Term Paper: Poorly Defined Problems, Rules, and Bias

The Term Paper Theme in the blog (past 3 months) has been a real stretch.   I'm just not able to write a Ph.D thesis from the coffee lounges of hotels, at least not writing which is accessible to non-academic readers.   But I write on.  If there is something "breaking" I think industry should know, I promote it so it gets the 500 page reads.  But the goal is not to have every post widely read.

The biggest problems in the E-Waste and WEEE research-osphere have been from documents like West's of MIT which are written densely but don't define what they are researching sufficiently enough to escape the gravity of bias against trade between Rich and Poor.  Two examples in the past 4 months actually reprint the "80-90% export to primitive recycling" statistic which even BAN.org has abandoned after the UNEP duplicated previous research (Peru) showing only 15% of the exports are for primitive recycling.

Why the stubborn belief that Externalization of toxics from rich to poor describes most of the trade?  In my previous "@term paper" blogs I showed how enforcement does police higher property values, which is why you can't mine gold in the Cleveland Heights OH... and I've written how ROHS inadvertently externalizes a very very small risk (leaded solder) from rich people landfills by destroying coral reefs and creating more toxics in Indonesia (where tin, the non-toxic replacement, is found).   Externalization does happen.  But the fact it happens should not make it believeable that poor people in developing nations pool their money to buy  e-waste and pay thousands to transport it across oceans, through customs, to burn it.

My company ships TVs to our Fair Trade Recycling operation, Retroworks de Mexico.  We pay the transport there.  But that is rare.   Most exports are paid for by the buyers.  We've pretty much proven they have no interest in the junk (unless it's mixed in as TAR), that they have high reuse.  But even a big name consultant like DSM Environmental reprints the fake 80% statistic in a report less than a month ago.

Why the persistant belief in false risks?   Muggings do happen in Harlem, but 80% of Harlem residents are not muggers.  Today's thesis:  Opinion favors the concept of "underdogs".  That is probably genetic ("won't someone please think of the children").  And it is marketed to by all sides, conservative and liberal.  People are more likely to interfere in the marketplace if they believe one of the two parties is an underdog.

Case Study:  Arkansas vs. Florida, Maryland vs. Duke (NCAA basketball)

Humans have an innate or genetic trigger to prefer "Underdogs".   I explained to my youngest son last night why his older brother and I were rooting for Maryland in the final minutes of the NCAA game vs. #2 Ranked Duke.   I'm a fair weather NCAA basketball fan... when my hometown Arkansas Razorbacks beat previous #2 Florida a couple of weeks ago, it got my attention, and I started watching games again.

Export Trade Bracket:  The Externalization Tournament

In my newly emerging theory, emerging potential value is recognized both by the species and the marketplace.  We protect our young (as all species tend to) because of the value they represent to the species, and we are excited when a young artist, genious, performer, athlete, etc. surprises or breaks out of the box and emerges as a contender.  We write movies about it.  Sometimes we write movies about haz-beens who re-emerge (Expendables, Die Hards), sometimes about prisoner underdogs (Longest Yard), but the theme is being surpised by the value, the way Wall Street gets excited by rising stock in a newly listed company.

The "protect the young" bias I don't argue with.  I think it's a good way for society to err in its judgements of regulation and aid, but the individual referees (regulators) who are hired into the job of judging trade need more facts and better definitions.   If the referee is going to blow a call, we really hate it when the ref blows the call in favor of the SuperPower, the Favorite.  And in business and politics, we tend to expect that, cynically, the rich an empowered are less likely to go to jail.   You are more likely to go to jail if you are a crack dealer than if you commit a billion dollar bank fraud in favor of a pharmaceutical company.  But when the regulator only has that "we hate to see it when" fear of benefitting big corporations, and no knowledge of what the market demand is for the containers of CRTs they are x-raying, they can determine the outcome of the game without ever knowing the way it is played or scored.

The problem is that there is so much information now.  I can't read every page of Google and neither can you.   We have to either specialize, or find a "theme" which becomes a rule of thumb to judge the next "controversy".  Liberals, Conservatives, Libretarians, Progressives - these are the trending Rule of Thumb philosophies competing for our cognitive dissonance, as compasses for those of us afloat in a lifeboat of context in a sea of information.

Cognitive Risk E-Waste Cell Phone Cancer dealt with the harnessing of desire, fear, and regulation to stimulate markets for products.  When Liberals, Conservatives, Progressives and Libretarians compete to give us rules of thumb to root for sparring teams in unfamiliar contexts, they try to give Underdog status to the people they want us to root for, so that we'll forgive the blown regulatory calls in their respective favors.

The History of Slavery in the USA has given prodound and enduring Underdog Status to battles defined by race.  But that has no use in choosing the side to root for in last night's Duke vs. Maryland game.  Before the game my kids and I went to the theater to watch Tarantino's Django Unchained, so we could have been no better pumped for underdogs.  But if almost every player on each team has black skin, we have to go to a third party - AP and Coaches Rankings - to decide that Duke is #2 in the country and therefore the favorite, despite unranked Maryland playing with home team advantage.

Reuse, Repair and Recycling in the emerging markets of the world is a bit like an NCAA game.   Anti-Globalist Watchdogs want to segregate trade of used product by social class rather than by the dollar value of the goods being traded.  They aren't economists, or worse they think they are.

Two things I'd propose for the next stage of E-Waste Regulation

A.  Definitions
B.  Rules
C.  Mutually Agreeable Enforcement: Defining bias (recuse)

(A + B) / C

Definition of RECUSE

: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly: to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest

Every kid on a ballfield knows that you have to know the words first (goalie, quarterback, hands, foul). Then you have to defined rules (goalposts, boundaries, score, points, penalties).  Then you need a good referee who is A) knowledgeable of the rules and definitions, and B) unbiased.

Some rules - like gravity, and free market economics - are virtually given.

But what we all react to is when a Referee, a Rule, or a Definition

So much of this blog has been devoted to the concept of bias and the judging an marketing.  Rules begin with definitions.

I'm out of time here, may pick it up later.  The blog is "raw material" for writers who are interested in the subject of globalization, externalization, development, pollution, sustainability, and fair trade... and sometimes I'm drawn into philosophy and psychology.   It's intended as a journal in hopes that I'll find the time someday to rewrite it, or meet a writer who can refine it.

There should be some Bayesian formula to find whether a term paper or position is written from a cognitive bias in favor of some "underdog" thesis.  I believe a computer can spot propaganda.  The use of a fake statistic, like DSM's use of the export statistic in CAER's Jobs paper, did in fact correlate with funding from an interested, biased party.   If I had funded the study, there is NO WAY a fake, erroneous, fictitious, fraudulent, discredited and withdrawn statistic like that could have made the final copy unless I was biased and deliberately trying to keep a LIE alive in the press.

Lies indicate either bias or incompetence.   If a referee or umpire makes a certain number of bad calls in a certain number of games, in favor of a certain team, we know what conclusion to draw.   The E-Waste Watchdog stories dovetail nicely with planned obsolescence and Big Shred investments.  The small group of people behind the Watchdogs have zero credibility in the developing markets.

blog-end )( ___ 0 -- -- __ - _

Self Identification as Progressive, Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian will tend to influence the whistleblowing over Widget A exchanged for cash between Seller X and Buyer Y.

If we mislabel, mis-identify, poorly define "waste" and "commodity" then we will leave the referees to err based on the race of the players, the home team bias, or cash payola.

Perhaps MIT can survey all the regulators, watchdogs, businesses, dictators and environmentalists in the field and determine a BAYESIAN analysis of trade transactions

Commercial recycling is more profitable than residential recycling when business is growing.  It's the growth of commercial sectors in rapidly growing cities that create a middle class.  We realized, in the USA Peace Corps in the 80s, that SBA (Small Business Assistaince) was a better model for assistance than AID.

Agency for International Development (AID), federal agency created (Sept., 1961) to consolidate U.S. nonmilitary foreign aid programs. Originally an agency in the State Department, it has been a component part of the U.S. International Development Cooperation Agency, along with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, since 1979. AID administers bilatRaeral assistance to more than 80 countries as development assistance and as economic support funds. Development aid targets agriculture, rural development, nutrition, health, education, population planning, and market-oriented development. Economic support funds are flexible grants to sustain or restore economic activity. AID also administers Food for Peace (with the Department of Agriculture), disaster assistance, a housing guaranty program, scientific and technical aid, and the Women in Development program. In the 1980s and 90s AID stressed the development of open, democratic societies, and promoted the dynamism of free markets and individual initiative in developing countries, including the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Other principles governing AID's programs include concern for individual economic and social well-being, responsible environmental policies, and management of natural resources.  (FreeDictionary.com 130217)
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The mission of the Small Business Administration is "to maintain and strengthen the nation's economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters". The agency's activities are summarized as the "3 Cs" of capital, contracts and counseling.[3]
SBA loans are made through banks, credit unions and other lenders who partner with the SBA. The SBA provides a government-backed guarantee on part of the loan. Under the Recovery Act and the Small Business Jobs Act, SBA loans were enhanced to provide up to a 90 percent guarantee in order to strengthen access to capital for small businesses after credit froze in 2008. The agency had record lending volumes in late 2010.[4]

My thesis is that the government spending on improving the world is learning on the job, and sometimes not doing much of that.   To the degree that Government Policy is actually influenced by poorly researched journalism, poverty porn photos, and Marxist theory of value,

The development of scaleable recycling works the same way.

1)  Get from rich
2) Get from densely populated middle class
3) Get from poor
4) Get X from factory seconds / surplus /...

Can't continue... must ... drive .. to Mexico

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