Game Theory 2: #EWaste Players and Stakes

Live from New Orleans, International finalists for Recycling Innovator Prize (c: Resource Recycling)

Game Theory continues.    Can the policy over #ewaste, the tiny little environmental niche of electronic device recycling, be assessed best via the individual conflict and cooperation strategy of decision-makers?   Or rather by the environmental risk and benefit of the environmental impacts?

Competition, evolution, survival of the fittest... in societal groupthink, it's called Survivor.

I wasn't.  Ah well.  Neither was my reuse business model.

Over the years, this blog has examined how "legacy display devices" movement is better explained by reuse value than by "avoided disposal costs".  Used CRTs from the USA compete with new CRTs made in Chinese factories in 2002.   Used CRTs provide ten-fold increase in internet access in cities ruled by anti-democratic governments.   Cheap secondary devices compete against new.  The planned obsolescence, or anti-gray-market forces, join an alliance with "parasites of the poor".  The NGOs see the visibility of their "cause celebre" picked up by more journalists, turning donations into enterprise.

The rules in any game are bought into by the players at the table.   The rules are set by environmental officials who don't know an SVGA monitor from a monochrome flat panel display.   The rules are enforced by international police, beat cops who act on the information given by journalists, following the footsteps of Lord Chris Smith.   "I'm reporting on a really big and important story," says the journalist... and "80% exported to primitive wire burning operations" becomes the single critical ruling enforced by umpires on the field to protect Africa and China's Eden-ism (or the value of the primitive imagery to westerners, who seem to almost see huge African city-scapes - development itself - as a loss of vacation habitat).

The story builds interest in the Game.  And public interest in the game is currency.  Every perceived crisis is an opportunity.  Even if the water samples in Guiyu, China, actually measured textile dying factories from upstream, the awareness brought to "E-Waste" can be turned into a game changer.

Game Theory 1: African Can't Fight UK City Hall



Hurricane Joe Benson (#FreeHurricaneBenson) spent years on appeal before concluding he couldn't fight "City Hall."   
 "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." - Sayre's Law (Wallace S. Sayre)
In a small pond, big fish are kings.   And intellectuals talking about a rather obscure niche of world recycling policy have become empowered by the smaller audience.   You learn that the proportionality of Sayre's principle cuts both ways... the big stakes questions about recycling policy go "whoosh" over the heads of local decision makers.  And the small contracts, small business disputes, small business accusations, and "people from third world countries", can whip City Hall into a frenzy.

Game Theory is the study of strategic actions in multi-decision-maker scenarios.  Game Theorists may use math - especially statistics - to predict how the number of actors involved in a decision affect the outcome.  Or they may measure the wealth of the outcome, and how its control affects the behavior of stakeholders and decision makers.  Look at it this way - the strategy and outcome of a game of RISK is affected by the number of players.  If you have six players, a goal of controlling a continent is much more difficult to achieve than a game with three players.  If you get to keep the cards of an eliminated player, timing that player's elimination (so you execute their final play and get their cards) becomes more important than the extra pieces you achieve by controlling a continent.

As players are eliminated, the sea of stakeholders gets smaller and smaller.  The stakes in the economy, per player, get larger.

[Note:  I'm on my way to New Orleans for the Recycling Innovators Forum... leaving in 20 minutes.]

A small set of stakeholders interested in an outcome starts to resemble a "small pond", as goals and perspectives become less diverse.  This in turn defines the law, or the rules about behavior concocted by the remaining participants.  But as the economy or stakes become greater, more people want to play at the table.  This "game theory" analysis explains a lot about electronics recycling policy, perhaps so much that no one even notices the lack of actual data on the "risks" to be mitigated.  Free and fair trade is almost presumed guilty, and in a rush to make rules, any rule may do.  And the rules are being made by a small group of players:  OEMs, Big Shred, Poverty Pornographers, and the contract managers at City Hall.

Take an online game of poker, with real cash stakes, with players on 5 continents.   A vote comes up, which lettering to use on the playing cards, Chinese characters or western Arabic?

Australia, Europe, North America, and South America vote against the Asian card numbering... and like the JDowsett's Ferguson-themed Racism by Bike Blog, the game is subtly biased in a way that a Western observer won't even notice.   Language is in many ways a better lens than color or bike-vs.-car for studying how majority behavior dictates systems.  Debating use of language used at "City Hall" is a better study for "tyranny of the majority", perhaps, than calling darker skin a "minority" in a world geography, precisely because it takes us away from "You're not Trayvon" jingoism.

Apparently, I'm now defending JDowsett and the Racism by Bicycle Blog.   But I'm also trying to demonstrate how finger-pointing do-gooders can create a carnage of collateral damage in a rush to make rules they haven't the time to vet.   Primum non nocere ... first, do no harm.

CRT Glass Recycling "Breakthrough" - Innovator Award Finalist



Great News!

After 5 years of trials at our sister company "Retroworks de Mexico" (see NPR Living on Earth, and MarketPlace), approval of the glass recycling system under EPA CRT Rule last year, and a $469,000 "Fair Trade Recycling" research grant with 3 universities to study the process, Good Point Recycling's CRT Glass management is in the news again.

This month we are being flown as a FINALIST to the National Recycling Innovators Forum in New Orleans, hosted by the national Resource Recycling Conference. This is a very prestigious national competition, which includes all types of recycling innovation (paper, glass, plastic, compost, you name it).  Our "Fundente Production Partnership" (FPP) proposal is recognized as a way for electronics recyclers across the nation to cooperatively share in this new market.  Basically, it supports the use of old TV CRT glass as leaded silicate to replace as a necessary ingredient in copper, zinc and gold smelting.  A single copper smelter we are working with in Mexico uses over 200 tons per day of leaded silicate "fundente" or fluxing agent, and copper smelters (like Phelps Dodge in Arizona) would also become end markets in replacing mined Angelsite, Feldspar, and other virgin leaded silicates for their smelting processes.

News about the Innovators Forum is here, the winning proposal submitted by Good Point Recycling of Middlebury, Vermont is described here (FPP).

 (Breakthrough, or "break, threw"?)

White Liberal Checks Privileges by Bicycle

Two friends shared a link to a blog by Michigan preacher and blogger JDowsett, who hit the Facebook lottery with a blog last week, "What My Bike Has Taught Me about White Privilege".   It is well written.

Liberal white privilege college students 1981
It has been one of those months when a lot of social and racial soul-searching is going on in the USA.  The mysterious shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri...  Without going into a lot about that case here, I'll just put this link to Cracked.com "7 Important Details that No One Mentions about Ferguson" (my Facebook status for much of the week).  The language is salty, but I think Cracked has definitely evolved from a Mad Magazine rip-off in the 1970s to some of the best editorial writing on the web today.  Here's a shot of my status, including a snippet of the article.
Dudes... Cracked.com has grown into something, like... way different from "Mimic MAD". I've actually considered quitting to go work for Cracked, it's today's editorial.
Robin Ingenthron BTW It's a longer article than usual in Cracked and the language is quite quite salty. But there are some great points made, e.g.: "Aside from protesters throwing rocks and things at police, you've probably heard reports that LOOTERS and RIOTERS were at the protests, and that is true, .... There were people at these protests who got out of hand (some from out of town, some not), and the community paid for it. But small groups of drunken youths do not a riot make, especially when it's surrounded by much larger groups of completely peaceful protesters. Most of them are just like any average citizen in America. If you have to, just imagine that all of these protesters also happen to be white. Hope that helps."

Note the distinction the author Cody Johnston makes about how a mass protest gets labelled as a "riot" less easily in our minds if we "just imagine that all these protesters also happen to be white".   It's much the same point I make ad nauseum about TV repair... people perceive an African TV repairman as a little more dangerous, a little more criminal.  #HurricaneJoeBenson did not get six bullets like Mike Brown, but the time they took to defame him and prosecute him was a slow motion train wreck.

Hey Yah...Teach me lies...

Even as UN reports surfaced showing 91% reuse, and the original source of the "ewaste hoax" statistic ("80% dumping?") mumbled away a denial of ever having stated otherwise, the prosecution of Joseph Benson and BJ Electronics plodded away, taking a note of none of it.  It's harder to assess, perhaps, a mistaken snap judgement made by a Ferguson MO policeman in seconds.  And Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted based on the quickness of the killing (and prosecuted in the press for the number of minutes he spent stalking trouble).  Benson was FRAMED over a course of years, and apparently no one ever thought he was worth the time to check that Greenpeace and Basel Action Network were full of @#$*.

Yep, the biggest thorn in Jim's side is indeed a liberal environmentalist, a college chum of Puckett's chums.

Yearbook got us liberal Minnesota PIRGs (leaning left) mixed up with sparse Black Christians in Asia?