(this blog is dead now. please check out the tumblr which is still being updated.)
|Posted by straw prophet on May 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM||comments (7)|
“Once upon a time in a village, a man announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for 10 rupees apiece.
The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at 10 rupees apiece, and as supply started to diminish and it became more difficult to catch a monkey, the villagers stopped their effort, for they no longer considered it worthwhile of 10 rupees apiece.
But, the man further announced that he would now buy at 20 rupees apiece!
This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.
Soon the supply diminished even further, and people started going back to their farms to work, for they had little time to work their crops before harvest.
The offer rate increased to 25 rupees apiece! The people left their farms again in search of the more-prized-than-ever monkeys. The supply became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!
The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at 50 rupees apiece!
However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.
In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers, ‘Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at 35 rupees apiece and when the man returns from the city, you can sell to him for 50 rupees apiece.’
The villagers looked at their children, hungry from lack of harvest. ‘It’s alright, children. We’ve discovered a way to buy enough food to last through the year because of our clever monkey-catching skills – you’ll thank us for this later, when you understand.’ The villagers squeezed up all their savings, and bought all the monkeys.
Then, they never saw the man nor his assistant, only monkeys everywhere!”
|Posted by straw prophet on February 10, 2012 at 3:15 AM||comments (2)|
from a tumblr post
i’m sitting in front of my keyboard right now trying to think of what to say. i have a lot to say, but i’m not sure how much you’re ready to hear. i’m not sure how to phrase it so you will understand. i’m not even sure who you are. i can be sure of a few things about you though. you have needs. i’m sure you have wants, too. there’s probably some nice shiny item that you’re working towards right now, and that’s ok, but for now let’s focus on those needs.
our needs go unmet… biologically, psychologically, and socially. we have the technical capacity to meet these needs, in fact evidence shows that most of these needs are non-material and would be met with a healthier social order. the needs that are material? they can be met easily without requiring anyone to exchange their labor for survival, all at a much higher standard of quality than we enjoy now. really, it’s kid stuff.
when you deprive a flower of sunlight, does it grow stronger? when you abuse a dog, does its demeanor improve? how then do we expect those who are deprived of necessary mental, social and material resources to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and contribute more to society than society has given them? we live in a society where it is expected that adults will go out, find a job, and “earn” their keep, but it is the structure of that very same society that prevents this from even being a possibility for everyone… and as douglas rushkoff points out, “do we all really want jobs?”
no. if we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit that we do not want a “job”. we do not want to give our limited time on this beautiful and mysterious planet to a private dictatorship. we humans are capable of creating a world where such negative social arrangements are a thing of the past, and where all people spend all of their time how they wish. we can create a global culture of abundance and sustainability, and concern ourselves with understanding our vast cosmos and our place in it - and like i said, it’s not the lack of technology that’s holding us back. it’s our culture.
i love the phrase “we are the 99%”, because it captures the potential of the situation so well. it is absolutely true that 99% of the world has great interest in changing our system and it’s true that they’re being screwed by a few powerful people who could change things if they wanted to. my only problem with the phrase is that we’re not just 99% against 1%, we’re 100% suffering from culture lag. yes, the 1% suffers too, from their own ignorance and inaction. how much more technological advancement would they enjoy in a world where information is open source and all people are well educated? how much more free time would they have? how much less stress? how about real security (meaning we’ve grown out of all the needless violence our system currently perpetuates)? whether or not we all understand it, we all suffer in this social system together, our environment too. we are one planet.
as i watch the protesters at wall street, and i listen to their demands, i can’t help but hear my own concerns in them. some are worried and want their student loans erased, some are angry and want bankers jailed, some empathically want to assert a new level of “human rights”. although they may not have a coherent solution, the protesters are saying, “there’s definitely a problem! let’s talk about it!”
the protesters are trying to wake you up. they’re saying our social order needs challenging. i agree. it’s outmoded methods are failing as we head towards something new. maybe it’s about time for revolution, maybe it’s about time for evolution.
i don’t think we need to physically occupy space to change people’s minds, but i’m glad people are doing it and i do see minds changing. in this, the real occupation that has been ongoing since our birth is ending, the occupation of outdated culture in our thoughts.
i’m ready to talk about what is next. are you?
|Posted by straw prophet on November 12, 2011 at 9:20 PM||comments (0)|
Were the Luddites onto something?
Back in the early 1800s a group of disgruntled artisans based around Nottingham, in the UK, began a movement that opposed the new technology that was being introduced into England as the industrial revolution gained steam. The Luddites, as they were called, felt that the introduction of all of this new-fangled technology was ultimately going to increase productivity but that the requirement for human labour would diminish.The rich would get richer, through their use of machines, and the poor would get poorer as unemployment would grow. Of course, this view isn’t exactly true. In fact, the industrial revolution actually created more jobs in the longer term and in general everyone benefitted from the advances in technology. As a result, economists often say that anti-technologists are falling prey to the Luddite Fallacy. But something is changing, and I began to think about this problem after watching a few YouTube videos showing off Siri’s fantastic capabilities. Despite a sudden bout of iPhone envy, I started to wonder how these massive advances in technology will play out economically in the longer term.
I love technology. I particularly like technology that automates things, so I spend a fair bit of time lurking around robotics forums and on sites like How Stuff Works. That’s how I came across a relatively old essay on robotics and employment called Robotic Nation. This little gem is written by Marshall Brain, the founder of the How Stuff Works website. What I love about his essay, is that he never actually attacks technology itself. Brain has decided instead to focus on the “Labor = Money” equation. He concludes his essay, not by saying that we need to stop improving our technology, but by saying “I believe that it is time to start rethinking our economy and understanding how we will allow people to live their lives in a robotic nation.”
Brain is not alone. Last year Martin Ford, another technologist, published his book called The Lights in the Tunnel. Ford is perhaps one of the loudest voices on the subject, and is still actively trying to spread his message. At the end of last month he appeared on PBS for a show called Ideas in Action. During this debate, he argues that while he is a great fan of automation and robotics, he feels that politically we are gradually doing away with the safety nets that will protect people from the ultimate problem of jobless growth.
Mainstream economists often attack people like Ford and Brain, claiming that they are simply committing the Luddite fallacy. History has repeatedly shown that when there is great technological innovation, although there is an initial period of great unemployment, there is usually a period afterward which results in massive job-growth and employment opportunity. Ford quickly counters that the Luddite fallacy is only true for a small section of previous history, it is not proven that this will always be the case. In fact, people like Ford tend to feel that the Luddites were maybe 200 years too early. The problem is that in previous cases of automation, jobs were created around things that machines couldn’t do. But as things stand today, machines are becoming increasingly capable and are now capable of making and repairing themselves.
Machines are getting more intelligent as well. Siri is a case in point. In all my time working with computers, I have never come across voice recognition software that can handle natural language so well. But it is not just this that amazes me, it is the fact that Siri can tap into so many services and tie them together so easily. This sort of software is only going to improve, and as it does it will become more difficult to justify hiring people who used to perform similar tasks. Apple is even bold enough to refer to Siri as your ‘Personal Assistant’.
But it is not just automation that is doing this. Technology also helps to bring us abstraction. Bookstores and publishers are feeling increasingly threatened by the technology that Amazon has brought into the world. Netflix, LoveFilm and a bunch of other providers have all but done away with the local video store. Even artists are up in arms about how technology like iTunes and P2P file sharing do not allow them to earn fairly out of their work.
It is clear that the Luddites were wrong about one thing: technology itself is not the real enemy. Modern commentators who are concerned with the impact of automation on the job market all agree about this. Technology has always helped to improve our standards of living and to allow us to achieve greater things. But we seem to be trapped in this archaic method of valuing people on the basis of their labour and their productivity. This month, the global population will cross the 7 billion mark. If all of these people are going to feed and clothe themselves, they need money. To get money, they need jobs.
The problem is, can we really create 7-billion jobs if our technology is decreasing the number of personell required to perform a task? Or is it really time that we start thinking about alternative ways to value each other and our contributions to the global community?
|Posted by straw prophet on November 10, 2011 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
meet robert shields
i noted a while back on this blog that i would like to do more interviews of people who are working on our common problems, but i haven't been keeping up with that very well. in an attempt to get back on track with the interviews, i sent a few questions to a very interesting gentleman in fairbanks named robert shields. robert's article "farm the polaris" calls for alaskans to develop their food independence through vertical farming...
"In Alaska, we import about 95 percent of our food which makes us extremely vulnerable to political, climatic and economic global instability, and things are looking pretty unstable. This does not mean we have to start genetically modifying our food, although it does require some innovation and courage. As productive farmland worldwide diminishes, a group of students has developed a novel solution that has the discussion of locally grown organic food looking up. The idea is vertical farming. Just two 30-story structures (or four 15-story structures) could sustainably feed every man, woman and child in Alaska for generations."
without further ado, here are robert's responses...
what's your background and training?
While attending high school in Fairbanks (Lathrop) I saw clear evidence of profit being put before people and planet. I didn’t have any real knowledge about the issues or any resources to effectively create solutions. So I started my journey by attending Sterling College in Vermont where I earned an AA in natural resource management and then spent 10 years working in every aspect of the sustainable industry of Portland, Oregon. Learning through practical study about how the issues where connected and what to do about working toward a solution. While there I founded the Sustainable Today program and established the sustainable contractor, Sustainable Solutions Unlimited. I sold my interest in the company and in 2010 came back home to get to work.
what do you see our major social problems being? the "root" issues?
Simply put: to save the planet we have to stop throwing it away. Looking closely I have discovered that the inequality of resource distribution is simply a logical conclusion of the cycle of consumption. Designing things for the dump is how we have so effectively trashed the planet in a very short amount of time, and like a group of lemmings our trash has pushed us off the edge. Therefore I propose that if we did NOTHING else but eliminate trash then the world would be a brighter (and cleaner place) with the resources to feed, shelter, and cloth every many woman and child alive today.
if you had an unlimited budget to start fixing the world today, how would you go about it?
First of all I would not want an unlimited budget because then everything I did would look like a social program and with no investment, (no skin in the game) people will not learn and grow which we stopped doing when our happiness started coming from things instead of nurturing healthy relationships. I am working on community investment models which will provide opportunities for individuals to invest in program and plans which they feel offer the best return on the investment.
The solutions I would implement are the ones I am implementing. Through education and innovative I am working with several groups of dedicated individuals to build models of a zero-waste economy for Alaska using the TerraCycle program as a successful model for replication. Models which not only serve to educate but create real time solutions to natural resource management issues facing many remote northern communities. With these models in place they can be replicated the world over until the day when the only place you can find “waste” is next to “fossil fuels, poverty, homelessness, and hunger” –in a history book.
maybe share some info about vertical towers and food security?
Simple enough, people need food, and it is a good motivator to encourage people to act. In Alaska we import 95% of our food and export or put into the landfill on average 6lbs of waste per person per day (2 lbs above the national average). This is a huge disconnect and danger our state security. In Alaska the proven model for growing food is greenhouses. While there are several effective models of this strategy most of them exist outside the urban centers where the people who like to eat live. I know in Fairbanks we have at least one empty building and in Anchorage I believe there is one or two multi-story buildings which could serve the purpose. Right now I am working to create the steering committee which I can draft the plan around to build a vertical farming plan that creates the opportunity to make this a reality for Alaska. This is based on the Columbia University model of the Vertical Farm concept. I expect in the next 10 years every Alaskan will have abundant access to a rich diversity of locally grown organic food.
in what ways do we currently fail to be sustainable, and how can we correct those failings?
On this physical plane of reality I would have to say that the dis-ease is the disconnect we create when we separate ourselves from Nature. It begins a cascade of breaks in empathy which ultimately ends up back on us. Because when you stop caring about this and that it's not a long path before you stop caring about anyone including yourself.
I felt it important to frame the answer in this manner because I believe the very fact we believe we are physical beings is part of the problem. I believe that in order for us to truly begin to living as part of the world and not just on her we must examine the possibility that maybe we were created to evolve. That in God’s image means beings of light that grow, change, and evolve over time. I see in Nature the evidence of a divine plan and I believe we exist to provide perspective to our own existence so that in moving along this path back toward that from which we came we gain a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the Universe, which allows the Universal Conscience to evolve. Simple, right.
We cannot list this however as a failing anymore than we can list the ability of a toddler to sprint a failing. Wisdom is the experience of applied knowledge and as long as we acknowledge change is constantly occurring and work proactively to apply our imagination and intellect to producing innovative solutions that work for everyone, then we are learning to walk and that is how you learn to run.
who and what are all of the organizations you support and where can everyone contact them?
It is not possible to list every organization I think is doing something good for the planet and listing them does not mean I think everything they are doing is right. In general, however, here are some groups I believe are taking major steps toward creating a sustainable society.
|Posted by straw prophet on September 27, 2011 at 7:50 PM||comments (0)|
On Scarcity Logic and Abundance Logistics
It used to be that the poor didn't have a voice, because we were uneducated and people could play word games to placate us and make themselves feel justified in the sociopathological hoarding that causes our plight. Not any more. Today, a master's degree is the bachelor's degree of 1980. PhD's are likewise oversupplied to the point of diminishing returns. What we have today is a very large population of educated people for which the manufactured scarcity model of circulating resources simply will not work, any longer. This isn't a matter of debate, it's a matter of observing and comprehending that which is vs. that which we wish were true.
The Scarcity Logic to which most fundamentalists and Tea Party types cling, which won't see the fates of the global poor -- here and abroad -- as equivalent until we all start dying at the same rate, is a major roadblock on the path to sustainable postscarcity. I understand their confusion, but it's not okay to let that confusion set domestic, much less global, policy.
29,000 Dead in Past 90 Days. Inexcusable. Raising taxes on the Top 5% or even Top 1% so that we, as a nation, can continue to provide the humanitarian aid that makes us a humanitarian people is not a long term solution; but it is better than doing nothing, until we can move forward into a reasonable Mixed Global Economy that works for everyone.
This is a circulation problem, it's about Abundance Logistics. One key reason for the logistical lockup is the common misguided thinking that proclaims those in western relative poverty should feel grateful, because they aren't in the absolute poverty of Somalians. Believe me, we're grateful; and the only reason anyone could possibly believe that we are not equally emotionally traumatized and desperate is that you've never walked a single step, let alone a mile, in our shoes. We're just Invisible People, but we will no longer keep silent.
|Posted by straw prophet on September 26, 2011 at 9:15 PM||comments (1)|
THE ZEITGEIST MOVEMENT
RESPONSE TO "OCCUPY WALL STREET"
On Sept 17th 2011, a grassroots expression of contempt was launched in the heart of the world's financial center in lower Manhattan of New York City, also commonly known to the world as the institution of "Wall Street". As of Sept 26th, there have been over 80 arrests and many recorded instances of what appears to be violence and abuse coming from the police and security forces there. However, the protesters remain vigilant in what could very well be a landmark event that will resonate for some time to come.
The Zeitgeist Movement would like to extend its public support to this basic expression.
As the world awakens to a failing financial system with growing civil unrest emerging without the bias of sovereignty, religion or political loyalty, a new, unifying perspective is slowly taking hold which transcends the framework many of us falsely assume as empirical to our way of life.
With the slow grind down of the global workforce as machine automation continues to replace human labor for the benefit of corporate cost efficiency, simultaneously reducing purchasing power and hence inevitably stifling so called “Economic Growth”; with the ever expanding Debt Crisis born out of the Fractional Reserve Lending System and the simple reality that money is created out of debt and sold as a commodity in exchange for Interest - Interest that can only again come onto existence through more loan sales; with the looming military programs growing in virtually all major powers as the financial crisis, coupled with a pending hydrocarbon energy crisis, begins to suggest a stage of global conflict possibly never before seen; along with the market psychology of Infinite Growth Consumption that continues to pervade and distort our values and what it means to live in harmony with nature on a finite planet...
...it might be time we begin to see that the social problems at hand are not specific to any general policy, administration, or even so called "corporate greed". The real problem at hand is actually systematic via the very core foundation of what defines our Economic System and the psychology that is supported and rewarded.
The historical illusion that continues to this day is that someone or some group is explicitly to "blame". Rather than focus on the 400 people who have more wealth than 150 million in America or the fact that globally 1% of the world's population has more wealth than 40%, let's instead ask ourselves how such a manifestation is even possible and, more critically, why we would expect anything less? Think about it.
After all, it's the "Free-Market", isn't it? Contrary to the statistically void efficiency assumptions made by most Market Economists, the Free-Market simply means anyone can do whatever they want and maximize however they want within the confines of legal legislation; legal legislation which, make no mistake, is also for sale in the Free-Market as well; as are political officials, regulatory institutions and whatever social entity you wish to consider.
Nothing but maximizing monetary gain is sacred and anytime a person or group brings some detrimental social or environmental consequence of this system to the forefront, pejorative distinctions are usually branded upon their forehead to stifle such concern and frighten other detractors – such as being called a “Socialist” or “Communist”.
Furthermore, while people in protest today across the world continue to condemn monetary influence in social dealings such as the legal reality of Corporate Lobbying, even using such colorful terms as "Corporatism", “Crony-Capitalism” and even “Fascism”, they seem to misunderstand what this system is and always has been.
The Free-Market model of Economics is a haphazard, unscientific anarchy of organization which assumes that any person or group with enough money and hence power will be “responsible” in their actions both socially and environmentally. The problem is that the very definition of being "financially responsible” actually means to be socially and environmentally exploitative, manipulative and negligent, for the main driver of this system is Inefficiency. The more problems in society in general, the more jobs are created and the more rich the upper 1% become. There is an empirical decoupling from what actually supports life and no alteration of the core configuration of the monetary-market Incentive will likely change that.
On a different level, this system, as an historical evolution, is actually based on a culturally hegemonic pretense. Once economic advantage is obtained, it will likely be kept. This is why everything in the system favors the wealthy by its general structure and inherent logic. While the public might complain about the fact that top Hedge Fund Managers bring in over 300 million dollars per year, they often do not find objection with an Interest system that rewards those with high deposits and essentially taxes those using credit. While you may buy your home with a loan, paying thousands in interest a year, a person of wealth can make a CD Investment and gain free interest income simply because they have the money to spare.
Class separation and perpetuation and the growing wealth divide is not a byproduct. It is inevitable. In the Free-Market, one is actually “free” to take away the liberty of others through the mere economic pressures generated from the game. You are only as free as the size of your wallet. The term “Institutional Racism” was coined by civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in the 1960s referring to how often unnoticed underlying policies and structures within the social system undermined African-American prosperity and equality. What we have today is a mere variation: “Institutional Classism”.
Wall Street itself, which is the ultimate manifestation of the pursuit of money as a commodity rather than any form of true creation or social contribution, is naturally a ripe entity for symbolic objection for, at a minimum, it shouldn't exist at all and most certainly not have the grand effect it does on the stability of the global economy today, regardless of the inherent shortcomings denoted.
However, that stated, it must again be made clear that Wall Street and the Banking System are not the source of our problems. They are only symptoms of an Economic System which will continue to fail by the very gravity of its outdated and false assumptions of human conduct and environmental relationships.
The question then becomes,
what do we put in its place?
The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability activist group working to bring the world together for the common goal of species sustainability before it is too late. It is a social movement, not a political one, with over 1100 chapters across nearly all countries. Divisive notions such as nations, governments, races, political parties, religions, creeds or class are non-operational distinctions in the view of The Movement. Rather, we recognize the world as one system and the human species as a singular unit, sharing a common habitat. Our overarching intent could be summarized as “the application of the scientific method for social concern.”
To learn more about our work, please visit www.thezeitgeistmovement.com
|Posted by straw prophet on September 26, 2011 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Toward a Type 1 civilization
Our civilization is fast approaching a tipping point. Humans will need to make the transition from nonrenewable fossil fuels as the primary source of our energy to renewable energy sources that will allow us to flourish into the future. Failure to make that transformation will doom us to the endless political machinations and economic conflicts that have plagued civilization for the last half-millennium.
We need new technologies to be sure, but without evolved political and economic systems, we cannot become what we must. And what is that? A Type 1 civilization. Let me explain.
In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.
Based on our energy efficiency at the time, in 1973 the astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that Earth represented a Type 0.7 civilization on a Type 0 to Type 1 scale. (More current assessments put us at 0.72.) As the Kardashevian scale is logarithmic -- where any increase in power consumption requires a huge leap in power production -- we have a ways before 1.0.
Fossil fuels won't get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us to Type 1.
don't let the smileys fool you, we don't need nuclear.
Yet the hurdles are not solely -- or even primarily -- technological ones. We have a proven track record of achieving remarkable scientific solutions to survival problems -- as long as there is the political will and economic opportunities that allow the solutions to flourish. In other words, we need a Type 1 polity and economy, along with the technology, in order to become a Type 1 civilization.
We are close. If we use the Kardashevian scale to plot humankind's progress, it shows how far we've come in the long history of our species from Type 0, and it leads us to see what a Type 1 civilization might be like:
Type 0.1: Fluid groups of hominids living in Africa. Technology consists of primitive stone tools. Intra-group conflicts are resolved through dominance hierarchy, and between-group violence is common.
Type 0.2: Bands of roaming hunter-gatherers that form kinship groups, with a mostly horizontal political system and egalitarian economy.
Type 0.3: Tribes of individuals linked through kinship but with a more settled and agrarian lifestyle. The beginnings of a political hierarchy and a primitive economic division of labor.
Type 0.4: Chiefdoms consisting of a coalition of tribes into a single hierarchical political unit with a dominant leader at the top, and with the beginnings of significant economic inequalities and a division of labor in which lower-class members produce food and other products consumed by non-producing upper-class members.
Type 0.5: The state as a political coalition with jurisdiction over a well-defined geographical territory and its corresponding inhabitants, with a mercantile economy that seeks a favorable balance of trade in a win-lose game against other states.
Type 0.6: Empires extend their control over peoples who are not culturally, ethnically or geographically within their normal jurisdiction, with a goal of economic dominance over rival empires.
Type 0.7: Democracies that divide power over several institutions, which are run by elected officials voted for by some citizens. The beginnings of a market economy.
Type 0.8: Liberal democracies that give the vote to all citizens. Markets that begin to embrace a nonzero, win-win economic game through free trade with other states.
Type 0.9: Democratic capitalism, the blending of liberal democracy and free markets, now spreading across the globe through democratic movements in developing nations and broad trading blocs such as the European Union.
Type 1.0: Globalism that includes worldwide wireless Internet access, with all knowledge digitized and available to everyone. A completely global economy with free markets in which anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments. A planet where all states are democracies in which everyone has the franchise.
not really sure what shermer thinks we'll be trading
since anyone will be able to print whatever they want...
The forces at work that could prevent us from making the great leap forward to a Type 1 civilization are primarily political and economic. The resistance by nondemocratic states to turning power over to the people is considerable, especially in theocracies whose leaders would prefer we all revert to Type 0.4 chiefdoms. The opposition toward a global economy is substantial, even in the industrialized West, where economic tribalism still dominates the thinking of most politicians, intellectuals and citizens.
For thousands of years, we have existed in a zero-sum tribal world in which a gain for one tribe, state or nation meant a loss for another tribe, state or nation -- and our political and economic systems have been designed for use in that win-lose world. But we have the opportunity to live in a win-win world and become a Type 1 civilization by spreading liberal democracy and free trade, in which the scientific and technological benefits will flourish. I am optimistic because in the evolutionist's deep time and the historian's long view, the trend lines toward achieving Type 1 status tick inexorably upward.
That is change we can believe in.
Michael Shermer is an adjunct professor in the School of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. His latest book is "The Mind of the Market."
|Posted by straw prophet on September 25, 2011 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
What is Debt?
An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber
"In Sanskrit, Hebrew, Aramaic, ‘debt,’ ‘guilt,’ and ‘sin’ are actually the same word. Much of the language of the great religious movements – reckoning, redemption, karmic accounting and the like – are drawn from the language of ancient finance. But that language is always found wanting and inadequate and twisted around into something completely different. It’s as if the great prophets and religious teachers had no choice but to start with that kind of language because it’s the language that existed at the time, but they only adopted it so as to turn it into its opposite: as a way of saying debts are not sacred, but forgiveness of debt, or the ability to wipe out debt, or to realize that debts aren’t real – these are the acts that are truly sacred.
How did this happen? Well, remember I said that the big question in the origins of money is how a sense of obligation – an ‘I owe you one’ – turns into something that can be precisely quantified? Well, the answer seems to be: when there is a potential for violence. If you give someone a pig and they give you a few chickens back you might think they’re a cheapskate, and mock them, but you’re unlikely to come up with a mathematical formula for exactly how cheap you think they are. If someone pokes out your eye in a fight, or kills your brother, that’s when you start saying, “traditional compensation is exactly twenty-seven heifers of the finest quality and if they’re not of the finest quality, this means war!”
Money, in the sense of exact equivalents, seems to emerge from situations like that, but also, war and plunder, the disposal of loot, slavery. In early Medieval Ireland, for example, slave-girls were the highest denomination of currency. And you could specify the exact value of everything in a typical house even though very few of those items were available for sale anywhere because they were used to pay fines or damages if someone broke them.
women are probably still holding value better than the euro or the dollar...
But once you understand that taxes and money largely begin with war it becomes easier to see what really happened. After all, every Mafiosi understands this. If you want to take a relation of violent extortion, sheer power, and turn it into something moral, and most of all, make it seem like the victims are to blame, you turn it into a relation of debt. “You owe me, but I’ll cut you a break for now…” Most human beings in history have probably been told this by their debtors. And the crucial thing is: what possible reply can you make but, “wait a minute, who owes what to who here?” And of course for thousands of years, that’s what the victims have said, but the moment you do, you are using the rulers’ language, you’re admitting that debt and morality really are the same thing. That’s the situation the religious thinkers were stuck with, so they started with the language of debt, and then they tried to turn it around and make it into something else."
David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University.
|Posted by straw prophet on September 9, 2011 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
Are jobs obsolete?
"I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks -- or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?"
|Posted by straw prophet on September 5, 2011 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
What’s going to happen in the future.
There are four basic trends which are going to own the future over the next 20 years.
1> Power is about to become as cheap as information.
Nanosolar, Konarka, and the dozens of other solar power outfits who are pushing the price of solar down, down, down below the price of coal power, and towards the a few cents a watt for the panel, meaning your daylight power comes down below 1 cent per kilowatt hour, or maybe 20% of the cheapest current grid power.
The whole world is going to get electricity. In many areas, this will immediately lead to vast improvements in lifestyle and economic productivity as electric tractors, pumps, daytime-factories and many other applications are found for the newfound power.
2> Computers and cellphones are going to finish their global spread.
E-paper, cheap processors, gigantic solid state drives etc. rapidly push the informational revolution the rest of the way. And in the daytime you plug them into the panels.
3> Poor people are going to start getting angry.
With liberal access to information, they are going to become very, very politicized, en-masse, shortly after the arrival of the network. Totalitarian regimes that wish to impede the free flow of information will be faced with a stark choice: cripple the network, and retard their economic and social progress, or leave it open, and be exposed to the full brunt of network politics.
4> The entire system we currently call “government” is going to be challenged at every level.
Let me tell you why. Government is slow. Change is fast, government is slow, and the gap between the two fills with lost opportunity. Soon this gap is going to be larger than the positive functions of government, as things like spectrum regulation and inane copyright and patent law strangle progress in increasingly vital areas. Vested interests co-opt the collective power of the people and use it to line their own pockets at the expense of all, and as the network documents what is wrong, but the polling booths offer no remedy, cracks will begin to show.
In America you can see it around medical marijuana. In Sweden, it’s around copyright. In China, it’s about free speech and free access to information. In all cases, the problem is that governments are failing to adapt to the current conditions. People flow like water, but the governments stand like stones.
How long can this go on?
|Posted by straw prophet on September 5, 2011 at 6:00 PM||comments (0)|
Mark Jacobson on Powering the World with Wind, Water and Sunlight
^^^ click for lecture ^^^
Last Friday Mark Jacobson came to speak to Singularity University on Powering the World with Wind, Water and Sun. I have to admit that even though his presentation was very technical I enjoyed it immensely. The reason is not only the topic itself but the fact that in the space of an hour Mark managed to make such a powerful argument about the importance and feasibility of wind, water and solar power that he completely changed my views on the rationale behind and necessity of nuclear energy.
|Posted by straw prophet on August 27, 2011 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by straw prophet on June 22, 2011 at 2:08 PM||comments (0)|
What is the Technological Singularity?
Sunday June 19, 2011
Moore’s Law has been around for 46 years. It’s a descriptor for the trend we’ve seen in the development of computer hardware for decades, with no sign of slowing down, where the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years.
The law is named after Gordon Moore, who described this pattern in 1965. He would know a thing or two about integrated circuits. He co-founded Intel in 1968.
Moore has said in recent years that there’s about 10 or 20 years left in this trend, because “we’re approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier.” But then, he said, we’ll just make bigger chips.
Ray Kurzweil, who we mentioned in last weekend’s piece on transhumanism, is known for his thoughts on another subject even more than he is known for his thoughts on transhumanism. That subject is the technological Singularity.
The singularity comes after the time when our technological creations exceed the computing power of human brains, and Kurzweil predicts that based on Moore’s Law and the general trend of exponential growth in technology, that time will come before the mid-21st century.
We’ll see artificial intelligence that exceeds human intelligence around the same time, he says. But there’s more to it than just having created smarter intelligences. There are profound ramifications, but we’ll get to those soon.
Technological singularity was a term coined by Vernor Vinge, the science fiction author, in 1983. “We will soon create intelligences greater than our own,” he wrote. “When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding.”
He was unifying the thoughts of many of his predecessors, Alan Turing and I. J. Good among them.
The idea is that when we become capable of creating beings more intelligent than us, it stands to reason that they — or their near-descendants — will be able to create intelligences more intelligent than themselves. This exponential growth of intelligences would work much like Moore’s Law — perhaps we can call it Kurzweil’s Law — but have more profound significance. When there are intelligences capable of creating more intelligent beings in rapid succession, we enter an age where technological advances move at a rate we can’t even dream of right now.
And that’s saying something: thanks to the nature of exponential growth, technological advance is already making headway at the fastest pace we’ve ever seen.
The singularity doesn’t refer so much to the development of superhuman artificial intelligence — although that is foundational to the concept — as it does to the point when our ability to predict what happens next in technological advance breaks down.
What Will the Singularity Look Like?
Singularitarians say that we simply can’t imagine what such a future would be like. It’s hard to flaw that logic. Imagine, in a world where human intelligence is near the bottom of the ladder, what the world would look like even a short decade later. The short answer is: you can’t! The point is that as more intelligent beings they’ll be capable of not just imagining, but creating things we can’t even dream about.
We can speculate as to the changes the Singularity would bring that would enable that exponential growth to continue. Once we build computers with processing power greater than the human brain and with self-aware software that is more intelligent than a human, we will see improvements to the speed with which these artificial minds can be run. Consider that with faster processing speeds, these AIs could do the thinking of a human in shorter amounts of time: a year’s worth of human processing would become eight months, then eventually weeks, days, minutes and at the far end of the spectrum, even seconds.
There is some debate about whether there’s a ceiling to the processing speed of intelligence, though scientists agree that there is certainly room for improvement before hitting that limit. As with speculation in general, nobody can really speculate as to where that limit may sit, but it’s still fascinating to imagine an intelligence doing the thinking that a human does in one year in one minute.
With that superhuman intelligence and incredibly fast, powerful processing power, it’s not a stretch to imagine that software re-writing its own source code as it arrives at new conclusions and attempts to progressively improve itself.
The Age of the Posthuman
What’s interesting is that there is potential for such post-Singularity improvements to machine speed and intelligence to crossover to human minds. Futurists speculate that such advanced technology would enable us to improve the processing power, intelligence and accessible memory limits of our own minds through changing the structure of the brain, or ‘porting’ our minds on to the same hardware that these intelligences will run on.
In last week’s piece I asked whether we’d be able to tell when we crossed the line from transhuman to posthuman, or whether that line would be ever-moving as we found new ways to augment ourselves.
But here’s another, contrary question: could the Singularity, should it arrive, bring the age of the posthuman? If we are able to create superhuman intelligence and then upgrade our own intelligence by changing the fundamental structure of our minds, is that posthuman enough?
Augmentation is one thing, and upgrading human blood to vasculoid and allowing us to switch off emotions when we need to avoid an impulse purchase are merely augmentations. Increasing our baseline intelligence and processing speed seems to me to be much more significant: an upgrade over an augment.
There is, of course, no reason to think that our creations would have any interest in us or improving the hardware on which we currently run.
Many science fiction authors have postulated that superhuman artificial intelligence would in fact want us extinct, given that our species’ behavior doesn’t lend itself to sustainability.
Is the Singularity Near?
The real question, of course, is whether such a technological singularity will ever happen. Just because it has been predicted by some doesn’t mean it will, and there’s plenty of debate on both sides of the argument. Ever the technological optimist, I’m going to avoid the question in this piece — though that’s not to say I don’t think it’s an important one. You can have a look at David Brin’s fantastic article, Singularities and Nightmares: Extremes of Optimism and Pessimism About the Human Future, for more discussion of that question. I’m fond of this quote from Brin’s piece:
“How can models, created within an earlier, cruder system, properly simulate and predict the behavior of a later and vastly more complex system?”
Of course, if you accept that quote as the basis for any argument, it’s just as hard to map the progress of and towards the singularity as it is to deny that it will happen.
According to Kurzweil’s predictions, we will see computer systems as powerful as the human brain in 2020. We won’t have created artificial intelligence until after 2029, the year in which Kurzweil predicts we will have reverse-engineered the brain. It’s that breakthrough that will allow us to create artificial intelligence, and begin to explore other ideas like that of mind uploading.
Current trends certainly don’t oppose such a timeline, and in 2009, Dr Anthony Berglas wrote in a paper entitled “Artificial Intelligence Will Kill Our Grandchildren” that:
“A computer that was ten thousand times faster than a desktop computer would probably be at least as computationally powerful as the human brain. With specialized hardware it would not be difficult to build such a machine in the very near future.”
Important to consider is that if Kurzweil’s predictions come true, in 2029 when we’ve reverse engineered the brain we would have already had nine years of improvement on those computer systems with brain-like power and capacity. In this timeline, as soon as we create artificial intelligence it will already be able to think faster and with faster access to more varied input than humans thanks to the hardware it runs on.
By 2045, Kurzweil says, we will have expanded the capacity for intelligence of our civilization — comprised by that stage of both software and people — one billion fold.
One only needs to look at history to see our capacity for rapid improvement in retrospect. One of my favorite metrics is life expectancy. In 1800, the average life expectancy was 30, mostly due to high infant mortality rates — though the kind of old age we see as common today was a rare event then. In 2000, the life expectancy of developed countries was 75. If we can more than double the average life expectancy in our society in the space of a historical blip, there’s much more to be excited about ahead.
|Posted by straw prophet on June 8, 2011 at 4:31 PM||comments (2)|
reposted from a facebook note:
so i had a conversation with a student in one of my anthropology classes. she mentioned that she's been anticipating a world government for some time, and that she's had difficulty discussing the topic for years because of the taboo nature of it. the internet has changed this, in that people no longer have to submit to social taboo and groupthink (unless of course you're so crazy you can't find anyone on the internet to talk to, lol). she asked how i would go about addressing the formation of a world government, something that is inherently bad in many people's opinion (*cough*nationalism*cough*).
i told her that i too see the formation of a "world government" as basically inevitable and that instead of fearing this and clinging to our old social models for security that they can't provide anyways, instead we should be asserting ourselves in the formation of this global government. we should be demanding basic standards of living for all humans, regardless of race, creed, or location. we should be ensuring that everyone has the proper resources available to them so they can pursue their happiness, be it food, education, transportation, ect. as carl sagan says, "we are one planet." we're a single ecosystem. what happens on earth affects all earthlings, and that includes anyone that can read this.
to all my fellow humans out there, i say this is our world.
let's make it the best possible for everyone.
|Posted by straw prophet on June 5, 2011 at 8:09 PM||comments (0)|
As many students of history are familiar, Galileo Galilei, famed mathematician & astronomer, known today by many as the “father of modern science”, was forced by the Catholic Church under threat of torture to recant his “heretical” view that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa in the 17th century. This scientifically valid idea voided long held religious dogma and hence challenged the Church's integrity itself.
In a letter from 1634, René Descartes, one of the world's most noted thinkers and philosophers, stated:
“Doubtless you know that Galileo was recently censored by the Inquisitors of the Faith, and that his views about the movement of the earth were condemned as heretical. I must tell you that all the things I explained in my treatise, which included the doctrine of the movement of the earth, were so interdependent that it is enough to discover that one of them is false to know that all the arguments I was using are unsound. Though I thought they were based on very certain and evident proofs, I would not wish, for anything in the world, to maintain them against the authority of the church.... I desire to live in peace and to continue the life I have begun under the motto to live well you must live unseen.”
If we step back and think about the challenges that faced this small progressive and scientific community during 17th Century Europe and compare the fear and patterns of suppression coming from the established orthodoxy of that time to that of the modern-day, we find only mere variation. Descartes' revelation and retreat from exposure, as expressed by the motto: to live well you must live unseen is a disheartening disposition that speaks volumes and sadly carries on to this day across the world. The use of fear, intimidation and other time tested variations of oppression continue to persist as the dominant institutions of our society work to protect it's established orders regardless of social validity. Even more, the overall cultural itself, which invariably tends to support the accepted beliefs put forward by those that define “power” of a period, also tends to condemn those who choose to pose a challenge as it becomes a threat to the mass accepted identity itself.
The result is that many simply are not willing to risk their lives, occupations and reputations to challenge the orthodoxy of the time.
In late May 2011 news reports were generated that detailed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States was actively targeting “Political Activists” under the pretense of “Terrorism”.
Just as people like John Lennon and Martin Luther King Jr. were watched and harassed by the FBI for their activism decades ago, it appears modern, so-called “Anti-Terrorism” resources are being used to target environmentalists, peace, animal and political activists.
Just like the accusations of “Communism” against people like MLK Jr. in the mid 20th century, this newer, more generalized device called “Terrorism” of the 21st century is no less an “heretical”, accusatory tool than what was employed by the Inquisition century's ago to maintain the politico-religious social system.
So, we can sympathize with Descartes' notion, as to move against the Zeitgeist is to position yourself against the odds, regardless of how empirical, necessary or obvious the truth you wish to convey and act upon is.
Unfortunately, Descartes' position is unacceptable in the modern world. The risks that now exist within our current order are beginning to far outweigh the temporal personal risks generated by the act of activist objection itself.
It is no longer issues of accurate data, “rights” and “freedoms”. Today our very stability as a civilization is now in question and, if left unhindered, it threatens us all, regardless of one's position in the modern feudal hierarchy.
So, we can sit in confusion and watch as global unemployment rises due to technological unemployment and the resulting regional instability that is sure to grow. We can stare blankly at the systematic debt collapse of the world economy, country by country, like dominos, as self-appointed global banking institutions that derive money out of nothing impose austerity measures against the poor and middle class of each country to help support the wealthy, furthering the income divide.
We can twiddle our thumbs as what we have called “democracy” turns inexplicably into global plutocracy and the world economy becomes measured by how much money the rich move around amongst themselves. We can distract ourselves with our little gadgets as the rainforests – considered by many to be the “lungs” of this planet – are destroyed at faster and faster rates, reducing our ability to absorb the growing CO2 in the atmosphere. We can keep the TV on as the clean water and food shortages that currently affect over 1 billion people continue to grow to 2 billion... 3 billion. We can scan the tabloids at the grocery store news stands as the very basis of industrial civilization, the Hydrocarbon Economy, inches towards crisis scarcity with virtually no active initiative taken to change course.
We can continue to pretend that our “leaders” are anything but “mis-leaders”, set in motion by monetary commercial interests that follow the rules of the free-market with all legislation and offices going to the highest bidder, one way or another... and we can stand amused as a new global arms race gains speed as each country comes to terms with the very real reality that wars for resources are upon us in a way unlike any period in history.
This is what separates our world from the one Descartes hid from.
The fact is, the fear tactics of the Orthodoxy - in this context the FBI or any such “Intelligence Agency” - are no longer worthy of viable concern or even acknowledgment. At no time in history has any true social change come in a manner that was not opposed with hostility by the dominant orders of the time. If you choose fear, then fear exists and those little lists/tactics held by the Intelligence/Police Agencies have merit. If you choose love, pride and self-respect then no accusations, lists, or threats can ever stop you. The trick now is in numbers and if we can gain critical mass and override the “divide and conquer” techniques used to keep the orthodoxy in place, the game is over.
The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability activist group working to bring the world together for the common goal of species sustainability before it is too late. It is a social movement, not a political one, with over 1100 chapters across nearly all countries. Divisionary notions such as nations, governments, races, political parties, religions, creeds or class are non-operational distinctions in the view of The Movement. Rather, we recognize the world as one system and the human species as a singular unit, sharing a common habitat. Our overarching intent could be summarized as “the application of the scientific method for social concern.”
To learn more about our work, please visit www.thezeitgeistmovement.com
|Posted by straw prophet on May 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM||comments (2)|
The (Needed) New Economics
May 9, 2006 by Steve Burgess
For centuries, we have built cultures and economies around scarcity. Economics is the “study of how human beings allocate scarce resources” in the most efficient way and conventional wisdom agrees that regulated capitalism results in the most efficient allocation of those scarce resources.
But what happens if resources are not scarce? What economic system would we use to allocate plentiful resources? Is there even a point to talking about the “economics of abundance” in a culture where economic equations are entirely oriented around scarcity? As Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine says, ”My college textbook, Gregory Mankiw’s otherwise excellent Principles of Economics, doesn’t mention the word abundance. And for good reason: If you let the scarcity term in most economic equations go to nothing, you get all sorts of divide-by-zero problems. They basically blow up.”
We are on the cusp of a new era that has the potential to be an era of abundance. In the coming decades, molecular manufacturing will be a reality. The Nanotechnology Glossary defines molecular manufacturing as “the automated building of products from the bottom up, molecule by molecule, with atomic precision. This will make products that are extremely lightweight, flexible, durable, and potentially very ‘smart’.” And cheap. Just as Apple enabled personal publishing by marrying the Postscript language with the Macintosh interface and an inexpensive Laser Writer printer, so will the coupling of molecular manufacturing with appropriate programming tools bring about a revolution we might call “personal manufacturing.” Such personal nanofactories (PNs) already have been envisioned and are likely to be similar in look and ease of use to a printer or microwave oven. Indeed, an artist’s conception can be seen at http://www.foresight.org/nano/nanofactory.html
The advent of PNs should bring the cost of most nonfood necessities to near zero. Much of the raw material for most objects we commonly use can be found in air and dirt, with a few fortified materials thrown in. If we build things from the molecules up (and conversely, break things down into their component molecules for reuse), materials cost will nearly disappear. Information would then become the most expensive resource. Meanwhile, computing power—information management—continues to expand exponentially even as its cost drops precipitously. Furthermore, as true artificial intelligence (AI) approaches, computers will become self-programming, and information cost may drop even more dramatically. It’s already happening. Today, most of our products contain greater and greater information content (technology) at lesser and lesser cost. It appears that even food eventually could be manufactured on the kitchen counter top personal at practically no materials cost.
However, if history is a guide, the “haves” will always want to have more and the “have nots” will end up getting relatively less. That is the way many people keep score — as the bumper sticker wisdom goes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not just a silly ditty. It is a frank statement of the mindset of many individuals. And it is the “haves” that possess easy access to the levers of power and legislation. In a system based on scarcity, those holding the levers of production will not easily give them up. In domestic and international markets based on scarcity, the function and responsibility of directors and officers is to maximize shareholder value — at nearly any cost that does not fall afoul of laws, or at least not so far afoul that the penalties exceed the financial gain resulting from illegal actions.
So, what kind of culture do we want? In a system of plenty, will we continue to keep score by maintaining the preponderance of benefits inside corporate walls and coffers? Will we continue to stifle the spread of benefits through secrecy and protectionism? Unless something changes, history suggests that laws, regulations, and protections will continue to be designed for the exact purpose of directing all profits and the virtually all of benefits to shareholders.
Is it possible to change this historical trend? Is it desirable? What would an economy based on abundance look like? What would we call it? Could we convince the lawmakers, the regulators, and those who currently benefit most from a system based on scarcity to relinquish what has worked so well for them?
I maintain that it is desirable and that we must drive toward an outcome whereby the benefits of molecular manufacturing accrue to the greatest number of people. War, poverty, and business drive my reasoning.
To date, all our technological and economic progress has produced a world at war and in poverty. War is largely fought over scarce resources. Widespread wealth (through universal distribution of PNs) would remove the apparent fuel for most wars.
The World Bank estimates that 2.7 billion humans live below a level necessary to meet basic needs. The organization says that this kind of poverty includes hunger, lack of shelter, no access to medicines, and losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Few would argue that human misery is desirable. PNs could be programmed to provide basic building supplies, medicine, foodstuffs, and clean water.
As regards business, I believe we can convince a wide range of enterprises, from local to transnational, that maximizing the benefits for billions of people (read: “customers” simultaneously maximizes value for shareholders… in the long run.
However, nearly all businesses act primarily in the interest of the short term. Corporate directors cannot allow a departure from known short-term profit centers in the market without assistance from legislation and regulators to flatten the playing field for all. Even Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, is calling for government to incentivize his industry to produce environmentally friendly technology — ostensibly, so his firm can afford to produce such vehicles while staying competitive with other auto manufacturers.
We must incentivize, strongly encourage, or require the broad sharing of the benefits of early-onset molecular manufacturing advances and breakthroughs so that the long-term benefits can be realized. This discussion needs to happen now, before entrenched interests develop protections and harden regulations adapted for maximum short-term profits while stifling innovation. Market forces can be too slow. What’s needed is a means to produce broad and inexpensive licensing so that early breakthroughs in molecular manufacturing can quickly benefit a broad swath of humanity.
Over hundreds of years, we have developed the skills of how to allocate things in short supply. For widespread abundance, we have no experience, no projections, and no economic calculations. Abundance, paradoxically, could be highly disruptive.
It is time to design a new economics of abundance, so that abundance can be enjoyed in a society that is prepared for it.
|Posted by straw prophet on May 3, 2011 at 2:32 AM||comments (1)|
free school in fairbanks!
meet luke connor
the internet is a nifty thing. it allows us to connect, communicate, and coordinate in ways we could have never anticipated. michio kaku has referred to it as a "type 1" telephone system. a system of communication like the internet may be exactly what we've always needed to overcome the various obstacles of politics and resource allocation we've found that come along with living in large groups. i've met a lot of incredible people online; people who are tired of the way things are and genuinely want to make the world a better place. i think it's time that you meet them too, so i'm going to start doing some interviews.
an interesting aspect of interviewing someone online is that exchanges via e-mail or facebook can take course over a longer period of time. all of the responses don't have to be immediate and framed between commercial breaks, information can just flow back and forth. even though the internet has been part of my life for pretty much as long as i can remember, it still feels like a new medium sometimes. i imagine that we as a potential global society have yet to popularly realize what the internet means to us.
i met luke on facebook. he's in his mid-twenties and has been considering political and philosophical questions since his childhood. he recently posted an article about organizing a free school in fairbanks. although i spend a lot of my time thinking about global issues, i recognize that in reality the solutions have to come locally, from the ground up. having never participated in a free school and being one in search of local answers to global problems, i found his article exciting.
in our conversation luke described growing up politically involved then struggling within the system just making ends meet. learning of sarah palin's nomination for v.p. at a particularly trying time in his life catalyzed a deeper desire for social change...
You have to understand, I was living in what amounts to solitary confinement for months, in the woods with nothing but a radio for company. I was hearing about these things, the economy collapsing and so on, but there was no external point of reference. At that point, I almost couldn't tell if what I was hearing was true or if I was just hallucinating that the radio was even on. The things I was hearing were so far-fetched, I honestly feared for my sanity on a whole new level. I started writing a manifesto.
It was your basic stuff – my analysis of the root problems probably didn’t sound too different from Zeitgeist, but I wasn’t concerned with explaining the problem. I took the problems as given, and set about trying to solve them. I was trying to reform the prison system, national boundaries, all of it. I had nothing else to do! I was there for months, and although I eventually did get a car and a source of income after a fashion, I couldn’t stop trying to figure things out that I couldn’t do anything about, like taxes and international conflict. Most of it is probably worthless, but the point is that’s what I was putting all of my energy into. Then again, it was also around that time I had a dream about that chick from the Ninth Gate and became a Satanist, so that’s the kind of state of mind I was in.
speak of the devil...
Grant Morrison writes that art and magic are identical. He talks about corporate logos, and all the information they carry in such a simple image – when you see the golden arches, you instantly call to mind all kinds of things associated with McDonald’s, from the smell of the food to cows in Kansas, or even that one time you ate too much of it and threw up. If you control the images around people, you control the reactions they’re having all day, the information, feelings, and memories that are being brought to mind in everyone who sees whatever you’re putting out there (obviously subject to individual variation to some extent). Storytelling works the same way; that’s why people talk about Obama “losing control of the narrative”. What may have been weirdo comicbook mysticism in the 80s when Doom Patrol was written is now popular cognitive science, and people talk about it on the news.
In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how people make snap judgments and remember things without realizing it, like with logos. In Tipping Point, he talks about memetic epidemiology, or how ideas spread, and how things accumulate gradually until they get to a certain point, after which they explode hugely. He also talks about the practical limits of group size before factions and chaos ensue.
...which brings us to one of luke's ideas for the school: to keep group sizes small and coherent. in his article, luke suggested groups of 10...
"Say we had groups of 10. You could choose who to team up with, but 10 should be the rough total. Each person either already has a skill or learns one, and shares the resulting good/service freely among this limited group within a previously agreed upon limit. For example, if you fish, you might volunteer to share 1 of 3 fish, or 1 of 10, and so on. Someone else might grow tomatoes or do taxes. This way, everyone gets their taxes done and they all get fish and tomatoes, though with 10 people it would be ~10 things for everyone. Even if you don’t like tomatoes, several other people may have things you do want – if each group member takes advantage of at least 5 of the available 10 items in their group, it would still be a pretty good return for all of them. If someone wants to join a group but they don’t have any particular skills, they can pick berries or chop wood – in Fairbanks, completely legitimate options. They could also learn how to do things at the free school as above, or someone in the group could teach them.
free karate class anyone?
The idea is of a sub-village within a larger city, only you don’t have to live near one another. You might say “That sounds like an extended family”, and yeah, it does. A lot of people don’t have large, local, functional extended families like that, but even if you do, participating in this would just be like a bonus.
The best part is, while by its nature the endeavor would reduce people’s dependence on money, the skills people pick up (fur trapping? License is only $15) could theoretically make them money, too. It might even foster a kind of political unity; “conservatives” have done this for a long time, they just build their groups by breeding and bring Jesus into it. That’s off-putting to “liberals”, who abandoned the enterprise entirely, which made the “conservatives” contemptuous of the “liberals” because they couldn’t take care of themselves. But let’s face it, guys – deep down, we’re all anarchists. This is a concrete suggestion toward the end of improving the material and psychological sustainability and independence of the Fairbanks area and its various people, and surely that’s something we can all agree we want."
who can deny that? can everyone recognize that what we're doing isn't sustainable? if so, what better way to find a solution than through combining the limited resources we do have? the more educated the community is, the better your life, so why not make sure everyone has access to a relevant education?
so luke, how are things going now?
I’m doing pretty well, living with a student from NYC. I have been unemployed for 6 months, because Eugene is full of unemployed people and we’re all after the same few jobs (though when I get to Fairbanks next month, I will be working at a fine purveyor of smoking apparatae). So, I’ve just been reading and thinking and thinking and reading. The pieces of this current idea started coming together this year, when I first read Kurt Vonnegut. I think I may have been reading a book of his essays/short fiction.
He talked about traveling, and how when he was outside his hometown he couldn’t go to the yellow pages, lookup Vonnegut, and find someone he knew (or probably any Vonneguts at all), and how it made him feel a bit lonely. And weren’t we all a little lonely these days, or many of us anyway, and isn’t that part of what makes modern life suck? So what if, he said, we formed artificial, randomly assigned extended families, and designate them with common middle names, so he would be Kurt Chipmunk Vonnegut for instance. There might be 200 Chipmunks in Cincinnati, 1000 in NewYork, and so on, and anywhere you go you could look up your “relatives” if you wanted to. Of course, like real family, they don’t have to give you the time of day, but it’s nice to have the option.
That obviously isn’t what I proposed, but after I read that it clicked into place. I really think it’s
a) a way to take money out of the equation, to whatever extent, while still regulating exchange,
b) it’s a way to bring a lot of people in at the entry level and get them involved right away, and
c) it’s a way for people to organize socially and psychologically, so we aren’t just disparate individuals adrift in the oily medium that is our town, but are rather cohesive units that have some idea what the others are up to and how they’re getting on.
That last one is really important, and I think it might go a long way toward solving some of the social problems that plague our generation.
how do you see the school taking structure? can you describe how it would function?
Well, I've talked to a few people about it so far. A friend of mine from Anchorage is moving to Fairbanks in the fall, and he wants to put together a wiki for it that people can use. If someone has an idea for a class they'll run it by a few other people (or not, if they're mavericky), put together a basic lesson plan and description, figure out where they can have it, and advertise.
The website would be a place where the full schedule could be seen and updated as the month goes.The classes people had done in the past would be described there, like the free school of Vancouver has, but I think a talk page on each one would be a good idea, for corrections and discussion, so if someone wants to duplicate the class it will be better the next time.
That's pretty much it. In much of the Pacific Northwest they tend to teach political awareness for trustafarians and other anarchists, maybe a conversational Spanish thing, alternative currencies, yoga, sometimes cool shit like welding. It's difficult to see how in a setting like Portland this could easily be parlayed into the beginnings of the infrastructure for (correct me if I'm wrong) a resource based economy.
In a more rural location, like anywhere in Alaska, subsistence activities are practiced all the time. Some of them are expensive and difficult to undertake without a few people to help, some of them take nothing but a little time and maybe some walking. I'm not suggesting quitting your day job and living in a hut, but maybe if you lost your day job you'd have an easier time if you knew how to make/get some things for yourself, on the cheap. I think Alaskan free schools could be an avenue for people to start working together, sharing what knowledge they have and building a larger local base of production for some basic necessities.
People could teach fishing, hydroponics, ice fishing, cooking, first aid, sewing. Basic stuff that will really help you, esp. in an arctic setting. Meanwhile, you still get your groceries, but if you ever couldn't get them for reasons either monetary or supply related, you would have another way of getting by. Pretty much anything that is cheaper to make yourself, people should know how to make themselves, or know someone who does. Some people do this for economic reasons, some for tradition, some for the environment, but I am suggesting it for political reasons. We need to be economically independent.
Meanwhile, people can teach "urban art" in spraypaint medium. I'm sure not going to stop them. If someone would do it, I would appreciate it, because Fairbanks graffiti is just shitty scribbles, and we could stand something a little more interesting. People can teach music or loch ness monster biology, or actual biology if they want, and people can show up or not if they want. Reading or basic math might be popular, and I would probably be willing to take shifts with that. Some people will probably want to teach strange theories of nutrition, but their talk page will illustrate the controversy, so it's probably not a huge problem. No subject should be taboo! If someone submits a class that offends me, I may consider putting a frowny face by it on the schedule. If it's illegal, probably not put it on the chart, but WTF, that guy can do it without us.
That's the best part: anyone can do this, with or without anyone else's help, to whatever degree they can. All you really need is something to teach, access to a photocopier, and someplace people can gather to hear you where you probably won't all get arrested.
i agree that in order to get to something idealistic like a rbe we'll need some community foundations, free school sounds like a great way to do that. i've been discussing time banks with another friend, he loaned me an anarchist zine about different money alternatives. it would be great to have a place like you're describing to collect like minds and discuss.
also, a lot of people (myself included) are anticipating a terrible global economic collapse within the next decade or so. i myself am not entirely sure how to deal with that type of situation. are you anticipating a similar financial disaster (not that our economic system isn't already a disaster, lol)? if so, what are you doing to prepare (aside from the sweet free school idea)?
I’m not necessarily anticipating a disaster, of the kind that some people are imagining when they stock up on bottled water and colloidal silver. I do worry a little bit about the people who are preaching about buying guns and gold right now, like maybe they might start going Mad Max on people and disrupt supply lines, but as far as I’m concerned things are bad enough now to start doing something to help ourselves. And economic collapses can be personal, too. God knows the economy has been post-apocalyptic for some people for years.
will somebody loan this guy a few bucks so he can get a hamburger?
he's been asking for one since 1932!
Whether or not there's going to be a vast systemic collapse, money is a terrible problem. Otherwise capable people are left to starve because some corporation gets a tax break for making cheap plastic crap in Malaysia rather than Alabama. The richest people in the America get that way by brokering financial transactions, just because all the money passes through their hands and they get to take what they want. I'm just so terribly sick of it. We obviously have the technology, skilled workers, and willing unskilled workers to get everything done that we need to do and get things to the people who need them. When money is the only thing that can keep that in motion, and money comes from an outside source, we are on shaky ground. When everything relies on money, the people who control money control everything, and I think the only way around it is to reduce our dependence on it. We can’t wait for a time when that won’t involve work – we just have to figure out how to gradually replace the things we spend money on, and that means making stuff.
I haven’t done anything yet, but when I get back to AK I’m going to set about making soap and growing some plants hydroponically. I’ll probably help my stepmom with her garden and try to go along on a moose hunt or catch a fish. You’ve got to start somewhere. I’ve recently been talking to a Robert Shields who is currently getting a sustainability project up and running in Fairbanks, so I’ll definitely check that out and try to learn a few things from him. Lots of people (not including myself) are already doing things like this; I’m only trying to modify a very old idea very slightly, with the intent of making it more contagious, more accessible to the super-poor, and to get people thinking about it as a possible solution to our federal problems.
you mentioned that political philosophy has always been present in your thinking. can you describe your political philosophy? how have your experiences influenced/informed your philosophy? were you ever in the capitalist mindset of "everyone must work (i.e. earn money) if they want to eat"? if so, what changed that?
I was never really a capitalist. I was always closer to the Democrat side of the family. Currently, I think they’re a little more down with the system than I am. I think the central concept of my political philosophy right now is that we know enough to do better. People keep talking about the constitution, but when you ask them why they think it’s still a valuable document, they talk about the bill of rights.Yeah, obviously we like rights. What about the rest of it? Can we really not think of a better way to organize the structure of our government, even with 200+ years’ worth of new technology, information, thought, and experience? We know how this turns out. It’s not working, and to tea partiers thinking “if we only returned to the original intent, it would work”, I say “The original intent was for it to apply to 13 colonies with maybe a million people in them”. It’s not working now because the empire is too big and tries to enclose too many inconsistent cultures – somebody in Vermont has no business governing or being governed by someone in Texas. There’s no earthly reason they should have anything to do with one another unless they want to exchange something personally.
i doubt anyone from texas would listen to anyone from vermont anyways...
There is overwhelming evidence that cultures with some common foundation are more functional – some people make the argument that race is the deciding factor, some people think it’s religion or language; I think there’s probably the most evidence for gross economic disparities making a difference. I really do think living in an extreme environment like Alaska, if people are less focused on “national” politics or “national” commerce or “national” culture, would be enough to provide that kind of social glue in the face of virtually any difference. At the very least, yer standard geographical divisions (Interior, Northwest, Barrow, Southeast, etc.) would have that social glue internally, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to get along as needed.
Joe Bageant talks about “the American Hologram”; it’s similar to what Chris Hedges wrote about in Empire of Illusion. My best case scenario for America is that hologram going away, and people starting to live real lives.
Or at least a different hologram! WTF, if art is magic we can have whatever we want, why the fuck are we putting ourselves in this mini-mall wasteland?
malaysia, for instance, looks like this.
regarding the constitution, rights are no good if they can't be used, doesn't matter what the paper says. when talking about the "constitution" of a society, we should be talking about those mechanisms that constitute the society's ability to guarantee services for it's people (food, shelter, clothing, free press, ect.), but our "constitution" isn't a technical reality but an abstraction recorded on paper and worshipped by the masses. people don't get it, just writing something on a piece of paper doesn't make it so, whether it comes to the value of money or the power of the constitution.
Exactly! We need to learn to differentiate what is from what's on a piece of paper, or on a screen, as a culture. I think younger people get it more than older people, because they grew up knowing not to believe anything on the internet. Kids always know the new technology better than people who are introduced to it as adults, and in this case it amounts to a whole new way of perceiving information. I think they're starting to trust abstractions a lot less and notice them more because they're surrounded by so many of them. That's a wild guess, I don't know if it's true.
what do you say to people that want "proof" of our ability to cooperate and provide for ourselves without money (as if we hadn't been for thousands of years prior to money)? for example, a free market friend of mine insists that hunger and starvation are just natural occurrences that cannot be overcome, that it has nothing to do with the market, and that without money we wouldn't be able to intelligently allocate resources? i'm always a little dumbfounded by those attitudes. i mean i have no problem thinking about how we would do these things, but some people are so locked into the monetary paradigm that they literally think it's irrational to allocate resources without using markets, competition, advertising, ect. is there anything to do about that?
Starvation and hunger probably are natural occurrences; I’m not qualified to speculate about how we can feed literally everyone on the planet, but I do know that we can feed at least as many people as we’re feeding now, and it stands to reason that we can feed more if more they can also produce food for themselves in their apartment or what have you. We definitely have the technology for people to grow surprising amounts of food or what have you in surprisingly small and efficient spaces indoors, and a surprising number of Alaskans already keep goats, rabbits, or chickens (though I think the goats and chickens tend to be for people with yards). I’m not saying we can replace other food production systems with that, but we don’t really have to.
I can’t solve the problem on a large scale, but a medium-small group where in each member is making something that would otherwise cost money – and makes enough to share with anyone in their group who wants some, to some limited degree of their choosing, like 1 loaf of bread a week or something – gets around that with regard to all the goods being exchanged that way. You know what people need because you know them personally, there’s no confusion about supply, nobody is in charge, and you get more than you put in. I can’t prove that this will work, but I’m going to try it personally and let people know how it goes, and try to get other people to test the idea with me.
Group size seems to be the key. Anything over 100-150, and things start to get a lot less well-oiled really quickly (according to Malcolm Gladwell and the studies he cites). My estimate for the best group size of the kind I’m talking about is 10, so as not to overtax producers. Plus, that way if groups wanted to interact more closely, or keep track of the things they produce on an online scoreboard of sorts and see how other groups are doing, ~10-15 groups would (according to Gladwell) be able to organize anything they wanted to do apart or together with relative ease. That is to say, relative to a much larger group.
Obviously there are some concerns, like “how do you know someone is going to make good before you give them a bunch of stuff you worked hard on”. I was thinking that once you have something to share, that’s the point at which you approach a group. If you have something to offer them, they can accept you and give you some of their sharables too, or say no thanks. If you have contributed month-to-date or in the previous month, you get a share of anything that comes up, and if you haven’t, you’re no longer a member, no harm/no foul. That way, by definition, only people who are contributing get access to the products of other people who are contributing. This also makes it easy for transient people to join for a short time and leave, while still benefitting and not cheating the group.
In any case, money is an inefficient means of distribution. You have starving people in the street – my apartment in downtown Eugene, OR has a view of a parking lot where bums regularly congregate and get into drunken fights, and every street is lined with panhandlers – meanwhile there are empty apartments, empty buildings, overstocked food getting thrown out, vacant lots where nobody is allowed to camp. Meanwhile, there aren’t any jobs for anyone, even if they are competent to work (unemployment is around 12%, officially). Massive unemployment means nobody can buy useless knick knacks that nobody would sell in the first place if they weren’t desperately scrambling for a profit, so all the Circuit Cities and gift shops close down, creating more unemployment, reducing buying power, which closes more stores and increases unemployment – and when you’ve got gaps on your resume, it’s harder to get a job, so you stay unemployed. Meanwhile, a savings account with 3% quarterly interest and $10,000 in it *magically accrues* more than the cost of my monthly rent four times a year, like it’s pocket change.
But fortunately, money isn’t what keeps civilization afloat. If money disappeared tomorrow, all it would take to keep the world going would be people who do important things making the decision to keep going to work.
In the bizarre universe where that would be people’s reaction, they would realize that the machines don’t run on money. Money doesn’t make electricity. It doesn’t send faxes or make phone calls or bounce signals back from space. So why let it ruin our whole shit? Why force skilled and/or otherwise able people to sit around all day getting fat and watching cartoons, or worse, go homeless and starving, when they otherwise want to work just because there are only 60 job openings at the WalMart and 2,000 overqualified applicants? Why force people to peddle cheap crap in the ruins of what used to be their home town, grinning and wearing a stupid shitty vest for $10 an hour while someone who owns shares in Walmart and never lifts a finger makes 300 times that? The people who keep the electric company know how to keep it running, and the people who keep satellites in good repair know how to do that, too.
The more people who know how to keep the electric company running, the less likely we are to lose electricity in the event of some kind of economic collapse. The more people who know how to build off-license cabins in the woods without getting caught, the fewer people have to go without shelter or crash on couches all winter (I know at least one guy who has built one, out of mostly scavenged/free materials, and it was pretty solid).
There are so many things people need to survive (food, water, shelter, heat, etc), and right now, we pay for virtually all of them because we have no choice. We don't have a choice because many of us can't produce some or all of these things for ourselves, sometimes because we don't know how. But people have been surviving in Alaska, without all the wonderful modern technology and techniques that we have now, for centuries. The more people who know how to produce essential goods or do essential things, the less we have to rely on the “national” economy and the exchange of currency. Our lives don’t have to depend on slum lords and oil companies. If we just learn how to fill the needs they’re filling now, we can get these vampires off our backs.
That’s what the free school would be for. Individuals know things that the rest of the group doesn’t, and if they’re willing to teach the group, suddenly there are a bunch more people who can do this one thing. If another person steps up, suddenly all those people know two things they didn’t before. Suddenly not only do you have more skilled people, you have skilled people who know each other and talk. They could organize fundraisers, so if you want to grow indoors and don’t have the cash, they could help with materials. They could work together on larger projects, or brainstorm about what to do next. They can work together, but they don’t have to – I’m sure some people will and some people won’t. At least we could develop enough of a skill base that we can start navigating a way out of this economic death machine we’re all stuck in.
|Posted by straw prophet on May 2, 2011 at 9:16 PM||comments (1)|
reposted from pj's facebook:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TZM: Response to Media; Death of Osama bin Laden
On May 1, 2011 Pres. Barack Obama appeared on national television with the spontaneous announcement that Osama bin Laden, the purported organizer of the tragic events of September 11th 2001, was killed by military forces in Pakistan.
Within moments, a media blitz ran across virtually all television networks in what could only be described as a grotesque celebratory display, reflective of a level of emotional immaturity that borders on cultural psychosis. Depictions of people running through the streets of New York and Washington chanting jingoistic American slogans, waving their flags like the members of some cult, praising the death of another human being, reveals yet another layer of this sickness we call modern society.
It is not the scope of this response to address the political usage of such an event or to illuminate the staged orchestration of how public perception was to be controlled by the mainstream media and the United States Government. Rather the point of this article is to express the gross irrationality apparent and how our culture becomes so easily fixed and emotionally charged with respect to surface symbology, rather than true root problems, solutions or rational considerations of circumstance.
The first and most obvious point is that the death of Osama bin Laden means nothing when it comes to the problem of international terrorism. His death simply serves as catharsis for a culture that has a neurotic fixation on revenge and retribution. The very fact that the Government which, from a psychological standpoint, has always served as a paternal figure for it citizens, reinforces the idea that murdering people is a solution to anything should be enough for most of us to take pause and consider the quality of the values coming out of the zeitgeist itself.
However, beyond the emotional distortions and tragic, vindictive pattern of rewarding the continuation of human division and violence comes a more practical consideration regarding what the problem really is and the importance of that problem with respect to priority.
The death of any human being is of an immeasurable consequence in society. It is never just the death of the individual. It is the death of relationships, companionship, support and the integrity of familial and communal environments. The unnecessary deaths of 3000 people on September 11, 2001 is no more or no less important than the deaths of those during the World Wars, via cancer and disease, accidents or anything else.
As a society, it is safe to say that we seek a world that strategically limits all such unnecessary consequences through social approaches that allow for the greatest safety our ingenuity can create. It is in this context that the neurotic obsession with the events of September 11th, 2001 become gravely insulting and detrimental to progress. An environment has now been created where outrageous amounts of money, resources and energy is spent seeking and destroying very small subcultures of human beings that pose ideological differences and act on those differences through violence.
Yet, in the United States alone each year, roughly 30,000 people die from automobile accidents, the majority of which could be stopped by very simple structural changes. That's ten 9/11's each year... yet no one seems to pine over this epidemic. Likewise, over 1 million Americans die from heart disease and cancer annually - causes of which are now easily linked to environmental influences in the majority. Yet, regardless of the over 330 9/11's occurring each year in this context, the governmental budget allocations for research on these illnesses is only a fraction of the money spent on “anti-terrorism” operations.
Such a list could go on and on and with regard to the perversion of priority when it comes to what it means to truly save and protect human life and I hope many out there can recognize the severe unbalance we have at hand with respect to our values.
So, coming back to the point of revenge and retribution, I will conclude this response with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., likely the most brilliant intuitive mind when it came to conflict and the power of non-violence. On September 15, 1963 a Birmingham Alabama church was bombed, killing four little girls attending Sunday school.
In a public address, Dr. King stated:
“What murdered these four girls? Look around. You will see that many people that you never thought about participated in this evil act. So tonight all of us must leave here with a new determination to struggle. God has a job for us to do. Maybe our mission is to save the soul of America. We can't save the soul of this nation throwing bricks. We can't save the soul of this nation getting our ammunitions and going out shooting physical weapons. We must know that we have something much more powerful. Just take up the ammunition of love.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, 1963
~ Peter Joseph
|Posted by straw prophet on May 2, 2011 at 1:09 AM||comments (0)|
Child Rearing Practices of Distant Ancestors Foster Morality, Compassion in Kids
(Sep. 22, 2010)
Ever meet a kindergartener who seemed naturally compassionate and cared about others' feelings? Who was cooperative and didn't demand his own way? Chances are, his parents held, carried and cuddled him a lot; he most likely was breastfed; he probably routinely slept with his parents; and he likely was encouraged to play outdoors with other children, according to new research findings from the University of Notre Dame.
Three new studies led by Notre Dame Psychology Professor Darcia Narvaez show a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.
"Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support," says Narvaez, who specializes in the moral and character development of children.
The three studies include an observational study of the practices of parents of three-year-olds, a longitudinal study of how certain child rearing practices relate to child outcomes in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparison study of parenting practices between mothers in the U.S. and China. The longitudinal study examined data from the research of another Notre Dame psychologist, John Borkowski, who specializes in the impact of child abuse and neglect on development.
The results of Narvaez' three studies as well as those from researchers around the world will be presented at a conference at Notre Dame in October titled "Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness."
"The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well being and a moral sense," she says.
Narvaez identifies six characteristics of child rearing that were common to our distant ancestors:
Lots of positive touch -- as in no spanking -- but nearly constant carrying, cuddling and holding; Prompt response to baby's fusses and cries. You can't "spoil" a baby. This means meeting a child's needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. "Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant's brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world," Narvaez says. Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child's immune system isn't fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks. Multiple adult caregivers -- people beyond mom and dad who also love the child. Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don't play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues. Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn. The U.S. has been on a downward trajectory on all of these care characteristics, according to Narvaez. Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breastfeeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up, and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.
"Ill advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms, or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will 'spoil' it," Narvaez says.
Whether the corollary to these modern practices or the result of other forces, research shows the health and well being of American children is worse than it was 50 years ago: there's an epidemic of anxiety and depression among the young; aggressive behavior and delinquency rates in young children are rising; and empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, has been shown to be decreasing among college students.
"All of these issues are of concern to me as a researcher of moral development," Narvaez says. "Kids who don't get the emotional nurturing they need in early life tend to be more self-centered. They don't have available the compassion-related emotions to the same degree as kids who were raised by warm, responsive families."
|Posted by straw prophet on April 27, 2011 at 7:32 PM||comments (1)|
Post-scarcity is not post-problems
text from: www.thdrussell.com
March 2009 (Edited June, 2009)
“Free will is doing gladly that which one must do.”
Carl Gustav Jung
Upon hearing a post-scarcity world described, most people find it silly and fantastical, or a charming yet unrealistic dream. The idea that an abundance could be produced for all the world’s people, that there would thereafter be no war, no poverty, no corruption etc., is hard to envisage, but our understandable difficulty picturing such a world makes it neither unfeasible nor unrealistic. Indeed, our difficulty is not a reflection of the unerring accuracy of our predictive abilities, but arises naturally from a history of economic systems shaped, until now, by conditions of scarcity. This small article is my attempt to make a post-scarcity world seem a little more pragmatic and prosaic, less “nirvanalike,” less utopian, and therefore more worthy of serious study. For my more detailed analysis, read this article.
I want to remind people here too, that this is not some idle, cerebral pursuit of a perfect world, something to while away the hours on a rainy Sunday. There are serious reasons to consider a radical alternative to the current crop of economic models, and there are serious people discussing them.
Money is, among other things, a force for division and corruption. Because being rich is better than being poor, money motivates many to behave corruptly, and lies at the root of all socio-economic models currently operative on our planet. Combine this tendency to corrupt with humanity’s enormous powers of consumption and production, add in the legal structure of the corporation requiring that ever increasing profits be the number one priority, factor in a teetering ecosystem, and you have a huge and many faceted motive to take radical change seriously. So it is not just that a post-scarcity world would be better than a scarcity-based world, but that we must start looking at how to implement such a model as a matter of urgency. We are consuming ourselves to death, while manufacturing and inventing with an eye only to profit. We ignore the branch we all sit on – the environment – at our peril, and put, to our collective detriment, matters such as human dignity and respect on a distant back-burner.
So what does post-scarcity mean for ordinary folk like you and me? Put very simply, it means no more material/financial worries. It would be as if everyone had enough money not to worry about it any more. Would this mean an end to all problems, all challenges, all worries? Of course not. Ask those who have won the lottery, question them on the new set of problems they have had to deal with. Having no money worries does not in any way guarantee happiness. It simply means one type of problem has been removed. That its successful removal from society would necessitate a prior, well-planned, ground-up redesign of everything, would of course mean other (profound) changes too, but my basic point remains. We would still be humans, would still have to get along, learn, do, sustain, and otherwise grow old, and die, as happily as we are able. That will always be an almighty challenge.
Furthermore, if we look a little deeper into the way things are today, we can see we don't actually HAVE to do the boring job that brings in the money we need. We are actually “free” to live our lives completely differently; to go off and live in “nature,” or live on the streets, or go into crime, leave our families, commit suicide, and so on. The reasons we tend to carry on with what we've got, however mundane and uninspiring, do not exist solely because of money, but consist of a complex of societal influences, as well as our own likes and fears and history. All these things combine to make us do things we might not otherwise do. We each sustain the system that is our life by various means, and for various reasons, only one of which might be suffering a job we don't like. My point here is that no matter what – and even in a post-scarcity society – there will always be things that must be done, compromises to make, opportunities that must be forgone, as inescapable parts of keeping things going in the manner of our choosing. And there will always be forces, internal and external, to “make” us do them. Consequently, the disappearance of money and financial concerns would not mean motivation disappears from human experience, nor that life would be one endless party, nor that we would no longer be able “to get things done.”
As an introspective person who enjoys such solo pursuits as reading and writing, a post-scarcity world appeals to me, perhaps because I can easily imagine filling my time pursuing my twin hobbies. And yet I know not all are like me in this regard, and nor should they be. It will be an enormous challenge to fill one's own time with activities and hobbies, goals and objectives we set for ourselves because we want to, not because we are told to. True freedom is actually a daunting prospect, when you think about it. A post-scarcity economy will not be “heaven on earth,” and should not be imagined as such. It will necessarily demand of us all full maturity, which few in scarcity-based systems reach (myself included in my humble opinion).
Post-scarcity economics of course requires, as mentioned above, the total and deliberate redesign of all aspects of society – our cities, our energy sources, our transport systems, education, law, defence, etc. It is misleading trying to imagine post-scarcity looking like the present, just minus money. Indeed, today's world could not function without money. Total redesign is essential to the idea's successful execution.
Each human on the planet would have to be raised from childhood to become a mature, free-thinking adult, as opposed to the unthinking and obedient consumers our education tends to produce today. A post-scarcity world demands of us generally a recognition that we are responsible for our actions, and that we understand how profoundly interdependent we are. It will be up to us all to maintain our societies, and the ecosystem that supports us, in a sustainable way.
Ethical evolution is an important part of human history that will never end, just as technological progress knows no end. Currently, we face a set of coinciding circumstances unprecedented in human history, a challenge which requires of us a readiness to consider solutions which seem outlandish and unworkable at first. In contemplating a world of abundance for all, we are obliged to remember that such a world is not about the self-serving accumulation of possessions and status, but about cooperation and sustainability. Just as the cells of the human body co-operate in conditions of nutrient-abundance, but compete with, and steal from, one another in conditions of nutrient-scarcity, so humans would exhibit co-operative behaviours in conditions of abundance, as surely as they go to war in conditions of scarcity. For example, in a theatre we get along, laugh, clap and enjoy ourselves as the play proceeds. Should a fire break out we become very different creatures indeed, trampling each other to death to escape the danger.
Behaviours that seem so natural and “inborn” to us, such as lording it over others, seeking power over others, Schadenfreude, and so on, are more accurately seen as the inevitable consequences of conditions of scarcity. Scarcity leads to competition, where obviously the victors benefit, which rewards aggressive and hoarding behaviours, this over millennia shaping our belief systems, our social and economic systems, our politics and philosophy, profoundly. Of course aggression and competitiveness are natural – as is greed – in that they exist in us as potentials, but their chance of being expressed, and the manner in which they are expressed, are determined by environmental factors.
Imagine two puppies taken from the same litter, one raised by wolves, the other by a loving human family. How differently would these dogs end up? They might start out physically and genetically identical, but their personalities would be as different as chalk and cheese. So it would be with identical human twins, the wolf-boy being after seven years in the wild utterly different from his twin raised by loving human parents. So too with apple-seeds from the same apple, one planted in barren, the other in fertile soil, one grown with minimal water, nutrients and sunshine, the other with exactly the right amounts. The seeds would be genetically identical, but the fruit produced very different in taste and sweetness, though of course still apples. Environmental conditions are not everything – puppies can’t grow into cats, apple-seeds can never become orange trees – but they are extremely significant. Significant enough, in fact, to make a post-scarcity world both feasible and desirable. We just have to take it seriously, then work towards it.
It certainly won’t be easy, but will be well worth the effort.
note: at the time of publishing i was unable to reproduce all the links within the text. please see the link to the original text i provided at the top of the article for these.