Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Milken It: Part One

I flew into Los Angeles last night, and I have a crazy week of Southern California ahead of me.

I spent today and will spend tomorrow at the Milken Institute's Global Conference. John got invited, wanted to go, couldn't make it happen, and sent me in his place. The plan is to learn as much as I can about whatever I can: the more relevant to Acorn, the better.

And I'd like to get the blog involved somehow, so I'll pull some questions out of my notes and throw them up here. If anyone has any answers or feels compelled to share thoughts of any kind, I'd love to hear them.

In no particular order:

-Is it a good thing that credit cards are going to start offering (already do offer?) rewards programs that give away carbon offsets? It's definitely good to purchase those offsets and enable reforestation and stuff, but doesn't earning offsets through consumption kind of defeat their purpose? Aren't offsets meant to raise the price of carbon-intensive goods and services to disincent their purchase and thus disincent carbon dioxide release?

-Word from one of today's panelists is that employees and customers don't want to be controlled. Did we used to want to be controlled? Have we been controlled in the past? Are we still controlled? To a certain extent, right? Against our will? Are we hypnotized? And we're just breaking out of that on a large enough scale to matter? Why? Why now? How did we catch up to the marketers' clever tricks?

-Iceland is trying to attract data centers. They think companies like Google would be excited to run their servers on geothermally generated electrons. It's cheap, and it's renewable. It'll make both climate change conscious customers and bottom line conscious shareholders happy. Might a flocking of data centers to Iceland be the start of some industrial reorganization? Might the geographical sources of the least expensive renewably generated electrons become booming industrial centers?

-There is huge income allocation to education in Asia. It's the number one household expenditure in Korea. It's the number two household expenditure in China. Am I the only person worried about the fact that a huge amount of this investment is WASTED on Confucian-rooted, standardized testing based systems that stunt creativity and churn out cookie cutter scholars that learn to solve problems in innovative ways only after they're liberated from school and get a chance to unlearn? Should we consider this another efficiency crisis? An efficiency of capital allocation crisis?

-Will big private investors push the US government to incent renewable technologies? GE has USD 6 billion to invest in cleantech. They want the best returns they can possibly get, so they want to invest in technologies operating in friendly regulatory environments. Should the US government fear that that capital and much more will flow overseas if it doesn't create an a regulatory environment that incents renewable technologies?

Note: When we were little, my sister's best friend's father worked at a research center called the Island Institute. My sister's friend often misremembered the name. She referred to the building in which her dad worked as the Instant Islandtute. No institute has ever been the same to me since.


wiley said...

I have no idea if it's correct or not, but the way you're using "incent" really gets under my skin. It doesn't sound natural ... i'd strive to use almost any other word or phrase. "Support" comes to mind, "provide incentives" also...

wiley said...

You might say it "incent"s me.

Potter said...

what are you doing up at 2:36 and story about little girl is great, and I want to talk about Asia's income allocation to education - that is what is a waste.

Jake de Grazia said...

Your day has come, Lil Tuna.

"Incentses" you, eh? I hope you don't "incentcently" draw me into pun wars with syntactical criticism.

You're right about "to incent," though. It's annoying. Firefox and it's little squiggly red line tell me it's not even a real word. Nor is "incentivise." Nor is "incentivize." Hmmm.

I guess sometimes you just have to accept unofficial verbs.

I was playing Scrabble against my sister once, and I dropped the word "unimpress" on the board. The verb form of the adjective "unimpressed."

She almost turned the board over on me when I insisted that it HAS to be a word: How does someone get unimpressed? Something has to unimpress her.

We made some phone calls to friends and family to settle the matter, and, surprisingly, the third parties upheld the word for me.

I'm pretty sure Giuls doesn't consider it official, however. If we had record books, there would a very big asterisk next to my win that day.

Jake de Grazia said...

Hey Potter.

236am EST isn't that late given my location. I'm in LA at the moment, so I posted that at 1136pm PST.

What do you want to say about income allocation to education? Just that it's a waste?

Do you think so for the same reasons I do? Because it's an allocation to suffocation learning?

Or are there other reasons?

Let me know.