Category Archives: Commentary

Posts expressing my opinion

My u.lab learning journey at Boston’s Hubweek

I am currently taking the edX course “u.lab: Leading from the Emerging Future.” One of the choices for the week 2 assignment was to take a learning or sensing journey, which is defined like this:

Sensing journeys pull participants out of their daily routine and allow them to experience the organization, challenge, or system through the lens of different stakeholders. Sensing journeys bring participants to places, people, and experiences that are most relevant for the respective question they are working on.

IMG_0649I chose to make Boston’s Hubweek my u.lab learning journey. Hubweek is, “A weeklong celebration of innovation and creativity in Greater Boston, founded by MIT, Harvard, Mass General and The Boston Globe.” This blog post is a slightly edited version of the journal entry I wrote to complete the assignment. I went to dinner this past Friday with friends and one was so genuinely interested in my Hubweek experience that I decided to publish it here for her and others to read.

There is no question in my mind that Entrepreneurship is on the rise and people are looking to engage with emerging technologies in new ways. In my view, a subtle shift has also taken place: the libertarian / Ayn Rand vibe, where the focus of every start-up was “getting rich,” has transformed into discussions of inclusion, community, sustainability and impact. Although everyone may not appreciate the accelerating nature of technological development (artificial intelligence, genetics, robotics and others are called “exponential technologies”), there was surely an awareness that the ground is shifting under our feet and the only solution is to adapt together.

Monday began in Roxbury, which is one of the most economically challenged sections of Boston. Nevertheless, the event was hosted in a new “innovation center” where teams of high school students were showing off their innovations and talking about their plans to start a business. One young man was such a good salesman that I bought his product: a simple rubber holder for an eyeglass wipe that can attach to a belt or key chain. I keep it in my car now. A young woman had studied the use of sunlight to fight depression in the winter and was showing off a window valence for a bedroom with a built-in full spectrum light (patent pending). I learned about BUILD, which is, “dedicated to proving the power of experiential learning through entrepreneurship, and igniting the potential of youth in under-resourced communities.” I talked to the people at the booth, and was struck by a couple of facts: 1) 97% of kids who graduate from Build’s 4-year program graduate from HS on time, and 2) 95% are accepted to college. This is impressive considering that all these kids remain in public school, significant since the charter school question is on the Massachusetts ballot this November. I also ran into NuVu Studio, which is an educational program based on the studio model. This school sounds interesting and MIT News answered a question on my mind:

Such programs are difficult to implement broadly, Arida (NuVu Studio founder & MIT alumnus) admits, and private institutions tend to favor them, rather than public schools. But this fall, NuVu is entering its first public-school partnership, with Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, which will send 10 students for the entire semester — and those 10 students will earn credit. It’s a step in the right direction, Arida says.

Starting on Tuesday, I was joined by my friend, Chitra Dwarka, which made attending the events even more fun. We began at “Expanding Opportunity in the Digital Age,” hosted by Hubweek, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (MIT_IDE) and MIT Solve. Leading the discussion were Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, authors of The Second Machine Age (a book I reviewed in detail back in 2014). Given that MIT_IDE is a sponsor of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium (Chitra and I are both on the organizing team), and the background reading that I’ve done, I felt more or less at home with the topics and messages in this session. What struck me most was the parallel goals between this session and the one in Roxbury, yet the very different vibe, academic reasoning vs. in the trenches transformation. For example, “inclusion” was a topic at both events (and a topic that came up later in the week); MIT_IDE sponsored an Inclusive Innovation Competition to, “inspire and reward entrepreneurial solutions that enhance the economic prospects of workers in the Second Machine Age.” The Boston Globe reported on the winners. Some of the organizations represented at this talk were The Joyce Foundation, which strives to “develop and advance policy reforms that promise to improve quality of life, promote community vitality, and strive for a fair society,” and Opportunity@Work, which is “dedicated to re-wiring the labor market so that all Americans can work, learn, and earn to their full potential.”

One track that I did not make was MIT Solve, which is described as, “an organism for solving the world’s most challenging problems.” Looking at the website, the mission and tracks remind me of Singularity University (I attended the summit in San Francisco this past August). Although I did not make any events during HubWeek, I signed up for the newsletter and will keep my eye out for future events.

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to the Broad Institute, “a collaborative community pioneering a new model of biomedical science.” They hosted a talk about the intersection of art and science and they have an artist in residence, Naoe Suzuki, who engages with the scientists. I was really impressed with how Naoe looked at science through the lens of an artist, for example, transforming whiteboard scribbles (equations and diagrams) into an artistic collage. She is also crowdsourcing her investigation into our relationship with water, and you can participate here. I’ll highlight a few other points from this discussion. Naoe’s perspective of exponential technologies is the compression of time, although it is an emerging thought for her. All the speakers noted that the processes of innovation are not that different between art and science. Finally, one person said that, as scientific data became more freely available on the web, the term “data parasites” emerged to describe researchers who leveraged this data to make new discoveries. Get your own data, said some. But, that position has been rebuffed as the larger community has asserted that freely available data sparks discovery.

Next, I went down the street to the Venture Cafe to hear a talk on, “Driving Startup Growth: Building an Innovation Ecosystem.” I’m familiar with this group as they hold a networking night every Thursday (very valuable, but fast paced, so you need to go with a clear objective in mind). The importance of ecosystems, as well as ESOs (entrepreneurial support organizations), were discussed at length. One of the speakers was Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, who is a researcher on the topic of inclusive organizations (and will be releasing a report by the end of the year). One of the interesting things that she said was that start-ups need to think about diversity prior to hiring employee #9. After that, the mold is set and hard to undo. Opening the lens a bit, other threats to the innovation ecosystem discussed were inequality, climate change, culture. Tim Rowe, CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center, said that, by far, the most net new jobs in the US are created by startups (see the pic here).

On Wednesday, I joined Chitra for a single late event, the Benton Throwdown, which features student teams, representing 10+ local colleges and universities, that have created start-ups. Audience members hear 3-minute pitches from each and then vote using monopoly money. Winners are announced at the end. The evening began with a bit of sage advice from venture capitalists — think of getting money as a sales process (don’t cold e-mail investors), they see proposals every day (don’t ask them to sign an NDA) and be sure to tell them what the future holds and why you believe in it. The winner of the contest was “Ask Molly” (MA College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), which is a database of illicit substances and describes interactions with prescription drugs. The second place team was “DropZone” (Babson College), which is a search engine for Vets to ensure that they get all the benefits they deserve. The third place team was “Echo Me” (Boston College), which is an in-sync music service (you can subscribe to the music someone else is listening to). Other projects were also notable, but I won’t go through them all.

By Thursday I was getting tired, and almost decided to stay home, but pulled on my energy reserves to go to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to hear “The Hype and Promise of Blockchain.” On my way, I got a message from Chitra, who decided to go with her friend Steve, who works in the financial industry. That was lucky because I was late and they saved me a seat in the second row (the room was packed). Tom Ashbrook, from WBUR, led a panel discussion. A key point, predictable in many ways, was that banks like to talk about blockchain, but no one wants to be the first to adopt it: current systems work, so they are not motivated to risk switching. Nobody on stage wanted to stick their neck out and assert that block chain would transform our economy and society. As a counterpoint, watch this TED talk that I posted on my Facebook page almost a month ago. In fairness, the speaker in this talk wrote a book, but still I feel that the panel speakers were erring on the conservative side. Regardless of one’s level optimism, this is an important topic. My prediction is that this technology will not enter the mainstream via Bitcoin, or the banks, but rather will rise somewhere else, where there is less resistance. It is imperative that it does.

Besides the panel, there were a number of very good speakers. Anders Brownworth, who teaches Blockchain at MIT, did an excellent job explaining the fundamentals of blockchain, along with an online demo (try it yourself via this link). Chelsea Barabas, head of social innovation, digital currencies, MIT Media lab, made a lot of good points about how this technology would impact society (similar points are made by Don Tapscott in the TED talk). Her main story, that I liked, was about how the internet as started as a democratic constellation of people publishing their content, became a place where a few big players (Banks, Media, Google, Facebook, etc.) have too much control and may evolve into something very different — a place where people in the future will share power and control. This is of great importance as millions of people come online in coming years. Finally, I want to shine a light on Ariel Ekblaw, a graduate research assistant at the MIT media lab. She is a very impressive young women, working to use blockchain to make it easier to share medical records while ensuring patient privacy (abstract of her paper here). One last call out goes to Nimit Sawhney, CEO of Voatz, which is a blockchain powered mobile voting app. There were other speakers, but these were the best, in my opinion.

Hubweek ended for me at Demo Day at the Hynes Convention Center, which was a gathering of the “highest impact start-ups and companies” in the Boston area. I went to a talk about “Strategies to Accelerate Growth,” which was hosted by the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program. As it turns out, IBM has a blockchain offering for start-ups. I talked with the folks on the panel (and it eventually came out that I’m an ex-IBMer), got on their mailing list, and got a few pointers to educational materials. The core of their educational offerings is on the developerWorks portal (in my case the Architecture Center was of particular interest). The developerWorks portal hosts a variety of online education classes, including one for blockchain. Unlike Microsoft, IBM does not participate in mainstream MOOCs, such as edX and Coursera, which I think is unfortunate as I’ve found Microsoft’s data science curriculum on edX to be outstanding. Nevertheless, the IBM team did tell me of Coursera offering for blockchain, by Princeton University.

In the expo, there were lots of start-ups, and I will highlight a couple. To begin, there was Cambridge Blockchain, offering a blockchain platform. I did not talk to them, but I imagine many start-ups popping up, along with open source solutions. Of specific interest to me was Voatz, which is a blockchain based mobile voting app. The founder of this company spoke at the blockchain event on Thursday, so I was excited to meet him in person. I took an entrepreneurship class some months ago and had to make a list of 10 possible innovations for an assignment. Here’s an excerpt from the note I made to myself, “An app that provides secure and reliable voting from your mobile device; eliminates the need to visit the voting booth. Leverages technology from cyber currency. The benefits are obvious and there is a lot of desire.” Imagine how interesting it was for me to talk to an entrepreneur who had a similar thought, fully developed it, and now has a viable implementation! Nimit added me to his list of beta testers, so I’ll be able to try his app during the November elections. How much fun! Another app in this space is We the People, which attempts to increase voter participation. I’ve already downloaded it to my phone. Add these two start-ups that want to improve democracy to the three that I met at the Singularity University Summit and it becomes clear that change is in the air.

In conclusion, a lot of new voices have been added to my Twitter and Feedly feeds. These are exciting times and I’m glad to part of a movement to reimagine our economy and future. All I can say is that there are a lot of smart and inspiring people out there. 

Cambridge: Internet of Things

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View of Boston from the MIT Media Lab

On April 27, 2016, I attended a panel discussion about the Internet of Things at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The discussion was sponsored by the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the panelists were:

 

  • Sanjay Sarma, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT
  • Jeff Baer, Founder and CEO, LinkeDrive, Inc.
  • Frank E. Gillett, Vice President, Principal Analyst Serving CIOs, Forrester Research
  • Dip Patel, Co-Founder and CEO, Ecovent

The invitation to the event describes the excitement about the Internet of things this way:

Far faster than we realize, the objects around us are being embedded with sensors and intelligence that let them talk to one another, make decisions, and talk about us. The next tech wave isn’t just an economic battlefield — it’s a revolution likely to touch everyone personally.

Here’s a summary of the discussion. What is IoT? It is not a technology or product (you can’t buy it), and it is not a platform. IoT is a new design language that enables an entirely new way of thinking about the world. This is evident when you observe a child interact with objects such as Amazon’s Echo. Children expect the device to respond intelligently, and also expect the device to have awareness of its surroundings — their brains are wired differently. We need to adapt and find new words for this type of thinking and these types of interactions, otherwise we’ll fall behind. IoT is about applying technology to things, not people. A digitally enabled device is able to answer three questions about itself: 1) What is it? 2) What’s happening? and 3) What action can it take? By building devices with this capability, IoT connects the digital and real world, allowing business to better respond to their customers. Interoperability is not about making all devices talk to each other (it is unlikely that a door lock will need to interoperate with a toaster, but it might with a video camera or other security device ), it is about creating value from meaningful device interactions. Many companies are vying to get into the home. To position themselves for this future market, they are selling cheap devices to get their foot in the door (Apple sells AppleTV for only $100.00).

My recording of the entire session is here:

 

This was one of a series of events, in different cities, that MIT Sloan has sponsored, and the Twitter feed (#MITIoT) can be found in Storify.

 

 

We need a media revolution

Why don’t national media outlets spent less time covering Donald Trump (who is completely unqualified to be President) and more time covering Bernie Sanders (who challenges us to move toward a better society)? As reported on Alternet (and witnessed by anyone watching TV last Tuesday):

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was among the presidential candidates speaking on Tuesday night. But as the Young Turks reported during their coverage of the evening’s primaries, national media outlets refused to show his remarks.

Here is the video, “Bernie Sanders Primary Night Speech on Super Tuesday #3 March 15,2016 Phoenix Arizona [FULL]:”

You may or may not agree with Bernie Sanders, but we should be discussing the issues of our time, not the ridiculous claims of a narcissistic demagogue. To quote David Brooks:

Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship. He pollutes the atmosphere in which our children are raised. He has already shredded the unspoken rules of political civility that make conversation possible. In his savage regime, public life is just a dog-eat-dog war of all against all.

Sensational stories improve ratings, but they also rob voters of knowledge. National media outlets can and should do better. They need to cover all the candidates and focus on the real issues. Enough is enough.

 

Reviews of “The Second Machine Age” that inspire me

Andrew McAfee, Hotel Jerome (pic by aspeninstitute-internal)

Andrew McAfee, Hotel Jerome (pic by aspeninstitute-internal)

In an earlier post (May 2014), I reviewed the The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Recently, two other reviews came to my attention that contribute to the conversation about technology and its impacts on society. Both reviewers have unique and interesting points of view, very different from mine, which they back up with their own research. If you read the book, then I highly recommend that you also read these thoughtful reviews. While the coming technological changes are interesting, the more important issue is how to channel the power of technology for everyone’s benefit. Along with the book, these reviews inspire me to engage in the conversation and advocate for policies that make technological progress a force for good.

The first review, “To Replace or Respect: Futurology as if People Mattered,” by Frank Pasquale came to my attention on Twitter:

Pasquale writes that, “the question of distribution of the gains from automation is just as important as the competitions for dominance it accelerates” and “2MA invites readers to consider how societies will decide what type of bounty from automation they want.” This is exactly the point: we can (and must) shape our future world.

He discusses the idea that ownership of data, as opposed to innovative algorithms, is a source of competitive advantage. He says, “it is a commonplace in big data literatures to say that the more data one has, the more valuable any piece of it becomes—something Googlers would agree with, as long as antitrust authorities aren’t within earshot.” He also writes about intellectual property law, bringing up many interesting points.

Pasquale challenges the policy recommendations made by Brynjolfsson and McAfee, and I agree that the policy issues are difficult and need vigorous debate. I think Pasquale does a good job surfacing issues that cast a shadow on technological optimism. There is no question in my mind that we need to confront the issues he identifies head on.

In this review, Pasquale references “Justice for ‘Data Janitors’,” by Lilly Irani. I appreciate the hard questions Irani asks, “Will technology produce new jobs, new industries, and new forms of comparative advantage? Or will technology take away jobs and concentrate wealth among those who own the machines?” I also appreciate her distinction that, “Automation doesn’t replace labor. It displaces it.”

Irani makes the case that underpaid and hidden workers power the magic of many advanced technologies. She writes about how, “Twitter deploys an army of cultural data workers to sort and classify tweets in real time.” Such workers are organized via systems such as Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT), which allow programmers to invoke human workers for “cognitive piecework on demand.” Irani writes that, “As contractors, AMT workers are excluded from the protections of minimum-wage laws.”

Irani makes good points that deserve further discussion as she summarizes the situation this way:

The pleasures and conveniences of human-powered technology will continue to fuel a growing market for technology’s hidden laborers. Employers, driven by profit margins and stock prices, have great incentives to keep these workers off the books and out of sight. Inside the machines, inequality will persist. Unless, that is, we discredit and challenge the industry’s hierarchies of value that grant managers and programmers rock star status and wealth, while confining data workers to a life of underpayment and insecurity.

There is one point in both reviews that I believe requires clarification. Pasquale says of Brynjolfsson and McAfee, “By seriously considering the possibility of a basic income (232), they evince a moral sensibility light years ahead of the “devil-take-the-hindmost” school of cyberlibertarianism.” Irani says, “Despite the shortcomings of their analysis, Brynjolfsson and McAfee propose a weapon that could strengthen the hidden workers of the digital age: a basic income guarantee (BIG).” To be clear, what Brynjolfsson and McAfee said in the book was, “Will we need to revisit the idea of a basic income in decades to come? Maybe, but it’s not our first choice.” Brynjolfsson and McAfee consider BIG, but don’t advocate for it. There was a recent basic income experiment in India that I discussed in this blog, and the embedded video shows Brynjolfsson engaged in a discussion on this topic. I can’t read minds, but I would guess that Brynjolfsson and McAfee, if asked today, would agree that BIG needs more research and should remain on the table as an option for the future. As Irani says, “An income guarantee would allow workers to walk away, or at least starve the algorithms of their data until managers shape up.” In brief, BIG has the potential to level the playing field and empower workers.

Although both authors uncover dark sides of technological progress, the result is an inspiration to shape our future such that technology benefits everyone. Pasquale concludes:

All too often, the automation literature is focused on replacing humans, rather than respecting their hopes, duties, and aspirations. A central task of educators, managers, and business leaders should be finding ways to complement a workforce’s existing skills, rather than sweeping that workforce aside. That does not simply mean creating workers with skill sets that better “plug into” the needs of machines, but also, doing the opposite: creating machines that better enhance and respect the abilities and needs of workers.  That would be a “machine age” welcoming for all, rather than one calibrated to reflect and extend the power of machine owners.

We need more discussion about the impact of technology on society, and we need business leaders who think about more than maximizing profits. In a world where technology produces an unimagined bounty, we need inclusive policies to make sure that everyone benefits.

New blue collar jobs and an unconditional basic income experiment in India

WBUR’s recent On Point radio show, “The New Blue Collar Jobs Of Tomorrow,” discussed a USA Today study, “Where the jobs are: The new blue collar,” that was cautiously optimistic about new blue collar jobs between now and 2017:

By 2017, an estimated 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs . . . are expected to be added to the workforce, accounting for nearly 40% of all job growth, according to a USA TODAY analysis of local data from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. and CareerBuilder.

One of the guests on the show was Eirk Brynjolfsson. Earlier this year, I reviewed his book, The Second Machine Age. In this review, as well as an earlier post, I discussed the concept of a basic income as a possible policy to help cope with the projected impact that technology will have on the economy in the long-term. I felt before, and feel today, that this idea needs more study. In the comments section of the WBUR report, I found an encouraging video that discussed the results of a study in India. Here’s the introduction:

What if everybody received every month enough money to live by? Will society collapse? Will we all become slackers? Myths and facts about Unconditional Basic Income, with analysis from a real world experiment conducted in India between 2011-2013. Keynote speech by Federico Pistono at the Future of Work Summit, NASA Ames Research Park, California, June 30, 2014.

Eirk Brynjolfsson was in the audience and spoke to Federico Pistono during the question and answer session. Brynjolfsson suggested that results in developed nations, such as the U.S., might be very different from India. He’s right. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting video and I fully support repeating the experiment in other countries. As Pistono concluded at the end, this is not a panacea. Nevertheless, it could be one element of a future solution. Enjoy the video.

Rock on chemistry teacher!

Are you getting tired of the endless discussions about improving education that seem to get us nowhere? Instead of all this talk, let kids be rock stars. Watch the teacher in this video:

This is the official music video of the rock band, When Particles Collide. I wrote this post because of the Radio Boston show I heard today, “Chemistry Teacher By Day, Rock Star By Night.” The leaders of the band, Sasha Alcott and Chris Viner, sound like they have an interesting life, and I imagine that Sasha is an inspiring teacher.

There is a lot to discuss about education. Yes we need standards. No, we can’t allow lunatics to force schools to teach nonsense. Beyond this, we also should not make school a dull grind due to endless testing, longer days, and homework overload. Life is short, robots will be doing all the dull jobs anyway, so let’s make education fun.

We need more teachers, better teachers, empowered teachers. Rock on chemistry teacher!

Elizabeth Warren and Thomas Piketty speak at the Old South Meeting House

Yesterday, I attended a talk at the Old South Meeting House, sponsored by the Patriotic Millionaires, about rising inequality. Senator Elizabeth Warren and French economist Thomas Piketty spent an hour answering questions from Ryan Grim, Washington Bureau Chief for The Huffington Post. I’ve watched Elizabeth Warren for years. She is extremely bright and provides a needed counter balance to well-funded lobbyists for corporations and financial institutions. She recently published her memoir, A Fighting Chance.  I know less about Thomas Piketty. He came to my attention when his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, became a best seller.

Thomas Piketty and Elizabeth Warren discuss rising inequality with Ryan Grim at the Old South Meeting House, Boston, MA on 5/31/2014

Thomas Piketty and Elizabeth Warren discuss rising inequality with Ryan Grim at the Old South Meeting House, Boston, MA on 5/31/2014

I’ll summarize my impressions from today’s discussion. Due to where I was sitting, varied speaker volume, noise, and distractions, this is not a comprehensive report. Often, I was able to hear Warren’s comments more clearly that Piketty’s. So, I apologize to both speakers in advance if I missed some of their points.

Piketty’s thesis about inequality: All economic systems have some inequality. What Piketty showed is that inequality has a natural tendency to grow to unacceptable levels in capitalist systems unless government plays an active role. Left unchecked, rising inequality creates social problems and stifles innovation. Warren summarized this simply as, “the rich get richer.” In his book, Piketty showed that capital income dominates over earned income as a driving force of inequality, especially as the rate of economic growth slows. He compiled an astonishing amount of historical data from all over the world to back up his conclusions. Warren added some color to the discussion, saying that Piketty’s ideas prove that “trickle-down” economic theories are nonsense; wealth “trickles-up.”

Tax System Reform:  This topic came up throughout the hour, and is a central issue. Warren observed that other forces drive inequality, including education, taxes and government policies. She questioned the tax system’s integrity: lobbyists modify tax codes to favor large corporations, which puts small businesses at a disadvantage. She said that the current tax system is riddled with loopholes, and that this encourages everyone to cheat. The speakers briefly touched on Piketty’s proposal for a global wealth tax, as well as estate taxes. Piketty pointed out that current federal taxes on property are not progressive. Nevertheless, most of the discussion focused on reform of our current income tax system. Warren advocated for a “work hard, play by the rules” economy, where everyone has a fair chance for success. She spoke about how the “game in America” today is rigged, which undermines confidence in our system. She called this a profound danger. Warren asserted that cleaning up the tax system to remove loopholes is step number one.

Critics: Ryan Grim asked about “unexplained errors” in Piketty’s data, an allegation made by Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times. Piketty replied that there should be no concern about transparency because his data is openly available. Further, his book is not the issue, rising inequality is the issue.

Inclusiveness: The speakers advocated for increasing the chances of individual success through improved education and infrastructure. Warren argued that government policies now favor the rich. For example, she says, the Ryan budget provides loopholes and tax cuts to the top earners, but, at the same time, cuts investments in infrastructure, education and research. Instead, we need policies that offer a foundation for the middle class and small businesses to succeed.

Climate Change: Ryan Grim read a question about how climate change would contribute to inequality. Piketty say this as an important, but separate, issue. Warren saw this as a symptom of the same problem, specifically that the rich are able to rewrite rules of government for their own benefit. For example, companies can pollute, make short-term profits, but can avoid paying the real cost to the environment, which impacts everyone else.

Student Loans: Warren provided sobering statistics on the number of people (40M) burdened by student loans, as well as the considerable amount of debt ($1.2T outstanding). Student dept has grown 70% in the last decade. This is a problem that is dragging down the economy due to reduced spending and inability to start new businesses. We need to cut interest rates, but the government can’t refinance loans at this time. As it turns out, the government needs the money ($66B in profit), which should come from another source. The solution is to enact the “Buffet rule” that closes loopholes so millionaires pay at least the same tax rate as secretaries. She is working on a bill to offer students debt relief.

Labor: Piketty explained why organized labor was not a central topic of his book. Warren described how labor unions have played a role in building America’s middle class. For example, they fought for medicare and civil rights reform. In the long run, she says, the resulting changes aided everyone.

President in 2016? Warren did not directly answer this question. She did advocate for an inclusive economy where values, voices and votes trump power and money. Warren concluded that we must decide who we are as a nation and fight for what we value.

In summary, both speakers clearly articulated why government, driven by democratic values, has a role to play in shaping an economy, based on values and integrity, where everyone has a fair chance of success. Further, they explained why inequality, if allowed to grow unchecked, becomes counterproductive for everyone, rich and poor alike. Capitalism, which will continue to be the driving force of our economy, needs to be managed if it is to be inclusive. My only caution is that we need to clearly understand how the nature of labor will change as technology advances and adopt policies with this future in mind. Twentieth century solutions may not work without some change.

I look forward to continued debate on these topics. The site moveon.org will post a video of this event at 8:30 EST Mon June 3.