Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yanis Varoufakis on the fragility of democracy


https://www.ted.com/talks/yanis_varoufakis_capitalism_will_eat_democracy_unless_we_speak_up

Yanis articulates well many of the issues of the capture of democracy by capitalism and offers some suggestions for paths forward.

Better than anywhere else I've seen, he describes the cost to the worldwide economy of the mountain of unused capital aggregated via inequality.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

labor, work, and higher education

Here is an interesting look at worker's compensation:
https://www.propublica.org/article/workers-comp-conferences-expos-and-middlemen

It seems in the middle of the 20th century or so we set about putting together systems and programs that solved problems, and we were reasonably sincere about it, and some of those programs worked reasonably well, for example to educate people, to alleviate poverty at least a bit and especially to address the denial of opportunity to non-white people. Ever since the 80s or so, we've done our best to subvert and divert those programs back to rewarding the wealthy and powerful and away from their original purpose. Very effectively it would seem.

In particular, we seem to be getting very good at abstracting processes so the economic inputs get soaked up by the administrators of various programs.  In other words, the people who can abstract the process or program - hike it up one level of abstraction by focusing on the middlemen or managers of the process - capture the gains.

Another example is higher education - when the economy boomed education got more expensive but people could afford it because the economy was expanding, jobs were available, and education was seen as a public good and thus a good use of public money. It seems in many cases much of the additional cost went to additional layers of administration. In the current time of economic retrenching, austerity, and a dim view of public financing of education, we frequently cut academic department and keep the administrative layers, generally, because admins are powerful.

For tech people, there is one silver lining - the gold rush of patentable innovation keeps many research labs at universities at least reasonably afloat. Meet the workforce needs and all that! But the dream of a good quality higher education for all who want it recedes at a time of greatest need. 

Education and workman's comp are somewhat related - workers are under great pressure: not just workman's comp is diminished, but unions have been weakened and as a result, worker protections have also weakened. Additionally, workers have lost economic power because of globalization's explicit expansion of the workforce and concomitant wage competition, and now workers face, finally, the prospect of many types of jobs disappearing forever due to the cruel/beneficent and ever-increasing capability of automation and AI to become more and more effective. (Any wonder income and wealth inequality has skyrocketed?) We need an excellent education system, and not one narrowly vocationally focused because, first, technical skill requirements are starting to evolve faster than people can be retrained in them, and second, because in a time of great change, we need people prepared to think unusually creatively about how they can sustain themselves, and thrive and participate in defining the new society that is emerging.

More on many of these topics in the future, for sure. 


many thanks to ryanlerch (librarian) for the clipart. https://openclipart.org/user-detail/ryanlerch

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday, October 02, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

You were too fine


Oh Stella.

We're so sorry you had to leave early, but we're glad you had plenty of time to make your mark. And what a mark it was! You will be missed forever.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Yet Another in the "You Are Here" series


So Huffington Post ran an article about some research about the size and shape of our  Milky Way galaxy. You can read it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/12/milky-way-size-bigger_n_6849548.html

So its interesting that the galaxy may be corrugated, and that we may be sitting right in one of the ridges.

Science is fun!

ps - Happy PI day.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Gibson Interview


I suppose there will be more now that The Peripheral is hitting the shelves.

Interview: http://ideas.ted.com/2014/10/27/william-gibson-riffs-on-writing-and-the-future/ Its worth a read, but I probably think all Gibson interviews are worth checking out...

Wednesday, October 08, 2014