recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : libertarianism   81

« earlier  
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."



"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
18 days ago by robertogreco
Model Metropolis
"Behind one of the most iconic computer games of all time is a theory of how cities die—one that has proven dangerously influential."



"Forrester’s central claim about complexity wasn’t a new one; it has a long history on the political right. In a 1991 book, Rhetoric of Reaction, the development economist and economic historian Albert O. Hirschman identified this style of argument as an example of what he called the “perversity thesis.” This kind of attack, which Hirschman traced back to Edmund Burke’s writings on the French Revolution, amounts to a kind of concern trolling. Using this rhetorical tactic, the conservative speaker can claim that they share your social goal, but simultaneously argue that the means you are using to achieve it will only make matters worse. When commentators claim “no-platforming will only make more Nazis,” that welfare programs lock recipients into a “cycle of dependency,” or that economic planning will lead a society down a “road to serfdom,” they’re making this kind of perversity argument.

What Forrester did was give the perversity thesis a patina of scientific and computational respectability. Hirschman himself makes specific reference to Urban Dynamics and argues that the “special, sophisticated attire” of Forrester’s models helped reintroduce this kind of argument “into polite company.” In the nearly fifty years since it has come out, Forrester’s “counterintuitive” style of thinking has become the default way of analyzing policy for mainstream wonks. For many, “counterintuitivity” is the new intuition.

Expert knowledge, of course, has an important place in democratic deliberation, but it can also cut people out of the policy process, dampen the urgency of moral claims, and program a sense of powerlessness into our public discourse. Appeals to a social system’s “complexity” and the potential for “perverse outcomes” can be enough to sink transformative social programs that are still on the drawing board. This might not matter in the context of a virtual environment like that of Urban Dynamics or SimCity, but we have decades of real-world evidence that demonstrates the disastrous costs of the “counterintuitive” anti-welfare agenda. Straightforward solutions to poverty and economic misery—redistribution and the provision of public services—have both empirical backing and moral force. Maybe it’s time we start listening to our intuition again."
simcity  libertarianism  history  games  gaming  videogames  cities  simulations  simulation  2019  kevinbaker  urban  urbanism  policy  politics  economics  bias  willwright  urbanpolicy  urbanplanning  complexity  democracy  alberthirschman  edmundburke  danielpatrickmoynihan  jayforrester  paulstarr  urbandynamics  johncollins  dynamo  class  classism  motivation  money  government  governance  poverty  systemsthinking  society 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Complicated Legacy of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” | The New Yorker
"Brand now describes himself as “post-libertarian,” a shift he attributes to a brief stint working with Jerry Brown, during his first term as California’s governor, in the nineteen-seventies, and to books like Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk,” which describes the Trump Administration’s damage to vital federal agencies. “ ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ was very libertarian, but that’s because it was about people in their twenties, and everybody then was reading Robert Heinlein and asserting themselves and all that stuff,” Brand said. “We didn’t know what government did. The whole government apparatus is quite wonderful, and quite crucial. [It] makes me frantic, that it’s being taken away.” A few weeks after our conversation, Brand spoke at a conference, in Prague, hosted by the Ethereum Foundation, which supports an eponymous, open-source, blockchain-based computing platform and cryptocurrency. In his address, he apologized for over-valorizing hackers. “Frankly,” he said, “most of the real engineering was done by people with narrow ties who worked nine to five, often with federal money.”

Brand is nonetheless impressed by the new tech billionaires, and he described two startup founders as “unicorns” who “deserve every penny.” “One of the things I hear from the young innovators in the Bay Area these days is ‘How do you stay creative?’ ” Brand said. “The new crowd has this, in some ways, much more interesting problem of how you be creative, and feel good about the world, and collaborate, and all that stuff, when you have wads of money.” He is excited by their philanthropic efforts. “That never used to happen,” he said. “Philanthropy was something you did when you were retired, and you were working on your legacy, so the money went to the college or opera.”

Brand himself has been the beneficiary of tech’s new philanthropists. His main concern, the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit focussed on “long-term thinking,” counts Peter Thiel and Pierre Omidyar among its funders. The organization hosts a lecture series, operates a steampunk bar in San Francisco’s Fort Mason, and runs the Revive & Restore project, which aims to make species like the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon “de-extinct.” The Long Now Foundation is also in the process of erecting a gigantic monument to long-term thought, in Western Texas—a clock that will tick, once a year, for a hundred centuries. Jeff Bezos has donated forty-two million dollars to the construction project and owns the land on which the clock is being built. When I first heard about the ten-thousand-year clock, as it is known, it struck me as embodying the contemporary crisis of masculinity. I was not thinking about death.

Although Brand is in good health and is a dedicated CrossFit practitioner, working on long-term projects has offered him useful perspective. “You’re relaxed about your own death, because it’s a blip on the scale you’re talking about,” he said, then quoted Jenny Holzer’s “Truisms,” saying, “Much was decided before you were born.” Brand is concerned about climate change but bullish on the potential of nuclear energy, urbanization, and genetic modification. “I think whatever happens, most of life will keep going,” he said. “The degree to which it’s a nuisance—the degree to which it is an absolutely horrifying, unrelenting problem is what’s being negotiated.” A newfound interest in history has helped to inform this relaxed approach to the future. “It’s been a long hard slog for women. It’s been a long hard slog for people of color. There’s a long way to go,” he said. “And yet you can be surprised by successes. Gay marriage was unthinkable, and then it was the norm. In-vitro fertilization was unthinkable, and then a week later it was the norm. Part of the comfort of the Long Now perspective, and Steven Pinker has done a good job of spelling this out, is how far we’ve come. Aggregate success rate is astonishing.”

As I sat on the couch in my apartment, overheating in the late-afternoon sun, I felt a growing unease that this vision for the future, however soothing, was largely fantasy. For weeks, all I had been able to feel for the future was grief. I pictured woolly mammoths roaming the charred landscape of Northern California and future archeologists discovering the remains of the ten-thousand-year clock in a swamp of nuclear waste. While antagonism between millennials and boomers is a Freudian trope, Brand’s generation will leave behind a frightening, if unintentional, inheritance. My generation, and those after us, are staring down a ravaged environment, eviscerated institutions, and the increasing erosion of democracy. In this context, the long-term view is as seductive as the apolitical, inward turn of the communards from the nineteen-sixties. What a luxury it is to be released from politics––to picture it all panning out."
stewartband  wholeearthcatalog  technosolutionism  technology  libertarianism  2018  annawiener  babyboomers  boomers  millennials  generations  longnow  longnowfoundation  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  politics  economics  government  time  apathy  apolitical  californianideology  stevenpinker  jennyholzer  change  handwashing  peterthiel  pierreomidyar  bayarea  donaldtrump  michaellewis  jerrybrown  california  us  technolibertarianism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
John Perry Barlow gave internet activists only half the mission they need.
"It was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, of all places, where John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996. That might have been an odd place for a poet and former Grateful Dead lyricist to pen a foundational document of internet activism, but it was also an apt one: Barlow’s manifesto, and the movement it undergirds, helped give us the dynamic—but also often deleteriously corporatized—internet we have today.

Barlow died on Wednesday at the age of 71. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the cyber civil liberties organization that he co-founded in 1990—where I used to work—shared in a blog post that he passed quietly in his sleep. He leaves us a legacy that has shaped the mission of the people fighting for the open internet. That mission is an incomplete one."



"I can’t help but ask what might have happened had the pioneers of the open web given us a different vision—one that paired the insistence that we must defend cyberspace with a concern for justice, human rights, and open creativity, and not primarily personal liberty. What kind of internet would we have today?"

[via:https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-252 ]
johnperrybarlow  individualism  californianideology  libertarianism  internet  web  online  2018  open  openness  creativity  liberty  cyberspace  justice  socialjustice  humanrights  race  racism  inclusion  inclusivity  openweb  aprilglaser  government  governance  law  eff  policy  corporatism  surveillance  edwardsnowden  nsa  netneutrality  sopa  pipa  fcc  privilege  power  prejudice 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear
"Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism."



"Insight is precisely what Musk’s strawberry-picking AI lacks, as do all the other AIs that destroy humanity in similar doomsday scenarios. I used to find it odd that these hypothetical AIs were supposed to be smart enough to solve problems that no human could, yet they were incapable of doing something most every adult has done: taking a step back and asking whether their current course of action is really a good idea. Then I realized that we are already surrounded by machines that demonstrate a complete lack of insight, we just call them corporations. Corporations don’t operate autonomously, of course, and the humans in charge of them are presumably capable of insight, but capitalism doesn’t reward them for using it. On the contrary, capitalism actively erodes this capacity in people by demanding that they replace their own judgment of what “good” means with “whatever the market decides.”"



"
It’d be tempting to say that fearmongering about superintelligent AI is a deliberate ploy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook to distract us from what they themselves are doing, which is selling their users’ data to advertisers. If you doubt that’s their goal, ask yourself, why doesn’t Facebook offer a paid version that’s ad free and collects no private information? Most of the apps on your smartphone are available in premium versions that remove the ads; if those developers can manage it, why can’t Facebook? Because Facebook doesn’t want to. Its goal as a company is not to connect you to your friends, it’s to show you ads while making you believe that it’s doing you a favor because the ads are targeted.

So it would make sense if Mark Zuckerberg were issuing the loudest warnings about AI, because pointing to a monster on the horizon would be an effective red herring. But he’s not; he’s actually pretty complacent about AI. The fears of superintelligent AI are probably genuine on the part of the doomsayers. That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted. (Of course, they saw nothing wrong with this strategy when they were the ones engaging in it; it’s only the possibility that someone else might be better at it than they were that gives them cause for concern.)

There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own.

Which brings us back to the importance of insight. Sometimes insight arises spontaneously, but many times it doesn’t. People often get carried away in pursuit of some goal, and they may not realize it until it’s pointed out to them, either by their friends and family or by their therapists. Listening to wake-up calls of this sort is considered a sign of mental health.

We need for the machines to wake up, not in the sense of computers becoming self-aware, but in the sense of corporations recognizing the consequences of their behavior. Just as a superintelligent AI ought to realize that covering the planet in strawberry fields isn’t actually in its or anyone else’s best interests, companies in Silicon Valley need to realize that increasing market share isn’t a good reason to ignore all other considerations. Individuals often reevaluate their priorities after experiencing a personal wake-up call. What we need is for companies to do the same — not to abandon capitalism completely, just to rethink the way they practice it. We need them to behave better than the AIs they fear and demonstrate a capacity for insight."
ai  elonmusk  capitalism  siliconvalley  technology  artificialintelligence  tedchiang  2017  insight  intelligence  regulation  governance  government  johnperrybarlow  1996  autonomy  externalcontrols  corporations  corporatism  fredericjameson  excess  growth  monopolies  technosolutionism  ethics  economics  policy  civilization  libertarianism  aynrand  billgates  markzuckerberg 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Ellen Ullman: Life in Code: "A Personal History of Technology" | Talks at Google - YouTube
"The last twenty years have brought us the rise of the internet, the development of artificial intelligence, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society. Through it all, Ellen Ullman lived and worked inside that rising culture of technology, and in Life in Code she tells the continuing story of the changes it wrought with a unique, expert perspective.

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t. Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years—and the next twenty."
ellenullman  bias  algorithms  2017  technology  sexism  racism  age  ageism  society  exclusion  perspective  families  parenting  mothers  programming  coding  humans  humanism  google  larrypage  discrimination  self-drivingcars  machinelearning  ai  artificialintelligence  literacy  reading  howweread  humanities  education  publicschools  schools  publicgood  libertarianism  siliconvalley  generations  future  pessimism  optimism  hardfun  kevinkelly  computing 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Education Technology as 'The New Normal'
"I am feeling incredibly concerned about the direction the world is taking – politically, environmentally, economically, intellectually, institutionally, technologically. Trump. Digital technologies, even education technologies, are implicated in all of this, and if we are not careful, we are going to make things worse."



"We have not severed ourselves from the past through the introduction of computers or computer networks. Our institutions have not been severed from the past because of these. Our cultures have not. (At least not entirely. Not yet.) We have not."



"Technologies, to borrow from the physicist Ursula Franklin, are practices. Technologies are systems. Technology “entails far more than its individual material components,” Franklin wrote. “Technology involves organizations, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.”

When I say that education technology is not new, I’m not arguing that technologies do not change over time; or that our institutions, ideas, experiences, societies do not change in part because of technologies. But when we talk about change – when we tell stories about technological change – we must consider how technologies, particularly modern technologies like computers, emerged from a certain history, from certain institutions; how technologies are as likely to re-inscribe traditional practices as to alter them. We must consider how technology operates, in Franklin’s words, as “an agent of power and control.”"



"But the growth of Silicon Valley didn’t really do much to improve the economic well-being of most of us. It didn’t really create jobs, although it did create wealth for a handful of investors and entrepreneurs. It did help further a narrative that our economic precarity was not only “the new normal” but potentially liberatory. The “freelance” economy, we were told, meant we didn’t have to have full-time employment any longer. Just “gigs.” The anti-regulatory practices and libertarian ideology espoused by the CEO of Uber became a model for talking about this “new economy” – that is until Uber (and others) are able to replace freelance workers with robots, of course. “We’re like Uber,” became something other companies, including those in education, would boast, despite Uber’s skullduggery."



"Technologies may well be poised to redefine how we think about learning, intelligence, inquiry, the learner, the teacher, teaching, knowledge, scholarship. But remember: technological “progress” does not necessarily mean “progressive politics.” Silicon Valley’s ways also include individualism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, imperialism, the exclusion of people of color and white women from its workforce. These biases are now part of algorithms and algorithmic decision-making.

Again my fear with our being comfortable or complacent with this “new normal”: Silicon Valley’s ways and Silicon Valley’s technologies are readily subverting the values of democracy and justice.

The values of democracy and justice should be School’s ways. But to be fair, neither democracy nor justice are values that most educational institutions (historically, presently) have truly or fully or consistently lauded or oriented themselves around.

If we want the future to be something other than an exploitative dystopia, I think our task must be to resist the narratives and the practices and the technologies that further inequality.

We cannot do this through through technological solutionism (although technologies are absolutely part of what we need to address and fundamentally rethink). We need to rethink our practices. We have to forgo “personalization.” We must do this through collective action, through community. We do this through action oriented around social and racial justice. We do this through democracy. (And through art.)"
2017  audreywatters  education  individualism  neoliberalism  corporatism  ursulafranklin  control  power  siliconvalley  democracy  socialjustice  justice  race  racism  technosolutionism  solutionism  technology  edtech  labor  teaching  knowledge  scholarship  intelligence  learning  howwelearn  libertarianism  imperialism  exclusion  gender  sexism  bias 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump
"The thing is, I’d still be giving the much the same talk, just with a different title. “A Time of Trump” could be “A Time of Neoliberalism” or “A Time of Libertarianism” or “A Time of Algorithmic Discrimination” or “A Time of Economic Precarity.” All of this is – from President Trump to the so-called “new economy” – has been fueled to some extent by digital technologies; and that fuel, despite what I think many who work in and around education technology have long believed – have long hoped – is not necessarily (heck, even remotely) progressive."



"As Donna Haraway argues in her famous “Cyborg Manifesto,” “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.” I want those of us working in and with education technologies to ask if that is the task we’ve actually undertaken. Are our technologies or our stories about technologies feminist? If so, when? If so, how? Do our technologies or our stories work in the interest of justice and equity? Or, rather, have we adopted technologies for teaching and learning that are much more aligned with that military mission of command and control? The mission of the military. The mission of the church. The mission of the university.

I do think that some might hear Haraway’s framing – a call to “recode communication and intelligence” – and insist that that’s exactly what education technologies do and they do so in a progressive reshaping of traditional education institutions and practices. Education technologies facilitate communication, expanding learning networks beyond the classroom. And they boost intelligence – namely, how knowledge is created and shared.
Perhaps they do.

But do our ed-tech practices ever actually recode or subvert command and control? Do (or how do) our digital communication practices differ from those designed by the military? And most importantly, I’d say, does (or how does) our notion of intelligence?"



"This is a punch card, a paper-based method of proto-programming, one of the earliest ways in which machines could be automated. It’s a relic, a piece of “old tech,” if you will, but it’s also a political symbol. Think draft cards. Think the slogan “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” Think Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964, insisting angrily that students not be viewed as raw materials in the university machine."



"We need to identify and we need to confront the ideas and the practices that are the lingering legacies of Nazism and fascism. We need to identify and we need to confront them in our technologies. Yes, in our education technologies. Remember: our technologies are ideas; they are practices. Now is the time for an ed-tech antifa, and I cannot believe I have to say that out loud to you.

And so you hear a lot of folks in recent months say “read Hannah Arendt.” And I don’t disagree. Read Arendt. Read The Origins of Totalitarianism. Read her reporting from the Nuremberg Trials.
But also read James Baldwin. Also realize that this politics and practice of surveillance and genocide isn’t just something we can pin on Nazi Germany. It’s actually deeply embedded in the American experience. It is part of this country as a technology."



"Who are the “undesirables” of ed-tech software and education institutions? Those students who are identified as “cheats,” perhaps. When we turn the cameras on, for example with proctoring software, those students whose faces and gestures are viewed – visually, biometrically, algorithmically – as “suspicious.” Those students who are identified as “out of place.” Not in the right major. Not in the right class. Not in the right school. Not in the right country. Those students who are identified – through surveillance and through algorithms – as “at risk.” At risk of failure. At risk of dropping out. At risk of not repaying their student loans. At risk of becoming “radicalized.” At risk of radicalizing others. What about those educators at risk of radicalizing others. Let’s be honest with ourselves, ed-tech in a time of Trump will undermine educators as well as students; it will undermine academic freedom. It’s already happening. Trump’s tweets this morning about Berkeley.

What do schools do with the capabilities of ed-tech as surveillance technology now in the time of a Trump? The proctoring software and learning analytics software and “student success” platforms all market themselves to schools claiming that they can truly “see” what students are up to, that they can predict what students will become. (“How will this student affect our averages?”) These technologies claim they can identify a “problem” student, and the implication, I think, is that then someone at the institution “fixes” her or him. Helps the student graduate. Convinces the student to leave.

But these technologies do not see students. And sadly, we do not see students. This is cultural. This is institutional. We do not see who is struggling. And let’s ask why we think, as the New York Times argued today, we need big data to make sure students graduate. Universities have not developed or maintained practices of compassion. Practices are technologies; technologies are practices. We’ve chosen computers instead of care. (When I say “we” here I mean institutions not individuals within institutions. But I mean some individuals too.) Education has chosen “command, control, intelligence.” Education gathers data about students. It quantifies students. It has adopted a racialized and gendered surveillance system – one that committed to disciplining minds and bodies – through our education technologies, through our education practices.

All along the way, or perhaps somewhere along the way, we have confused surveillance for care.

And that’s my takeaway for folks here today: when you work for a company or an institution that collects or trades data, you’re making it easy to surveil people and the stakes are high. They’re always high for the most vulnerable. By collecting so much data, you’re making it easy to discipline people. You’re making it easy to control people. You’re putting people at risk. You’re putting students at risk.

You can delete the data. You can limit its collection. You can restrict who sees it. You can inform students. You can encourage students to resist. Students have always resisted school surveillance.

But I hope that you also think about the culture of school. What sort of institutions will we have in a time of Trump? Ones that value open inquiry and academic freedom? I swear to you this: more data will not protect you. Not in this world of “alternate facts,” to be sure. Our relationships to one another, however, just might. We must rebuild institutions that value humans’ minds and lives and integrity and safety. And that means, in its current incarnation at least, in this current climate, ed-tech has very very little to offer us."
education  technology  audreywatters  edtech  2017  donaldtrump  neoliberalism  libertarianism  algorithms  neweconomy  economics  precarity  inequality  discrimination  donnaharaway  control  command  ppwer  mariosavio  nazism  fascism  antifa  jamesbaldwin  racism  hannaharendt  totalitarianism  politics 
february 2017 by robertogreco
ROAR Magazine: Bookchin: living legacy of an American revolutionary
"A selection of articles, interviews and reviews from ROAR’s archives to honor and celebrate Bookchin’s long life, important work and great achievements.

The American revolutionary theorist Murray Bookchin passed away on July 30, 2006. Interest in his work and life has been revived in recent years, thanks in part to the Kurdish freedom movement in Turkey and Syria, which has begun to put his ideas about “a rational, ecological libertarian communist society, based on humane and cooperative social relations” into practice.

Long before the more recent upsurge of interest in his work, Bookchin’s writings, which go back all the way to the 1950s, influenced many on the left. Spending his life in revolutionary circles, Bookchin joined a communist youth organization at the age of nine and became a Trotskyist in his late thirties, before switching to anarchism and finally calling himself a ‘communalist’ after developing the theory of social ecology and libertarian municipalism.

To celebrate Bookchin’s long life and to honor his important work, we share a selection of the articles, interviews and reviews that ROAR has published over the years, highlighting the extraordinary intellectual achievements of this great radical thinker.

BOOKCHIN’S REVOLUTIONARY PROGRAM — JANET BIEHL
For Bookchin, the city was the new revolutionary arena, as it had been in the past; the twentieth-century left, blinded by its engagement with the proletariat and the factory, had overlooked this fact. Historically, revolutionary activity in Paris, St. Petersburg, and Barcelona had been based at least as much in the urban neighborhood as in the workplace. During the Spanish Revolution of 1936-37, the anarchist Friends of Durruti had insisted that “the municipality is the authentic revolutionary government.”

Today, Bookchin argued, urban neighborhoods hold memories of ancient civic freedoms and of struggles waged by the oppressed; by reviving those memories and building on those freedoms, he argued, we could resuscitate the local political realm, the civic sphere, as the arena for self-conscious political self-management.

Continue reading… [https://roarmag.org/magazine/biehl-bookchins-revolutionary-program/ ]

BOOKCHIN: LIVING LEGACY OF AN AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY — DEBBIE BOOKCHIN
One of Murray’s central contributions to Left thought was his insistence, back in the early 1960s, that all ecological problems are social problems. Social ecology starts from this premise: that we will never properly address climate change, the poisoning of the earth with pesticides and the myriad of other ecological problems that are increasingly undermining the ecological stability of the planet, until we address underlying issues of domination and hierarchy. This includes domination based on gender, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation, as well as class distinctions.

Eradicating those forms of oppression immediately raises the question of how to organize society in a fashion that maximizes freedom. So the ideas about popular assemblies presented in this book grow naturally out of the philosophy of social ecology. They address the question of how to advance revolutionary change that will achieve true freedom for individuals while still allowing for the social organization necessary to live harmoniously with each other and the natural world.

Continue reading… [https://roarmag.org/essays/bookchin-interview-social-ecology/ ]

MURRAY BOOKCHIN AND THE KURDISH RESISTANCE — JORIS LEVERINK
Over the past decade, democratic confederalism has slowly but surely become an integral part of Kurdish society. Three elements of Bookchin’s thought have particularly influenced the development of a “democratic modernity” across Kurdistan: the concept of “dual power,” the confederal structure as proposed by Bookchin under the header of libertarian municipalism, and the theory of social ecology which traces the roots of many contemporary struggles back to the origins of civilization and places the natural environment at the heart of the solution to these problems.

Continue reading… [https://roarmag.org/essays/bookchin-kurdish-struggle-ocalan-rojava/ ]

LEARNING FROM THE LIFE OF MURRAY BOOKCHIN — EIRIK EIGLAD
Janet Biehl treats complex ideas with remarkable ease, and the footnotes reveal careful research into the many movements, figures, and events that were significant to his political life.

Biehl extensively researched personal and public archives, and conducted long interviews with old colleagues. Her account is balanced, yet engaging. And it is never “objective.” Indeed, toward the end of the book, Biehl necessarily enters the book, and becomes part of the story. Yet, her account is in no way “self-aggrandizing”—indeed, much of it is not even flattering—but I think overall she provides a fair account of the personal doubts, frailties, and tensions that often accompany an intense political life.

Continue reading… [https://roarmag.org/essays/ecology-or-catastrophe-biehl-bookchin-review/ ]"
2016  murraybookchin  janetbiehl  anarchism  politics  philosophy  urbanism  cities  debbiebookchin  ecology  climatechange  freedom  socialecology  society  jorisleverin  kurds  confederalism  democracy  municipalism  libertarianism  history  environment  sustainability  capitalism  economics  eirikeiglad  gender  ethnicity  race  class  pollution  agriculture  earth  hierarchy  friendsofdurruti  spanishrevolution  stpetersburg  paris  barcelona  revolution  communalism  libertarianmunicipalism 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism will eat democracy -- unless we speak up | TED Talk | TED.com
"Have you wondered why politicians aren't what they used to be, why governments seem unable to solve real problems? Economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, says that it's because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, "one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian."



"Whereas Athenian democracy was focusing on the masterless citizen and empowering the working poor, our liberal democracies are founded on the Magna Carta tradition, which was, after all, a charter for masters."
capitalism  democracy  yanisvaroufakis  politics  economics  2015  labor  marxism  keynsianism  libertarianism  greece  debt  inequality  wealth  magnacarta  poverty  automation  waste  society 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"



"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."



"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams | New Republic
"Those left behind by Silicon Valley’s technology boom struggle to stay in the place they call home."
siliconvalley  realestate  inequality  homeless  homelessness  paloalto  libertarianism  nimbyism  california  monicapotts  sunnyvale  sanjose  displacement 
december 2015 by robertogreco
How the Myth of the Meritocracy Ruins Students
"The inequitable outcome of the meritocracy is hiding in plain sight in every facet of society - in schools, workplaces, prisons and neighborhoods. We don't like inequality and we're alarmed by how fast the underclass is growing, but we believe that it's a fact of life because, let's face it, some people are just better than others. Most of us, liberals included, are to varying degrees beholden to the Myth of the Meritocracy.

Liberals are all for trying to level the playing field. We support basic civil rights measures that prohibit blatant discrimination and affirmative action programs that groom the cream of the crop for middle-class membership. But for all the leveling that has supposedly occurred since Martin Luther King Jr.'s time, things are still very lopsided. King's dream of economic equality was sidelined, because most Americans believe that once the shackles of overt discrimination are removed, the next logical step is for everyone to compete for as big a share of the spoils as possible.

We raise our kids to aspire to the "American Dream," which is understood to extend the promise of upward mobility only to the winners of the rat race. Theoretically, every individual has the opportunity to win the competition and live the dream. But so long as there are winners and losers (with outcomes largely predetermined at birth), the "American Dream" is a Trump-like zero-sum game, and our misplaced allegiance to it has led to nightmarish levels of inequality and social breakdown. As the late George Carlin said, "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Meritocracy is taken for granted as part of the natural order but, in reality, it's a political choice. The alternative to meritocracy is the organized, formal redistribution of wealth on the basis of need, not achievement, but this notion is not (yet) given air time because it upsets the Myth of the Meritocracy. What if some loser gets something he doesn't deserve? What if I have taken away something I deserve to keep?

There's a "me" and there's a "them," and they're in competition and conflict. We'd rather they be homeless, imprisoned, deported or fired than take what we believe is rightfully ours. There is, it seems, a little bit of The Donald in all of us.

We've been conditioned to prefer a society in which everyone has at least some chance of climbing to the top to one in which everyone's basic needs are met. And so it is. And so our society unravels because we'd rather fight each other and fetishize individual success than share.

This reflex to compete rather than cooperate stems from the modern delusion that humans are separate from one another and from nature. When we pause to reflect, we can readily sense and observe that all beings are interconnected and our fates intertwined. But we don't pause to reflect, because we're too busy reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well-being, threats that are amplified 24-7 by the media.

The biggest actual threat to our well-being is the hyper-individualist ethic that frightens us into participating in the war of all against all, the endgame of which is social collapse and, at the rate we're plundering a natural world we feel disconnected from, human extinction.

Dr. King said:
We must see that whatever diminishes the poor diminishes everybody else. And the salvation of the poor will mean the salvation of the whole nation. For we're all tied together in an inescapable network of mutuality. We are tied in a single garment of destiny.

Our culture conditions us to believe the opposite - that each of us can and must strive to rise above the fray. Schools do their part, training children to put a premium on personal excellence or be condemned to a lifetime of drudgery, poverty and, most horrifying of all, low status.

We can abolish homework and testing. We can turn classrooms into innovative hands-on laboratories of learning. We can tell our kids that their lives will be just as happy with a degree from a community college as from Princeton. We can run programs for at-risk youth and, with enough progressive elected officials in office, we can even wrangle some extra money for public schools.

And we should do all of those things. But so long as we focus on each individual child's success rather than the collective well-being of all children and families, we will not be able to extricate our children from the corrosive zero-sum game of "race to the top or get left behind" they are forced to play. So long as we remain trapped in the meritocratic arena, we ensure a mean and uncertain future for our children, a future in which most will be consigned to the underclass and even those closer to the top will unhappily strive to surpass thy neighbor.

Politics and culture keep the Myth of the Meritocracy alive. Market fundamentalism ensures high levels of economic inequality that have people worried enough to want to elbow their fellow citizens (and non-citizens) out of the race. Culturally, we're conditioned from such an early age to enter the race to the top and to believe that those at the top belong there, that we never consider what it would look like to cooperate instead of compete.

It doesn't have to be this way. The United States is blessed with more than enough to go around, enough food, enough medicine, enough housing, enough money to create space for every child to graduate from a university or vocational college and earn a decent living doing something they enjoy. We just need to get better at sharing and cooperating.

That, in the end, is our choice: Redistribute wealth equitably and invest in schools that honor and inspire students or force our children to run the gauntlet, knowing that only a fraction of them will succeed and the rest eliminated like Celebrity Apprentice contestants. Either Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream will be realized, or Trump's will."
meritocracy  society  ericaetelson  competition  capitalism  2015  inequality  wealthredistribution  wealth  politics  culture  us  learning  children  poverty  privilege  georgecarlin  mutuality  martinlutherkingjr  individualism  japan  collectivism  socialism  communism  americandream  socialsafetynet  economics  injustice  unfairness  race  racism  classism  class  libertarianism  success  virtue  work  labor  motivation  education  schools  racetonowhere  mlk 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because Internet.org has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."



"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."



"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."



"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Why Have Property At All? | MattBruenig | Politics
"In asking these questions, I certainly know of some answers people can give. But all of these answers pose severe problems to libertarians. You can say property is good because it’s solid for human flourishing and that kind of thing, but this is precisely the argument, say, social democrats make about the welfare state and they have really good evidence to support themselves on that. You can say it’s necessary so that people may be able to get what they produce (a kind of “sweat of the brow” argument), but this naturally falls apart with complex capitalist development where huge portions of the national output flows each year to landowners (who don’t deserve it), capitalists (who arguably don’t deserve it, at least under strict labor-desert), and to people more generally from accumulated technology/knowledge that nobody alive made and therefore nobody really deserves the output from.

The strong move for libertarians here is to actually go back to the origination of the term “libertarian,” which had to do with anarchist communists. The anarchist communists so loved liberty that when they realized property infringed it, they said to do away with property. These propertarians who masquerade as lovers of liberty, however, just walk themselves into increasingly weird logical circles and corners trying to salvage an inherently anti-libertarian institution with exaggerated hand waving."
capitalism  property  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  2015  mattbruenig  mattzwolinski  anarchocommunism  anarchism  anarchy  ubi 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The Tycoon Who Planned His Very Own Island Utopia in the 1970s | Atlas Obscura
"When governments buckle, stock markets collapse, and clowns run for president, a billionaire’s thoughts turn naturally to a favorite fantasy: private utopia. The Seasteading Institute, funded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel, recently announced it intends to launch floating cities by 2020. Thiel, the closest living embodiment of an Ayn Rand character, longs for libertarian territories, untrammeled by big government regulation. Google’s Larry Page also says he wants to “set aside a part of the world” for free experimentation. What’s not to love about the DIY nation? No meddling regulators, no patent trolls, no privacy hawks, no taxes!

Plus, you can design your own flag.

Today’s gazillionaires are not the first rich guys to dream of perfecting the ugly world around them. (See especially company towns such as Pullman, Illinois.) Their most direct ancestor may be one of the strangest tycoons of the 20th century, and his curious, failed scheme of the 1970s.

Robert Klark Graham invented shatterproof plastic eyeglasses in the 1940s, and was worth $100 million by the early 1970s—back when $100 million was real money. An ardent conservative, Graham was obsessed with the idea that America was being overrun by morons: Smart people were having too few children and stupid people were having too many. This genetic suicide would lead the nation to catastrophe, Graham believed, and ultimately doom America to communist dictatorship. (Graham imagined the world of Idiocracy 40 years before the movie.)

But Graham, like his modern day counterparts, also brimmed with cheery technological utopianism. He was an inventor, and believed that science could prevent the genetic doom, and perfect humanity.

Robert Graham, from an undated photo. (Photo: Geni)

So in the early 1970s, Graham tried to start a country. Of course he thought an island would be best. Graham instructed George Michel, a vice president at his eyeglasses company, Armorlite, to locate an island that Graham could buy and flag as a sovereign—or at least semi-sovereign—nation. Graham told Michel that the island should be at least five miles wide and 15 miles long.

Michel enlisted several Los Angeles real estate agents, and they eventually located four or five promising candidates, mostly small islands in the Atlantic Ocean that Great Britain might surrender for the right price. Graham was thrilled. Next, he assigned Michel and several Armorlite colleagues to design the island’s living and working quarters. Graham decreed that the island had to be completely self-sufficient, and that no cars would be permitted on it. Michel drew blueprints for prefabricated living saucers that could be stacked on land or in the sea. He designed a futuristic sewage system, greenhouse, and food factories. His masterpiece, Michel recalled fondly, when I interviewed him several years ago, was a vacuum-tube-driven transportation system, in which gyroscopically balanced pods would zip passengers from one part of the island to another. (Elon Musk surely dreams of gyroscopically balanced, vacuum pods!)

Another tech utopia: The Blueseed Project wants to build a floating island near the Bay Area. (Photo: Blueseed Project)

Graham intended to create an elite research colony. The world’s best practical scientists would come to the island, enticed by lavish living conditions, and the fanciest laboratories money could buy, and they would start inventing. Grahamland would support itself: when scientists produced something valuable, they and the colony would share the royalties. The inventors would get rich, and Grahamland would prosper. Graham was convinced that scientists would flock to his island, because he was sure they also desired an escape from the morons, weaklings, and imbeciles who increasingly dominated the rest of the world. Science would be Grahamland’s god and its law. It would be a rational empire, Graham’s own private Atlas Shrugged.

Alas, Grahamland never progressed beyond the planning stages. Michel quit Armorlite in a stock dispute. Graham got distracted and never managed to buy the island. But the private nation was pure, distilled essence of Robert Graham: the entrepreneurial vigor; the cockamamie grandeur; the unshakable faith in practical science; the contempt for the pig-ignorant, lazy masses; and the infatuation with finding—and claiming—the world’s best men.

Undeterred by the project’s failure, Graham remained determined to stop genetic doom and raise an army of geniuses. So in the late 1970s, he launched the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners, whose clients would be women who belonged to Mensa. The Repository would operate until the late 1990s—I wrote this book about it—and produce more than 200 children, the largest, oddest experiment in human genetic engineering in American history. If seasteading fails, will eugenics be Peter Thiel’s next stop?"
peterthiel  technoutopianism  libertarianism  robertgraham  1970s  2015  technology  society 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Herschel backpack: how Generation Y carries capitalism's mythologies | Eleanor Robertson | Comment is free | The Guardian
"The ubiquitous blue and brown backpacks are a genius of marketing that perfectly express the myth of the rugged individual"



"Was a law passed recently that mandated every person under 30 own one of those blue and brown Herschel backpacks? How else can we explain how ubiquitous they are? Step onto a university campus and 90% of the students will be wearing one, seemingly in defiance of the laws of supply and demand.

The Herschel trend is fascinating. In 2014 the Guardian’s Paula Cocozza went digging for the source of the bags’ popularity. Brothers Lyndon and Jamie Cormack, both apparel industry veterans, founded the company in 2009 because they “did not feel there was a very compelling story being told about bags”.

They named the company after Herschel, a tiny town in Saskatchewan where their great-grandparents settled after emigrating from Scotland in 1906.

“We as kids got to go back there all the time. Just used to wander the hills, shoot bottles, maybe the occasional gopher,” says Lyndon Cormack.

Cocozza points out that this association with exploration, frontiers, beards, maps, etc. is very now, and the Herschel, with its vintage feel and pointless utilitarian flourishes (the little diamond-shaped leather leather badge is actually a lashtab), is designed to play on aesthetic themes that reject mass production in favour of the vintage, handcrafted and self-reliant.

In other words, the Herschel backpack is a bag for the rugged individual.

The Cormacks’ decision to craft the brand around their homesteading great-grandparents is not an accident: homesteading is a crucial mythology of capitalism. It’s the supposed process by which previously un-owned natural resources come to be validly possessed by one individual, who is then allowed to defend them using force and transfer ownership through contract.

Put most famously by John Locke, homesteading is central to anarcho-capitalism, rights-based libertarianism, and propertarianism. It is amazing, and in some ways perfect, to see this individualistic ideology clearly reflected in the marketing of a backpack that is made in 15 factories in China and adorns the shoulders of every second young person in the Western world.

I doubt the Cormacks intended it this way, but as master marketers they know which stories appeal to people. At this point in history, homesteading, exploration and frontiersmanship are it.

The material conditions in which the backpack exists – in which it is actually manufactured and worn – reflect the reality of global capitalism. It’s made by factory workers and worn by precariously-employed inner-city knowledge workers – journalists, designers, and students.

It is not worn while traversing a mountain in search of a hitherto-unknown gold deposit, or while fishing ruggedly in a pristine lake. But that’s story that its designers have woven in order to make the bag attractive to millions of urbanites: a repudiation of their lifestyle as students and employees.

And everybody loves it, because, as John Steinbeck may or may not have said about the American poor, they see themselves “not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”. This sentiment doesn’t just exist in America any more, but Australia as well.

When I first started to notice Herschel backpacks a couple of years ago, I thought their slightly childish simplicity and drab brownness made the young men who wore them look like orphans. Now that they are so pervasive, they’re a constant reminder of the weight on my generation’s shoulders of the myths we must shrug off."
capitalism  2015  homesteading  anarcho-capitalism  libertarianism  propertarianism  frontiersmanship  exploration  individualism  ruggedindividualism  marketing  mythology  storytelling  brands  paulacocozza  lyndoncormack  jamiecormack  eleanorrobertson 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech and the Californian Ideology
"There are many elements of that phrase “California ideology” that I find quite compelling. California is the promised land, the end-of-the-road of the US’s westward expansion, the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, colonization upon colonization, the gold rush, the construction of an invented palm-tree paradise. California includes geographically – ideologically – both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. California is media plus technology, both of which readily export their products (and narratives and ideologies) globally. California built an amazing public higher education system; Governor Reagan, fearing radicalism and intellectualism, began the move to dismantle it. California is always already the future; California rejects and rewrites the past.

California also produces two-thirds of this country’s produce, of course. Over a third of the nation’s farmworkers work in California; 95% of them were born outside the US.

The California ideology ignores race and labor and the water supply; it is sustained by air and fantasy. It is built - historically as today - upon white supremacy and imperialism. But we’re so wrapped up in the marketing, we don’t stop to ask more questions about the source.

How much of education technology reinforces and reinscribes the dominant forces of production and power? Under what circumstances, swayed by which stories, do we not even notice?"
edtech  audreywatters  technology  education  history  californianideology  siliconvalley  policy  politics  ideology  2015  colonization  manifestdestiny  economics  neoliberalism  libertarianism 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Learning from Chile’s Mistakes – Don’t Privatize Public Education | engaged intellectuals
"Thanks to Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal Constitution for publishing this essay at http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/03/24/opinion-national-experiment-in-school-choice-market-solutions-produces-inequity/

What the U.S. Can Learn From Chile:
Failed Educational Experiments and Falsely Produced Miracles
Alfredo Gaete (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)
Stephanie Jones (University of Georgia, U.S.)

Imagine a country that was once committed to quality public education, but began to treat that public good like a market economy with the introduction of charter schools and voucher systems. Imagine that after a few years, most students in this country attended private schools and there was public funding for most of such schools, which must compete for that funding by improving their results. Imagine that the state fostered this competition by publishing school rankings, so that parents were informed of the results obtained by each institution. Imagine, finally, that school owners were allowed to charge extra fees to parents, thereby rendering education a quite profitable business.

But let’s stop imagining, because this country already exists.

After a series of policies implemented from the 1980s onward, Chilean governments have managed to develop one of the most deregulated, market-oriented educational schemes in the world. Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the ‘Chilean experiment’ was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

How did they do this?

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced). This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the ‘Chilean experiment’ that, chillingly, has also been called the ‘Chilean Miracle’ like the more recent U.S. ‘New Orleans Miracle.’

First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.

Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.

Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.

Fourth, many schools are currently investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.

Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.

Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.

Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years. So even though there still are advocates of the private model of education, especially among those who have profited from it, an immense majority of the Chilean society is now urging the government for radical, deep reforms in the educational system of the country. Very recently, in fact, an announcement was made that public university would be free for students, paid for by a 24% tax on corporations.

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs. Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

So we don’t have to guess what the result will be of the current ‘U.S. experiment’ with competition-infused education reform that includes school choice, charter schools, charter systems, voucher systems, state-funded education savings accounts for families, tax credits for “donations” to private schools, state takeover school districts, merit pay, value-added models for teacher evaluation, Common Core national standards, PARCC and Smarter Balanced national tests, edTPA national teacher education evaluations, and federal “rewards” such as Race to the Top for states that come aboard.

Indeed, Chilean education reform from the 1980s to the present provides the writing on the wall, so to speak, for the United States and we should take heed. Chile is now engaged in what will be a long struggle to dig its way out of the educational disaster created by failed experimentation and falsely produced miracles. The United States still has time to reverse course, to turn away from the scary language of crisis and the seductive language of choice and accountability used in educational reform, and turn toward a fully funded and protected public education for our nation."
chile  education  policy  privatization  vouchers  2015  maureendowney  alfredogaete  stephaniejones  markets  neoliberalism  capitalism  libertarianism  publicschools  schools  edreform  inequality  society  charterschools 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A Christian Nation? Since When? - NYTimes.com
""AMERICA may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country’s identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling reported that 57 percent of Republicans favored officially making the United States a Christian nation. But in 2007, a survey by the First Amendment Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believed it already was one.

The confusion is understandable. For all our talk about separation of church and state, religious language has been written into our political culture in countless ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patriotism, marked on our money, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capitol. Perhaps because it is everywhere, we assume it has been from the beginning.

But the founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the “creeping socialism” of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans’ thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention.

The Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apostle of Big Business” and “Saint Paul of the Prosperous” — emerged as an early evangelist for the cause. Preaching to pews of millionaires at the elite First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, Mr. Fifield said reading the Bible was “like eating fish — we take the bones out to enjoy the meat. All parts are not of equal value.” He dismissed New Testament warnings about the corrupting nature of wealth. Instead, he paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s “pagan statism.”

Through his national organization, Spiritual Mobilization, founded in 1935, Mr. Fifield promoted “freedom under God.” By the late 1940s, his group was spreading the gospel of faith and free enterprise in a mass-circulated monthly magazine and a weekly radio program that eventually aired on more than 800 stations nationwide. It even encouraged ministers to preach sermons on its themes in competitions for cash prizes. Liberals howled at the group’s conflation of God and greed; in 1948, the radical journalist Carey McWilliams denounced it in a withering exposé. But Mr. Fifield exploited such criticism to raise more funds and redouble his efforts.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Abraham Vereide advanced the Christian libertarian cause with a national network of prayer groups. After ministering to industrialists facing huge labor strikes in Seattle and San Francisco in the mid-1930s, Mr. Vereide began building prayer breakfast groups in cities across America to bring business and political elites together in common cause. “The big men and the real leaders in New York and Chicago,” he wrote his wife, “look up to me in an embarrassing way.” In Manhattan alone, James Cash Penney, I.B.M.’s Thomas Watson, Norman Vincent Peale and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia all sought audiences with him.

In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influence spread to Washington. He persuaded the House and Senate to start weekly prayer meetings “in order that we might be a God-directed and God-controlled nation.” Mr. Vereide opened headquarters in Washington — “God’s Embassy,” he called it — and became a powerful force in its previously secular institutions. Among other activities, he held “dedication ceremonies” for several justices of the Supreme Court. “No country or civilization can last,” Justice Tom C. Clark announced at his 1949 consecration, “unless it is founded on Christian values.”

The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism, though, was the Rev. Billy Graham. In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him “the Big Business evangelist.” The Garden of Eden, he informed revival attendees, was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.” In the same spirit, he denounced all “government restrictions” in economic affairs, which he invariably attacked as “socialism.”

In 1952, Mr. Graham went to Washington and made Congress his congregation. He recruited representatives to serve as ushers at packed revival meetings and staged the first formal religious service held on the Capitol steps. That year, at his urging, Congress established an annual National Day of Prayer. “If I would run for president of the United States today on a platform of calling people back to God, back to Christ, back to the Bible,” he predicted, “I’d be elected.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled that prediction. With Mr. Graham offering Scripture for Ike’s speeches, the Republican nominee campaigned in what he called a “great crusade for freedom.” His military record made the general a formidable candidate, but on the trail he emphasized spiritual issues over worldly concerns. As the journalist John Temple Graves observed: “America isn’t just a land of the free in Eisenhower’s conception. It is a land of freedom under God.” Elected in a landslide, Eisenhower told Mr. Graham that he had a mandate for a “spiritual renewal.”

Although Eisenhower relied on Christian libertarian groups in the campaign, he parted ways with their agenda once elected. The movement’s corporate sponsors had seen religious rhetoric as a way to dismantle the New Deal state. But the newly elected president thought that a fool’s errand. “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs,” he noted privately, “you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” Unlike those who held public spirituality as a means to an end, Eisenhower embraced it as an end unto itself.

Uncoupling the language of “freedom under God” from its Christian libertarian roots, Eisenhower erected a bigger revival tent, welcoming Jews and Catholics alongside Protestants, and Democrats as well as Republicans. Rallying the country, he advanced a revolutionary array of new religious ceremonies and slogans.

The first week of February 1953 set the dizzying pace: On Sunday morning, he was baptized; that night, he broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” campaign; on Thursday, he appeared with Mr. Vereide at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast; on Friday, he instituted the first opening prayers at a cabinet meeting.

The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too. The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, “In God We Trust,” on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation’s official motto.

During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as “one nation under God.” They’ve believed it ever since.""
us  history  christianity  myths  2015  capitalism  propaganda  evangelism  libertarianism  1930s  1940s  1950s  socialism  government  politics  business  ealth  abrahamvereide  jamesfifield  jhowardpew  billygraham  corporatism  economics  labor  unions  newdeal 
march 2015 by robertogreco
My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked - Salon.com
"In Honduras, the police ride around in pickup trucks with machine guns, but they aren’t there to protect most people. They are scary to locals and travelers alike. For individual protection there’s an army of private, armed security guards who are found in front of not only banks, but also restaurants, ATM machines, grocery stores and at any building that holds anything of value whatsoever. Some guards have uniforms and long guns but just as many are dressed in street clothes with cheap pistols thrust into waistbands. The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums. You can see the evidence of previous decades of infrastructure investment in roads and bridges, but it’s all in slow-motion decay.

I took a van trip across the country, starting in Copan (where there are must-see Mayan ruins), across to the Caribbean Sea to a ferry that took my family to Roatan Island. The trip from Copan to the coast took a full six hours, and we had two flat tires. The word “treacherous” is inadequate—a better description is “post-apocalyptic.” We did not see one speed limit sign in hundreds of kilometers. Not one. People drive around each other on the right and left and in every manner possible. The road was clogged with horses, scooters and bicycles. People traveled in every conceivable manner along the crumbling arterial. Few cars have license plates, and one taxi driver told me that the private company responsible for making them went bankrupt. Instead of traffic stops, there are military check points every so often. The roads seemed more dangerous to me than the gang violence.

The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.

On the mainland there are two kinds of neighborhoods, slums that seem to go on forever and middle-class neighborhoods where every house is its own citadel. In San Pedro Sula, most houses are surrounded by high stone walls topped with either concertina wire or electric fence at the top. As I strolled past these castle-like fortifications, all I could think about was how great this city would be during a zombie apocalypse."



"One can dismiss the core of near-sociopathic libertarian ideas with one simple question: What kind of society maximizes freedom while providing the best outcomes for the greatest number of human beings? You cannot start with the assumption that a Russian novel writer from the ’50s is a genius, so therefore all ideas about government and society must fit between the pages of “Atlas Shrugged.” That concept is stupid, and sends you on the opposite course of “good outcomes for human beings.” The closer you get to totally untamed, uncontrolled privatization, the nearer you approach “Lord of the Flies.”

These questions about how best to provide a good society are not being asked in Honduras, but they are also ignored in the United States as a matter of routine. We have growing income inequality and government is being ever more controlled by a few extremely wealthy political donors. Our own infrastructure is far from admired worldwide, and the trend doesn’t look good from where I’m sitting. We have yet to stop our own political rhetoric to address the basic question about what kind of place and in what type of society we want to live.

Society should not exist to make a few people fabulously wealthy while others starve. Almost all humanity used to live this way, and we called it feudalism. Many people want to go back to that sort of system, this time under the label of libertarian or “the untrammeled free market.” The name is irrelevant because the results are the same. In Honduras, I did not meet one person who had nice things to say about the government or how the country is run. My takeaway from the trip is that living in a libertarian paradise satisfies only a few of the wealthiest citizens, while everyone else thinks it sucks.

Honduras has problems but people should go visit anyway and soon. The dangers are fleeting, and there are coffee plantations to tour, ruins to see, cigars to smoke and fish to catch. The people need your tourism dollars. As a bonus, it’s important for Americans to see the outcome when the bad ideas of teenage boys and a bad Russian writer are put into practice. Everyone believes in freedom, but it’s an idea both fetishized and unrecognizable when spouted by libertarians. There can be no such thing as freedom, safety or progress of any kind, when an entire society is run for the benefit of a handful of rich assholes and global conglomerates. If you think I’m overstating it, just go to Honduras and see it for yourself."
inequality  libertarianism  libertarians  2015  edwinlyngar  honduras  economics  privatization  infrastructure  us  aynrand  ronpaul  government  capitalism  sanpedrosula 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Believing that life is fair makes you a terrible person | Oliver Burkeman | Comment is free | The Guardian
"If you’ve been following the news recently, you know that human beings are terrible and everything is appalling. Yet the sheer range of ways we find to sabotage our efforts to make the world a better place continues to astonish. Did you know, for example, that last week’s commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz may have marginally increased the prevalence of antisemitism in the modern world, despite being partly intended as a warning against its consequences? Or that reading about the eye-popping state of economic inequality could make you less likely to support politicians who want to do something about it?

These are among numerous unsettling implications of the “just-world hypothesis”, a psychological bias explored in a new essay by Nicholas Hune-Brown at Hazlitt [http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/hazlitt/blog/monstrous-cruelty-just-world ]. The world, obviously, is a manifestly unjust place: people are always meeting fates they didn’t deserve, or not receiving rewards they did deserve for hard work or virtuous behaviour. Yet several decades of research have established that our need to believe otherwise runs deep. Faced with evidence of injustice, we’ll certainly try to alleviate it if we can – but, if we feel powerless to make things right, we’ll do the next best thing, psychologically speaking: we’ll convince ourselves that the world isn’t so unjust after all.

Hence the finding, in a 2009 study, that Holocaust memorials can increase antisemitism. Confronted with an atrocity they otherwise can’t explain, people become slightly more likely, on average, to believe that the victims must have brought it on themselves.

The classic experiment demonstrating the just-world effect took place in 1966, when Melvyn Lerner and Carolyn Simmons showed people what they claimed were live images of a woman receiving agonizing electric shocks for her poor performance in a memory test. Given the option to alleviate her suffering by ending the shocks, almost everybody did so: humans may be terrible, but most of us don’t go around being consciously and deliberately awful. When denied any option to halt her punishment, however – when forced to just sit and watch her apparently suffer – the participants adjusted their opinions of the woman downwards, as if to convince themselves her agony wasn’t so indefensible because she wasn’t really such an innocent victim. “The sight of an innocent person suffering without possibility of reward or compensation”, Lerner and Simmons concluded, “motivated people to devalue the attractiveness of the victim in order to bring about a more appropriate fit between her fate and her character.” It’s easy to see how a similar psychological process might lead, say, to the belief that victims of sexual assault were “asking for it”: if you can convince yourself of that, you can avoid acknowledging the horror of the situation.

What’s truly unsettling about the just-world bias is that while it can have truly unpleasant effects, these follow from what seems like the entirely understandable urge to believe that things happen for a reason. After all, if we didn’t all believe that to some degree, life would be an intolerably chaotic and terrifying nightmare in, which effort and payback were utterly unrelated, and there was no point planning for the future, saving money for retirement or doing anything else in hope of eventual reward. We’d go mad. Surely wanting the world to make a bit more sense than that is eminently forgivable?

Yet, ironically, this desire to believe that things happen for a reason leads to the kinds of positions that help entrench injustice instead of reducing it.

Hune-Brown cites another recent bit of evidence for the phenomenon: people with a strong belief in a just world, he reports, are more likely to oppose affirmative action schemes intended to help women or minorities. You needn’t be explicitly racist or sexist to hold such views, nor committed to a highly individualistic political position (such as libertarianism); the researchers controlled for those. You need only cling to a conviction that the world is basically fair. That might be a pretty naive position, of course – but it’s hard to argue that it’s a hateful one. Similar associations have been found between belief in a just world and a preference for authoritarian political leaders. To shield ourselves psychologically from the terrifying thought that the world is full of innocent people suffering, we endorse politicians and policies more likely to make that suffering worse.

All of which is another reminder of a truth that’s too often forgotten in our era of extreme political polarization and 24/7 internet outrage: wrong opinions – even deeply obnoxious opinions – needn’t necessarily stem from obnoxious motivations. “Victim-blaming” provides the clearest example: barely a day goes by without some commentator being accused (often rightly) of implying that somebody’s suffering was their own fault. That’s a viewpoint that should be condemned, of course: it’s unquestionably unpleasant to suggest that the victims of, say, the Charlie Hebdo killings, brought their fates upon themselves. But the just-world hypothesis shows how such opinions need not be the consequence of a deep character fault on the part of the blamer, or some tiny kernel of evil in their soul. It might simply result from a strong need to feel that the world remains orderly, and that things still make some kind of sense.

Facing the truth – that the world visits violence and poverty and discrimination upon people capriciously, with little regard for what they’ve done to deserve it – is much scarier. Because, if there’s no good explanation for why any specific person is suffering, it’s far harder to escape the frightening conclusion that it could easily be you next."
psychology  oliverburkeman  via:anne  fairness  injustice  victimblaming  violence  poverty  discrimination  suffering  policy  politics  individualism  religion  libertarianism  belief  nicholashune-brown  melvynlerner  carolynsimmons 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids | WIRED
“Do It Yourself” is a familiar credo in the tech industry—think of the hobbyists of the Homebrew Computing Club hacking together the personal computer, Mark Zuckerberg building the next great communications medium from his Harvard dorm room, or Palmer Lucky soldering together the Oculus Rift from spare parts in his garage. Progressive education is another leitmotif that runs through tech history—Larry Page and Sergey Brin have attributed much of their success to the fact that they attended a Montessori school. In recent years, Peter Thiel has launched a broadside against higher education, and Sir Ken Robinson’s lecture, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” has become the most popular TED Talk of all-time, with 31 million views. Now, all those strains are coming together to create a new phenomenon: the techie homeschooler.

This may come as a shock to those of us who still associate homeschooling with fundamentalists eager to shelter their kids from the evils of the secular state. But it turns out that homeschooling has grown more mainstream over the last few years. According to the most recent statistics, the share of school-age kids who were homeschooled doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.

And many of those new homeschoolers come from the tech community."



"Perhaps it’s not surprising that the tech community—a group not known for mastering the delicate social mores of adolescence—might pursue an unconventional approach to schooling. “I never really fit in,” says Flickr and Hunch co-founder Caterina Fake, who has homeschooled three kids (two of whom have since moved on to public school) along with her partner, serial entrepreneur Jyri Engestrom. “I grew up not watching any TV, excluded from pop culture, sitting around reading T.S. Eliot and playing classical music. But those things benefited me so much! I felt different in a good way—like I had secret superpowers.”"



"Feel free to roll your eyes at this point. There’s something inherently maddening about a privileged group of forward-thinkers removing their children from the social structures that have defined American childhood for more than a century under the presumption that they know better. (And if you want to see how antiauthoritarian distrust can combine malevolently with parental concern, look no further than the Disneyland measles outbreak caused by the anti-vaccine crowd.) I hear you. As a proud recipient of a great public school education, I harbor the same misgivings.

And yet, as I talked to more of these homeschoolers, I found it harder to dismiss what they were saying. My son is in kindergarten, and I fear that his natural curiosity won’t withstand 12 years of standardized tests, underfunded and overcrowded classrooms, and constant performance anxiety. The Internet has already overturned the way we connect with friends, meet potential paramours, buy and sell products, produce and consume media, and manufacture and deliver goods. Every one of those processes has become more intimate, more personal, and more meaningful. Maybe education can work the same way."



"The Cook family are not just homeschoolers but unschoolers. They don’t prefer homeschooling simply because they find most schools too test-obsessed or underfunded or otherwise ineffective. They believe that the very philosophical underpinnings of modern education are flawed. Unschoolers believe that children are natural learners; with a little support, they will explore and experiment and learn about the world in a way that is appropriate to their abilities and interests. Problems arise, the thinking goes, when kids are pushed into an educational model that treats everyone the same—gives them the same lessons and homework, sets the same expectations, and covers the same subjects. The solution, then, is to come up with exercises and activities that will help each kid flesh out the themes and subjects to which they are naturally drawn.

All of which sounds great. But, to put this in tech terms, it’s an approach that doesn’t scale very well. It seemed exhausting enough for Samantha to help her two sons write one-sentence business plans; it’s hard to imagine anyone offering the same kind of energy and attention to each student in a 20-person classroom. Indeed, that’s precisely why schools adopt a one-size-fits-all model. Unlike the Cooks, they don’t have the luxury of tailoring an entire lesson plan to the needs and proclivities of one or two students. They have to balance the needs of individual students against the needs of the class as a whole—including kids who come into school with different interests, skills, and abilities. That’s why so many teachers aim for the middle of the bell curve—hoping to have the maximum impact on the largest number of students, even as they risk losing the outliers on either end of the chart.

Of course, there are plenty of private schools, charters, or gifted programs pursuing some version of what’s called student-directed learning. But most unschoolers told me that even these schools were still too focused on traditional standards of achievement. (To be fair, it’s hard to imagine that even the most enlightened private school would be able to stay in business if it couldn’t demonstrate to parents that it was teaching their children how to read or add.) Unless every family homeschools their children—a prospect that even homeschooling advocates say is untenable—it will remain an individualized solution to a social need.

And this is where technologists see a great opportunity—to provide differentiated, individualized education in a classroom setting. There’s a lot of excitement around Khan Academy because it steps in to handle a teacher’s least personalized duties—delivering lectures, administering and grading quizzes—freeing up time for one-on-one tutoring. Last year, Khan Academy launched the Khan Lab School, an offshoot that will create “a working model of Khan Academy’s philosophy of learning in a physical school environment.” AltSchool, a startup created by a former Googler, has launched a series of “micro-schools” in which teachers help students create their own individualized lesson plans.

Jyri Engestrom, Caterina Fake’s partner, signed up with AltSchool this year. The couple had been homeschooling for a couple of years, an experiment that gradually expanded into a 10-student “microschool” called Sesat School. This year, his students started attending AltSchool part-time, in what he calls a “hybrid” approach. He says it’s just one example of how a new crop of startups could use technology to create new educational models, somewhere between homeschooling and traditional school. He foresees a day when the same forces that have upended everything from the entertainment industry to transportation wreak havoc on our current model of education, when you can hire a teacher by the hour, just as you would hire a TaskRabbit to assemble your Ikea furniture.

“I’m feeling like something is brewing right now,” Engestrom says. “The cost of starting a company has gone down because there are online tools you can use for free. I can see that happening with school. So much of that stuff is just up for grabs.”"
homeschool  education  unschooling  parenting  siliconvalley  children  learning  2015  caterinafake  jyriengestrom  altschool  microschools  deschooling  libertarianism  trends  jasontanz 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Town Where Everyone Got Free Money | Motherboard
"The motto of Dauphin, Manitoba, a small farming town in the middle of Canada, is “everything you deserve.” What a citizen deserves, and what effects those deserts have, was a question at the heart of a 40-year-old experiment that has lately become a focal point in a debate over social welfare that's raging from Switzerland to Silicon Valley.

Between 1974 and 1979, the Canadian government tested the idea of a basic income guarantee (BIG) across an entire town, giving people enough money to survive in a way that no other place in North America has before or since. For those four years—until the project was cancelled and its findings packed away—the town's poorest residents were given monthly checks that supplemented what modest earnings they had and rewarded them for working more. And for that time, it seemed that the effects of poverty began to melt away. Doctor and hospital visits declined, mental health appeared to improve, and more teenagers completed high school.

“Do we have to behave in particular ways to justify compassion and support?” Evelyn Forget, a Canadian social scientist who unearthed ​some of the findings of the Dauphin experiment, asked me rhetorically when I reached her by phone. “Or is simply human dignity enough?”

Critics of basic income guarantees have insisted that giving the poor money would disincentivize them to work, and point to studies that show ​a drop in peoples' willingness to work under pilot programs. But in Dauphin—thought to be the largest such experiment conducted in North America—the experimenters found that the primary breadwinner in the families who received stipends were in fact not less motivated to work than before. Though there was some reduction in work effort from mothers of young children and teenagers still in high school—mothers wanted to stay at home longer with their newborns and teenagers weren’t under as much pressure to support their families—the reduction was not anywhere close to disastrous, as skeptics had predicted.

“People work hard and it’s still not enough,” Doreen Henderson, who is now 70 and was a participant in the experiment, told the ​Wi​nnipeg Free Pres​s​ in 2009. Her husband Hugh, now 73, worked as a janitor while she stayed at home with their two kids. Together they raised chickens and grew a lot of their own food. “They should have kept it,” she said of the minimum income program. “It made a real difference.”

The recovered data from “Mincome,” as the Dauphin experiment was known, has given more impetus to a growing call for some sort of guaranteed income. This year, the Swis​s Parliament will vote on whether to extend a monthly stipend to all residents, and the Indian government has already begun replacing aid programs with direct cash transfers. Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich has called a BIG “alm​ost inevitable.” In the US, Canada, and much of Western Europe, where the conversation around radically adapting social security remains mostly hypothetical, the lessons of Dauphin might be especially relevant in helping these ideas materialize sooner rather than later."



"Advocates have argued that a single coordinated program providing a base income is more efficient than the current panoply of welfare and social security programs and the bureaucracy required to maintain them (in the U.S. there are currently 79 means-tested social welfare programs, not including Medicare or Medicaid). “Existing social assistance programs were riddled with overlaps and gaps that allowed some families to qualify under two or more programs while others fell between programs,” says Forget.

When Mincome was first conceived, in the early '70s heyday of social welfare reform, some thought the experiment in Dauphin could be the prelude to a program that could be introduced across Canada. South of the border, there was widespread support for minimum income as well. A 1969 Harris poll for Life Magazine found that 79 percent of respondents supported a federal program President Nixon had proposed called the Family Assi​stance Plan that guaranteed a family of four an annual income of $1,600, or about $10,000 today. Nixon’s FAP plan (it wasn't guaranteed income, he insisted, but it was) made it through the House before it was killed in the Senate, voted down by Democrats. Still, there remained a sense of experimentation in the air. Four minimum income trials occurred in the US between 1968 and 1975, which appeared to show that the work hours of basic income recipients fell more sharply than expected.

But these experiments were done with small sample sizes; the experiment in Dauphin was unusual in that in encompassed a whole town. Forget, now a community health professor at the University of Manitoba who studies a range of social welfare programs, saw in the Mincome data a rare chance to examine the effects of BIG on a wider scale.

An undergrad in Toronto at the time the experiment was first being conducted, she remembers hearing about it in class. “My professor would tell us about this wonderful and important experiment taking place ‘out west’ that would revolutionize the way we delivered social programs.”

Years later, when she ended up “out west” herself, she began piecing together what information she could find about Dauphin. After a five-year struggle, Forget secured access to the experiment's data—all 1,800 cubic feet of it—which had been all but lost inside a warehouse belonging to the provincial government archives in Winnipeg. Since 2005, she’s been thoroughly analyzing it, carefully comparing surveys of Dauphin residents with those collected in neighboring towns at the time.

Forget's analysis of the data reveals that providing minimum income can have a substantial positive impact on a community beyond reducing poverty alone. “Participant contacts with physicians declined, especially for mental health, and more adolescents continued into grade 12,” she concludes in her paper, “The Town with No ​Poverty,” published in Canadian Public Policy in 2011. Forget also documented an 8.5 percent reduction in the hospitalization rate for participants as well, suggesting a minimum income could save health care costs. (Her research was unable to substantiate claims from US researchers that showed increases in fertility rates, improved neonatal outcomes or increased family dissolution rates for recipients of guaranteed incomes.)"



"When Forget looks at politics and culture and the economy now, she sees forces converging to create a more hospitable climate for minimum income experiments on a grander scale than before.

“This is an interesting time,” she said. “A lot of our social services were based on the notion that there are a lot of 40 hour-per-week jobs out there, full-time jobs, and it was just a matter of connecting people to those jobs and everything will be fine. Of course, one of the things we know is that’s certainly not the case, particularly for young people who often find themselves working in precarious jobs, working in contracts for long periods of time without the benefits and long-term support that those of us who have been around longer take for granted.”

In the Canadian context, at least, she said, “I’m optimistic enough to believe that at some point we are going to end up with a guaranteed income.”"
2015  manitoba  universalbasicincome  wellbeing  poverty  economics  dauphin  1970s  labor  income  mincome  switzerland  health  healthcare  education  mentalilliness  thomaspaine  martinlutherkinkjr  miltonfriedman  libertarianism  socialwelfare  motivation  via:anne  jamesmanzi  evelynforget  canada  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Myth of Magical Futures — Kate Losse
"Despite its (now frequently mocked) claims to meritocracy, Silicon Valley loves its hierarchies. However, because these hierarchies often look somewhat different than old-time corporate ones, they are often opaque to outsiders looking in. My book The Boy Kings is among other things a diagram of hierarchy as it was architected at Facebook in Facebook’s early years, where the closer one was to a Mark-Zuckerberg-when-he-started-Facebook combination of age, race, and gender qualities the higher one was in the hierarchy (a hierarchy that appears not to have changed much given the industry's recently released diversity data). In the past year tech's particular version of hierarchy has been more widely acknowledged and critiqued, and thus we are now in the situation where people as powerful as Peter Thiel are being asked to comment on tech’s diversity and misogyny problems, as in yesterday’s Reddit Ask Me Anything interview with Thiel.

Peter Thiel’s answer to misogyny in tech was that we need more women founders, and this answer struck me as interesting on a number of levels, and also somewhat opaque to someone looking into this world from outside. Why women founders? On the one hand, the possibility that a woman founder would construct the hierarchy at her company differently than Mark Zuckerberg is compelling. On the other, the idea of women founders as a solution to tech misogyny also makes existing male founders and investors unaccountable for misogyny as it exists today. Thiel is saying that he and his funded companies are not responsible for the misogynist environments they themselves have built, and furthermore, that they can’t fix them-- only a woman founder can.

This is a problem, because the misogynist hierarchies that exist in tech today are not mystical outcomes, but very real products of the values of the people involved at the formation of a company, which are investors and founders. Investors and board members in addition to founders influence everything from how much equity goes to individual employees, to perks and play budgets (which often are not evenly distributed across the company), to the construction of departments, their relative importance, and the resources accordingly allocated to them. And not coincidentally the privileged departments, on this model, tend to be those occupied by people who look most like the founder and investors (at Facebook this was product engineering, which dominated other forms of engineering, which dominated non-engineering departments, which tended to have the largest degree of race and gender diversity).

But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all. That is, all of the women who are currently working in tech, up and down the employee stack, many at companies that Thiel may be invested in, do not seem in Thiel’s formulation to really exist to him. They do not have a seat at the table. They are not acknowledged as agents of change, or as subjects of discrimination (for example, in the AMA, Thiel cited the Bay Area “housing crisis” as a worse problem than sexism in tech, not knowing that the housing crisis disproportionately affects women and people of color because of the wage discrimination marginalized people face at work).

That is, according to Thiel’s “women founders” logic, he can only imagine women as agents/subjects if they are the founder of a company. And this, in the end, is exactly why and how tech is such a diversity disaster: because there are so many ways powerful people in the industry have of ignoring that marginalized people are working at their companies and are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination right now. This is why many powerful people in tech can only conceive moves to “change” the industry in terms of magical futures like “more women founders” or “getting young girls to code”. The women working in the industry right now are being written off in favor of these magical futures, and as long as this is the case, the now of tech (whether the now is today or twenty years from today) will be unchanged.

This is why you should be skeptical whenever you see powerful men arguing for magical future outcomes in regard to diversity. Instead, ask what they can do right now to affect discrimination in their companies. For example, what are they doing to rectify across the board pay and equity discrepancies between men and women, or white men and people of color? What do their harassment policies look like? Investors like Peter Thiel directly influence these decisions at startups they fund (even if “influence” means “failing to advise founders to avoid discriminatory practices”, which is a form of influence). So when men like Thiel speak of magical futures, we should always be asking them: what are you doing today?"
katelosse  siliconvalley  sexism  internet  culture  business  women  technosolutionism  peterthiel  gender  californianideology  meritocracy  facebook  markzuckerberg  vc  venturecapital  technology  libertarianism 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

A: I think it’s great. It’s an acknowledgement that nobody else has the right to tell you what you can best contribute to the world, and it’s based on a certain faith — that people want to contribute something to the world, most people do. I’m sure there are a few people who would be parasites, but most people actually want to do something; they want to feel that they have contributed something to the society around them.

The problem is that we have this gigantic apparatus that presumes to tell people who’s worthy, who’s not, what people should be doing, what they shouldn’t. They’re all about assessing value, but in fact, the whole system fell apart in 2008 because nobody really knows how to do it. We don’t really know how to assess the value of people’s work, of people’s contributions, of people themselves, and philosophically, that makes sense; there is no easy way to do it. So the best thing to do is just to say, alright, everyone go out and you decide for yourselves."



"Q: So would you get rid of government programs?

A: It depends on which. The amounts of money that they’re now talking about giving people aren’t enough to take care of things like health care and housing. But I think if you guarantee those sorts of basic needs, you could get rid of almost all the programs on top of that. In huge bureaucracies, there are so many conditionalities attached to everything they give out, there’s jobs on jobs on jobs of people who just assess people and decide whether you are being good enough to your kids to deserve this benefit, or decide whether you’re trying hard enough to get a job to get that benefit. This is a complete waste. Those people [making the decisions] don’t really contribute anything to society; we could get rid of them.

Q: So you’d get rid of, say, the food stamp bureaucracy?

A: If we had a basic income, we wouldn’t need to decide who needs food and who doesn’t."



"Q: Are you surprised that there’s right wing support for this?

A: Not at all. Because I think there are some people who can understand that the rates of inequality that we have mean that the arguments [for the market] don’t really work. There’s a tradition that these people are drawing on, which recognizes that the kind of market they really want to see is not the kind of market we see today.

Adam Smith was very honest. He said, well obviously this only works if people control their own tools, if people are self-employed. He was completely rejecting the idea of corporate capitalism.

Q: Smith rejected corporate capitalism because it became crony capitalism.

A: Well, he rejected the corporate form entirely; he was against corporations. At the time, corporations were seen as, essentially, inimical to the market. They still are. Those arguments are no less true than they ever were. If we want to have markets, we have to give everybody an equal chance to get into them, or else they don’t work as a means of social liberation; they operate as a means of enslavement.

Q: Enslavement in the sense that the people with enough power, who can get the market to work on their behalf…

A: Right — bribing politicians to set up the system so that they accumulate more, and other people end up spending all their time working for them. The difference between selling yourself into slavery and renting yourself into slavery in the ancient world was basically none at all, you know. If Aristotle were here, he’d think most people in a country like England or America were slaves.

Q: Wage slaves?

A: Yes, but they didn’t make a distinction back then. Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

Q: So is this idea of a guaranteed basic income utopian?

A: Well, it remains to be seen. If it’s Utopian, it’s because we can’t get the politicians to do it, not because it won’t work. It seems like people have done the numbers, and there’s no economic reason why it couldn’t work.

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

A: It’s expensive, but so is the system we have now. And there’s a major savings that you’ll have firing all those people who are assessing who is worthy of what.

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.

But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.

So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

A: The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system.

Q: Because people need to be able to prove that they’ll get a return on the investment?

A: Exactly. So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.

Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality.

Q: And in the United States, the entire abstract expressionist movement, whatever you think of it — Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock — was all on the WPA [Works Progress Administration], on the dole.

A: Absolutely, look at social theory. I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that."

[See also: http://maymay.net/blog/2014/04/20/david-graeber-on-death-by-bureaucracy-if-we-had-a-basic-income-we-wouldnt-need-to-decide-who-needs-food-and-who-doesnt/ ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The ‘Libertarian Moment’ Is Really An Individualist Moment
"What we can call the utopian eugenics of our time inevitably has “statist” implications. If it becomes possible, for example, to upgrade physically and cognitively human embryos through medical technology to make their lives much longer and safer, we really won’t be able to allow people to choose against that upgrade for their children. It, of course, will require separating the sexual act from reproduction; embryos will have to be implanted into natural or artificial wombs. Mormons and Catholics might want to continue to have sex the old-fashioned way and hope and pray for the best. That won’t be allowed. All those dumb and diseased Mormons running around would be a nasty and easily avoidable risk factor for us all. Today, people claim to be pro-choice on abortion for health and safety, but their opponents, say, rightly that there’s a contradiction between choosing for health but against life. Soon enough, maybe, choice will disappear for the same reason, for what will be a genuinely coercive culture of life. When I called this possibility to the attention of the libertarian sort-of transhumanist Ronald Bailey, his response was that, well, no reasonable person would choose not to be enhanced with security in mind."



"Surely we have to conclude that lots of libertarians, from today’s pampered young to the high theorists of economics and Silicon Valley, have security issues that keep them from embracing unreservedly the freedom given to each of us by God and/or nature as beings born to know, love, and die. Because the Mormons (for example) are so confident that the security of their personal beings is not in their own hands, they have what it takes to be firmer libertarians for more practical purposes. They’re not about to surrender authentic sexual freedom with the unprecedented maximization of health and safety in mind.

Too many libertarians are indifferent to the effects technological progress has on our relational lives. Indefinite longevity surely would destroy the relationships between generations, continue exponentially our creepy trend toward a world without children, and make lifelong marriage just about impossible. But it still, on behalf of the individual, can seem to be a choice worth making.

Our hyper-technophiles also celebrate the screen on all our smart devices as quite the democratic achievement. Virtually all Americans get to see the same virtual stuff—from great texts to great games to great porn—on the screen. I’ll leave it to you to add all the obvious costs the screen has had to our personal lives, to our ability to be together in love in the present and to be serenely alone with our thoughts in our disconnected rooms. Those who use libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, of course, are becoming increasingly adept in judiciously employing the screen by subordinating the techno-“how” to humanly worthy, deeply relational “whys.”

What we sometimes called libertarianism might better be called non-foundationalism. There’s no foundation for thinking that anything trumps the imperative of keeping the people alive right now as secure and as free as possible. The trouble with foundations—such as God or Nature or History or ideology or nation—is that they get people killed for no good reason. So today we just say that everyone has “human rights,” and nobody has to or should try to explain why.

It’s All About Me

Libertarianism so understood might better be called “individualism.” Individualism, Tocqueville explains, is the mistaken judgment that love and hate are both more trouble than their worth and turn each of us into suckers. So my relationships with others should be carefully calculated, based as much as possible on contract and consent. I go wrong when I think of myself as part of a whole greater than myself—as a citizen or a creature or even a member of a family. All such thinking is “collectivism,” which diverts me from the truth that the individual—me—is the bottom line. Liberty, in this view, is a kind of intellectual liberty that separates clear thinking from relational deception. It’s a kind of liberty that easily makes the individual obsessed with the contingency of his being, and, Tocqueville predicts, all too ready to surrender liberty for the security of “soft despotism.”

All the confusion we have with trying to figure out why our libertarian convergence is so selective when it comes from libertarian principle dissolves when we think of individualism as the self-understanding on the march in our time. Maybe one piece of good news is that the selective statism of most of our young isn’t to be confused with socialism. Socialism is a kind of civic devotion to a national or international community progressing in egalitarian solidarity through the cooperative efforts of government. Nobody these days can believe that people once died for socialism or Communism, and for our young the point of statism is to spare the individual from self-sacrifice or personal discomfort. Hardly anyone these days thinks of himself as ennobled by being part of the whole called History moving toward an earthly paradise. No individual will allow himself or herself to be regarded as mere “History fodder.” In the absence of any faith in God and History, I’m stuck with myself. And nothing is more securitarian than the thought that when I disappear, being itself is extinguished.

Another piece of good news is that our young aren’t fascists, either, thinking of themselves as part of some racial or national whole. They don’t even think of themselves as citizens ready, if need be, to be citizen soldiers. We can conclude by wondering whether even libertarian or securitarian concerns can be addressed adequately in the absence of citizenship, to say nothing about those connected with genuine self-government. Our hope remains with those who counterculturally work to deploy libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, with those with enough experience of personal love (and, yes, often hate) not to make the misjudgment of individualism or wallow in self-obsession. These days especially, citizenship depends on the prior experience of being a creature, being a “localist,” and being embedded in a fairly loving and functional family."
futurism  ethics  health  2014individualism  libertarianism  libertarians  security  religion  sexuality  peterlawler  toqueville  safety  ronaldbailey  securitarianism  freedom  individuality  via:ayjay 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Millennials’ politics are shaped by our dysfunctional system | Al Jazeera America
"In a 2011 poll centered around Occupy Wall Street, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that adults under 30 had a much more negative view of capitalism than other demographics. Under-30s had an overall negative impression of capitalism (46–47), matching liberal democrats and self-identified supporters of OWS. Even the Reason poll found 43 percent of respondents favoring socialism to capitalism. This would be less remarkable if the U.S. had a socialist party or an anti-capitalist culture, but it doesn’t. The closest experience of such things millennials have enjoyed is an unfunded hodgepodge sequence of park occupations. Capitalist ideology has close to zero competition in American politics, but it can just barely muster a majority among young people in a poll run by the free-market fan club.

It’s no surprise that millennials aren’t content with the way things are going. The rest of America feels the same way. Earlier this month, the Huffington Post announced the results of another public opinion survey with my favorite headline of the year: "American Dissatisfaction With Everything Is Reaching Historic Levels." The poll found nearly three-quarters of respondents “unsatisfied,” mostly related to a lackluster economy and an unresponsive political system. Things are so bad that the very legitimacy of American democracy is in dispute: 73 percent believe the government operates without the consent of the people and two-thirds believe they have no say. With 95 percent of the income gains since the recession ended accruing to the top 1 percent of earners, it isn’t cynicism for most people to feel unrepresented by our political and economic system, it’s common sense.

If you consider the circumstances of their political development, millennials would have to be a generation of credulous fools to trust the government at all. From 9/11 on, they saw firsthand the devastation wrought by the Bush administration’s dishonesty. The biggest protests the world has ever seen couldn’t stop an ill-advised war on Iraq, and half-assed regulation-by-crony set the economy up for a heavy fall. The Obama ’08 campaign squeezed out enough hope to win, but nearly six years later the promised change hasn’t followed. After repeatedly insisting that the National Security Agency wasn’t spying on everyone, the government has been forced — by another untrusting millennial, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — to concede that the NSA actually has been spying on everyone. Politicians who “evolve” (i.e., flip) on gay marriage have pushed the issue forward, but they also look morally unmoored, as if they can’t figure out how to treat people decently without a pollster’s help.

Every day there’s another story about government corruption or inefficiency. Whether it’s fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bragging about the U.S. military trucks they’ve seized in Iraq, or revelations about profiteering off government contracts or the shocking story that our own contractors spend at least some of their time threatening to murder State Department investigators, news about what happens with government resources is usually bad news. No wonder the Reason study finds that a plurality of millennials don’t trust either party on most of the major issues and two-thirds think the government is wasteful and inefficient. But even though millennials are wary of the bureaucracy, a strong majority of young Americans still believe in government entitlements: 54 percent believe the state should guarantee a college education, rising to 69 percent for health insurance, and a whopping 74 percent believe everyone deserves enough to eat and a place to sleep.

From food trucks to marijuana, the Reason report shows millennials are in favor of people doing their thing without state interference, but these are not the future capitalists the surveying foundations were hoping for. American millennials can’t possibly trust the government, but we still believe in a social safety net that takes care of everyone. This combination of libertarian and socialist values unnerves the major parties and unimaginative commentators, but it’s a logical response to the last 15 years. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t have anything to fall back on but the market, as well as what happens when the government feels entitled to know everything about everyone, and we don’t want either.

Caught between the market and the state, millennials might look “totally incoherent” when you ask them to pick one. But life isn’t a poll, and civic participation isn’t a multiple-choice test. These libertarian socialists don’t make sense to party partisans or the elderly, but there are more of them every day. If they reject the choice between door No. 1 and door No. 2, they’ll need to create some more options."
millenials  socialism  capitalism  us  polls  malcolmharris  2014  politics  policy  future  disaffection  libertarianism  government 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Capitalism Whack-A-Mole | MattBruenig | Politics
"There is no general framework of morality or justice that supports laissez-faire capitalism. This is a problem of course for those who wish to argue on behalf of it. When you talk to such people, a familiar argumentative pattern emerges that I have come to call Capitalism Whack-A-Mole.

Someone playing Capitalism Whack-A-Mole moves seamlessly between three different — and mutually incompatible — frameworks of justification. Those frameworks are desert (each person should get what they produce with their labor), voluntarism (each person should get whatever they come about through voluntary, non-coercive means), and utility (the economic system should be created to maximize well-being). This Capitalism Whack-A-Mole does not need a starting point, but, in my experience, either desert or voluntarism comes first, with utility the back up when the argument turns really bad.

Here is a simulation of one such argument."
capitalism  2014  mattbruenig  inequality  voluntarism  utility  desert  taxes  libertarianism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Free college narratives | MattBruenig | Politics
"Supposing college was free, what would the social narrative about the recipients of it be? I have seen two basic approaches:

1. It is a right. I owe nothing.

Under this narrative, recipients of free college are due free college as a matter of right. To deprive them of it is to oppress them. When they receive the free college, it is not a privilege, a bonus, an excess; rather, they are simply getting what already belongs to them.

This is the way the student movement in the U.S. has gone. The students are the downtrodden and the oppressed because they are required to finance large parts of their college education. It is common now to even see them included in lists of oppressed people alongside people of color, women, and the poor.

The problem with this narrative is two-fold. First, on the merits, it is very implausible to include college students in the ranks of the oppressed. If you line up a list of identities and their opposite — black/white, man/woman, poor/rich, straight/gay, student/non-student — the thing that stands out about student is that, all else equal, it is the better identity to be. The college wage premium still stands at around $1 million, making it hard to really contemplate students as an especially oppressed category of people.

Second, and more important for my point here, it establishes the future economic elite of the country as not really owing others anything. They don’t owe others for their free college because it was theirs to begin with as a matter of right. I am generally fine with these kinds of statements, but not when they are being made about and by the future economic elite of the country. A narrative that paints them as just getting what they are due with respect to free college misses a huge and important opportunity to describe them as indebted to the rest of society for paying for their college.

2. It is a privilege. I owe everything.

Under this narrative, free college is described as a generous gratuity from the rest of society, especially those who never get to go. In order to allow you to study and not work for many years, the rest of society — including those workers who are your age but do not get to attend — puts aside some of the national product just for you.

The amount put aside comes to you, not as some hyper-individualist right, but as a humbling gift. Working class people who never get to use the colleges toil for you while you study. Accordingly, you are deeply indebted to them for that gift. Without it, you would not have been able to get your degree and all of the market benefits it generally comes with.

The benefit of this narrative is that it allows society, and working-class people in particular, to make totally legitimate claims on the future market incomes of the college-degreed. Under the first narrative, it is very easy for the college-degreed — who go on to be management and grab up all the other spots in the top of the economic hierarchy — to say that they don’t owe anybody anything. The free college certainly doesn’t bind them to anyone else: it was theirs as a matter of right, not some gratuity from society that they should reciprocate.

But under this second narrative, you don’t have that. A rich college-degreed person who looks back and says they don’t owe anyone anything and shouldn’t have their market income taxed at high rates to fund social benefits and such is being ridiculous. The only reason they have those high market incomes is because of the college everyone else toiled to provide for them. People gave up part of the national product to allow them to acquire the skills, abilities, and credentials precisely so that they could occupy those lucrative spots. Accordingly, you owe them for supporting you in such a generous way. That income is not exclusively yours: it was gotten through a concerted social effort to finance your education, something most people don’t get.

Conclusion
The fact that the free college people in the US almost exclusively gravitate towards the first narrative is very troubling to me. We already have a problem of people at the top of the economic hierarchy acting like they are owed the big chunk of the national income that some hypothetical set of market institutions would deliver to them. Put another way: the top of our society is already in the grips of a bad dose of entitlement mentality. Free college as a right only entrenches that mentality further, while free college as a gratuitous privilege from those who toil helps to undermine it.

The only way free college (as opposed to debt-financed college) is of much use to the majority of poor and working class people who do not attend it is if it can help ensure that the market income gains that flow to college graduates are spread around. But the rights-based narrative that animates the current free college movement makes that much harder to justify."
mattbruenig  2014  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  privilege  interdependence  philosophy  libertarianism  meritocracy  inequality  entitlement  indeptedness  economics  hierarchy  class  perspective  income  individualism  hyperindividualism  society 
july 2014 by robertogreco
MultipliCITY | Molleindustria
"SimCity promises endless possibilities. You can create the city of your dreams. But in reality you always end up with Phoenix, Arizona. The only type of city you can create is the modernist, car centered, grid based, North American city (Although in some recent versions like SimCity Societies they tried to add variety).

And it’s not just a matter of appearances. Here I tried to build an alternative city based on Situationist principles of Unitary Urbanism. I mixed work places and recreational place, I invested in public transportation and green areas.

But the citizens hated it. It was not a thriving city.

Another issue is the relationship between urban settlements and nature. You can start from an existing city and try to improve it, but the game is really meant to start from a tabula rasa, with a city built from scratch. The natural environment comes up as a blank slate, uninhabited and pre-packaged in discreet square units, ready to conquer and exploit.

It’s very common in games to have a territory that comes already partitioned in units of lands. Civilization uses a grid system too. There are technical reasons for that. But still, it suggests a very specific vision of the nature and ecosystems.

SimCity is not just about planning, you have to take decisions like how to tax your citizens. In pretty much all the titles of the series if your tax rate is around 12% or higher citizens get upset. Typically with a 20% tax, wealthy citizens will simply leave regardless of the services you provide. Some players even managed to run cities with 0 taxes.

This is a pretty clear libertarian bias. In many countries people tolerate high taxation if they feel like they get valuable services from the state.

It’s true that SimCity doesn’t have a stated goal but there is an implied goal which is growth. You can play subversively in many different ways, you can destroy things by triggering disasters. But the only truly rewarding way to play is by trying to make a big, functional city.
SimCity encourages endless growth without ever confronting the player with scarcity of resources. In SimCity 2000 when the map is full you can build arcologies that are cities within cities. And when you fill the map with arcologies, they simply take off to some other planet and you start over. It perpetually postpones the issue of the limits to growth.

Race and class conflicts are also sanitized. Crime can usually be addressed by building more police stations. And you’ll never see racial riots or experience disruptive suburbanization – the White flight. These conflicts were crucial for the development and the decline of North American cities (Detroit being a textbook case). And yet they are not included in the SimCity model.

Probably the most fundamental problem with SimCity is the premise itself: that a single person, the mayor/city planner/dictator, can address the contradictions of contemporary capitalist cities though judicious planning. Seeing the city as organism that can be in good or bad health is denying that there are irreducible conflicting interests at play.

Moreover, there are some more general bias that make SimCity a problematic artifact. Some bias are related to the mathematical, computational nature of the medium: everything is reduced to quantity, to numbers, variables, flows. Some bias are related to the management genre: this top down cybernetic approach is inherently reductionist. It embodies the modernist paradigm of city planning “from above” ignoring the city as lived at street level. This is the approach that informed carefully planned but ultimately unlivable cities like Brasilia.

But most of the bias and the issues I just mentioned come from the fact that between a real city and a simulation of a city there are actual people. People with their own values, experiences, and beliefs that inevitably affect the design of the game."
simcity  modernism  frowth  urban  urbanism  cityplanning  planning  urbanplanning  libertarianism  taxes  brasilia  multiplicity  paolopedercini  2014  brasília 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Alex Payne — Dear Marc Andreessen
"If we’re gonna throw around Marxist terminology, though, can we at least keep Karl’s ideas intact? Workers prosper when they own the means of production. The factory owner gets rich. The line worker, not so much.

Owning a smartphone is not the equivalent of owning a factory. I paid for my iPhone in full, but Apple owns the software that runs on it, the patents on the hardware inside it, and the exclusive right to the marketplace of applications for it. If I want to participate in their marketplace, Apple can arbitrarily reject my application, extract whatever cut of my sales they see fit, and change the terms whenever they like. Same story with their scant competitors.

It seemed like a lot of people were going to get rich in the “app economy”. Outside of Apple and Google, it turns out, not so much. For every WhatsApp there are thousands of failures.

The real money in tech is in platforms, network effects, scale. Sell pickaxes and jeans to the miners, right? Only today it’s Amazon selling the pickaxes. The startup with its servers on EC2 is about as likely to find gold as a ’49er panhandler. Before the startup goes out of business, Amazon gets paid.

Investors, shrinking in number but growing in wealth and political influence, own the means of digital production. Everyone else is doing shift work and hoping they still have jobs tomorrow.

You spent a lot of paragraphs on back-of-the-napkin economics describing the coming Awesome Robot Future, addressing the hypotheticals. What you left out was the essential question: who owns the robots?"



"Sure, technology that enhances productivity can make products and services cheaper. Emerging technologies can also create demand for things that are inherently expensive – cutting-edge medical procedures and treatments, for example – driving up costs in entire economic sectors.

Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn’t going to make it happen. Though technological progress has sped up over recent decades of capitalist expansion, most people on the planet are in need of a safety net today. The market hasn’t been there to catch them. Why is this different in Awesome Robot Future? Did I miss one of Asimov’s Laws that says androids are always programmed to be more socially-minded than neoliberals?

I appreciate that smart, ambitious people like you are thinking about a future of universal prosperity. You borrow terminology from finance in saying that you’re “way long human creativity”. While I’m creeped out by the commodification of our species’s ingenuity, I appreciate the sentiment. If our industry stops painting anyone who questions our business models as Luddites and finds creative ways to build products and services that sustainably address real needs, maybe we can hold on to the receding myth of triumphal disruption. Hopefully we can agree that there are many more meaningful quality of life improvements technology has yet to deliver on before we can start brainstorming the “luxury goods markets” of the future.

Meanwhile, we don’t need to wait until a hypercapitalist techno-utopia emerges to do right by our struggling neighbors. We could make the choice to pay for universal health care, higher education, and a basic income tomorrow. Instead, you’re kicking the can down the road and hoping the can will turn into a robot with a market solution."
automation  capitalism  economics  inequality  alexpayne  socialsafetynet  2014  marcandreessen  libertarianism  technosolutionism  californianideology  neoliberalism  miltonfriedman  technology  marxism 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Marc Andreessen and the Inevitability of Catastrophic Ideas - The Awl
"It's not false to say that some crumbs perforce will fall from the tables of the rich onto those of the poor. It in no way follows, however, that that is the way bread should be shared."



"Those affiliated with the humanities—who interest themselves in all the things that can’t be measured, but must be judged instead, like moral, aesthetic and philosophical questions—are experiencing a daily low-grade fever of dissatisfaction (or generalized rage, in the case of Sam Biddle) as we are daily sold on the inevitability of catastrophic ideas. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld told a reporter that the OMB had estimated that the Iraq War would cost something less than $50 billion—the total sum, to be shared by the US and its allies. There would be “smart bombs,” plans laid by expert warmongerers, all kinds of precision.
None of this persuaded the people who’d read their history and learned about the politics, who were warning against the likelihood of disaster and of civil war and the emboldening of extremists, and who marched in their millions (many, many millions) in the streets of the world’s capital cities in early 2003. So it rankles in a particular way to see that the true cost of the Iraq War topped $2 trillion not long ago.

What is the study of humanities for? It’s to prevent this. To apply the lessons of history, and consider the possible costs to the future. To consider not only what will profit us but what will be right for us to do, and why. Andreessen, a dyed-in-the-wool measurer and chart-monger if there ever was one, is a man who would never even dream of a just world, where all would sit at the same table. He is the living example of what is lost when we value things only through the money they represent."

[Via http://log.scifihifi.com/post/89088821716/those-affiliated-with-the-humanities-who-interest who adds:

"This is exactly why so much the tech industry’s rhetoric these days makes broadly educated people feel like they’re taking crazy pills. When Marc Andreesen claims, for example, that we’re about to enter a robot utopia where we all paint and compose symphonies in perfect economic harmony (and that any unpleasantness in the intervening period will be smoothed over by a form of trickle down economics that demands nothing of the rich while ensuring that society doesn’t collapse under the weight of crushing economic inequality), it’s hard not to wonder if he knows anything at all about, oh, say, the entire history of humanity. When he attempts to undermine a critic by mocking her liberal arts credentials and pointing out that she surely can’t be as smart as him because she probably knows nothing about real, scienc-ey things like “quantum entanglement,” he only demonstrates that, like so many blinkered, self-proclaimed rationalists in tech, he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."]
technosolutionism  disruption  ideology  siliconvalley  californianideology  libertarianism  inequality  humanities  mariabustillos  2014  marcandreessen 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Episode One Hundred: Taking Stock; And The New
"It took a while, but one of the early themes that emerged was that of the Californian Ideology. That phrase has become a sort of short-hand for me to take a critical look at what's coming out of the west coast of the USA (and what that west coast is inspiring in the rest of the world). It's a conflicting experience for me, because I genuinely believe in the power of technology to enhance the human experience and to pull everyone, not just some people, up to a humane standard of living. But there's a particular heady mix that goes into the Ideology: one of libertarianism, of the power of the algorithm and an almost-blind belief in a purity of an algorithm, of the maths that goes into it, of the fact that it's executed in and on a machine substrate that renders the algorithm untouchable. But the algorithms we design reflect our intentions, our beliefs and our predispositions. We're learning so much about how our cognitive architecture functions - how our brains work, the hacks that evolution "installed" in us that are essentially zero-day back-door unpatched vulnerabilties - that I feel like someone does need to be critical about all the ways software is going to eat the world. Because software is undeniably eating the world, and it doesn't need to eat it in a particular way. It can disrupt and obsolete the world, and most certainly will, but one of the questions we should be asking is: to what end? 

This isn't to say that we should ask these questions to impede progress just as a matter of course: just that if we're doing these things anyway, we should also (because we *do* have the ability to) feel able to examine the long term consequences and ask: is this what we want?"
danhon  2014  californianideology  howwethink  brain  algorithms  libertarianism  progress  technology  technosolutionism  ideology  belief  intention 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Against "Innovation" #CNIE2014
[See also: http://steelemaley.net/2014/05/16/philosophers-innovation-and-questioning/ ]

"One culture values openness and collaboration and inquiry and exploration and experimentation. The other has adopted a couple of those terms and sprinkled them throughout its marketing copy, while promising scale and efficiency and cost-savings benefits. One culture values community, and the other reflects a very powerful strain of American individualism — not to mention California exceptionalism — one that touts personal responsibility, self-management, and autonomy."



"As I read Solnit’s diary about the changes the current tech boom is bringing to San Francisco, I can’t help but think about the changes that the current ed-tech boom might also bring to education, to our schools and colleges and universities. To places that have also been, in certain ways, a "refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists.”

Global ed-tech investment hit a record high this year: $559 million across 103 funding deals in the the first quarter of the year alone. How does that shape or reshape the education landscape?

In the struggle to build “a great hive,” to borrow Solnit’s phrase, that is a civil society and not just a corporate society, we must consider the role that education has played — or is supposed to play — therein, right? What will all this investment bring about? Innovation? To what end?

When we “innovate” education, particularly when we “innovate education” with technology, which direction are we moving it? Which direction and why?

Why, just yesterday, an interview was published with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, who’s now moving away from the MOOC hype and the promises he and others once made that MOOCs would “democratize education.” Now he says, and I quote, “If you’re affluent, we can do a much better job with you, we can make magic happen." Screw you, I guess, if you're poor.

I’ve gestured towards things so far in this talk that might tell us a bit about the culture of Silicon Valley, about the ideology of Silicon Valley.

But what is the ideology of “innovation.” The idea pre-dates Silicon Valley to be sure."



"See, as I started to gather my thoughts about this talk, as I thought about the problems with Silicon Valley culture and Silicon Valley ideology, I couldn’t help but choke on this idea of “innovation.”

So I’d like to move now to a critique of “innovation,” urge caution in chasing “innovation,” and poke holes, in particular, in the rhetoric surrounding “innovation.” I’d like to challenge how this word gets wielded by the technology industry and by extension by education technologists.

And I do this, I admit in part, because I grow so weary of the word. “Innovation” the noun, “innovative” the adjective, “innovate” the verb — they’re bandied about all over the place, in press releases and marketing copy, in politicians’ speeches, in business school professors’ promises, in economists’ diagnoses, in administrative initiatives. Um, in the theme of this conference and the name of this organization behind it.

(Awkward.)

What is “innovation”? What do we mean by the term? Who uses it? And how? Where does this concept come from? Where is it taking us?

How is “innovation” deeply ideological and not simply descriptive?"



"The technology innovation insurrection isn’t a political one as much as it is a business one (although surely there are political ramifications of that).

In fact, innovation has been specifically theorized as something that will blunt revolution, or at least that will prevent the collapse of capitalism and the working class revolution that was predicted by Karl Marx.

That's the argument of economist Joseph Schumpeter who argued most famously perhaps in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that entrepreneurial innovation was what would sustain the capitalist system — the development of new goods, new companies, new markets that perpetually destroyed the old. He called this constant process of innovation “creative destruction."



"The precise mechanism of the disruption and innovation in Christensen’s theory differs than Schumpeter’s. Schumpeter saw the process of entrepreneurial upheaval as something that was part of capitalism writ large — industries would replace industries. Industries would always and inevitably replace industries.

Schumpeter argued this process of innovation would eventually mean the end of capitalism, albeit by different processes than Marx had predicted. Schumpeter suggested that this constant economic upheaval would eventually cause such a burden that democratic countries would put in place regulations that would impede entrepreneurship. He argued that, in particular, “intellectuals” — namely university professors — would help lead to capitalism’s demise because they would diagnose this turmoil, develop critiques of the upheaval, critiques that would appealing and relevant to those beyond the professorial class.

That the enemy of capitalism in this framework is the intellectual and not the worker explains a great deal about American politics over the past few decades. It probably explains a great deal about the ideology behind a lot of the “disrupting higher education” talk as well."



"“The end of the world as we know it” seems to be a motif in many of the stories that we hear about what “disruptive innovation” will bring us, particularly as we see Christensen’s phrase applied to almost every industry where technology is poised to transform it. The end of the newspaper. The end of the publishing industry. The end of print. The end of RSS. The end of the Post Office. The end of Hollywood. The end of the record album. The end of the record label. The end of the factory. The end of the union. And of course, the end of the university.

The structure to many of these narratives about disruptive innovation is well-known and oft-told, echoed in tales of both a religious and secular sort:

Doom. Suffering. Change. Then paradise."



"Our response to both changing technology and to changing education must involve politics — certainly this is the stage on which businesses already engage, with a fierce and awful lobbying gusto. But see, I worry that we put our faith in “innovation” as a goal in and of itself, we forget this. We confuse “innovation” with “progress” and we confuse “technological progress” with “progress” and we confuse all of that with “progressive politics.” We forget that “innovation" does not give us justice. “Innovation” does not give us equality. “Innovation" does not empower us.

We achieve these things when we build a robust civic society, when we support an engaged citizenry. We achieve these things through organization and collective action. We achieve these things through and with democracy; and we achieve — or we certainly strive to achieve — these things through public education. "
audreywatters  2014  edtech  culture  technology  californianideology  innovation  disruption  highered  highereducation  individualism  google  googleglass  education  schools  learning  ds106  siliconvalley  meritocracy  rebeccasolnit  class  society  poverty  ideology  capitalism  novelty  change  transformation  invention  language  salvation  entrepreneurship  revolution  business  karlmarx  josephschumpeter  johnpatrickleary  claytonchristensen  sustainability  mooc  moocs  markets  destruction  creativedestruction  publiceducation  progress  justice  collectivism  libertarianism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War — Editor’s Picks — Medium
"San Francisco is in the middle of a class war. It’s not the first or last city to have heart-wrenching inequality tear at its fabric, challenge its values, test its support structures. But what’s jaw-dropping to me is how openly, defensively, and critically technology folks demean those who are struggling. The tech industry has a sickening obsession with meritocracy. Far too many geeks and entrepreneurs worship at the altar of zeros and ones, believing that outputs can be boiled down to a simple equation based on inputs. In a modern-day version of the Protestant ethic, there’s a sense that success is a guaranteed outcome of hard work, skills, and intelligence. Thus, anyone who is struggling can be blamed for their own circumstances.

This attitude is front and center when it comes to people who are visibly homeless on the streets of San Francisco, a mere fraction of the total homeless population in that city.

I wish that more people working in the tech sector would take a moment to talk to these men and women. Listening to their stories is humbling. Vets who fought for our country, under the banner of “freedom,” only to be cognitively imprisoned by addiction and mental illness. Abused runaways trying to find someone who will treat them with respect. People who were working hard and getting by until an accident struck and they lost their job and ended up in medical debt. Immigrants who came looking for the American Dream only to find themselves trapped. These aren’t no-good lazy leeches. They’re people. People whose lives have been a hell of a lot harder than most of us can even fathom. People who struggle on a daily basis to find food and shelter. People who we’ve systematically disenfranchised and failed to support. People who the bulk of tech workers ignore, shun, resent, and demonize.

A city without a safety net cannot be a healthy society. And nothing exacerbates this worse than condescension, resentment, and dismissal. We can talk about the tech buses and the lack of affordable housing, but it all starts with appreciating those who are struggling. Only a mere fraction of San Francisco’s homeless population are visible, but those who are reveal the starkness of what’s unfolding. And, as with many things, there’s more of a desire to make the visible invisible than there is to grapple with dynamics of poverty, mental illness, addiction, abuse, and misfortune. Too many people think that they’re invincible.

If you’re living in the Bay Area and working in tech, take a moment to do what I asked my colleague to do a decade ago. Walk around the Tenderloin and talk with someone whose poverty is written on their body. Respectfully ask about their life. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Where do they want to go? Ask about their hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges. Get a sense for their story. Connect as people. Then think about what meritocracy in tech really means."
danahboyd  sanfrancisco  poverty  2014  inequality  homeless  homelessness  meritocracy  libertarianism  mentalhealth  cities  healthcare  classwar 
may 2014 by robertogreco
6, 5: Hills
"The systemic problems – climate change, mass violence, police state, you name ’em – will not be solved from any single angle. One necessary one, I think, is sushi knife cuts across the idea that we are restoring the world. Sometimes, narrowly, this makes some sense: we can say, for example, that there was a past in which there were better women’s health options in Texas than there are today, and use it as an example. But most of the past sucked real bad, or was not a stable object. The good king to whom Robin Hood was loyal was, in the historical record, what we would now call a bad king. And the implication that we can turn the Anthropocene back into the Holocene is simply false, and a dishonest goal; we have to talk about how we’re never going home, but if we work hard we might make a new home that’s better than what we’ve begun to trek into.

A DM conversation with ace reporter Robinson Meyer (gently edited for clarity):

Rob: Have you played 2048, Dan W edition yet?

Me: No.

Rob: It is a hoot.

Rob: http://games.usvsth3m.com/2048/dan-w-edition/

Me: Astonishing.

Me: Died at 2656.

Me: What can we say about the people who think this is fun and clever?

Me: Can we make a more interesting description than “people who have heard of the New Aesthetic”?

Rob: Confusion: Do you think it was not fun and clever, or are you trying to name the very real category?

Me: I think it’s extremely fun and clever.

Me: And I’m trying to get at what this kind of enjoyment is beyond “people out there share my obsessions with certain ‘boring’/‘weird’ things”.

Rob: Haha, okay. Right. Yeah.

Rob: My shorthand is, indeed, usually “weird.” But that in itself is a shorthand for estrangement.

Rob: Estrangeurs.

Me: I sometimes think if it as: bulk people.

Me: People interested in mass transportation, mass communication, massive slabs of data.

Rob: The Blurry Commons.

Rob: (I think it is common-in-bulk—it being not enough to revive the old, say, Judt-esque progressive adoration for trains.)

Rob: The Fans of Connected Signifiers of Disconnection and Vice Versa.

Rob: Shirepunk.

Rob: Domesdayists.

Me: Census-botherers.

Rob: Because it’s partly about working on problems at 45 degree angles to climate.

Rob: Whigpunk.

Rob: But actually this time.

Me: Ack, perfect.

Rob: That’s what it feels like to be thought-led.

It might also be this thing or not. It might be about scale – the feeling of something on the edge between subitizable and not. (It also has the grace of something made by a friend for a friend – which animates some of my favorite light art, even where it lacks other merits.)"
scale  charlieloyd  2014  whigpunk  newaesthetic  climatechange  mailart  tuitui  micronations  robinsonmeyer  wendellberry  systemsthinking  systems  decline  disaster  lauraseay  jasonstearns  gérardprunier  catharinenewbury  davidnewbury  séverineautesserre  africa  genocide  southsudan  sudan  rwanda  centralafricanrepublic  injustice  libertarianism  normanborlaug  anthropocene 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Who Really Owns The Internet? - The Awl
"Can we solve the issues that you talk about without radically reorganizing the economy?

No. (Laughs) Which I think is why I’ve been so active. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with all these writers who are coming up who found each other through Occupy, and why all of us were willing to participate in that uprising despite all the problems and the occasional ridiculousness of it.

But the economy can be revolutionized or the economy can be reformed, and I don’t discount the latter option. That level of social change happens in unpredictable ways. It’s actually harder to think of a revolutionary event that has had a positive outcome, whereas there have been lots of reforms and lots of things that people have done on the edges that have had powerful consequences. Would I like to see an economic revolution? Definitely. But I think there are a lot of ways to insert a kind of friction into the system that can be beneficial.

This book is about economics, and the amazing, probably very American ability to not talk about economics—particularly with technology, which is supposed to be this magical realm, so pure and disruptive and unpredictable that it transcends economic conditions and constraints. The basic idea is that that’s not the case.

To a lot of people this is self-evident, but I was surprised at how outside the mainstream conversation that insight was. When money is brought up, there’s this incredible romanticism, like the Yochai Benkler quote about being motivated by things other than money. But we’re talking about platforms that go to Goldman Sachs to handle their IPOs. Money is here. Wake up!"



"When I defend institutions in this book, I knew I might provoke my more radical friends. The position that everything is corrupt—journalism is corrupt, educational institutions are corrupt, publishers are corrupt—sounds great. And on some level it’s true. They’ve disappointed us. But we need more and better—more robust, more accountable—institutions. So I tried to move out of the position of just criticizing those arrangements and enumerating all their flaws and all the ways they’ve failed us. What happens when we’ve burned all these institutions to the ground and it’s just us and Google?"



"Do you have advice for what people—people like me—who write or produce other work for the Internet can do about this situation?

I’m encouraged by all these little magazines that have started in the last few years. Building institutions, even if they’re small, is a very powerful thing, so that we’re less isolated. When you’re isolated, you’re forced into the logic of building our own brand. If you build something together, you’re more able to focus on endeavors that don’t immediately feed into that. That’s what an institution can buy you—the space to focus on other things.

What would help creators more than anything else in this country are things that would help other workers: Real public health care, real social provisions. Artists are people like everybody else; we need the same things as our barista.

I quote John Lennon: "You think you’re so clever and classless and free. One thing we need is an end to artist exceptionalism. When we can see our connection to other precarious people in the economy, that’s when interesting things could happen. When we justify our position with our own specialness…"
2014  astrataylor  internet  economics  occupywallstreet  ows  ip  intellectualproperty  universalbasicincome  marxism  miyatokumitsu  precarity  davidburrgerrard  interviews  small  institutions  scale  art  artists  markets  capitalism  automation  utopia  andrewblum  vancepackard  plannedobsolescence  libertarianism  edwardsnowden  freedom  socialmedia  libraries  advertising  benkunkel  publicbroadcasting  quotas  propaganda  technology  web  online  jessemyerson  utopianism  labor  work  artlabor  strickdebt  ubi 
april 2014 by robertogreco
6, 3: Seasteading
"So Jim is a blacksmith – a word I mostly hear these days in jokes about obsolescence. He lives on a small, rural island where he has the time and quiet to think and work very hard on small things that most people have not imagined. He is also one of the most globalized people I know. I’m counting people who had “major liquidity events” and whose Twitter profiles say their location is SoMa/SoHo or whatevs. Jim is narrowly specialized labor, enabled by things like oligopolistic global shipping companies.

And likewise, my family’s off-the-grid setup – solar panels, their own well, their own garden – relies on solar panel manufacturers, modern well-drilling rigs, and the internet.

Many visitors are offended by this. They have a rhetoric of simplicity that feels that e.g. buying gasoline to run a generator to have electric lights in winter is failing to live up to the promise of living in the woods. But for my family and others, that promise was never made. It’s a projection, an assumption, an outsider’s stereotype. They are not claiming or trying to be out of the world.

What do you get from living on a natural seastead oops I mean small island? Well, you get a different kind of time – a different set of distractions. Not simplicity, but a reallocation of complexity that suits some people. You get too many things to list here. The one I want to talk about is that you see your material dependencies more clearly. That is, you have to carry the gas that you buy. You know where your water comes from, even if it’s just as technologically mediated as a Brooklynite’s water – maybe more – because you have to replace the pump from time to time. It’s not that you have less of a supply chain, it’s that you pay more attention to it because you’re the last link in it. You unload your kit, your cargo, your stuff, from a literal-ass boat that goes across the water."

So here is what I can tell you: our material culture is vast. The substrate of comfortable, middle-class-as-portrayed-in-primetime American life is ginormous, far beyond anyone’s understanding in any depth. Years ago there was a Neal Stephenson Wired story called In the Kingdom of Mao Bell, from which I often think of the line (phrased in terms of Western culture, but mutatis mutandis):
For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.

Which is only to make a point that is easy to make but very hard to appreciate, and I have to practice making to myself in new ways all the time, re-estranging it to re-familiarize it: what we have going here, this system by which roads are paved, you can appeal a court ruling, you can just assume you got the right change back at Whole Foods, Whole Foods exists, etc., is so big and complicated that you can’t appreciate it. At best you can call upon cognitive intercessors, like thinky magazine features on the cold chain or whatever, to mediate between your grasp of the size of the culture and its reality. I say this as someone whose job is partly to look at enormous depictions of material culture – I mean staring at the Port of Tokyo–Yokohama, or Magnitogorsk, is kind of what I do all day, and I still take it for granted.

And the system has tremendous momentum. I am no historian, but my vague sense is that in recognizable form in the Euramerican sphere it goes back to things like the New Model Army and the aftermath of the French Revolution: the establishment of a bureauracy, i.e. a system of applied governance with accountability built in as paperwork and defined responsibilities, as opposed to something at best hollowed out like a nest of sticks inside feudalism.

And when I see bureaucracy around me doing things like getting all fetishistic about a piece of paper, I have to remind myself that yes, this is imperfect, but the point is that we enshrine the word, something roughly permanent and widely legible, as opposed to worshipping the squire, i.e., whatever he feels like today, that we can’t even examine directly to mutually identify and begin to debate whether it’s good. A whig history but I’m a whig."

[Related: http://masochuticon.com/2006/05/24/
via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484597685396045824
in this thread: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484483973767110656
follow-up http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-16-america-again ]
complexity  canon  interconnectedness  seasteading  frontier  waldronisland  bureaucracy  2014  charlieloyd  slow  change  purpose  purposefulness  civilization  interdependence  seeing  noticing  separateness  libertarianism  capitalism  globalization  materials  systems  systemsthinking  siliconvalley  laws  governance  government  society  nealstephenson  simplicity  distractions  bighere  dependencies  supplychains  legibility  illegibility  coffee  waldron  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Alex Payne — Bitcoin, Magical Thinking, and Political Ideology
"While most of the claims around Bitcoin are merely wince-inducing, there is one that deserves particular attention: that Bitcoin is “a way to offer low-cost financial services to people who, because of financial or political constraints, don’t have them today.”

Economic inequality is perhaps the defining issue of our age, as trumpeted by everyone from the TED crowd to the Pope. Our culture is fixated on inequality, and rightly so. From science fiction futures to Woody Allen character sketches, we’re simultaneously alarmed and paralyzingly transfixed by the disappearance of our middle class. A story about young people dying in competition with one another just to continue lives of quiet desperation isn’t radical left-wing journalism, it’s the pop fiction on every teenager’s nightstand and in every cinema right now.

With this backdrop of looming poverty, nobody can reasonably deny that the euphemistically “underbanked” are in desperate need of financial services that empower them to participate fully in the global economy without fear of exploitation. What’s unclear is the role that Bitcoin or a similar cryptocurrency could play in rectifying this dire situation.

The push toward Bitcoin comes largely from the libertarian portion of the technology community who believe that regulation stands in the way of both progress and profit. Unfortunately, this alarmingly magical thinking has little basis in economic reality. The gradual dismantling of much of the US and international financial regulatory safety net is now regarded as a major catalyst for the Great Recession. The “financial or political constraints” many of the underbanked find themselves in are the result of unchecked predatory capitalism, not a symptom of a terminal lack of software.

Silicon Valley has a seemingly endless capacity to mistake social and political problems for technological ones, and Bitcoin is just the latest example of this selective blindness."
2013  alexpayne  bitcoin  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  business  economics  libertarians  libertarianism  californianideology  decentralization  regulation  banking  finance 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Libertarian enclaves: Bitcoin paradise | The Economist
"A GROUP of self-described anarchists, libertarians and Ron Paul supporters fleeing the crumbling world economic system have founded Galt's Gulch, a community in Chile inspired by Ayn Rand's “Atlas Shrugged”—and with an economy based entirely on Bitcoin. Or that's the goal, anyway.

"Our farm workers and suppliers still want to get paid in pesos,” Ken Johnson, the project’s founder and managing partner, explains. "But Bitcoin as the John Galt coin? Why shouldn't it be?”

If the world economic system "goes sideways," as Mr Johnson puts it, residents will retreat to their self-sufficient gated community, where they will enjoy a shooting range, equestrian facilities, and spa and fitness center. The 6,874-hectare site (pictured) also includes a 100-hectare farm, although it is not clear who will pick the lettuce when the world ends.

Galt's Gulch Chile—a name impossible for local Spanish-speakers to pronounce—will also boast an innovation centre, where expatriate libertarian dentists and chiropractors may ply their trade. In exchange for Bitcoin, of course.

In the event the world economic system fails to collapse on schedule, however, Mr Johnson has a plan B—his new trademark, Galt's Gulch Organics. "The farm came with 65 hectares of lemons," he says. "The US and Japanese markets pay a premium for organic, non-GMO produce." Plans are in the works to plant herbs, spices, fruit, nuts, and vineyards, and organic certification is not far off.

A quirk of Chilean law makes land, mining and water rights independent of each other. Mr Johnson made sure to acquire all three, particularly the water rights. "In the future, wars will be fought over water," he says. Two rivers border the land, and the community sits atop 56 known water wells. Galt's Gulch bottled mineral water may soon be in the offing. Mr Johnson is also building guest haciendas to house not only prospective buyers, but also, he hopes, tourists.

Set in a secluded valley 17 kilometres from Curacavi, Chile, on the road between Santiago and the luxurious beach resort of Viña del Mar, Galt's Gulch is a mere forty-five minutes by car from the Santiago airport, but, as Mr Johnson says, "it feels like you're at the end of the Earth." Yet his goal is not isolationist, he adds. "We're not trying to hide from the world. In fact we want people to find us.”

Indeed, of the 430 lots for sale, only 12% have sold so far, and Mr Johnson is marketing vigorously to the libertarian and Bitcoin communities. Lots are priced in both dollars and Bitcoin, with big discounts for buyers who pay in that crypto-currency. Many early adopters of Bitcoin find themselves sitting on small fortunes, and Mr Johnson hopes to tempt them to diversify into real estate. So far nine clients have paid in Bitcoin, totaling around $1.5m in revenue.

Mr Johnson, a former California real estate agent and evangelist of water ionizers (devices supposed to slow aging and prevent disease, but derided as snake oil by many scientists) has become something of a celebrity in libertarian circles. Authors such as Ben Swann, Josh Tolley, Luke Rudkowski, Bob Murphy, Angela Keaton, Tatiana Moroz and Wendy McElroy have visited the site of his future utopia, and a television production company is pitching a documentary series on the community.

Most buyers so far, he says, are expats or second-home buyers. For Mr Johnson, the appeal is easy to explain. "It's like California, only forty or fifty years ago. Feels like you've stepped back in time.” Mr Johnson plans to break ground in 2014, and estimates five years to fulfill his vision of a place where he can "live and let live, thrive and let thrive.”

Why does he think his project will succeed where similar schemes have failed? "We're a freedom-minded community, but we're not trying to create a sovereign state," he explains. "We pay our taxes, we obey the law. Our goal is to lessen the effect of the rest of the world without telling the world to go take a flying leap."

As for Ayn Rand, just how much have her ideas influenced the community's design? Mr Johnson admits he never finished “Atlas Shrugged”. "I'm not actually much of a reader," he says. "Watched the movie and skimmed the Cliff's Notes, though. Good stuff.""

[Shiver at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJyafOxDOeE ]

[See also: http://galtsgulchchile.com/
http://dollarvigilante.com/blog/2013/5/27/ayn-rands-vision-of-galts-gulch-has-become-reality-as-of-tod.html
http://dollarvigilante.com/blog/2013/9/3/galt%E2%80%99s-gulch-chile-%E2%80%93-where-the-world-is-coming-to.html ]

[Update: http://www.thedailybell.com/editorials/35591/Wendy-McElroy-The-Fate-of-Galts-Gulch-Chile/

"Unbeknown to most purchasers, dramatic changes had occurred behind the scenes. Through maze-like transfers of cash and authority, Jeff Berwick was shoved out of the project and Ken Johnson was in control. I have sorted out most of the obfuscating tangle and I may soon be writing a history of the labyrinthine matter. For the moment, suffice it to say there is basis for various lawsuits; some are being pursued.

There will be no zoning for the 1.25-acre lots or other arrangements of less than 10 acres. Lots over 10 acres are beyond my ken. GGC is an environmentally protected area and it would take the political movement of heaven and earth to allow a community based on small lots to be officially approved. I had the opportunity to ask a question of the salesman who showed my husband and me "our property." I claimed it because I fell head over heels for the most beautiful tree I've ever seen. I felt an instant connection as though the two of us were old souls who had found each other. I could believe it, I could see it... waking up each morning and having coffee under that tree, telling it about my plans for the day. Months later, in a Skype conference, I asked the then-GGC-alienated salesman, "When you 'sold' us the property, when you printed out a photo from your phone that read 'Wendy's tree,' did you know you could not legally sell us the lot you were offering?" He said, "That is correct."

I suppose there is some comfort in being fleeced in good company, in being in the company of some of the smartest businessmen in the movement. I am not reassured. Perhaps it is because I am an Irish peasant and what reassures me is owning the land under my feet.

But something reassuring is happening. For a few months now, what I call "the founding fathers" have been trying to purchase all rights to GGC and to reboot. It is not just a financial investment to them. They want to live in a community with like-minded people; they want the promise of freedom. I don't know if they can succeed but I support them.

There are genuine problems that should discourage all and any from currently investing in GGC. For example – and just one of many, many examples – GGC owes immense debts to vendors in the closest town of Curacavi. Brad and I spent two weeks there and fell in love with the people, the town, the experience. But GGC owes hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardware stores, service providers... ordinary Chileans who are acutely harmed by the project's malfeasance. They will be and should be first in line for repayment from any legal actions. GGC is heavily encumbered with no good outcome in the near future.

I remain a friend of Jeff Berwick. I continue to admire the founding fathers of GGC and I do nothing but wish them success. I hope to be part of the resolution. But no one, no one should invest their hard-earned money in this venture before a resolution is clear. I don't want to have you on my conscience."]

[Update II: http://dollarvigilante.com/blog/2014/8/27/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-on-galts-gulch-chile.html ]
aynrand  chile  libertarianism  libertarians  bitcoin  objectivism  galt'sgultch  kenjohnson  curacavi  benswann  joshtolley  lukerudkowski  bobmurphy  angelakeaton  tatianamoroz  wendymcelroy  utopianism  utopia 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Your Grim Meathook Future : Extenuating Circumstances
"Recorded for posterity.

• Larry Page wants to set aside part of the world for experimentation.
http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/15/4334356/larry-page-wants-to-set-aside-a-part-of-the-world-for-experimentation/in/4095431

• Balaji Srinivasan thinks Silicon Valley should create an opt-out” society where existing governments cannot meddle.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57608320-93/a-radical-dream-for-making-techno-utopias-a-reality/ [video here: http://balajis.com/2013/11/09/silicon-valleys-ultimate-exit/ ]

• Chamath Palihapitiya says value is only created in Silicon Valley and that Valley companies transcend power and are the eminent vehicles for change and influence, over government.
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/10/silicon-valleys-dysfunction-fetish.html

You may also be interested in:

• Sovereign corporate franchise enclaves
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash

• Free Trade Zones
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_trade_zone

• The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Olympic_Games_and_Paralympic_Games_Act_2006

• The Special Administrative Region
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_administrative_region "

[Each item is a link to an article]
siliconvalley  libertarianism  larrypage  balajisrinivasan  chamathpalihapitiya  government  individualism  danhon  2013  libertarians  californianideology  technosolutionism  seasteading  sealand 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Ten Responses to the Technological Unemployment Problem | THE DECLINE OF SCARCITY
"On the internet and in the media there has been growing discussion of technological unemployment. People are increasingly concerned that automation will displace more and more workers—that in fact there might be no turning back at this point. We may be reaching the end of work as we know it.

What happens if vast numbers of people can no longer make money by selling their labor? How should society respond? What follows is a list of possible responses to technological unemployment. This list may not be complete. If I have missed anything, or misrepresented anyone’s views please say so in the comments below. Also these responses are not meant to be mutually exclusive; many of them can overlap with each other quite nicely."
futurism  politics  economics  snarkmarketseminar  2013  scarcity  abundance  universalbasicincome  technology  unemployment  employement  labor  artleisure  decentralization  capitalism  automation  socialism  incentives  motivation  wealthdistribution  wealth  wealthredistribution  policy  education  innovation  libertarianism  machines  leisurearts  ubi 
june 2013 by robertogreco
unphotographable please, do not mistake autonomy for individualism.
"individualism says i live in a box. says i have a worldview that is a reaction to the other. says i am so reactive that i shut me in my own self. says i carve my own grades and praise my own mirrors. there, in my comfortable box, i build me beautifully for myself. says i am gorgeous and who contradicts me will be shot. everyone around are threats. so, to do not shoot anybody, i stay in my box. nobody is good enough for me to get out of myself. i do not need anyone but me.

on the other hand, autonomy says there is no box. says there is no grid or mirror, because there is no projection. to be honest, it says, neither i exist. i am free not for not needing anyone, but for having overcome my own desires - thus, i am free from the main prison: myself. free to be whatever i want, as i want, with whomever i want. joins me the ones who celebrate not me, not her or himself, not us, but that celebrates the eternal path of liberation. says everyone around me are lovers. not of me, i don’t even exist, but lovers of the love we are when in union.

i don’t need anything, because i can embrace it all."
individualism  autonomy  independence  interdependence  libertarianism  humanism  anarchism  liberty  love 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Approval Economy: In Practice | GeorgieBC's Blog
"I have talked a lot in this blog about money and society and the need for new solutions. My opinion from years of volunteering is that money ruins every volunteer effort. As soon as a need receives funding, it becomes a noun and a product instead of an action. As soon as a project is allowed to fundraise, there is a need to manufacture scarcity, to withhold work until payment is received and to continue the need for the project. And as soon as a project receives money, the motives of the person receiving money are suspect.

I do not want to go to a ‘crowd funding website’ and ask a centralized go-between to stand between me and anyone who chooses to support me. I do not want to waste my time creating glossy videos and applications to explain to strangers what you already know, my work. I do not want to ally myself with corporate media or NGO’s, I am trying to make both obsolete. I do not want to develop a persona, tell you all about my personal life, appear on panels and talks to become a character and a brand; I am an action not a noun and I value my right to privacy.

I do not want to be the designated official person for any action I initiate, I want to be free to let others take my place whenever I find people willing. I want to continue to promote others instead of seeking to enhance my own reputation for a livelihood. I want to give freely my ideas and work to anyone who can use them instead of hoarding them to myself for profit.

I do not want to ask you to support every action I take. I will not delay my work waiting for approval or funding. Most of what I work on are things that nobody knows of or supports, that is why I give them my priority. I do not want to jump on popular, widely supported causes to gain support. I want to continue to speak even when everyone disagrees with me as they very frequently do. I want to speak for Gaza when the world says it is anti-semitic to do so, I want to speak for the DRC when the west doesn’t know or care where that is, I want to speak for the Rohingya when no one believes me. I want to criticize democracy, consensus, peer to peer economies, libertarianism and Marxism when everyone I know supports them. I want to advocate for people who have no supporters or funding behind them and tell people about things they may not want to know about.

I do not want to sell you a book, a talk, art, advocacy, a button or a T-shirt, anything I do is available to you as always, for free. But I want it recognized that what I do is not ‘unemployment’, that I am a contributing and valuable member of society entitled to the benefits of society. I want to have the human dignity of societal approval and recognition. I want to be able to support myself and others in society without any of us becoming a product."
heathermarsh  economics  work  motivation  advocacy  consulting  crowdfunding  withholding  2013  labor  privacy  cv  freedom  livelihood  reputation  ideas  sharing  artleisure  artlabor  character  selfbranding  branding  democracy  consensus  hierarchy  horizontality  hierarchies  employment  unemployment  society  recognition  dignity  p2p  libertarianism  marxism  funding  via:caseygollan  leisurearts 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Luke's Commonplace Book
"America is, and always has been, undecided about whether it will be the United States of Tom or the United States of Huck. The United States of Tom looks at misery and says: Hey, I didn’t do it. It looks at inequity and says: All my life I busted my butt to get where I am, so don’t come crying to me. Tom likes kings, codified nobility, unquestioned privilege. Huck likes people, fair play, spreading the truck around. Whereas Tom knows, Huck wonders. Whereas Huck hopes, Tom presumes. Whereas Huck cares, Tom denies. These two parts of the American Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the nation, and come to think of it, these two parts of the World Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the world, and the hope of the nation and of the world is to embrace the Huck part and send the Tom part back up the river, where it belongs."

— George Saunders in The Braindead Megaphone
georgesaunders  2013  huckleberryfinn  tomsawyer  marktwain  us  misery  inequity  nobility  privilege  fairness  fairplay  wondering  wonder  knowing  knowledge  hope  caring  care  worldpsyche  politics  society  social  liberalism  libertarianism 
may 2013 by robertogreco
A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse | David Graeber | The Baffler
[Now here: http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/a-practical-utopians-guide-to-the-coming-collapse ]

"What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille."



"Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about. In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate. Before the French Revolution, the ideas that change is good, that government policy is the proper way to manage it, and that governments derive their authority from an entity called “the people” were considered the sorts of things one might hear from crackpots and demagogues, or at best a handful of freethinking intellectuals who spend their time debating in cafés. A generation later, even the stuffiest magistrates, priests, and headmasters had to at least pay lip service to these ideas. Before long, we had reached the situation we are in today: that it’s necessary to lay out the terms for anyone to even notice they are there. They’ve become common sense, the very grounds of political discussion.

Until 1968, most world revolutions really just introduced practical refinements: an expanded franchise, universal primary education, the welfare state. The world revolution of 1968, in contrast—whether it took the form it did in China, of a revolt by students and young cadres supporting Mao’s call for a Cultural Revolution; or in Berkeley and New York, where it marked an alliance of students, dropouts, and cultural rebels; or even in Paris, where it was an alliance of students and workers—was a rebellion against bureaucracy, conformity, or anything that fettered the human imagination, a project for the revolutionizing of not just political or economic life, but every aspect of human existence. As a result, in most cases, the rebels didn’t even try to take over the apparatus of state; they saw that apparatus as itself the problem."



"In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower."



"In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically. Eliminating guaranteed life employment for precarious contracts doesn’t really create a more effective workforce, but it is extraordinarily effective in destroying unions and otherwise depoliticizing labor. The same can be said of endlessly increasing working hours. No one has much time for political activity if they’re working sixty-hour weeks.

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible.

Work It Out, Slow It Down

Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom—that the current economic and political system is the only possible one—the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint? It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place. The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic, participatory basis. I think this is an important achievement—not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can be only thought experiments. We cannot really conceive of the problems that will arise when we start trying to build a free society. What now seem likely to be the thorniest problems might not be problems at all; others that never even occurred to us might prove devilishly difficult. There are innumerable X-factors.

The most obvious is technology. This is the reason it’s so absurd to imagine activists in Renaissance Italy coming up with a model for a stock exchange and factories—what happened was based on all sorts of technologies that they couldn’t have anticipated, but which in part only emerged because society began to move in the direction that it did. This might explain, for instance, why so many of the more compelling visions of an anarchist society have been produced by science fiction writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson). In fiction, you are at least admitting the technological aspect is guesswork.

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated."
debt  economics  politics  revolution  work  labor  davidgraeber  power  society  revolutions  2013  grassroots  punk  global  conformity  bureaucracy  feminism  1789  frenchrevolution  1848  1968  communism  independence  freedom  1917  thestate  commonsense  fringe  ideas  memes  socialmovements  war  collateraldamage  civilrights  gayrights  neoliberalism  freemarkets  libertarianism  debtcancellation  fear  insecurity  consumerism  occupy  occupywallstreet  ows  sustainability  growth  well-being  utopianism  productivity  environment  humanism  ideology  class  classstruggle  abbiehoffman  slow  supervision  control  management  taylorism  virtue  artleisure  discipline  leisurearts  globalization 
may 2013 by robertogreco
I've Seen the Worst Memes of My Generation Destroyed by Madness
"Cultural critic Evgeny Morozov has just written the essay equivalent of The Social Network. "The Meme Hustlers," published yesterday in The Baffler, is a fictional-but-true account of a well-known Silicon Valley figure, O'Reilly Books publisher Tim O'Reilly. It's also a story about the future that Silicon Valley pioneers want to build for the world, using corrupt memes that could wreck democracy."



"What disgusts Morozov about the slide from free software to open source is that a revolutionary idea -- radical transparency, radical sharing -- became yet another corporate landscape with a little bit of cooperation between companies. Morozov blames O'Reilly's "meme engineering" for this shift, for popularizing open source at the expense of freedom.

The real problem, however, is the way this shift to open source has spawned a creepy kind of political futurism devoted to "open government.""



"More importantly, Morozov believes this future will fragment our citizenry, eroding group solidarity and turning us into little monads who can't organize a protest or social movement. After all, we'll be busy trying to set up DiY schools and build roads that our government stopped providing because doing so was inefficient.

It's a dystopian vision of the open future, and one that's worth paying attention to.

As a coda, it's worth noting that Morozov's rhetorical style in this essay has a history that stretches back as far as the one he attributes to O'Reilly. This is the kind of article that made The Baffler famous back in the 1990s, when founder Thomas Frank ran the zine as the intellectual wing of an indie movement whose biggest political enemies were artists and thinkers who had "sold out" to corporate capitalism. Morozov's essay eviscerates O'Reilly's career in order to out him as a fake progressive who confuses entrepreneurialism with political freedom. In this story, O'Reilly is the indie rocker who sold out -- or maybe the hipster marketer who induced other indie rockers to sell out. Either way, O'Reilly's foundational crime is taking something radical and transformative like free software and mainstreaming it by making it palatable to entrepreneurs and consumers. And this is the kind of mainstreaming that also turns participatory, responsible governments into pathetic tools of crony capitalism and (in a worst-case scenario) privatized military forces.

As I said, the essay must be read as an allegory about a set of memes, not as a profile of a man. But Morozov is correct to identify a disturbing slipperiness at the core of the "open government" meme. It sounds like freedom but is really just another way of turning you into a passive data point, easily mined by the highest bidder."
annaleenewitz  timoreilly  evgenymorozov  2013  technocracy  opensource  rhetoric  writing  opengovernment  californianideology  siliconvalley  libertarianism  freedom  markets  wealth  capitalism  miltarism 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Ten Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Startup Success - Anil Dash
"1. Be raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. (Every tech billionaire I've ever spoken to has a toilet!)

2. Try to be born in a region that is politically and militarily stable.

3. Grow up with a family that is as steady and secure as possible.

4. Have access to at least a basic free education in core subjects.

5. Avoid being abused by family members, loved ones, friends or acquaintances during the formative years of your life.

6. Be fluent in English, or have time to dedicate to continuously improving your language skills.

7. Make sure there's enough disposable income available to support your learning technology at a younger age.

8. If you must be a member of an underrepresented community or a woman, get comfortable with suppressing your identity. If not, follow a numbingly conventional definition of dominant masculinity.

9. Be within a narrow range of physical norms for appearance and ability, as defined by the comfort level of strangers.

10. Practice articulating your cultural, technological or social aspirations exclusively in economic terms."
culture  anildash  privilege  startups  economics  2013  californianideology  objectivism  libertarianism  gender  race  poverty  class 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking at Education: TED, Technology Entrepreneurship, Uncollege, and the Hole in the Wall
"I have questions about community support. I have questions about what happens when we dismantle public institutions like schools — questions about social justice, questions about community, questions about care. I have questions about the promise of a liberation via a “child-driven education,” questions about this particular brand of neo-liberalism, techno-humanitarianism, and techno-individualism."

"Now don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty that education institutions do — from K–12 onward — that doesn’t help learners at all. Cost. Curriculum. Control. Assessments. Standardization. Debt. Unemployment. Existential Malaise."

"So despite their claims to be liberatory — with the focus on “the learner” and “the child” — this hacking of education by Mitra and Stephens is politically regressive. It is however likely to be good business for the legions of tech entrepreneurs in the audience."
education  schools  schooling  ted  tedtalks  sugatamitra  holeinthewall  community  publicgood  dalastephens  uncollege  unschooling  deschooling  criticism  audreywatters  techno-humanitarianism  neoliberalism  liberation  criticalthinking  groupthinking  dalestephens  evgenymorozov  highereducation  highered  funding  sole  capitalism  coursera  salmankhan  khanacademy  daphnekoller  privilege  techno-individualism  individualism  libertarians  libertarianism  californianideology  niit  salkhan 
march 2013 by robertogreco
PandoMonthly: A Fireside Chat With Sarah Lacy And Chris Sacca - YouTube
[via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 relating to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/23/a-self-made-man-looks-at-how-he-made-it/ ]

[Once specific portion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViHuU6-CFDo ]

"I think, sometimes, like, arguing with libertarians can be really frustrating because, I think, it can be, um..., I think it can be intellectually lazy. And I think it can be convenient, and, in the same way that, um, you know when everything is going right it's easy to attribute it to your own success and when things are going wrong, it's because you got fucked or because you were unlucky etc., like, I think sometimes, like, the libertarian point of view can be, um..., can be rooted in a limited set of circumstances where you give yourself a little more credit than, um.., than you want, or than you are due, probably."
problemsolving  money  optimism  buckminsterfuller  wealthdistribution  incomegap  entrepreneurship  gambling  finance  decisionmaking  incentives  motivation  employment  elitism  regulation  government  traviskalanick  uber  politics  startups  women  gender  pandomonthly  sarahlacy  paternalism  economics  society  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  capitalism  2012  chrissacca  libertarianism  sharingeconomy 
december 2012 by robertogreco
How Do You Run Away from Home?
"For some people, psychological home has clearly moved online. I recall an op-ed somewhere several years ago, comparing cellphones to pacifiers. Appropriate, if they represent a connection to psychological ‘home.’ Putting your phone away is like suddenly being teleported away from home to a strange new place.

For others, the three R’s still dominate the idea of home. Online life is not satisfying for these people. I think this segment will shrink, just as the number of people who are attached to paper books is shrinking.

For a speculative third category, we have the sitcom-ish idea of interchangeable people in roles. I am not sure this category is real yet. I see some evidence for it in my own life, but it is not compelling.

But for a fourth category of people, the need for a psychological home itself is reduced. A utilitarian home is enough. The getting away drive has irreversibly altered psychology."
psychogeography  2012  davidgraeber  gettingaway  thirdculture  runningaway  interchangability  offline  internet  web  digital  online  belonging  culture  anarchism  existentialism  libertarianism  francisfukuyama  robertsapolsky  psychology  history  place  homes  home  rootedness  identity  individualism  venkateshrao 
april 2012 by robertogreco
Mario Savio: Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964 - YouTube
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

[Via stonecast, see here: http://www.savio.org/who_was_mario.html ]

[More here: http://tinyurl.com/3b46o2 ]
mariosavio  politics  activism  freedom  anarchism  libertarianism  berkeley  history  1964  protest  themachine  organizations  bureaucracy  democracy  leadership 
november 2011 by robertogreco
The Blog : How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying) : Sam Harris
"Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made…seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts…freedom from injury & disease…fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—& we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—& did not deserve it. & yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born w/ club feet, or orphaned before the age of 5, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral & economic wisdom in some circles."

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/9573656199/ ]
culture  economics  policy  money  taxes  politics  samharris  objectivism  libertarianism  luck  unlucky  life  illness  bankruptcy  society  religion  belief  selfishness  wisdom  class  wealth  incomegap  wealthdistribution  warrenbuffett  2011  sharing  socialism  democracy  goodfortune  morality  success 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Why Arabic is Terrific [Bookmarking this twice, this time for the footnote.]
"There's something about intelligence agencies - maybe the familiar comfort of a three-letter acronym on the wall, maybe the late-night spanking parties - that draws fraternity boys like ants to a picnic, and right now the road to bro advancement leads through an Arabic classroom. Their complete lack of a sense of irony allows these students to combine sincere appreciation for The Fountainhead with a desire for a lifelong career in government service, and the hardest part of studying Arabic is having to listen to their asinine opinions after they have gained enough proficiency to try to express them."
maciejceglowski  irony  aynrand  thefountainhead  libertarianism  objectivism  government  2011  maciejcegłowski 
august 2011 by robertogreco
The Billionaire King of Techtopia: Critical Eye : Details
"It’s a vivid, wild-eyed dream—think Burning Man as reimagined by Ayn Rand’s John Galt and steered out to sea by Captain Nemo—but Friedman and Thiel, aware of the long and tragicomic history of failed libertarian utopias, believe that entrepreneurial zeal sets this scheme apart. One potential model is something Friedman calls Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate,” Friedman says. When I ask if this wouldn’t amount to a shareholder dictatorship, he doesn’t flinch. “The way most dictatorships work now, they’re enforced on people who aren’t allowed to leave.” Appletopia, or any seasteading colony, would entail a more benevolent variety of dictatorship, similar to your cell-phone contract: You don’t like it, you leave. Citizenship as free agency, you might say."<br />
<br />
[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/9251562982/it-goes-like-this-friedman-wants-to-establish-new ]
peterthiel  libertarianism  aynrand  objectivism  patrifriedman  seasteading  2011  capitalism  appletopia  corporatism  antisocial 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Atlas Shrugged: Silicon Valley billionaire reveals plan to launch floating 'start up country' off coast of San Francisco | Mail Online
"PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand's novel about free-market capitalism - that he's trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute, an organization that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by Libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine that: 'The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn't do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?'"
libertarianism  peterthiel  seasteading  seasteadinginstitute  2011  atlasshrugged  aynrand  capitalism 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Radicals, Imbeciles & FBI Stooges: From Jerry Rubin To Rich Fink, We’ve Reached Rock-Bottom, Baby! - By Mark Ames - The eXiled
"…FBI gave explicit orders to leave the “anarchist” Libertarian Alliance alone, and focus on everyone else in the room.

What’s so galling is that, in the libertarians’ revisionist history of themselves, they constantly describe themselves as “radicals”–as in “radicals for capitalism” or “anarcho-capitalists.” For three decades now, they’ve been pumping American history full of free-market mind-smog…

The real radicals were destroyed by the State: imprisoned, scattered, harassed, surveilled, ruined, even shot to death in their beds, like Fred Hampton. That becomes clear in those FBI files. Today, there’s no Left to speak of. Today, libertarianism is not only the only “choice” that the state allows us to make, but worse, libertarianism’s popularity is growing to record levels (thanks to the billionaire Koch brothers’ investment), according to a recent New York Times article, “Poll Finds Shift Towards More Libertarian Views.”"
radicals  history  libertarianism  libertarian  capitalism  2011  markames  via:adamgreenfield  politics  policy  revisionism  anarcho-capitalism  freemarkets  1960s  1970s  yippies  hippies  marxism  anarchism  radicalism  fbi  kochbrothers  larrykudlow  richardnixon  huntercollege  jneilschulman  richfink  briandoherty  rebellion  civilrights 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State (9780674057593): Jo Guldi: Books
"In debates between centralist and localist approaches, Britons posited two visions of community: one centralized, expert-driven, and technological, and the other local, informal, and libertarian. These two visions lie at the heart of today’s debates over infrastructure, development, and communication."
books  toread  joguldi  power  libertarianism  informal  technology  roads  uk  britain  history  highways  infrastructure  development  communication  centralism  localism  experts  transport  trade  commerce  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
A History of Libertarian Countries at Sea on Vimeo
"An animated History of libertarian new country projects on the high seas. Patri Friedman of The Seasteading Institute narrates previous attempts of creating autonomous freeholds in international waters."
libertarianism  classideas  micronations  history  utopia  animation  documentary  seasteading  patifriedman  theseasteadinginstitute  sealand  jasonsussberg 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Brian Doherty on Anarcho-Capitalism and Sci-Fi on Vimeo
"Reason Magazine journalist, Brian Doherty, comments on what animates seasteading: anarcho-capitalism. He discusses the link between anarcho-capitalism and science fiction."
briandoherty  libertarianism  anarcho-capitalism  capitalism  anarchism  anarchy  politics  classideas  sciencefiction  scifi  humans  utopia  seasteading 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Brian Doherty On Libertarians vs. "The Kooks" on Vimeo
"Reason Magazine journalist, Brian Doherty, comments on how mainstream libertarians try to distance themselves from the futurists and extropians in the movement."
seasteading  libertarianism  extremism  politics  classideas  mainstream  extropians  futurists  futurism  briandoherty 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Space Cadets - Charlie's Diary ["Space colonization is implicitly incompatible with both libertarian ideology and the myth of the American frontier."]
"There is an ideology that they are attached to...westward frontier expansion, Myth of West, westward expansion of US btwn 1804 (start of Lewis & Clark expedition) & 1880 (closing of American frontier). Leaving aside matter of dispossession & murder of indigenous peoples, I tend to feel some sympathy for grandchildren of this legend: it's potent metaphor for freedom from social constraint combined w/ opportunity to strike it rich by sweat of one's brow & they've grown up in shadow of this legend in progressively more regulated & complex society.
2010  exploration  geography  libertarianism  mythology  politics  space  colonization  policy  regulation  freedom  charliestross  americanfrontier  ideology  empire  spacetravel  spaceexploration 
august 2010 by robertogreco
BigThink videos: Penn Jillette and Dan Ariely - Boing Boing
"A couple of great videos from BigThink. First, Penn Jillette on how reading the great religious texts will make you into an atheist, the future of magic, and how he and Teller work together."

[Videos are at: http://bigthink.com/pennjillette AND http://bigthink.com/danariely ]
behavior  rationality  religion  pennjillette  skepticism  atheism  irrationality  primarysources  criticalthinking  magic  pennandteller  performance  business  partnerships  ikeaeffecy  ikea  onlinedating  math  politics  tolerance  respect  morality  right  wrong  glenbeck  abbiehoffman  libertarianism  honesty  humility  tcsnmy  classideas  civics  policy  humanity  context  media  perspective  evil  good  wisdom  disagreement  debate  philosophy  drugs  alcohol  modeling 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Athenians and Visigoths: Neil Postman’s Graduation Speech » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog
"To be an Athenian is to understand that the thread which holds civilized society together is thin and vulnerable; therefore, Athenians place great value on tradition, social restraint, and continuity. To an Athenian, bad manners are acts of violence against the social order. The modern Visigoth cares very little about any of this. The Visigoths think of themselves as the center of the universe. Tradition exists for their own convenience, good manners are an affectation and a burden, and history is merely what is in yesterday’s newspaper."

[See the comments for discussion of accuracy of Postman's depiction of Athenians and Visigoths.]

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/742157919/to-be-an-athenian-is-to-understand-that-the-thread ]
neilpostman  commencementspeeches  society  civilization  vulnerability  civics  violence  convenience  tradition  socialrestraint  civility  ego  selfishness  libertarianism  egalitarian  knowledge  learning  empathy  humanism  art  beauty  commerce  corruption 
july 2010 by robertogreco
The Dropout Economy -10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years- Printout - TIME
"Imagine a future in which millions of families live off grid, powering homes & vehicles w/ dirt-cheap portable fuel cells. As industrial agriculture sputters under strain of spiraling costs of water, gasoline & fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated technique...build an alternative food-distribution system. Faced w/ burden of financing decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of young embrace new underground economy, largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, & kibbutzim that passively resist power of granny state while building own little utopias.

Rather than warehouse their children in factory schools invented to instill obedience in future mill workers of America, bourgeois rebels will educate their kids in virtual schools tailored to different learning styles. Whereas only 1.5 million children were homeschooled in 2007, we can expect the number to explode in future years as distance education blows past the traditional variety in cost and quality."
libertarianism  unschooling  deschooling  glvo  cities  change  education  employment  freegans  resilience  government  economics  jobs  technology  culture  future  community  recession  politics  dropouts  homeschool  tcsnmy  individualism  gamechanging  nomads  neo-nomads  offgrid 
march 2010 by robertogreco
The case for economic rights: FDR said it and it holds 66 years later: There are benefits and opportunities every American should expect to enjoy - U.S. Economy - Salon.com
"In the ideal America of economic citizenship, there would be a single, universal, integrated, lifelong system of economic security including single-payer healthcare, Social Security, unemployment payments and family leave paid for by a single contributory payroll tax (which could be made progressive in various ways or reduced by combination with other revenue streams). Funding for all programs would be entirely nationalized, although states could play a role in administration. There would still be supplementary private markets in health and retirement products and services for the affluent, but most middle-class Americans would continue to rely primarily on the simple, user-friendly public system of economic security."
rights  economy  fdr  us  policy  human  healthcare  retirement  welfare  libertarianism  corporatism  corporations  capitalism  freemarkets  socialsecurity  economics  markets  via:cburell 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Frog: Libertarians: Thats what we meant all along!
"What none of these libertarians realizes is that she is not proposing a different interpretation of the tragedy of the commons, or a different solution to the tragedy of the commons. What Ostrom has worked to demonstrate is that, in many situations, there is no such thing as the tragedy of the commons. People can, over time, develop mechanisms for successfully managing common property. There is no need for private property enforced by a state.

You know what Ostrom's work is really an argument for?

Anarchy."
commons  anarchism  libertarianism  elinorostrom  economics 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Matthew Yglesias » The Libertarian Parking Garage Challenge
"I really do look forward to the day when the Cato Institute starts specifically denouncing all of this stuff and really going after it. As a supporter of bicycle initiatives, I think it’s nice to see the federal government kick some bucks into a bicycle facility. But as you can see that money is dwarfed by what’s spent on public (and, yes, federal) subsidies for automobile parking facilities. I would gladly equalize federal funding for car parking and bike parking at $0 per year. But I get annoyed when friends of limited government pick on the crumbs handed to cyclists while completely ignoring the loafs going to cars."
bikes  cars  transportation  us  government  economics  politics  libertarianism  parking  funding  matthewyglesias  biking 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Male Libertarian Americans In the Computer Industry | Beyond The Beyond
"Remember those high exit costs? Friedman wondered: What if you could just move—not just you, but everything you own, including your home, and, if your neighbors agreed with you, your whole community? What if you could move all of it where no government would bother you at all, and you could make a new, better society? (((Wait a sec -- I think all of that has already been dematerialized and stuffed into my laptop here.))) Friedman called his theory “dynamic geography.” He remembered a line from his dad’s book The Machinery of Freedom about how differently terrestrial government would behave if everyone lived in trailers. ... In the past, such thoughts led many libertarians to dream of space colonization. But you don’t need to leave the planet, Friedman reasoned; just make “land” that can float on the ocean.

And so Friedman is no longer with Google. (((Gotta be their loss!))) He is president of something called the Seasteading Institute."
patrifriedman  miltonfriedman  davidfriedman  libertarianism  brucesterling  geography  seasteading  economics  government  mobility  nomads  neo-nomads 
june 2009 by robertogreco
Kung Fu Monkey: Ephemera 2009 (7)
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
books  youth  reading  aynrand  atlasshrugged  lordoftherings  libertarianism  fantasy  influence 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Live Free or Drown: Floating Utopias on the Cheap
"Friedman and his followers are not the first band of wide-eyed dreamers to want to build floating utopias. For decades, an assortment of romantics and whack jobs have fantasized about fleeing the oppressive strictures of modern government and creating a laissez-faire society on the high seas. Over the decades, they've tried everything from fortified sandbars to mammoth cruise ships. Nearly all have been disasters. But the would-be nation builders assembled here are not intimidated by that record of failure. After all, their plans are inspired by the ethos of the modern tech industry, where grand quixotic visions are as common as BlackBerrys, and they see their task not as a holy mission but as something like a startup. A couple of software engineers came up with an innovative concept, then outsourced it to a community and let the wisdom of the crowd improve on it. They scored financing from a top-tier venture capitalist and assembled a board of directors."
utopia  society  architecture  futurism  engineering  micronations  libertarianism  islands  government  diy  future  freedom  pirates  liberty  seasteading 
january 2009 by robertogreco
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Atlas Shrugged Updated for the Current Financial Crisis.
""I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun," she said. "Don't let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we'll revitalize our country's failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits."
politics  economics  bailout  crisis  2008  aynrand  libertarianism  objectivism  atlasshrugged  mcsweeneys  humor  finance  capitalism  satire 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Libertarianism « Stuff Geeks Love
"Geeks enjoy being Libertarians for 2 reasons. First, it allows them to be Conservative w/out having to belong to one of the 2 mainstream parties that regular sheep are part of. 2nd, it gives them a political party that is just as self-absorbed as they are. Conservatives don’t care if you think they’re selfish pricks. Libertarians wonder why you don’t admire them for it. Since many geeks are unable to care about or even imagine the existence of the feelings of anyone other than themselves, the fact that Libertarianism ignores the unpleasant reality that we live in a society that requires certain things to function is not a problem to them. As far as geeks are concerned, society is lost anyway since it refuses to respect geeks as superior members. (collapse of society is perfectly fine with geek since it would allow him to act out his post-apocalyptic fantasies ...dune-buggy driving, grenade launching warlord, in defiance of all the evidence that demonstrates a more probable outcome.)"
politics  libertarianism  geek  government  freedom  religion  humor 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Marginal Revolution: David R. Henderson asks
"3. A good blog should be subversive and help you see the faults in the author's own positions. Ask whether the blogs you are reading in fact provide that service. Self-subversion ought also, in the long run, to benefit liberty and other important values."
blogging  opinion  criticalthinking  tylercowen  economics  libertarianism  politics  policy 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Half an Hour: Individualism and Classism
"My epistemology is based, not on atomism, but rather, on a sense of connectedness between interacting individuals, each of which prings its own uniqueness, its own perspective, to the mix."
stephendownes  kant  individual  self  identity  learning  libertarianism  society  egoism  aynrand  connectivism 
july 2008 by robertogreco
« earlier      
per page:    204080120160

Copy this bookmark:





to read