiency is critical as the rich implode the global economy that they have been squeezing for personal gain.

We can’t depend on solutions from our institutions.

It is stone soup time.

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