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Ready for a National ID

When Yahoo was hacked, we threw away our passwords and got new ones. When Target was hacked, we threw away our credit cards and got new ones. Now that Equifax has been hacked, we'll have to throw out our social security cards and get new ones. Alas, such a thing is not currently possible, and that's a big problem. It's not that we shouldn't have a national ID number. A robust credit system requires (1) a standardized system to identify who owes what so the government knows whose stuff to take if a debt is not paid and (2) a standardized system for recording past and current credit so that borrowers can support their creditworthiness. It was point (2) that got hacked, but it was the design of point (1) that makes the hack such a big problem. The social security number (SSN) is poorly suited for its role. As long as the SSN is both the account number and the unchangeable password for all our financial instruments, we will endure costly and rampant fraud. Just as the size of the Target hack forced the US to finally rethink credit card security, the size of the Equifax hack should force us to rethink our national ID security.

Free Star Wars for Everyone

You got a robotic vacuum cleaner for Christmas. It is the cutest little thing—circling around the room, diligently picking up confetti from the New Years Eve party the night before. You just can't let all that cuteness go to waste. So you record the whole cycle on your phone—the whole two hours and twenty minutes—and post it to your Youtube channel. You have 5 subscribers, all spam bots. Your video goes on to get a million views because the pet name you gave to the vacuum matches the name of an politician recently embroiled in scandal, making "<politician's name> Cleans House" accidental clickbait.

The Electoral Jury

How much time to do you spend figuring out how you should vote? A few hours? A few minutes? Any time at all? I could not find a study that measured the average time that voters spend researching their candidates, but I did find that three quarters of Americans do not know how long a senator's term is. Perhaps an average voter reads the blurbs in the local newspaper, listens to some soundbites on the news about each candidate, and watches a myriad of television ads. Does he read each candidate's website? If not, this is like owning a bagel shop and hiring a manager without reading his resume. Imagine a bagel shop where all employees are hired with the same consideration that the average voter gives to political candidates. Such a shop would operate with the legendary efficiency and effectiveness of a DMV.

Trial by Jury: Keep the Jury, Eliminate the Trial

Yesterday, I made a simple argument for handing the jurors the facts that are not in dispute at the beginning of the trial. I want to extend that argument a bit further to a more expansive idea that I have. Rather than just giving the undisputed facts to the jurors, why not boil the entire trial down to its text and give it to the jury as a kind of case study. All of the questions asked in the trial are already in multiple depositions. If a witness gives an answer that is different from the deposition, the deposition is brought out and read. Why not deliver all the evidence to the jury in writing? I can read faster than I can listen, and importantly, I can alter my pace as needed.

Trial by Jury: Just Give Us the Facts

I just finished a seven-day trial as a juror on a civil suit. This was my first time called and serving on a jury. It was an enlightening experience. There are a number of observations that I have. I may make an omnibus post to share all the little things I found surprising, from the high quality of the jury video to the great facial expressions of the judge. For now, I am going to focus on one major observation: most of the court time was spent extracting from the witnesses facts that were not in dispute, and if these facts had been directly conveyed to us, it would have been far more efficient without sacrificing any fairness in the proceedings. I am going to change a few details of the case so that this article will not draw any unrequested attention to the participants in this case.