Monday, June 29, 2015
No one will be surprised by the Salon piece linked here on robots being the weapons industry's next bit profit center. What ought to scare us the most, however, along side the enhanced slaughter this might provide, is the ability to make war seem less costly in terms of our own boyz and girls sent to the front. Which, with the right controls on what gets seen from the front, ought to make wars ever so much more ignorable to the American public.
Of course, you might think that the Internet will make keeping that very slaughter out of public view impossible, but I would give this cautionary. Think of this scenario (which I used in my book The Light of Creation): At some point its going to occur to the powers that be that providing free Internet universally will be in their interest (I called it America Net). Free, very high speed, and the more super, realistically virtual the better. Even to the point of subsidizing the development of direct neural interconnect. And it will have the best games, the best porn, and any other diverting excess you could possibly imagine; with the only thing it won't have being anything that might kill the buzz. And the only bottom line will be to simply go with the flow.
And don't worry. You will either be made to want to work (no matter how shitty it might by) by the seamless product placement in all of the diversions (because there will no longer be outright commercials), or you will simply virtualize yourself to death and thereby no longer pose a problem. Not even crime will be much of an option eventually as everything will have a camera in it, and there will be no shortage of sentry drones re purposed for the police. Truly a Brave New World.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Working just to get money is just as empty as sitting around and having nothing to do. A meaningful occupation is not disconnected work simply to afford the output of our great dream deluded sh_t machine.
I mention this again as I have just read a quite good review of "Advantageous," which is now available on Netflix. There are, however, other popular culture expressions related to this larger issue of "work" and who will end up doing it for us.
The TV show "Humans," the movies "Ex Machina," "Vice," and "The Machine," to just name a few. All of these look at the question of what are these machines for, as well as how will we end up treating them. In the TV show a mother begins to wonder if she is being replaced, and where you see that most manual work is being done by them. And the more we make slaves of them the more contempt we begin to have, even as they take away jobs. And then, of course, there's the fear that they will become self aware, and so a great deal more than just very efficient "reasoning engines," able to do our so called "work" for us.
There is a glaring lack of imagination here concerning just what work ought to be be, and what we risk in thinking we can have a consumer society where all of the things, which we won't really appreciate, are made for us.
The problem here is that we've never really taken the time, as a society, to just stop with business as usual and consider what might be a better way to engage not only each other, but what making and maintaining a balanced life could be. Of what having a federation of communities where we are the managers and the maintainers, and that what we have as needed, or desired, material items, would come from a healthy mix of technology, as well as our own personal, hands on, involvement. This is important, as I've said more than once, because woe be to those who become too separated from that which sustains them. An axiom applicable, as we've already seen, for both practical reasons as well a emotional and psychological ones.
There is also a glaring lack of appreciation for someting else going on here. The fact that much of the inevitability, which so many hold for the coming of machines that will supplant us cognitively, comes directly from their perceived monetary value; the competitive edge they will engender in so many ways and thus, the profits from whomever holds the patents. Change the economic operating model, however, and eliminate money? Would the insensitive to solve all of the tremendous engineering challenges still remain? I, for one, don't thinks so.
Anyways... Just some more things to consider when the topic of "robots" comes up.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Patrick L. Smith has another excellent piece in Salon.com about the march towards reestablishing a viable NATO threat, as well as a reinvigorated "Cold War". Readers should take note that this effort coincides with the push to reestablish a new nuclear arms race, but it also jibes with the effort to make sure we and China face off as enemies (see the contrast there with these links: Cyber Attacks Not necessarily China, China Is Leading Suspect In Cyber Attacks, Will China's Rise Lead to War?, US-China war 'inevitable' unless Washington drops demands over South China Sea).
There are at least two essential aspects of the bottom line here in my view. The first certainly is the nexus of competition surrounding resources and commercial interests. Our history of playing quite fast and loose with where real national interest begins and ends, and where purely commercial concerns overlap with same, and the lies we've been fed repeatedly over the many decades in that interaction, makes trying to sort through all of the political gibber jabber tricky to say the least. The bottom line in this is that, even though we have faced real threats from time to time, certain facts still remain.
You need only start with wars by proxy, or boots on the ground via other names. The majority of the actual consequences of these resulted in far more instability long term, via the corruption of harsh proxy states, the hatred inherent in resource rape, as well as the inevitable drawing of do not cross lines of other major power states (who either envy what we've done, or want to ensure it doesn't happen to them), than confronting the advertised threats behind them with means other than force would have done. And as bad as that is, there is the further absurdity that the majority of us here have not become materially much better off for it (if not actually a lot poorer), while an ever more concentrated few have become vastly more powerful.
The other essential aspect in the bottom line here is simply that, whatever real threat we face to our continued existence as a nation state from foreign powers is, there are also other threats as well. First and foremost of these is our continued survival as a species on this planet. Next is our ability to maintain true quality of life when, given the challenges of the first threat mentioned, will be formidable regardless of the economic model we decide to go with. And by quality of life I am not merely talking about leisure time, or the toys we get to have to amuse ourselves with. In this is health, and education and meaningful occupation.
The real problem here is that, in talking about proper prioritization of what will always be competing priorities, bringing in what constitutes the factors behind each of those priorities is inescapable. And in that, obviously, we are talking about various vested interests, as well as their respective abilities to make their needs the most prominent in ranking decisions. If you think the majority of us carry the day there you haven't been paying attention at all. Not to what I've been saying here, but to our own national reality as well
The interesting thing here, however, goes beyond the mere fact that our current economic model makes power concentration a virtual given. It is also part and parcel to why nation states are doomed to be power competitors as well, as each inevitably ends up being the puppets of power dictators of one stripe or another.
Get this through your heads. We will never be able to prioritize properly with he current economic operating system. Worse still is the fact that our ability to stay sane enough to engage in truly meaningful observations of reality, let alone cooperative decision making, remains at risk if we keep with the mutated, electrified, marketing and consumptive, monster that Capitalism has become. In that munching, virtualized dream land, everything is suspect and surreal. Everything profitable no mater how ugly or destructive. And with the net gain thus repeatedly amplified, you end up making insanity a geometric, self perpetuator.
This is from Geek.com: "...nickel-iron oxide catalysts that can be right next to each other. When supplied with 1.5 volts of electricity, the system operates at 82% efficiency..."
They weren't saticfied with that, however. They also took a page out of Lithium Ion batteries to come up with a way to use "...a technique common in battery research called lithium-induced electrochemical tuning to make the catalyst material more conductive and stable. Lithium ions were used to break down the catalyst into smaller particles, which means more surface area exposed to the water and more active sites for catalyzing the water-splitting reaction..."
Not only would large, centralized, electrolysis generation plants benefit from this discovery, small, distributed units would as well. This might well open up a number of new applications for localized energy storage, as well as integrated waste water, energy recycling units. Very exciting indeed.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Our inability to see beyond a "commercial, commodities, abstracted work," form of an economic operating system
This post was prompted by the Atlantic article linked below.
This Atlantic article is another, in a long series, of "oh my gosh, what are we going to do about automation and its affect on jobs" articles. The author is articulate, and does certainly try to communicate the human affect of job loss at the hands of "Information Retrieval" in the electric age. It is a good read despite my frustration with it, and every other such article to come down the pike in the last decade or so.
I am frustrated precisely because so many intelligent writers illustrate so many aspects of what happens to individuals, as well a social groups as a whole, when what they've depended on for a living gets pulled out from under them by the dynamics of cost reductions; whether that's the reduction of cheaper labor somewhere else, or a machine doesn't really matter that much, as it is still related, directly or indirectly, to the ability of information (which is also capital, by the way) to move anywhere around the globe at the speed of light. You couple that with transportation improvements, linked with sophisticated software to really fine tune "just in time production", you have the old idea of "regional efficiencies" dictating equitable production distribution turned inside out. Now it's just a competition to find the lowest cost benefit ratios, and everything else be damned.
These good writers, and so much of the economic intelligentsia, continue to wring their hands not only on jobs erosion, but on the contradiction of regulatory inefficiency as a cost burden, while at the same time decrying the unpunished criminal behavior of banks; the delayed costs of poisons past and present (as in more sickness, more weather catastrophes etc.) while resisting the infrastructure investments to stop any further such inputs; or demanding more B1 visas for trained workers while at the same time resisting the taxes to pay for schools that might actually educate our own children. I could certainly go on.
All the while they continue with this rehash of the same basic issues, with only the speed and quantity of dire effects increasing, no one seems willing to address the actual elephant in the room: the fact that the economic model itself is absurdly obsolete. How can it not be when human skill as a commodity is so obviously ridiculous any more? How can it not be when information itself has become the prime commodity; so much so that the free flow of same is absolutely not possible in a system that relies on "Net Gain." Which, in case you haven't been paying attention, makes having a functioning Democracy just another absurdity. I could again go on.
"...The paradox of work is that many people hate their jobs, but they are considerably more miserable doing nothing..."
This is indeed not a paradox at all if one understands that we are a different people now than those who brought Capitalism into its heydays. These were rationalists forged of the "Typographic" mind set who were ready to embrace the segmented, linear form of task specialization that turned agrarian, and feudal, societies into centralized concentrations of task specific workers. We, on the other hand, have returned to the oral type of mind set; the everything at once sensory and associative multiplicity that makes holistic thinking, and complex systems an everyday thing. Exactly the kind of thing that electrified information retrieval amplifies only too well.
The bottom line, then, is that spending a life in disconnected work, turning out bits simply to acquire counters so as to be able to consume other bits is truly felt as the stultifying routine that it is. The human condition now needs meaningful occupation in a fully task, and responsibility, integrated community. A community where each participant is part and parcel of all aspects of what supports that community, as well as integral to the decision making process. This would be work on a completely different basis, as well as where production and consumption would be completely redefined.
These kinds of articles will continue, and the issues they articulate will only get worse unless we recognize this fundamental obsolescence. The sooner the better.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The following post was prompted by the Guardian article linked below.
The second Iraq war instigated by the younger Bush was based on lies. The collateral damage done there, not only to the Iraqi people, but to our own soldiers, has been an ongoing series of lies; especially as it relates to the Depleted Uranium shells, as well as the indiscriminate burning of chemical weapons.
What we did with atomic weapons testing is also testimony to the history of such lies when a government puts supposed national security above all other considerations.
The cliche of choice here, certainly, is falling back on one form or another of the nostrum that "being the arsenal of freedom" requires some sacrifice. And, as with all good propaganda, there is an element of truth there; after all, getting the "Biggest Stick" before Fascist Germany did had very real practical value, just as it can be argued that using it on Imperial Japan saved both sides the greater number of lives that an actual invasion would have involved. And make no mistake, the bomb would have been invented whether we lead the way or not.
Things get a great deal more slippery, however, when "National Security" broadens into the sphere of economics.
Nations certainly have to keep some sense of economic security in mind. Critical resources, and their manipulation, or denial, by others can be just as much a weapon as a B2 bomber. But when do objective considerations of what constitutes reasonable access to various needed industrial inputs end, and the egregious corporate control of same for increased profit begin?
So much of our history with South America, for example, can be laid at the feet of the economic colonialism we were talked into. Bananas, sugar, and various metals, just to name a few items, created tremendous economic impact here, but the cost in corruption, and poverty induced instability there have hardly made the trade off unambiguously cost effective.
If the trade of resource and material had been truly an equitable two way street, certain groups here wouldn't have been enriched to the degree they were, but we probably still would have gotten the industrial inputs we needed. We might also have had to put up with ideologies that certain here interests were afraid of, but not automatically adverse to trading with us.
This sort of resource rape continues of course, but now the recipient entities no longer identify themselves within singular nation states. They use them, naturally, as they would use any resource, but they see it only in the context of another cost factor to be applied with only the most favorable cost benefit ratios for their pan national interests.
Sad as that may be, it gets even worse in as much as destruction of all sorts can be a profit center any more. As such Permanent war makes money. Permanent sickness makes money. Permanent poverty makes money.
And when there are few places they can live in comfortable isolation any more you can bet they will convince the various nation states to compete to build them their ultimate gated community in orbit somewhere only they can afford to live in. All the while keeping the rest of us working within the confines of scarcity, desperation, and the few crumbs of bliss they will keep just enough continuously entertained with.
The fact of the matter is that we are lied to on an at least semi-regular basis because the anger the truth would release could lead to chaos. We are also lied to because it continues to benefit a few who owe allegiance only to themselves, and/or the corporate entity they serve. A good number of people compromise with the latter to prevent the former. One might even grant them the label of the well intended. They maintain themselves on the hope that the greed can be moderated, and/or reasoned with.
The bottom line here, however, is that the risk of chaos that telling the truth would entail, as well as with starting over with a new operating model, is rapidly being outweighed by the risk of fundamental collapse by a host of intertwining system instabilities; natural, and artificial; leveraged by the amplification of everything we do by electrified information retrieval.
Pain and suffering are already swirling around us in ever greater concentrations. Chaos in one form or another is increasing in probability. Taking the bull by the horns, is it were, is, in my mind, the only way we will have any hope of managing that chaos towards a useful end. We need to get started sooner rather than later.
Hollywood and the downwinders still grapple with nuclear fallout
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
The following post was prompted by the Forbes article linked below.
A new study by NOAA indicates that official surface temperature numbers were too low. A careful review by the authors of the study of all of the temperature data available indicates that temperature rise continues unabated.
As the article makes clear, temperature data can be the subject to a lot of confusion; especially surface temperatures. Past analysis has suggested that a pause may have been in affect for the last couple of years, but that is now no longer in question.
As I have indicated before this sort of thing gets tricky when all you focus on is how hot things may, may not, be at any given moment. The real issue is total system input, ongoing translations, and net dissipation.
The fact of the matter is that the overall system cannot dissipate radiant energy back into space (as infrared energy) because several types of gas block that transfer, just like the glass in a green house.
The tricky part in this is the fact that, with more energy in the system to work translations with, the more chaotic and severe those translations become. And in this context translations are all of the aspects of heat flow: convection, evaporation, condensation, and changes in pressure.
The bottom line then is vastly more amounts of ocean and lake water being sucked up into the atmosphere. Which then, eventually, allows for more condensation and localized heating of the air somewhere else as rain falls out of the sky. Heated ocean water also means more current flow from the depths to the surface, as well as from higher and lower latitudes to the middle, with water convection doing is own translating. And with the air doing the same thing those flows, and the resulting pressure changes, create even more translation.
What you are left with is more storms, more droughts, and more flooding; in short, more wild extremes all over the map, both in terms of geography, temperature, and a feast or famine in terms of water.
What we are heading for are extremes of such translation that not even Hollywood special effects can adequately portray. A kind of ugly that might temp the wrong people into pushing all of the launch buttons because even a Nuclear Winter would be preferable in their view.
The primary problem here, in my view, is that, when you get right down to it, nothing much is getting done to address the threat because the powers that be see everything in terms of cost as a purely monetary question. Costs in capital they do not want to bear. And since the rest of us are too poor already to pay for much of anything we have gridlock.
If that is indeed the case then the only way out is to change the mindset of cost completely. To move away from cost as an abstract of counters, as well as from whose pile it comes from, and to put it into the more direct terms of actual effort. Effort directed by, and formulated entirely of, a Federated group of like minded citizens. Something that cannot be done within the current economic operating model.
Business as usual is clearly not capable of addressing this problem. Its really that simple. We must find an alternative or die out as a species. Think about it. Find a way to take action.
New Analysis Shows Earth Is Warming Faster Than We Thought
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The following post was prompted by the fusion.net article linked below.
The battle, described in this article, that swirls around the research, and the conclusions to be drawn from it, for what ought to constitute a healthy diet, is quite telling. Especially as how said research is now trying to expand laterally to include the carbon load a given food source inputs into the environment.
Heaven forbid that any thought of the connection between the health of the planet and our health be brought into the mix of food and commerce. And be assured, the "Big Money" in these sectors of the economy are ready to spend serious cash to quash any such predilections.
Your betters don't want any such facts swirling about to confuse you. They know whats best. They have a firmer grip on the "Big Picture" than you will ever have.
It basically boils down to this: You must work to kill yourself so that you will be employed, and thus able to continue purchasing until you die. Dying sooner is good for the economy because it takes pressure off both the market to create more jobs, as well as the give-a-ways most of the rest of us call SSI or pension funds.
See how neatly it all fits together.
The billion dollar battle for your plate
In trailer parks situated around anything toxic, of course. They'll make such an effective buffer that way, absorbing anything lethal before it affects the property values of their betters.
At least, of course, as far as said betters are concerned.
A better question might be why such poverty is so systemic in the first place, but that would upset the poor dears who might have to actually see riffraff walking through their neighborhoods.
Where Should Poor People Live?
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The following post was prompted by the two articles (from fusion.net and citylab.com) linked below.
The fusion.net article provides a stark representation of how the coal industry in this country has taken a nose dive into nearly complete oblivion, and the citylab.com article describes how virtually half of American families are facing financial catastrophe.
I see this kind of thing juxtaposed and it reminds me just how schizophrenic Capitalism has become. Creation is destruction and destruction is creation. Create a healthier environment by taking whatever measures to make poisoning the environment more expensive and you destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands at the very least. Create the gas extracting jobs that fracking has allowed, and to which coal has suffered from, means the destruction of the environment, as well as the health of individuals, by completely new means.
And if that weren't bad enough, bad health, whether it be to the economy, or to individuals, always means new profits for at least a few sectors of the economy. Whether it be from the unbelievable usury of the payday loan companies, or the outrageous profits of significant parts of the healthcare industry hardly matters.
This is madness precisely because the current economic model has production and consumption tied directly to what sustains each individual materially. And yet the individual has only indirect influence on the decisions regarding production.
Worse yet is the fact that, even within that limited ability to affect influence, the individual is further thwarted by the fact that information itself is a commodity; restricted by the very nature of "net gain," and the economics of scarcity that are at the heart of Capitalism.
Everyone ignores, or denies, these facts at their peril. And time will become quite telling of this I guarantee you.
The American coal industry is collapsing
Half of All American Families Are Staring at Financial Catastrophe
The following post was prompted by the Backchannel response on medium.com that is linked below.
Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, has written a very interesting response to a piece that David Weinberger did for medium.com. Weinberger asked the question: "Who does a better interview--a pro from CNN or the crowd from Reddit?" And of course, in this context, the interviews in contention are those with politicians.
Mr. Rosen's response was to explain that, in his view, political reporting is really more than a little two sided. On the one hand is certainly the nominal intent to inform voters for the ballot choice they must make. The other, however, is what he calls the "vetting process" they've assumed responsibility for. A process that underlies not only a major aspect of why such reporting begins so soon (clearly before any voter would desire it), but also why it really isn't packaged much for voters in the first place.
His claim here is that reporters take on this vetting responsibility quite seriously, and from which one is given the impression that they derive a significant amount of professional pride from. The basis for which, naturally, comes from their not wanting to be merely compliant transceivers for the "daily message" any particular campaign strives to dish out. They strive to "scoop" out anything other than the packaged message.
What is striking here, even beyond the naked display of there being no illusions about the essential "product" nature of all aspects of campaign coverage, is that neither side seems to seriously acknowledge the fundamental, symbiotic nature, of this dance of supposed adversarial confrontation they perform.
The first question you have to ask yourself is: does this adversarial confrontation really ask, let alone answer, penetrating "vetting" questions?
Certainly the candidates stumble with message on a semi regular basis, but when you start out with prepackaged contenders, from a party controlled, list fabrication machine, how much "scooping" within such a controlled environment can we possibly expect there's going to be?
And let's not forget that, to be a player, you simply cannot rock the boat too much. Who would continue to grant you on camera face time otherwise?
This is where "coming from some objective sense of the 'center' " also comes into play. Only in this case the center is simply the arbitrary point between two parties who make great theater of what is different between them; when if fact what they have in common is a great deal more compelling.
I would like to propose that there is indeed a "vetting" process going on, but it is not one geared to any notion of competency as it relates to good governance, and individuals with the intellect, knowledge and real humility to be able to manage complex social organizations, as well as to persuade and guide the many divergent views on what is important, and how that should be addressed.
The "vetting" in this context is more of the nature of who can keep the best front up; seeming to be reasonable as they deffer, deflect, and obfuscate what they will actually do once in office. To see who can be most sincere as they play with the glowing terms, and within the resonant imagery.
What they will actually do, and how they will do it is not something any of them want to discuss openly with the public. The public isn't fit for such discussions. These must necessarily take place behind closed doors where their betters can map out what must be done. Their interests must be secondary to the interests of those who truly understand what is important about "product" and the markets that these trade in.
As you might expect, the actual audience for this vetting isn't the public at all. It is the interested parties behind the political parties. Those who can tolerate, as well as afford, all of the costs of admission that truly having a vested interest requires.
Why Campaign Coverage Makes Just Plain Citizens Unhappy
Monday, June 1, 2015
The following post was prompted by the Guardian article linked below.
Not only is this another example of what happens when "Big Money" knows more about you than you know about them, it illustrates the nature of information as power, pure and simple.
This won't be limited to just your purchase history. Every other thing you do with any kind of digital signature at all will get correlated as well. Might you eventually be "encouraged" to purchase simply to keep certain embarrassments from being posted a good deal more publicly? Will others be able to purchase... let's call them leverage data points... eventually? Political parties, certainly, would love to be able to get out the desired vote with a better expectation for success.
So many fun things to look forward to as "Big Data" finds new ways to anticipate a good deal more than what we want.
Big data is coming for your purchase history - to charge you more money