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robertogreco : inefficiency   21

Hampshire College provides excellent education that should be protected (opinion)
"The Best Education Isn't Cost-Effective: Hampshire’s model provides excellent education precisely because it is not efficient, argues Falguni A. Sheth, and that's why we need to protect it."



"When I first read that Hampshire College’s new president was “inviting a partnership” to keep it afloat, I was startled but not surprised.

Hampshire has been long known as the quirky, hippie, artsy liberal arts college in the western Massachusetts woods. Developed via a consortium of four other colleges (Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts), Hampshire has always been the poor cousin. Like the New School for Social Research, where I matriculated as a philosophy graduate student, Hampshire has been eternally underfunded and run on a skeletal budget, relying on its faculty and staff’s dedication and commitment to the alternative, progressive pedagogy espoused since the college’s founding in 1965.

I was a faculty member at Hampshire for 14 years. There, I developed my identity as a political philosopher and public writer on national security, the war on terror and Islamophobia. There, I found challenging and supportive intellectual camaraderie among brilliant, committed colleagues who espoused a broad, interdisciplinary curriculum. Hampshire’s list of illustrious and accomplished faculty has included James Baldwin, Yusef Lateef and Jerome Liebling, among many others.

I discovered students who were refreshingly thoughtful, refusing to be satisfied with a conventional education. They were fearless in challenging their faculty members’ and classmates’ presuppositions. This is how my first book came about: from a political philosophy course on the social contract that was continuously challenged by critical students. My students asked about race, colonialism, the absence of recognition for male and female nonwhites, the contradiction between the notion of equal rights, and the fact of slavery. They required me to address these contradictions back when it was unheard-of to do so.

The same questions had occurred to me in graduate school but were afforded little merit even at a progressive place like the New School. Those questions still niggled as I taught my courses at Hampshire, but we -- my students and I -- were afforded an intellectually supportive space to consider them, even as I insisted that my students seek better, more rigorous ways to exhibit their findings.

The distinctiveness of Hampshire’s curriculum needs to be considered carefully: students are required to create their own interdisciplinary concentrations (majors). Hampshire’s approach is predicated on inquiry-based learning where students contend with immediate concerns and long-term objectives, with new ideas and a demand to understand the history of those ideas, while anticipating what the future might look like. This means that knowledge is not merely received but rather explored and digested through various methods: photographic, agrarian, scientific, poetic and dramaturgical, among others. This curriculum requires wrestling with ideas, as well as self-reflection, and anticipation of unexpected obstacles. It cultivates critical thinking and ethical reflection in the deepest sense imaginable.

As an immigrant kid who went to public schools, I was initially skeptical of what seemed to be a fairly self-indulgent education. Yet I knew that many respected academics sent their children to Hampshire instead of elite Ivy League schools. They were in on one of the best-kept secrets of postsecondary education: students were given unprecedented attention from faculty members, nurtured and carefully guided in their intellectual and political interests to become powerfully smart and critically thoughtful, broadly read citizens of the world. Graduates have gone on to become journalists, immigrant rights lawyers, inventors, novelists, scientists, professors, actors, social entrepreneurs, community organizers, doctors and engineers.

Inefficiency, Not Cost-Effectiveness

Yet as remarkable as my time at Hampshire was, my colleagues and I were unrelentingly exhausted. We were encouraged to teach specialized courses and to develop new ones. Students needed faculty members to serve as frequent advisers as they finished the various levels of education, from individual and distinctive interdisciplinary concentrations to the Division III senior capstone project that has been part of Hampshire’s graduation requirements.

Moreover, since its inception in 1965, Hampshire has assessed students’ relevant skills through narrative evaluations rather than grades. Faculty members write such evaluations for students as they progress through the educational tiers to help them reflect on their studies, develop deeper questions and further complicate their thinking and skills. To do justice to each student’s work, those evaluations must have detailed comments on various aspects of the project.

This innovative approach often resulted in extreme workloads. Often faculty members would find themselves writing pages upon pages of course evaluations, concentration evaluations and senior capstone evaluations -- sometimes in excess of 100 to 150 pages each year. This work did not account for the enormous time devoted to faculty-governance commitments or the various extracurricular programming that faculty members would engage in: bringing speakers to campus, raising money for those speakers and taking students on topic-related trips -- whether to The Hague to witness the tribunal for a war criminal; to Cuba to learn about arts, culture and politics; or to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn about immigration patterns.

All of those activities -- intensive interactions between and among faculty members and students, narrative evaluations, fascinating extracurricular programming, vigorous faculty governance -- are crucial to the exciting intellectual, cultural and political environment that gives Hampshire its spirit. But all of this commitment is difficult to sustain on a shoestring budget. It also means scarce resources -- in terms of both time and money -- are available to support the faculty’s intellectual life and research, which are nonnegotiable in this epoch of competition for students.

And therein lies the rub: Hampshire’s model is effective precisely because it is not efficient. Inefficiency -- not cost-effectiveness, in the form of careful attention, reflectiveness and conversations unhampered by time restrictions -- leads to some of the best education in the country. Inefficiency requires more money, not less, but for good cause: nurturing young minds and sustaining the education of worldly and thoughtful citizens, which requires the nurturing of faculty minds and lives, as well.

So, unlike the contemporary trend among postsecondary educational institutions, Hampshire’s incredible educational model flies in the face of a neoliberal, cost-effective business model of education. That latter model measures its economic sustainability through metrics that are designed to assess the pedagogy or curriculum but tell us little about whether students have evaluated their positions critically or understand the world differently.

The other four colleges in the consortium should understand their obligation to uphold Hampshire as a vital intellectual partner, where their own students take classes and flourish. I hope that a merger will not succumb to calls for cost-efficiency, or a “leaner” educational model by paring down faculty and staff members -- and as bad -- curtailing the rich interdisciplinary curriculum.

If it does, then Hampshire will be forced to forfeit its singular gifts and place in the academy, and the world will be much poorer for it. I fervently hope that Hampshire can continue to exist in its distinct way and thrive among sympathetic partners."
hampshirecollege  falgunisheth  2019  alternative  education  highered  highereducation  cost  efficiency  inefficiency 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Lingua Franca - February 2001 | Cover Story: The Ex-Cons
"The only thing that arouses Luttwak's ire more than untrammeled capitalism is its elite enthusiasts—the intellectuals, politicians, policy makers, and businessmen who claim that "just because the market is always more efficient, the market should always rule." Alan Greenspan earns Luttwak's special contempt: "Alan Greenspan is a Spencerian. That makes him an economic fascist." Spencerians like Greenspan believe that "the harshest economic pressures" will "stimulate some people to...economically heroic deeds. They will become great entrepreneurs or whatever else, and as for the ones who fail, let them fail." Luttwak's other b'te noire is "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, the peripatetic CEO who reaps unimaginable returns for corporate shareholders by firing substantial numbers of employees from companies. "Chainsaw does it," says Luttwak, referring to Dunlap's downsizing measures, "because he's simpleminded, harsh, and cruel." It's just "economic sadism." Against Greenspan and Dunlap, Luttwak affirms, "I believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs, because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency—love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes.""



"Although Luttwak writes in his 1999 book Turbo-Capitalism, "I deeply believe...in the virtues of capitalism," his opposition to the spread of market values is so acute that it puts him on the far end of today's political spectrum—a position that Luttwak congenitally enjoys. "Edward is a very perverse guy, intellectually and in many other ways," says former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, one of Luttwak's early champions during the 1970s. "He's a contrarian. He enjoys confounding expectations. But I frankly don't even know how serious he is in this latest incarnation." Luttwak insists that he is quite serious. He calls for socialized medicine. He advocates a strong welfare state, claiming, "If I had my druthers, I would prohibit any form of domestic charity." Charity is a "cop-out," he says: It takes dignity away from the poor."

[via: https://twitter.com/jonathanshainin/status/907983419413381120
via: https://twitter.com/camerontw/status/908176042182950914 ]

[from the responses to the tweet above:

"reminds me of kurt vonnegut on buying an envelope"
https://twitter.com/okay_dc/status/907991703184912386

"[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore."

http://blog.garrytan.com/kurt-vonnegut-goes-to-buy-an-envelope-profund
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9299135 ]

[also from the responses:

"Excellent. Nicholas Carr http://www.roughtype.com/?p=4708 "
https://twitter.com/BrianSJ3/status/908022365128462337

"Pichai doesn’t seem able to comprehend that the essence, and the joy, of parenting may actually lie in all the small, trivial gestures that parents make on behalf of or in concert with their kids — like picking out a song to play in the car. Intimacy is redefined as inefficiency."
http://www.roughtype.com/?p=4708 ]

[Cf: "The automated island"
http://crapfutures.tumblr.com/post/161539196134/the-automated-island

"In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain."]
2001  efficiency  capitalism  policy  politics  alangreenspan  edwardluttwak  freemarkets  humans  humanism  love  family  attachment  community  culture  canon  inefficiency  economics  slow  small  coreyrobin  charity  poverty  markets  welfarestate  dignity  normanpodhoretz  karlmarx  marxism  johngray  conservatism  thatcherism  ronaldreagan  elitism  kurtvonnegut  nicholascarr  parenting 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future — Medium
'Living under permanent surveillance and what that means for our freedom'



"Put a collar with a GPS chip around your dog’s neck and from that moment onwards you will be able to follow your dog on an online map and get a notification on your phone whenever your dog is outside a certain area. You want to take good care of your dog, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the collar also functions as a fitness tracker. Now you can set your dog goals and check out graphs with trend lines. It is as Bruce Sterling says: “You are Fluffy’s Zuckerberg”.

What we are doing to our pets, we are also doing to our children.

The ‘Amber Alert’, for example, is incredibly similar to the Pet Tracker. Its users are very happy: “It’s comforting to look at the app and know everyone is where they are supposed to be!” and “The ability to pull out my phone and instantly monitor my son’s location, takes child safety to a whole new level.” In case you were wondering, it is ‘School Ready’ with a silent mode for educational settings.

Then there is ‘The Canary Project’ which focuses on American teens with a driver’s license. If your child is calling somebody, texting or tweeting behind the wheel, you will be instantly notified. You will also get a notification if your child is speeding or is outside the agreed-on territory.

If your child is ignoring your calls and doesn’t reply to your texts, you can use the ‘Ignore no more’ app. It will lock your child’s phone until they call you back. This clearly shows that most surveillance is about control. Control is the reason why we take pleasure in surveilling ourselves more and more.

I won’t go into the ‘Quantified Self’ movement and our tendency to put an endless amount of sensors on our body attempting to get “self knowlegde through numbers”. As we have already taken the next step towards control: algorithmic punishment if we don’t stick to our promises or reach our own goals."



"Normally his self-measured productivity would average around 40%, but with Kara next to him, his productiviy shot upward to 98%. So what do you do with that lesson? You create a wristband that shocks you whenever you fail to keep to your own plan. The wristband integrates well, of course, with other apps in your “productivity ecosystem”."



"On Kickstarter the makers of the ‘Blink’ camera tried to crowdfund 200.000 dollars for their invention. They received over one millions dollars instead. The camera is completely wireless, has a battery that lasts a year and streams HD video straight to your phone."



"I would love to speak about the problems of gentrification in San Francisco, or about a culture where nobody thinks you are crazy when you utter the sentence “Don’t touch me, I’ll fucking sue you” or about the fact this Google Glass user apparently wasn’t ashamed enough about this interaction to not post this video online. But I am going to talk about two other things: the first-person perspective and the illusionary symmetry of the Google Glass.

First the perspective from which this video was filmed. When I saw the video for the first time I was completely fascinated by her own hand which can be seen a few times and at some point flips the bird."



"The American Civil Liberties Union (also known as the ACLU) released a report late last year listing the advantages and disadvantages of bodycams. The privacy concerns of the people who will be filmed voluntarily or involuntarily and of the police officers themselves (remember Ai Weiwei’s guards who were continually watched) are weighed against the impact bodycams might have in combatting arbitrary police violence."



"A short while ago I noticed that you didn’t have to type in book texts anymore when filling in a reCAPTCHA. Nowadays you type in house numbers helping Google, without them asking you, to further digitize the physical world."



"This is the implicit view on humanity that the the big tech monopolies have: an extremely cheap source of labour which can be brought to a high level of productivity through the smart use of machines. To really understand how this works we need to take a short detour to the gambling machines in Las Vegas."



"Taleb has written one of the most important books of this century. It is called ‘Anti-fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder’ and it explores how you should act in a world that is becoming increasingly volatile. According to him, we have allowed efficiency thinking to optimize our world to such an extent that we have lost the flexibility and slack that is necessary for dealing with failure. This is why we can no longer handle any form of risk.

Paradoxically this leads to more repression and a less safe environment. Taleb illustrates this with an analogy about a child which is raised by its parents in a completely sterile environment having a perfect life without any hard times. That child will likely grow up with many allergies and will not be able to navigate the real world.

We need failure to be able to learn, we need inefficiency to be able to recover from mistakes, we have to take risks to make progress and so it is imperative to find a way to celebrate imperfection.

We can only keep some form of true freedom if we manage to do that. If we don’t, we will become cogs in the machines. I want to finish with a quote from Ai Weiwei:
“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.”
"
aiweiwei  surveillance  privacy  china  hansdezwart  2014  google  maps  mapping  freedom  quantification  tracking  technology  disney  disneyland  bigdog  police  lawenforcement  magicbands  pets  monitoring  pettracker  parenting  teens  youth  mobile  phones  cellphones  amberalert  canaryproject  autonomy  ignorenomore  craiglist  productivity  pavlok  pavlov  garyshteyngart  grindr  inder  bangwithfriends  daveeggers  transparency  thecircle  literature  books  dystopia  lifelogging  blink  narrative  flone  drones  quadcopters  cameras  kevinkelly  davidbrin  googleglass  sarahslocum  aclu  ferguson  michaelbrown  bodycams  cctv  captcha  recaptcha  labor  sousveillance  robots  humans  capitalism  natashadowschüll  design  facebook  amazon  addiction  nassimtaleb  repression  safety  society  howwelearn  learning  imperfection  humanism  disorder  control  power  efficiency  inefficiency  gambling  lasvegas  doom  quantifiedself  measurement  canon  children 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Twitter / audreywatters: Efficiency is bullshit. ...
[mentioned here: https://twitter.com/rogre/status/488913753564401664 ]

"Every time I think I agree with "learn to code" efforts as part of a new literacy, I see the invocation of "efficiency" and I barf"
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488885402875351040

"Efficiency is bullshit. Efficiency is the demand of an industrial system wanting us to bend humanity to the demand of money and machine"
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488885730756669441
[the one with the thread]

"Fuck you. I am inefficient. Fuck you. I am human."
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488885931319898113

"I am "inefficient" because I'm a woman. Because I'm a mom. Because I grieve. Because I write poetry, I read novels. Because I'm angry."
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488889793015603200

"I'm inefficient because I recognize that efficiency is sad and empty and bitter and exploitative."
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488890119298899969



"@alexismadrigal yes I wrestle with Illich a lot. Who can dismiss institutions (edu specifically). Who relies on them for justice?"
https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/488904879432151040
audreywatters  efficiency  edtech  productivity  2014  ivanillich  technology  jaquesellul  labor  education  deschooling  unschooling  socirty  values  inefficiency  exploitation  shrequest1 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Waste time | A Working Library
"Ruefle begins the titular essay in her collection with the statement, “I don’t know where to begin because I have nothing to say,” and then proceeds, as elsewhere in the book, to say a great deal:
“You are a walking paradigm of the human condition—you think you know more about the universe than you actually do.” “You are congenitally unable to do anything profitable.” These astute remarks were made to me by someone who knows me well. And I am thankful for them, for they encourage me in ways he could not imagine and did not intend. John Ashbery, in an interview in the Poetry Miscellany, talks about wasting time: “I waste a lot of time. That’s part of the [creative process]....The problem is, you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted. Poetry disequips you for the requirements of life. You can’t use your time.” In other words, wasted time cannot be filled, or changed into another habit; it is a necessary void of fomentation. And I am wasting your time, and I am aware that I am wasting it; how could it be otherwise? Many others have spoken about this. Tess Gallagher: “I sit in the motel room, a place of much passage and no record, and feel I have made an important assault on the Great Nothing.” Gertrude Stein: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” Mary Oppen: “When Heidegger speaks of boredom he allies it very closely with that moment of awe in which one’s mind begins to reach beyond. And that is a poetic moment, a moment in which a poem might well have been written.” The only purpose of this lecture, this letter, my only intent, goal, object, desire, is to waste time. For there is so little time to waste during a life, what little there is being so precious, that we must waste it, in whatever way we come to waste it, with all our heart.

For there is so little time to waste during a life. What a lovely corrective to the advice we’re usually given, that wasting time is slothful or indolent. And note that Ruefle is careful not to suggest that wasted time is invisibly productive. This isn’t a backhanded lifehack—it’s a defense of inefficiency. And one we would be wise to heed."
maryruefle  manybrown  idelness  sloth  time  wastefulness  slow  inefficiency  productivity  2014  johnashbery  tessgallagher  maryoppen  gertrudestein  idleness 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Are you paid to look busy?
"You had an article recently, the name of which I can’t say on television, so let’s call it “BS Jobs.” What was the point?

So, all my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable.

You mean that the resentment is born of envy?

It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something. I think that’s a major political force in America, and other places as well. It seems to operate to the benefit of the people running the society. I don’t think they set it up as a conspiracy, but they let it happen, because if you think about it, that’s exactly what’s not supposed to happen in a capitalist system. You know, we all made fun of the Soviet Union because they would just make up these meaningless jobs because well, we have full employment. So they just make up jobs, moving things from one side to another. Or there’d be three different people to buy a piece of bread — you have to get a ticket from one, you have to go over here.

But we’re doing the same thing, except instead of making up meaningless proletarian jobs, we’re making up meaningless office jobs, and these guys are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.

We used to think work was valuable because it produces something. Now we think that work is just valuable itself. If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person, and that’s exactly the sort of logic that basic income would get rid of.

What percentage of jobs do you think of these days, very ballpark estimate, as “BS jobs”?

I’d say 20 percent. But it’s hard for me to say. The last thing I want to do is come in and say, you, your job is BS, while you, you’re okay. The whole idea is that people should decide for themselves what’s valuable. But if you talk about jobs where the people who actually are working at them secretly feel that they really don’t produce anything, or don’t do anything, I’d say about 20 percent has been my experience. But, of course, you know, we’d have to do extensive research to see if that’s really true.

After you wrote the article, what kind of response did you get?

Oh, that was what was remarkable. I mean if ever there was a hypothesis that was confirmed by the response… I wrote this in a very obscure British lefty magazine called Strike Magazine, going out on the Internet, and within three or four weeks, I think it had been translated into 14 different languages, including Catalan, Estonian, Korean. It was circulated around the world, and I got all these messages from people saying, oh, people in the financial services industry have been passing this back and forth — I got this five times in the last week sent to me from different friends — and then people would start writing these blogs, these confessionals. There was one I saw in Australia, where people were writing things like, it’s true, I’m a corporate lawyer, I contribute nothing to society, I’m miserable all the time, I just do this for my children, otherwise I’d get out. Over and over again, people saying yes, it’s true, my job does nothing."
culture  jobs  work  2014  society  davidgraeber  inefficiency  productivity  bullshitjobs  careers  capitalism  universalbasicincome  economics  labor  employment  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Two ways to work for nothing – GEOFF SHULLENBERGER
"In an interview about The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor notes that of late “more and more of us are encouraged to think of ourselves as artists no matter what our line of work. It’s a way of framing some of the unappealing things about our current economic condition — the lack of stability or of a social safety net—as something desirable and empowering. The ethos of the artist — someone who is willing to work with no guarantee of reward, who will sacrifice and self-exploit around the clock — is demanded of people across the board.” This tendency manifests itself in many realms: Taylor gives the example of Apple Store employees being told they should be grateful just to have the experience of working for Apple, but the rhetoric used to draw freelancers into digital sweatshops matches what she describes even more perfectly. Then we have the phenomenon I have been examining lately on this blog: the replacement of skilled workers with volunteers.

Alongside the imperative to embrace your exploitation as an artist embraces her vocation, though, proliferates the contrasting logic of what David Graeber called ”bullshit jobs” in a memorable article from last year. In a recent interview on the subject, Graeber explains that he is mainly referring to “meaningless office jobs [where workers] are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.” As Graeber notes, the expansion of this area of employment seems to be an economic paradox: “According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” Graeber’s solution: “The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger… And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”

Compare this to BuzzFeed’s and Coursera’s translation strategies: they really need the translation to be done, but they have invented elaborate schemes to avoid paying translators. The value and necessity of the work of translation to their companies could not be clearer, yet in this area a logic of ruthless efficiency applies, but not when it comes to the kind of jobs Graeber is describing: much of that work does not seem to be fundamentally needed by anyone, yet paradoxically organizations are willing to pay workers for it. As long as it is something that you would do even if it were unpaid, it is increasingly becoming something you have to do for free or for very little. On the other hand, you can be paid to do the kind of jobs that no one would do if managers did not invent them.

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate."
bullshitjobs  geoffshullenberger  astrataylor  labor  work  economics  art  2014  davidgraeber  busyness  inefficiency  waste  politics  morality  productivity  happiness  translation  taskrabbit  buzzfeed  coursera  employment  coercion  discipline  society  capitalism  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
cityofsound: Essay: 'Designing Finnishness', for 'Out Of The Blue: The Essence and Ambition of Finnish Design' (Gestalten)
"Knowing what to do when there is nothing to do
"The press conference is over, and in comes Jari Litmanen, from behind the door. And I looked at his face and I looked at his eyes, and I recognised something in those eyes. And I thought, this is a man with a great willpower. Because he was not shy, not timid, but he was modest. He is not a man who will raise his voice, or bang with his fist on the table and say, ‘We do it this way.’ No, he was more of a diplomat, not wanting to be a leader, but being a leader." [Former AFC Ajax team manager David Endt, on legendary Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen]

Finland has proven that it can take care of itself locally and globally. At home, its sheer existence is a tribute to fortitude, guile and determination, never mind the extent to which it has lately thrived. Globally, through Nokia, Kone, Rovio and others, through its diplomatic and political leadership, and through its design scene in general, it has punched well above its weight. Having been a reluctant leader, like Litmanen, will Finland once again step up to help define a new age, a post-industrial or re-industrial age? Unlike 1917, there are few obvious external drivers to force Finns to define Finnishness. So where will the desire for change come from?

Finland, and Finnishness, is not immune to the problems facing other European countries; the Eurocrisis, domestic xenophobia, industrial strife. Challenging these is difficult for an engineering culture not yet used to working with uncertainty, and in collaboration.

That requires this sense of openness to ambiguity, to non-planning, which is quite unlike the traditional mode of Finnishness. And yet there are also valuable cues in Finnishness, such as in the design—or undesign, as Leonard Koren would have it—of Finnish sauna culture.
"Making nature really means letting nature happen, since nature, the ultimate master of interactive complexity, is organized along principles too inscrutable for us to make from scratch. … Extraordinary baths … are created by natural geologic processes or by composers of sensory stimulation working in an intuitive, poetic, open-minded—undesign—manner." (Koren, ibid.)

Equally, the päiväkoti day-care system demonstrates a learning environment built with an agile structure that can follow where children wish to lead. The role of expertise—and every teacher in Finnish education is a highly-qualified expert—is not to control or enforce a national curriculum, but to react, shape, nurture and inspire. As such it could be a blueprint not only for education generally, but also for developing a culture comfortable with divergent learning, with exploration and experiment, with a broader social and emotional range, and with ambiguity.

Chess grandmaster Savielly Tartakower once said “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” Indeed, Finland's early development was driven by tactics—survival, consolidation and then growth in the face of a clear set of "things to do"; defeat the conditions, resist the neighbours, rebuild after war.

With that, came success, comfort and then perhaps the inevitable lack of drive. The country is relatively well off and stable, and perhaps a little complacent given the recent accolades.

Design in recent years has seen a shift towards the ephemeral and social—interaction design, service design, user experience design, strategic design and so on. Conversely, there has been a return to the physical, albeit altered and transformed by that new modernity, with that possibility of newly hybrid “things”: digital/physical hybrids possessing a familiar materiality yet allied with responsiveness, awareness, and character by virtue of having the internet embedded within. With its strong technical research sector, and expertise in both materials and software, Finland is well-placed. Connect the power of its nascent nanotech research sector—interestingly, derived from its expertise with wood—to a richer Finnish design culture capable of sketching social objects, social services and social spaces and its potential becomes tangible, just as with the 1930s modernism that fused the science and engineering of the day with design in order to produce Artek.

Finnish design could be stretched to encompass these new directions, the aforementioned reversals towards openness, ambiguity, sociality, flexibility and softness. Given that unique DNA of Finnishness — both designed and undesigned, both old and young—Finland is at an interesting juncture.

The next phase, then, is knowing what to do, despite the appearance of not having anything to do.

Buckminster Fuller, a guest at Sitra's first design-led event at Helsinki’s Suomenlinna island fortress in 1968, once said “the best way to predict the future is to design it.” Finland has done this once before; it may be that now is exactly the right time to do it again."
finland  2014  design  danhill  cityofsound  sitra  buckminsterfuller  education  strategy  culture  exploration  experimentation  ambiguity  emergentcurriculumeurope  undesign  leonardkoren  nature  complexity  simplicity  davidendt  jarilitmanen  unproduct  efficiency  inefficiency  clarity  purity  small  slow  sisu  solitude  silence  barnraising  helsinki 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Academia’s Dirty Little Secret | Hippo Reads
"When it’s done right, a real education is slow, inefficient, and expensive. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying."
education  highered  highereducation  academia  2014  gordonhaber  inefficiency  cost 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Bill Gates on poverty
"Should the state be playing a greater role in helping people at the lowest end of the income scale? Poverty today looks very different than poverty in the past. The real thing you want to look at is consumption and use that as a metric and say, “Have you been worried about having enough to eat? Do you have enough warmth, shelter? Do you think of yourself as having a place to go?” The poor are better off than they were before, even though they’re still in the bottom group in terms of income.

The way we help the poor out today [is also a problem]. You have Section 8 housing, food stamps, fuel programs, very complex medical programs. It’s all high-overhead, capricious, not well-designed. Its ability to distinguish between somebody who has family that could take care of them versus someone who’s really out on their own is not very good, either. It’s a totally gameable system – not everybody games it, but lots of people do. Why aren’t the technocrats taking the poverty programs, looking at them as a whole, and then redesigning them? Well, they are afraid that if they do, their funding is going to be cut back, so they defend the thing that is absolutely horrific. Just look at low-cost housing and the various forms, the wait lists, things like that."
billgates  poverty  housing  government  2014  bureaucracy  funding  inefficiency  income  inequality 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Why I care — Zero Net Positive
"So why do I care to spend time exploring the core ideas of the Zero Net Positive Initiative? At the center is a selfishness – I’d really like to put my energy something that efficiently does good for the world. So I’d like to work for one of these new types of companies, and if there were great examples right now I’d jump on them.

At the essence of this desire is a strong feeling that I want the surplus value of the energy I spend on work to go directly to positive ends. To improving the human condition and making the world a better place. It feels inefficient to me for all the extra value I create to go primarily to people who are already wealthy enough to be able to invest their own excess capital. Many will just spend those returns on fancier cars, bigger houses and other luxuries. The wealthiest among them do often end up giving much of their money to great causes, like Gates, Carnegie, Rockefeller and more. But that feels inefficient to me – years accumulating capital, then many more years to try to give it all away."



"I actually don’t have an interest in making gargantuan amounts of money. Sure, I’d like security, and to be able to support myself and my family. But I don’t think that requires a billion dollars, or even $20 million. And so I don’t want to spend all my energy making millions for other (already wealthy) people, who run venture funds or put their money in to those funds. If my work does generate a lot of value I’d like some control over where the excesses go, but I don’t need it personally. What I care about much more is meaningful work, and I don’t believe large amounts of money are going to lead me to happiness, or even to meaningful work.

I believe there is at least a small minority of people who feel like I do. And I believe most of them are too busy trying to change the world in some positive way to try to invent for themselves structures that do better. So they fall in to one of the existing options and retain control to have the flexibility to do what they want.

My hope is to spend the next couple years researching and thinking about out alternate structures that can work. Generalizing the unique structures that have come before to make templates for others. I hope that the research of the zero net positive initiative will be useful to others who also want a structure that lines up more with their values, who don’t want to sell ownership of their life work to entities whose primary concern is the return of their capital. And even if no one else is interested, I hope at least to be able to put my energy towards such a structure."

[via: http://manso.jed.co/post/74627759206/i-want-the-surplus-value-of-the-energy-i-spend ]
zeronetpositive  charitableindustrialcomplex  sustainability  chrisholmes  wealth  efficiency  inefficiency  capitalism  nonprofit  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  power  control 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Minimum Viable Artwork | Feral Research Coalition
"That established cultural institutions are having a hard time relating to art and culture made with contemporary technology is painfully apparent. That they want to remedy this by turning towards the incubator model only shows how desperately regressive they are."



"It is unlikely that any of the artists featured in the exhibitions I mentioned above will be found writing Python code over a cafe midnight at Ritual (unless it’s their day job) because, for the most part, in the ecosystem of the artists I admire who are chasing the meat of art and tech, there couldn’t be three institutions less relevant than New York’s major museums, startup culture and (since I’m barbecuing sacred cows): hacker spaces.

This is not to say that these institutions are inherently evil or bad at what they do, it’s just to say that they are at best not particularly relevant to art production and at worst unintentionally destructive. In all cases this has mostly to do with their formal positions with regards to the dreaded market.

Major museums may wish to have a broad cultural mission and many even succeed on occasion, but they exist largely to condense, wash, clean, process and present the dirty fucked-up art world for preservation and trade. They are in the packaging business. If an artwork appears in MoMA it has been dipped in preservative and the edges have been filed off. This doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious, but Hostess isn’t your neighborhood bakery (which, in any case, is still a business and nothing at all like your grandmother’s home cooking). Museums, while occasionally flying the flag of the freaky creative class, have more in common with financial institutions than artist studios. (Quick: name one heist film that featured burgling a working artist)."



"In the end I don’t want to specifically criticize the New Museum’s venture because I believe it’s a symptom rather than the disease. We have come to believe that art and technology are somehow the same thing, just as we have internalized the idea that creative success and financial success are equivalent.

Art as I know it is messy, complicated, dirty, scary and sharp. It causes problems and fails to measure up and resists categorization. It generates failure. It wastes time and money. It burns through cash and it doesn’t say why.

Museums are archives and represent the endpoint of work, not the wellspring of creativity. If an artwork has solidified out of this primordial state it is not because it represents the “cutting edge” it is because it is finished. As Dave Hickey says: “Whatever happy contingencies fluttered around it disperse, as it departs society and enters “the culture,” where it must necessarily mean less, but to a lot more people. It’s spectator-food, now, scholar-fodder, so you may safely stick a fork in it, tell yourself you’ve won, and go to your room.”

I am not surprised that a major museum as a cultural actor is going to make a safe bet, in particular with regards to technology-based works which are notoriously risky and problematic as art objects. (“It worked five minutes ago” doesn’t fly well among preservationists or collectors). That most of the highly visible contemporary art and technology works currently being displayed are repeatable (if shallow) spectacles is not a major revelation, but it bears a hard look.

It bothers me that the last time I visited the New Museum I ducked into their auxiliary space to be confronted by Nathalie Djurbeg and Hans Berg’s delightfully weird Bird Parade. This was an artist and musician I had never heard of before, and I stayed until the guards kicked me out. Next time, a visit to the same space will require an NDA and likely revealing nothing more interesting than a bunch of white dudes pounding keyboards and energy drinks.

"It bothers me that the notion of artistic risk has been so de-fanged that it can be expressed only in terms of market risk (Serrano’s 1989 Piss Christ was both far more daring and far more beautiful than wasting series A funding, no matter how hot your photo sharing ap might be).

It bothers me that we even consider business strategy as a replacement for encouraging art production. I don’t anticipate the return of public arts funding for individual artists in the United States, but in a world of crowd funding filled with the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo and Bandcamp what the art world, (and in particular the art and tech field) needs are a lot fewer “startup incubators” and a lot more Awesome Foundations."

[via: https://twitter.com/matthewward/status/411041722739597313 ]

[See also: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303670804579236523526323820 ]
andrewsempere  inefficiency  newmuseum  davehickey  startupculture  kickstarter  indiegogo  bandcamp  awesomefoundation  2013  art  process  messiness  artproduction  diy  hackerspaces  incubators  culture  culturecreation  waste  time  money  markets  artmarket  finance  juliakaganskiy  artincubators  culturemaking  culturalproduction  andresserrano 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness | Jacobin
"There is a deeper, more substantive, case to be made for a left approach to the economy. In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts — one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government) — and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.

In real (or at least our preferred) life, we do have other, better things to do. We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more. Most days, we don’t have time to do any of that. We’re working way too many hours for too little pay, and in the remaining few hours (minutes) we have, after the kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done, we have to haggle with insurance companies about doctor’s bills, deal with school officials needing forms signed, and more."



"That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race.

That’s not what the Left wants. We want to give people the chance to do something else with their lives, something besides merely tending to it, without having to take a 30-year detour on Wall Street to get there. The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more."
obamacara  healthcare  capitalism  socialism  cognitiveload  neoliberalism  freedom  inefficiency  healthinsurance  coreyrobin  2013  economics  mittromney  polic  retirement  self-sufficency  markets  privatization 
december 2013 by robertogreco
school for poetic computation blog: Poetry and computation?
"Noise is undesirable in engineering, but artists find glitch to be beautiful and revealing inner workings of the system. Poetic computation may value expressive nature of code and computers more so than efficiency. This might an answer to questions like “Why Less Demos and more Poems?” Demonstrations are driven by end goal. It values practicality and functionality, while poems desire aesthetic and emotional impact. Hopefully what we make at School for poetic computation is for people, not computers. "
sfpc  taeyoonchoi  noise  inefficiency  poetry  coding  emotion  impact  aesthetics  2013  schoolforpoeticcomputation 
june 2013 by robertogreco
27c3: Your Infrastructure Will Kill You (en) - YouTube
"The past century our infrastructure has seen both massive expansion and heavy centralization. When it fails, it fails big -- this is the reality of our modern interconnectedness. We live in a world of crumbling bridges and bankrupt states, and our infrastructure will kill us. The people we're relying on to keep us safe are trying to accomplish long-term risk management with short-term thinking. So, what now? We can't opt out, but we can become more resilient, and we can start thinking about risk differently.

In this talk, we'll look at threat modeling in the real world, six ways to die, failing states, that big party in the desert, the failure of the humanitarian project, algae and the U.S. military, large-scale natural disasters, the power grid, and many other things. The problems we face are big in every sense of the word -- they involve some of the biggest things we've ever built -- but the solutions may not be. Can non-governmental networks step up when governments fail…"
makermovement  makerculture  networks  government  energy  risk  resilience  inefficiency  efficiency  2011  infrastructure  elanorsaitta 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Over Optimized | Quiet Babylon
"I keep thinking about the impending extinction of the Cavendish Banana a… mono-culture… propelled to the #1 spot when the previous favourite, the Gros Michel Banana was wiped out, also by disease. And of the injuries (careful about clicking that link) sustained by Super-G skiers when their highly optimized gear turns against them during a crash. And of Koalas which have evolved to eat a tree no one else eats and who will die off when the trees do.

Then I think about apples which come in a variety of types, casual skiers who make it to the bottom of the hill eventually and raccoons who will eat just about anything. These are all generalists that manage to thrive in a variety of areas, and seem to be pretty good at adapting to massive changes to their environments."

"…When things are stable, specialization and optimization is the recipe for success. When things are bumpy, allowing some of the inefficiency that comes from flexibility is probably the thing that will let you survive."
2008  timmaly  markets  inefficiency  overoptimization  adaptability  resilience  survival  slack  optimization  sustainability  animals  raccoons  koalas  skiing  diversity  bananas  apples  generalists  specialization 
november 2012 by robertogreco
oftwominds: Complexity and Collapse
"The most obvious features of recent political and financial "solutions" are their staggering complexity and their failure to fix what's broken. The first leads to the second…

The healthcare reform fixes nothing, while further burdening the nation with useless complexity and cost…

Here is the "problem" which complexity "solves": it protects Savior State fiefdoms and private-sector cartels from losses.  State fiefdoms and cartels have one goal: self-preservation…

Complexity works beautifully as self-preservation, because it actually expands the bureaucratic power of fiefdoms and widens the moat protecting cartels…

Put another way: in the competition with the private sector for scarce capital, the State and corruption always win…

Real solutions require radically simplifying ossified, top-heavy, costly systems…

The single goal is preserving the revenue and reach of concentrated power centers…

But complexity does have an eventual cost: collapse."
complexity  policy  statusquo  via:kazys  politics  corruption  collapse  power  wealth  cartels  bureaucracy  specialinterests  fiefdoms  systems  restart  inefficiency  health  healthcare  finance  self-reliance  dependence  privatesector  corporatewelfare  2011  charleshughsmith  self-preservation 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Communication Nation: The connected company
"average life expectancy of a human being in 21st century is ~67 years…average life expectancy for a company is…has dropped precipitously, from 75 years (in 1937) to 15 years in a more recent study…

I believe that many of these companies are collapsing under their own weight. As companies grow they invariably increase in complexity, & as things get more complex they become more difficult to control.

…As you triple the number of employees, their productivity drops by half (Chart here).

This “3/2 law” of employee productivity, along with the death rate for large companies, is pretty scary stuff. Surely we can do better?

…secret, I think, lies in understanding the nature of large, complex systems, & letting go of some of our traditional notions of how companies function. [Proceeds to explain]
business  management  collaboration  complexity  organizations  small  scale  flexibility  adaptability  organisms  connectivism  listening  adaptation  space  social  society  cities  urban  urbanism  design  culture  socialbusiness  planning  people  humans  inefficiency  efficiency  division  identity  ecosystems  activelistening 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Venkatesh Rao's answer to How might we build an education system that is centered on creating rather than replicating knowledge? - Quora
"The short answer to your question is that to create MORE and BETTER knowledge, paradoxically, we need to TRY to create FAR LESS."

"It's too late for you and me. But if we want the giants to return, we have to do one single, simple, and incredibly important thing:

We have to deprofessionalize discovery, and return it to amateur status.

Paradoxically, to get back to "giant-driven" discovery, we have to focus on teaching and preservation.

We have to turn off entirely, or significantly reduce, the cocaine of indirect cost support that flows through the veins of research universities.

Grow thinkers, not buildings.

Let institution builders get back to doing their own damn fund-raising, instead of leeching off thinkers and knowledge creators through what is in effect, predatory taxation that enslaves them."

[via: http://twitter.comsebpaquet/status/26705003276140544 ]
institutions  highered  education  highereducation  learning  making  organizations  organizationalinertia  middlemanagement  waste  inefficiency  fundraising  gamechanging  small  lcproject  discovery  innovation  creativity  teaching  tcsnmy  cv  obsolescence  venkateshrao 
january 2011 by robertogreco
education should be inefficient [Great post from Astra Taylor, way too much to pull quotes, but here are two anyway.]
"I think one reason highly educated and credentialed people latch on to alt ed theories is there’s a sense that we are at heart autodidacts, despite schooling.…

I was unschooled without highspeed Internet (first logged on freshman year of highschool); my youngest sister doesn't remember life without constant highspeed access. I would say for both of us though, unschooling has been more about slowness, about paying attention, immersing ourselves bizarre art projects, volunteering, staring off into space, talking to friends, and reading books, reading books, reading books. We sometimes learned quickly, when motivated or excited to master some skill, but typically we learned at our own pace, which was often slow (sometimes so slow it looked as though we were doing nothing at all) and with lots of detours."

[A reply is here: http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.culture.media.idc/1877 ]
astrataylor  unschooling  slow  inefficiency  learning  deschooling  glvo  slowlearning  boredom  credentials  schools  schooling  education 
november 2010 by robertogreco

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