Anti-incumbent bias

Every time I’m accused of anti-PLP bias when I offer critiques I go back in time and discover gems like being called a “closet PLP supporter” and that I “lean PLP”.  I thought I’d highlight a comment from back when I was critiquing the OBA’s lack of a consultative approach to immigration and term limits which ultimately blew up in their face.

I guess in the end, rushing to scrap term limits didn’t bring the desired results after all.

Are we damaging our cryptocurrency reputation before we’ve even started?

While I am a supporter of the government’s overall efforts to embrace fintech and drive innovation in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, it is absolutely essential that we take steps to uphold our reputation in the financial industry.

The launching of a “pre-ICO” by a company founded and run by someone who sits on the blockchain and cryptocurrency task force before the new ICO law has passed and been made effective is exactly the kind of thing we don’t need.

How can we possibly tout ourselves as an upstanding, reputable jurisdiction looking to bring a prudent and respectable regulatory approach if the people tasked with guiding it forwards can’t wait a few weeks for the legislation to be in place?

Addressing Bermudian income inequality

The Royal Gazette asked for my thoughts on the release of Census figures highlighting the disparity between white and black workers on island.   Portions of my comments were included in an article in today’s paper.

This is what I was asked

What jumped out at me personally was the disparity in annual personal income between white and black members of the public. Do you think this is part of the reason why the PLP’s emphasis on “two Bermuda’s” resonated with the public? What should government do to address this imbalance, and are they on the right track?

Below I have included a complete copy of my response.


Income inequality is a major factor in political movements all around the globe.  Lower income people feel left behind and disadvantaged by globalisation and economic policy that rewards the rich. The PLP’s emphasis on “two Bermuda’s” certainly contributed to their electoral success as not enough was done by the OBA to bridge this divide.  The same could be said of the previous PLP government as the reason for the OBAs meager victory in 2012.  Bridging the divide is a generational issue that requires long term focus on measuring the right statistics and addressing the root causes.


It is rather obvious that we have a troubling divide of income inequality in Bermuda, especially between the races.  We certainly didn’t need the census to tell us that.  However, one of the challenges we face is thoroughly understanding and addressing the root causes of these divides.  Too often we sensationalize misleading statistics without accepting that they tell an inaccurate and incomplete story.


The vast majority of our statistics and trends are published comparing black and white or Bermudian and non-Bermudian.  Our reliance on a large expat workforce can distort these numbers and turn people against the very things that could help address the root causes of our problems.  Unfortunately we rarely compare statistics and trends by race and status such as black Bermudian vs. white Bermudian.  By not doing so we distort the picture of true income inequality which makes for an easy target for short term political gains but an impossible problem to solve in the long term.


For example, let’s consider the PLP’s recent announcement that cryptocurrency exchange Binance will create 40 jobs on island.  It has been suggested that 30 of those jobs will be Bermudian so 10 of them will be non-Bermudian.   The likelihood is that the majority of those 10 non-Bermudian jobs will be highly skilled, highly paid positions filled predominantly by white people.   While Binance has made a very welcome pledge to invest in training and education, that will take time and the 20 Bermudian jobs are more likely to be support roles.  While those support roles are likely to be more representative of our local demographics they are unlikely to be as well paid as the non-Bermudian jobs.


Now let’s consider the PLP has considerable success in attracting cryptocurrency and fintech businesses to the island and generates many, many jobs. In a few years time, when the next census comes out, what would we read?  White incomes rose considerably while black incomes rose modestly.  Would that be a fair analysis?  Should the PLP in that case be blamed for not addressing income inequality and making whites richer?  Personally I think that would be unreasonable.


The challenge we face is that we are reliant on foreign investment and skilled labour to create jobs on island.  We could certainly insist that these new cryptocurrency and fintech businesses recruit non-Bermudian staff that match our own demographics, however that would act as a deterrent to those businesses creating jobs here.  We desperately need growth and new jobs.


So, solely comparing black and white is a poor means to measure our racial income inequality problem when we rely on foreign investment and workers who distort those numbers.  Instead we need to focus on measuring the Bermudian racial inequality problem so we can identify whether or not we’re achieving our aim of reducing racial income inequality.  Very thankfully, the 2016 census contains a breakdown of income by race and by status.  What this means is that by the time the next census is complete, our benchmark for success should be whether the income gap between black Bermudians, mixed/other Bermudians and white Bermudians has narrowed or has widened.


Narrowing the racial income inequality gap among Bermudians needs to be the target of any Bermudian government.  Focusing solely black and white numbers is great for political rallying but poor for driving long term results.  We cannot solve global inequality but we can most certainly do more to solve Bermudian inequality.  As such, I am very encouraged and hopeful that the pledges to incorporate funding and support for educating Bermudians on this proposed new fintech industry will do more to provide opportunity for all Bermudians and help narrow the gap.

Blockchain may be an inefficient and over hyped variation of existing distributed computing… does it matter?

When it comes to building software, cloud systems architects are the present day luminaries.  These guys are the ones dealing with some of the most challenging aspects of computing today: distributed systems.  Building software that can scale globally across time and space is insanely difficult to get right.  These are the guys who actually achieve it, so when they talk about Blockchain, its worth listening.
It is worth understanding that fundamentally, Blockchain is basically an alternative solution to challenges in distributed computing.  Many of the “innovations” behind recent blockchain advances are really only reapplying well known computing concepts from the distributed computing space.  So, when someone like Clemens Vasters, a lead architect for Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, talks about Blockchain and compares it to distributed computing, it’s worth listening.
The core of his argument is that blockchain effectively represents a neat packaging of a few core distributed computing concepts.  He suggests it has novel application for a handful of use cases but ultimately is inefficient as a solution for many problems compared to other practices, approaches and techniques of distributed computing.
In a nutshell, he struggles to see how blockchain “is even remotely as significant as the hype wants to make us believe.”  He has a point.  Blockchain, just like big data, AI, Internet of Things are over hyped tech buzzwords to which few really fundamentally understand but many are excited about. 
Technology isn’t magic. If you sprinkle Blockchain or AI on a broken process it doesn’t fix the process.  Technology is a tool, not the solution.  Yet far too few people really understand this fundamental point.  If you have garbage inputs or processes then you’re still going to end up with garbage coming out no matter what technology or buzzwords you throw at it.
So, Blockchain may just be one massive over hyped buzz word.  It is understandable that leading distributed computing luminaries are scratching their heads wondering how it is any different or better than what they’re already doing.  Though a better question is whether it really matters if its an over hyped buzz word?  From a Bermuda perspective, I don’t think it does.  We are in a position to capitalize on considerable interest and investment in tackling distributed computing problems.  Call it what you like, what matters is people are actively investing in solving problems.
What would you think if I were to tell you that in my early teens I was looking up information for school projects, chatted with people all over the globe and hosted massive multiplayer online games.  Nothing special right?  The big difference is that I was doing all that in the early 90s on telnet before the World Wide Web gained traction and long before the internet became what we know it as today.  What is commonplace and accessible for everyone today was a highly technical niche accessible to few back then.  If you told me back then that people would be able to do all of these things 20+ years in the future I may have scratched my head confused as to what stops everyone if it was already possible with technology of the day? It was absolutely possible, just accessible only to the few who understood how to do it.
Is it possible to solve most of the problems posed as targets for blockchain based solutions using existing technology?  Yes, it is.  Are those technologies more efficient and better suited technologies as solutions for those problems?  Yes, in many cases they are.  Are those technologies accessible to the average developer such that solutions can be built at scale?  That’s where I’m not so convinced.  Speaking as a tech professional, distributed computing is hard and we lack the platforms to make it accessible for mass consumption and problem solving.
So why does Blockchain, as an inefficient, over hyped technology have appeal?  Well, for one it is about the sheer amount of investment capital, open source community support and will of the community backing not just it, but a focus on distributed computing based solutions in general.  That investment and interest is the kind that could drive tremendous change in making distributed computing problems significantly more accessible.  That alone, has tremendous value as it means far more people will be able to solve problems they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.  So, yes, blockchain is over hyped.  Does it matter though?