Archive for society

The Visible Hand

I’m pretty sure a determined group of geeks could fix the world in about fifteen years or so. All that we really do is recognize that the Internet is eventually going to change the way we live our lives. It’s simple evolution, right? Technology increases resource production and extends life expectancy, eventually the tool-using monkeys always take over.

Consider civil disobedience. Let’s say we, as geeks, decide to make tools to make passive resistance more feasible. Instead of simply telling the disenfranchised to stop being terrorists, we create viable alternatives. The problem with so many of our policies currently is they focus on prevention, and prevention is never sustainable unless the underlying causes have been addressed.

We can look at the cause of terrorism in terms of income equality, but that’s one step too far. Inequality gives rise to violence, but for it to take root at the level of individual people, there has to also be a belief that there are no other options. The vast bulk of humanity would, if given a real choice, prefer peace, but figuring out peaceful solutions is harder than figuring out violent ones.

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Information Wants To Be Free

I ran across some interesting statistics on internet censorship from Good Magazine. The most interesting was the bit on Cuba.

“In Cuba, all private internet access is banned. Accessing the internet from your homes can lead to up to five years in prison, counter-revolutionary activity: twenty [years]. Number of Cubans currently in jail for their internet activities: 24.”

I have a couple friends who see Cuba as a would be paradise that suffers not through the system that governs it, but through the malice of fearful imperialists. It’s a rare Heaven though that requires gatekeepers to hold people in.

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We’re Not All Children

Does anyone ever have a sense of awakening where you look back over the life you have lived, recognize that you have been making convenient and safe choices rather than genuine ones, but also know that the you have the potential to work toward any future that you want?

It’s this almost like instead of having lived my life up to this point I sometimes awaken into a life that has somehow ended up here. Rather than feeling everything is laid out and decided, the world is a place of possibility I somehow overlooked for 30 years.

One of the biggest issues I’m realizing in why I spent as much time confused as I have is no one ever emphasized to me just how easy it is to screw things up and how regularly I should expect that to happen. Instead, everyone seems to have agreed to this really inefficient system where everyone pretends to understand what the fuck is going on, hide their lack of knowledge, resist being affected by outside influences, and be ashamed they make mistakes.

Given how dumb an idea that is from an objective standpoint, I’m beginning to get why the LSD movement (documentary parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) “tuned in, turned on and dropped out.”

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Ramping Up The Economy

It seems strange to me as we’re attempting to ramp up the economy that in this age of a focus on sustainability I hear almost no one saying, “If people can get by with less stuff, wouldn’t that be better for the world?”

Maybe the solution isn’t upping how much stuff we consume, but downgrading how hard we work. Why can’t Obama just ramp down production by upping the minimum wage and lowering the work week to 32 hours a week? Three day weekends for everyone every week!

(A: Obama can’t try to ramp down because it will exacerbate the problem of our products costing more than the same stuff made by someone making less per hour. So long as cost is the only purchasing determinate, there’s always going to be an incentive to cut corners.)

In seriousness though, it is going to have to happen. There are twice as many people on the planet as they were when we decided everyone would work 40 hours a week. Modern technology and automation make that doubled workforce far more than twice as effective.

It’s a really twisted irony that people sacrifice so much of their lives to produce stuff that the world would be better off without.

Rat Race

(I really like this cartoon. Sometimes, I want to ask people, “Are you sure the ladder you’re so intent on climbing is actually going somewhere? Stop and look at the people who’ve been doing it for a while, are they happy?” The answer for academia was a solid, “No.” Your reward for all your hard work is more work.)

Ultimately, I think the solution isn’t going to be governmental. Regulation will never adapt as quickly as a market and rules keep people from developing an internalized sense of the real costs of their actions.

What we need are market systems that drive toward simplicity rather than excess.

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Robot Obama

Seven years into Obama’s Presidency the White House releases a statement saying that the President did not survive the explosion reported over the Pacific last year. He was killed in a terrorist attack but that because of the state of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the decision was made to replace him with a cloned duplicate. That clone with a crystal brain has been running the country for the last year.

That same evening, the clone comes onto American television and says:

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Everyone’s A Puss

I made a $40 donation to MPP and have this t-shirt coming to me in the mail:

I am not a criminal. Regulate marijuana.

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A Socialist Tesla

[T]he job is not to see where “Marx was wrong” so much as to make a fresh application of his theory to the world around us as it is, not as it once was. To borrow a comparison from the field of physics, we need socialist Faradays and Maxwells or if we are lucky, Einsteins and Plancks, not people who confine themselves to knocking Isaac Newton.
— Harry Braverman

I like the idea of being a socialist Faraday. (Einstein was already a socialist Einstein.) Actually, I think I want to be a socialist Tesla — the quirky scientist motif always entertained me. I’m thinking about having mad scientist business cards made up to give to people when schmoozing in B’more.

At the very least, I want to help people realize that economics is a science. In various discussions, I’ve had six or seven people so far say, “that sounds like socialism, which has been proven not to work.” This one little patent oversimplification gets passed around making people sound like they know what they’re talking about, but hiding the fact that there are lots of economic options yet untried.

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At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality… We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
— Ernesto “Che” Guevara

I spent four and a half hours today watching Benicio Del Toro as Che Guevara.

It was a visually intriguing and well shot film. Conceptually, however, it painted him as a machine gun toting saint.

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Today we (knowingly) inaugurated our first black President.

Knowing this leaves me feeling good about the world.

Not that I think Obama fixes racism.

He’s one more milestone along a long road toward healing the moral atrocity that was slavery.

Though, I’ll admit a quiet hope that we are approaching a tipping point.

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I liked the inauguration today. I ended up watching it on Fox News in a bar, but at least I got to take a little time out of my day and enjoy, for the first time in a while, American ceremonial displays that I thought were backed with the real possibility of fulfilling the values that they theoretically stand for.

I’ve decided though, if I am ever elected king of America, I’m going to get a jester. Someone who stands outside the system and who comments through creative comedy on the life of my administration. I think it’d help keep me honest and liven things up from time to time. If you’re doing a particularly good job of it, leading the free world probably gets boring.

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