Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Humans As Machine Tools

The real issue here is not with innovation, in and of itself. It is, rather, a good deal more to do with the human cost of an ever increasing pace of innovation. It is not easy going through the steps one must take to gain access to a particular path of paid endeavor. And once you do, and especially after you've taken on obligations dependent on continued renumeration, having the rug suddenly pulled out from under you is not something to look forward to. That's simply human nature, as well as cold reality.

As the pace of innovation continues to increase the rate at which the wet ware is expected to retool becomes ever more absurd. And this is in both a psychological, as well as a purely economic, sense. Putting on, and then shedding, skill/tool sets as if we were nothing more than socket wielding robots is a future no sane person would anticipate with relish.

The real question we should be asking ourselves is why we accept any system that would create such contradictions in the first place. Any more than thinking that, with information as money, we're going to be allowed to have even the pretense of a one person, one vote, democracy.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Folly of Putting Something Essential to Social Cohesion Into the Hands of a few

In reflecting on the increasing distrust and anger on both sides of the Police Vs. Policed situation we are witnessing now I am again reminded of the dictum: Woe be to those who become too separated from that which sustains them.

It's a good deal more complicated here, of course, because, human nature being so profoundly susceptible to prejudice, one group ends up not being served very well at the very least, and/or truly dis served to an egregious degree that's more than the majority ever wants to admit.

It is also complicated for another reason, however. A combination situation that shows up in other service situations to various degrees, but seldom to this extent. That combination is the simple fact that policing is, unquestioningly, inherently difficult, and dangerous. But it is also faced with the absolutely essential requirement to be formed on the foundation of impartial service; to protect everyone with equanimity, establishing a balance of calm assessment with a firm fairness in the application of the rules a society has deemed prudent to enforce upon itself. A balance that's not suppose to prejudge anyone, but be ready to react as the situation demands so as to limit exposure of the general populace to further possible harm.

You don't have to dwell on a definition like that to come to the conclusion that it's a pretty tall order. Maybe inhumanely so in the ordinary sense of what fallible people are capable of day to day; even very strong, and well intentioned individuals. And yet, here we are, demanding that one sub group of our collective do this very thing, day in and day out, for decades at a stretch.

Having the kind of imagination that I have, the empathy to a fault that goes with it, I cannot help but put myself into their shoes. Just as I put myself into the shoes of those who don't fare so well on the receiving end. But as big as my imagination is I still can't fully comprehend what it would be like to have to deal with the most troubled of us every working day. The whys and wherefores of these troubles are another issue altogether, and certainly contain ample amounts of both personal, and external, bad choices. The point is that, if all you do is deal with the collateral damage you are bound to get changed in one fashion or another, and the probabilities in that context would not be favorable for good change outcomes.

I have thought about this sort of seemingly irreconcilable realities for decades and the best solution I have been able to come up with is one based on the assumption that we all need to spend time walking a ways in the other persons shoes. And in that do we see the necessity of never allowing any one group to shoulder important aspects of what sustains us. We should all take turns handling the difficult, onerous, or distasteful necessities of social cohesion. Which is not to say that everyone must necessarily take a turn at policing specifically. Certainly not everyone would be physically, or emotionally, capable, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be other categories of the difficult they could do.

My thought has always been that each City State (for lack of a better term... I recommend you read the book “Rethinking the City” by Steven Liaros for a splendid argument on how that form of granularity of organization would be not only be desirable, but quite understandable from a historical perspective.)
would come up with an as comprehensive a list as possible of all of the things that would need to be done to support an at least partially self sufficient entity of this size. The next step, however, and just as important, would be to categorize these tasks and then declare that each citizen had to pick at least one or two (or whatever), from each so that no one could escape their share of the difficult. And then, after what ever total number required were selected (say something between 6 and 12), each individual would then spend a week or two working at each task in sequence so that nobody got stuck in any one of them.

To say that there will be difficulties in this is only to state the obvious. Many, if not most, of these tasks will have skill requirements few will posses. And finding solutions to that shortcoming will not be easy to say the least. As someone who understands the power of information properly organized, and retrievable within a dynamic application of context, I remain hopeful that it can be done. It will certainly take generally capable people to achieve it, but achieving that is possible as well because education will truly be an integrated, and seamless, part of every day community life.

From my point of view the bottom line here is that, however difficult any of this rethinking of how we are organized is to implement, we simply have no choice but to try. The alternative is just not an option if we are to survive in any form of what we have always hoped human beings are capable of. It's another choice we need to make, and one that won't wait a whole lot longer.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Working To Consume Themselves to Death, Holly and Jolly are now divorced, as well as in and out of rehab, working harder to afford even more.

As we round the last corner of the final lap of the “Holiday Season” I find myself caught up in another of my usual conundrums. A thing, or situation, that pulls me, simultaneously, in opposing directions. Something that's a good deal more visceral than a simple ambivalence.

There is, on the one hand, the celebration of the birth of an ideal man; where miracle, unquestioned love, forgiveness, and sacrifice, come together as a means to help us keep that one candle lit against the darkness. Whether he was real or not, or who his father may have been, was never, in my mind, the most important aspect. That aspect resides in the fact that miracles, and love, and forgiveness and sacrifice, for that matter, are all real. The mere fact that the last three items in that list occur at all proves the first. For each is, in its own way, a little miracle; especially as we grow ever more materialistic.

Most of the best popular culture surrounding this season (few though they may be) serve to try and remind us of those few little miracles, for which, of course, we are provided an emotional foundation for giving. And giving, in the sincere, and very personally direct manner, that those previously mentioned qualities embody, does occur, in spite of the increasing disconnect of commercial life.

With all of the advertising that occurs, saturating every part of our so called reality, ever earlier, the other side of the equation hardly needs much reiteration. Hyper consumption goes balls out for one last orgy of shopping that, even allowing for locational outsized spike up or down, shoots an ever bigger wad of counters into the server streams. There are, after all, at the very least, more of us doing it every year.

With this do the masters of capital go to the new year with a good deal more than tidings of good cheer. For not only has a significant portion of the material output been translated back into more than was used to create it, the wage slaves have created more debt, and with that, even more counters to count on for the future. The treadmill that turns by the running of those making more to consume more continues. Add in the Sheer numbers of producers, and the competition thus inherent, and you get the constant acceleration of each cycle, with science and ingenuity as part of the fuel, and or, oxidizer.

We witness the consequences of this process every day on the internet, and the various other media. More energy is pumped into social, and natural, systems than they are able to adequately handle. The weakest links fly apart at every turn and there is less and less time to ponder much of anything, let alone rebuild stability, or renewing structure. We lay waste to not only previously existing stable systems, which were miracles of selection in themselves, but to the dwindling hope that more will occur.

In all of this, however, let us not forget that it is more than our need for a means of livelihood that keeps the peddle to the metal. A good portion of this outrageous make and break is there for that extra bit. That really extra bit that goes beyond reasonable return for a risk taken on. The kinds of return that make accumulations of counters to rival the numbers of stars.

I mention this because consumption is not going to go away no matter what we may do as an alternative to Capitalism. The best we can hope for is to look for ways to do it with as much moderation as we can manage. As well as to look for ways to do it thoughtfully, with generous portions of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice. Giving back as much as is possible to all of the systems, natural and otherwise, that sustain us; keeping a sense of wonder as we ponder each little miracle that a more connected life might provide. If we can find a way to do that we will create a gift that will truly keep on giving.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Big Money Selling the Grit Out from Under its Own Foundations

One of the most telling comments from those criticizing the Alternet article below comes from one LynnRobb:
"Why would the top 10% want to dispose of the people who purchase the goods and services which produce their wealth?  Why?  What is their motivation?  I have yet to hear one liberal answer that question..."

Why indeed.

His assumption in the recommendations that follow that statement are that, since it makes no sense, the top 10% couldn't possibly be actively seeking it. And if the poor would simply stay in school, don' have children, save their money, obey every law, and don't job hop, they would prosper.

What we're really talking about here is something I've written about before: namely that the top holders of wealth simply don't have a clue as to the full ramifications of what they are really bringing about with this insane obsession with self interest and ever greater profit margins.

This is the essence of "Supply Side Economics," especially as it's continuance becomes ever more absurd with big money going more and more into financial instruments of various sorts. Why else would The CRomnimbus bill, that a Democratic president ought to be ashamed of, has gutted the Section 716 portion of the Dodd-Frank bank regulations bill. The same president who has instead pushed for passage on the basis that it is a compromise. What a crock.

The original Dodd-Frank was barely what one might call compromise legislation, this was simply full out surrender to the big four banks, and their desire to avoid the higher interests rates that keeping the riskiest types of derivatives
in separately capitalized entities (see Inside Wall Street’s new heist: How big banks exploited a broken Democratic caucus).

Paying the rest of us a truly living wage doesn't have to concern them so much if they get their returns from stocks and foreign investments. That this might make for ever more cracks in the foundation of what supports America in the first place doesn't necessarily have to concern you much either if you have gated yourself away both literally, and metaphorically.

This is where the suggestions that LynnRobb makes start to be seen as the, at least in part, nonsense that they are.

Stay in school? You mean the school your city no longer has the tax revenue to fund properly? The school forced to take in the most challenged kids in the first place? Where there are fewer good teachers willing to put up with such challenges, as well as the lower pay?

Don't spend money on non-important things? If you can barely afford a roof over your head, let alone be able to eat three regulars a day, just how much do you think is going to be left for that?

And lets not forget the racism inherent in thinking that whatever minorities are automatically undisciplined layabouts who always go for the immediate gratification. Like the cliche of white trash, what we are talking about here is a much more complicated combination of history, the cycle of unstable home life, sh_tty, as well as outright unhealthy, jobs, and the ongoing frustration of living in an electrified dream machine that emphasizes having the newest and flashiest; and does so with ever more highly engineered messaging.

Let us not forget that, in many urban settings, if it wasn't for the drug trade, there would be no money flowing at all, and no jobs either. That this only exacerbates the instability of home life to even more horrible extremes shouldn't blind us to the fact of its most important irony. That this business is no less a part of Capitalism than any other production and marketing of a product. And not necessarily a great deal more lethal, or disruptive, than selling cars that kill, or mining and burning coal, or engaging in risky investments that bring the whole system to its knees. And let us also not forget that fighting drugs, as well as crime itself, is simply another burgeoning profit center.

The bottom line for me here is the fact that it never seems to occur to those in power that they are being penny wise and pound foolish in their current insistence on maintaining the status quo. The only way they're going to be able to keep this crumbling edifice going is to go for an ever more authoritarian form of government. And no matter how authoritarian it becomes, there is a quite finite amount of time you can continue with it while insisting that the wage slaves pay for it all in the first place.

You talk about the poor making poor choices. Just another in a long list of hypocrisies. The choice you face is simply this: either you accept that a jobs/consumption for of social organization requires that both sides of the production equation have to accept reasonable limits as to what they get out of it so that consumption can continue increasing; or you recognize the fundamental absurdity that Capitalism has become; that human skill as a commodity, not to mention the insanity of ever increasing consumption, is simply not possible when the means of production increasingly becomes the application of electrified information.

Whether you pay the cost of your choice now or later is going to determine how much "pain," as you folks like say, that will ultimately have to be born. I can gilt edge guarantee you that however much it might cost to make the right choice now will seem like chump change later on from making the wrong choice.

The 6-step process to dispose of America's poor
The 6-step process to dispose of America's poor