From The Huffington Post
I am 46 years old. The first 23 years of my life I spent in the Soviet Union; the remainder I spent in the United States. I was born and grew up in Ukraine — in Eastern Ukraine, to be exact. In the underbelly of the Ukrainian Rust Belt, called the Donbass, where people work in ginormous smoke belching factories, eat salted pork fat for breakfast and speak Russian.
That was supposed to be my fate too, pork fat and all, but the Soviet Empire collapsed, I got to study economics at an Ivy League doctorate program and am now a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Spending half of my life in Ukraine sort of qualifies me to offer an opinion about recent events there. Being at MIT, my opinion comes with more than a hint of technology included.
If you are reading this, you have probably already seen plenty of pictures of burning tires, exploding Molotov cocktails, bodies with blankets over them, armed men with covered faces, and, most recently, youthful opposition leaders shaking hands with the heads of great nations. What I see is an installation of a new “operating system,” or an OS as they are called in the tech world. An OS is an essential set of common rules that enable different parts of a computer, or in this case society, to interact with each other. Without these rules, a nation state cannot function — just like your computer cannot function without an OS.
In February 2014, the old Ukraine OS crashed and its main architect fled. That system was an old buggy one with a “command line interface” (think PC-DOS). You type in a command at a blinking cursor and wait for it to be executed. The problem was that the execution of each command required a bribe. By paying bribes to government inspectors, you could stay in business. By paying bribes to educators, you could get a degree. By paying bribes to government bosses, you could keep a job or a get a promotion. By paying bribes to a policeman, a prosecutor and a judge you could stay out of prison.
Read the full article at The Huffington Post.
Andrei Kirilenko is the Professor of the Practice of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His recent academic work is about adapting financial regulations to the Digital Age – somewhat unimaginatively called Financial Regulation 2.0.