Monday, November 28, 2011

Original Pirate Material

 Pirate Utopias
These merchant ships were the engines of the emerging global capitalism, yet the sailors themselves were utterly excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to ‘turn pirate’ was thus a decision to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all rank. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one – income differentials that would make modern CEOs faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around £20,000 in today’s money – an amazing form of early healthcare.
So, far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered such savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates’ ethos.

Dance Music Is Alive!

Good reasons (and links) to think we're in an exciting era in terms of electronic dance music. The "post-step" world.

And no mention of either hauntology or hypnogogic pop / witch-house / chill-wave. (Although as part of the wider electronic landscape they can't really be ignored.)

Banksters' Lies


The Physics of Collapse

Excellent systems model of how complex societies collapse.

Hat-tip : Jean-Luc Delatre

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Facebook And The Evolution Of Social Software

Over on a private group(!) on Facebook, I found myself writing this  :
On the whole, I'm optimistic about "social software" and its capacity to put our cognitive surplus to good use. We still have Wikipedia and Quora and Instructables etc. 
But I think something has changed over the last couple of years. Previously, social software companies were trying to make tools for their users, and advertising was just their funding model. 
Twitter, Google etc. are basically geek companies making things that geeks thought were cool. 
Facebook's - or Zuckerberg's, not sure which - genius is to be a great "learning organisation". It's very fast to pick up and apply good ideas from elsewhere. 
What Facebook has learned over the last few years (from Blackberry, Twitter and Zynga) is how to make the most addictive feed possible for the greatest number of people. 
I don't believe anyone at Facebook ever said "let's make people more passive and stupid". But I do believe that they said, "how can we simplify this so that even the passive and stupid people sign up?" (Which is almost as pessimistically cynical.) 
What they produced was social software that acted like TV. A non-stop stream of gripping events, that are all about surprise, excitement and emotional shocks. (In this sense, the "good" political propaganda from, say, the Occupy movement is no different from TV's symbiosis with the radical movements of the 1960s) 
Instead of putting the cognitive surplus to good use, Facebook just harnesses everyone's surplus to make the wall even more compelling. So that you keep coming back in case anyone you ever knew in your life might have wanted to say something to you or share a picture or a video. 
Google+, while an improvement in some ways, is Google's belated realisation that this is the new reality of social software. Now the weird geek tools (Wave) and me too efforts (Buzz) are being put to rest, and Google is trying to build it's own ultra-compelling feed.

I'll Occupy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why The Violent Suppression Of OWS?

OK, dumb question. Why wouldn't there be a violent reaction to try to extinguish this movement?

Still, Naomi Wolf spells it out clearly :
But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congress people are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Update : The Silence of Obama 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Post Democracy

Aditya Chakrabortty :
Until this weekend, Monti served as an adviser to the world's number one investment bank, Goldman Sachs. As for Papademos, his biggest political intervention before becoming prime minister was to argue against the recent eurozone deal to write off half of Greece's debts – it should, he claimed, be a far smaller discount, so as not to hurt banks. One man was a banker, the other defended their interests, and yet the claim is that they have shed those prejudices in the past few hours.

Positive Money vs. The FT

Positive Money have a good response to a critical comment in the FT that accuses them of naivety.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Painting Robot

This painting robot has THE MOST AWESOME SOUND EVER!

Go watch and listen to the first video. How beautifully amazing is that sound?

How Goldman Sachs Created The Food Crisis

More reasons to hate bankers :-)

Seriously, the inventions of the financial sector have consequences in the real world. The problem is that no-one in the financial sector is responsible for assessing or avoiding negative consequences before launching new products. No one in government has effective oversight or enough power to prevent launches. And once the products are launched and people are making money from them, everyone is very reluctant to give them up. I'm sure there will be plenty of flakes ready to swear that these products are absolutely essential to motivate the production of food, despite the fact that agriculture is around 9000 years old these products have existed for barely a decade.

Here's my suggestion : whenever the financial sector wants to launch a new type of product, it needs to go through a public approval process before it's allowed. (Just like a new medicine.) The approval process should include both academics hired by the government, but also a completely public process where the descriptions, financial models, an dpredictions are published online and any interested party (blogger, economist, freelance mathematical modeller) can comment and raise concerns.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Charanjit Singh

Seumas Milne :
No wonder nationalist anger is growing. And all this to deliver a death spiral of spending cuts and tax increases that are sending Greece ever deeper into slump and debt. It makes no sense. Unless it's understood that it's not the Greek economy that's being rescued, but European and US banks exposed to Greek debt. To protect the rentiers and prevent their own failures from seizing up the European credit system, Greece has undergone the deepest ever fiscal squeeze in a developed state without the possibility of any compensating monetary stimulus or devaluation – because of its euro membership.

What If Greece Exits?

The Guardian is pulling in opinions about what happens if Greece exits the Euro. Fascinating and disturbing.

Here are a couple of thoughts. What would happen if, instead of Greece, Germany unilaterally exited the Euro?

Presumably the value of the Euro would fall, Germany's reinstated Deutsche Mark might rise, it would pay a cost in exports. But, without Germany, perhaps the Eurozone could become more economically homogenous, with policies and devaluing currency more appropriate to its economic status.

A variation, what if the Eurozone was to split itself into two currency blocks? One of wealthier, industrial nations like Germany, France and the Netherlands. The other of the PIIGS and poorer Eastern European nations.  The zone would strive to retain much of its political and economic co-ordination, but the two currencies would be allowed to float against each other, giving a safety valve to tensions between the productivity of different blocks.