Kort, over de legalisering van cannabis

Afgelopen week was er iets in het nieuws dat mijn aandacht heeft getrokken. Farmacoloog Jan Tytgat, econoom Paul De Grauwe en criminoloog Tom Decorte hebben namelijk het Belgische cannabisbeleid op de korrel genomen. Zij pleiten voor de legalisering van softdrugs.

België heeft in tegenstelling tot Nederland altijd voor een repressief beleid gekozen. Het rare daaraan is dat je wel cannabis op zak mag hebben voor eigen gebruik, maar niet dealen. Je mag er dus wel hebben, maar geen produceren. Een beetje hypocriet, niet?

Het argument tégen is als volgt: “Als je cannabis legaliseert, waar ligt dan de grens? Opent dit niet de weg naar vele gevaarlijkere drugs zoals cocaïne?”. Dit is een foutieve veronderstelling. Je kan dit makkelijk weerleggen door te stellen dat het nu criminelen zijn die de drugs aanbieden. De markt speelt zich af in het criminele circuit en daar schuilt natuurlijk ook het gevaar dat onschuldige burgers in contact worden gebracht met veel gevaarlijkere drugs. En dat is schadelijk voor de volksgezondheid. Als de overheid zelf ingrijpt in de markt, wijzigen de omstandigheden. Dan zou cannabis bijvoorbeeld bij de lokale apotheker kunnen worden verkregen. Niet alleen voor medisch gebruik, maar ook gewoon ter consumptie. Als er maar randvoorwaarden worden uitgezet, maar dewelke zijn die dan?

De Grauwe stelt dat we naar een nieuw economisch model en evenwicht moeten gaan. In Nederland heeft het gedoogbeleid de economie zelfs een duwtje in de rug gegeven. Maar dat is wel een verhaal waar iedereen in moet stappen. Het is aan een hogere instantie binnen de overheid om dit te regelen. De kerntaken van de overheid zijn namelijk kwaliteitscontrole en regulering. En ook: de politici zullen hun nek moeten uitsteken en het beleid mee uitzetten waarin iedereen in de supply chain meegaat: kwekers, verdelers en consumenten.

In economische onzekere tijden kan de legalisering van cannabis zeker economisch een opsteker zijn, en het is ook positief voor de volksgezondheid.

On being special

A good follow up on Homo Universalis is Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. Perhaps our focus on monopathy really does make us feel more special than others? 🙂

Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.”  He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.”
For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?”  He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”

All you can eat

This week got me thinking a little bit about the way we deal with and consume information in our daily lives.

First of all, let’s talk about the way information is consumed. It cannot be denied that information on the Internet is mostly free and widely accessible. We live in an information-abundant society. There’s just so much information in so many forms: Facebook updates, tweets, news items, how-to articles and so on. That’s why I’m using an RSS reader (Feedly) to save time. I want to learn as much as possible of course, but time constraints pose the biggest roadblock to satisfying the appetite of a ravenous reader like myself. The quicker you can access the books, blogs, stories and news that move you, the more time you have to digest and enjoy them.

Yet my Feedly account is still bursting out. And the river keeps flowing. It never stops. Luckily, RSS readers provide some built-in controls that allow me to organize how I digest the information. In Feedly I can play around and configure some settings too. You can mark the sources you like the most as “must read”. This influences how Feedly filters your information stream and showcases featured articles. And if you are subscribing to a lot of sources, you can group them in categories.

Another thing to it (point two), is how information is presented. We want our information to be relevant, accessible and correct.

Let’s again look at Feedly. One Feedly feature I really love is the ability to assign the right layout to each source. As I already mentioned: we deal with various types of information, be it books, blogs, stories or articles. Now the good thing with Feedly is that it allows you to assign different views to each source. As such, you can use for instance the title only if you are a fast information scanner, grid if the source is very visual (example: Flickr, etc..).

But that’s just the form and style or the digital reading experience, and Feedly makes you in control on how the information is displayed.

I am a technology optimist and I think we can do a much better job. We could built smart algorithms that look at a number of parameters, like the frequency for instance to check how often information is updated. Then only decide how to present the information to the user. In the physical world, books are books. A magazine is a magazine. The newspaper has headlines and a frontpage. Now the trick is to tie this all together. It shouldn’t be that hard right? Read on.

Unfortunately our digital world isn’t perfect either. Are we becoming a better society if we let machines decide? The Internet is reigned by the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple. Facebook for instance doesn’t give you much options what you get to see on your news feed. It decides for us which information is important and which not. We are simply not in control. The below tweet talks about how Apple enters our private live, while it asks the valid question to install updates now are when we are asleep. Do we really want Apple to know when we call it a day?

“Wilt u de updates nu installeren of het vannacht proberen?” WTF moeit Apple zich met ons privé leven ??

— Tim Vande Walle (@TimVdWalle) November 16, 2013

Another example happened to me last week. Google Now knows where I live, without me ever stating the same. It just interprets my geolocation as I’m sharing the same and tells me my ETA. It seems like we have become transparant machines.

There is a general trend here. Computers are increasingly influencing our lives as we are more digitally embedded. And there’s the big caveat: machines are becoming smarter, but at what cost? What is the right model?

So I think it’s all about giving empowerment to users. Build in the controls. But with great power comes great responsibility as Spider Man learnt us. Let users do the work. Let them interact with the controls. Perhaps some of us need to go on an information diet. As with a food diet, diet plans are the first step to be taken when you want to lose weight and become healthier. There challenge is staying on track with it. It requires effort.

Clay Johnson is actually a thought-leader in this domain. He argues that they’re about your personal health, and the health of society. Just as junk food can lead to obesity, junk information can lead to new forms of ignorance. Johnson built an Information Diet framework for consuming information in a healthy way, by showing you what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective.

Homo universalis

I thought you were either a ‘natural’ or nothing. Then I saw natural athletes fall behind when they didn’t practice enough. This, shamefully, was a great morale booster.

The above excerpt is from a nicely written essay by Robert Twigger on how our society praises o monopathy, or over-specialisation. He argues that if we exclude the physicality of existence and reduce everything worth knowing down to book-learning, we miss out on a huge chunk of what makes us human.

Running stats for October 2013

We are November now and here and update on the running action from last month. I’m back in full swing! Let’s recap.

As for the weather: it’s raining now and then, but luckily the pollen is down. And there’s still some sun around the corner!

My running routine is to keep it up on average 3 times per week. It goes like this: the same 6 KM post-work run on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and then an easy paced 20KM+ during the weekend. I think I maintained this very well and the stats reflect this too.


My total distance was 184KM (September: 120KM) and a whopping 15 tracks (September: 11 tracks)! I’m satisfied. Things are going the right direction. I’m thinking to also keep track of the timings, because as for long distances it’s basically about how long you can keep going. At least the data is available, but I can’t quite grasps how Google is calculating this.

Keep you posted.

Listening continuously

Considering the current environment of rising risks, regulatory activity, and compliance costs, one of the popular market trends the latest years next to data analytics and business information management is Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing.

Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing seeks to add value by improving compliance and supporting business goals. From a technology perspective, it enables a high degree of automation to monitor systems and data, and implements closed-loop mechanisms for any exceptions detected. As a monitoring mechanism, Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing helps to detect irregularities in system configurations, processes and data, either from a risk or a performance perspective.

Continuous Monitoring is a feedback mechanism used by management to ensure that controls operate as designed and that transactions are processed as described. This monitoring is the responsibility of management and can form an important component of the internal control structure. On the other hand, Continuous Auditing is the collection of audit evidence and indicators by either the external auditor or the internal auditor in IT systems, processes, transactions and controls on a frequent or continuous basis throughout the period.

The potential values of Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing are various:

  • Enhanced governance and more timely oversight of compliance across the enterprise
  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of the control environment through automation, leading to cost-reduction opportunities
  • Business improvement through reduced errors and improved error remediation, allowing reallocation of resources to value-adding activities
  • The ability to report more comprehensively on compliance with internal and regulatory requirements
  • Financial and non-financial ROI

Business intelligence platforms can often provide realtime operational performance data and financial ERP data that is often difficult to replicate due to the complexities of the source data. The analytical tools, such as ACL, IDEA or SAS, or the more dedicated monitoring tools like SAP GRC, BWise, Oversight, EMF and Approva can be used to consolidate the various data elements into a single comprehensive model. The key is to normalize the data into meaningful standard measures so that different parts of the enterprise can be compared to one another using ratio analysis, say per 100 employees. Once in place, Internal Audit can include this information to identify areas of risk, or to confirm empirically what has been identified through management interviews and control risk self-assessments.

While continuous auditing of specific business processes provides value in and of itself, the greatest value lies in the ability to assess the state of the enterprise as whole through the continual assessment of data-driven key risk indicators. In order to get this work, Continous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing typically consists of functionality such as data extraction from source systems, data analysis, case management and reporting. It is about identifying and controlling financial and operational risks embedded in business systems at runtime from a risk view.

One of the other benefits that can be realized through the adoption of Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing is increased detection and prevention of fraud. Today’s tax and welfare agencies are increasingly facing new and sophisticated methods of tax evasion and welfare fraud. For example, IT Services major Capgemini, together with leading analytics providers SAS, recently launched the solution Trouve to combat this. As Capgemini promises, Trouve (video) helps you to significantly reduce tax evasion as well as welfare fraud and error, while reducing the burden on honest citizens and improving productivity.

Through advanced digital technology and analytics, agencies can confront their challenges head on with the help of a more complete picture of the taxpayer or claimant, the ability to build more sophisticated risk factors/models, which pinpoint high risk case, the ability to risk and intervene as part of the core processing value chain, preventing fraudulent payments or acting much more quickly to recover the money. And well, the solution, combining business and IT change has all the elements of a Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing tool:

  1. Data provisioning (extraction) – the ability to obtain, integrate, cleanse and match data from internal, other government, and third party sources in order to build a citizen centric view
  2. Case management to progress cases using workflows, capturing the outcomes in order to inform compliance strategy, risk factors/models and operational best practices
  3. Analytic capability applying a range of techniques including risk rules, anomaly detection and entity link analysis to understand the characteristics of a new type of fraud; how to spot the fraud; and to develop and refine deterministic and predictive risk factors/models that can be automated, incorporating feedback from the outcome of each intervention
  4. SAS dashboard and reporting capabilities for a range of KPIs, including size of debt, age, roll rate, write offs and cost to recover

Continuous monitoring is a big one next to or part of Business Intelligence, Analytics and Information Management.