Sunday, 10 September 2017 - 4:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/09/2017 - 4:55pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Demon-Haunted World — Cory Doctorow at Locus Online: The basic theory of cheating is to assume that the cheater is ‘‘rational’’ and won’t spend more to cheat than they could make from the scam: the cost of cheating is the risk of getting caught, multiplied by the cost of the punishment (fines, reputational dam­age), added to the technical expense associated with breaking the anti-cheat mechanisms. Software changes the theory. Software – whose basic underlying mechanism is ‘‘If this happens, then do this, otherwise do that’’ – allows cheaters to be a lot more subtle, and thus harder to catch. Software can say, ‘‘If there’s a chance I’m undergoing inspection, then be totally honest – but cheat the rest of the time.’’
  • Widening inequality is largely a US and UK phenomenon – why? — by good lord, it's Vince Cable, new Lib Dem leader!: […] there is abundant cross-country evidence that too much inequality can harm economic performance, and that redistributive politics can do good. Studies suggest that higher levels of inequality are associated with unproductive rent-seeking; contribute to financial instability; feed asset bubbles rather than productive investment; weaken demand and encourage high levels of household debt; and lead to underinvestment in education and health.
  • Nature Does Not Grade on a Curve — Ian Welsh: One of the problems with de-naturing (with living in almost entirely human made systems, and with pushing those bits we don’t control off into ghettos as we would illness), is that it means most people almost never experience a benchmark that isn’t set by other human beings. They feel, in their guts, that if only other people are convinced, any problem can be fixed or finangled. No. The bear doesn’t care that you can’t run fast enough because TV is funner than going for a jog, and nature doesn’t care that shareholders needed value and that oil barons didn’t want to be a little poorer (or whatever). And neither will those who suffer from climate changes due to our ethical monstrosity and sheer incapability.
  • The Future of Work, Robotization, and Capitalism’s Ability to Generate Useless Jobs — Rutger Bregman: The time has come to stop sidestepping the debate and home in on the real issue: what would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”? I firmly believe that a universal basic income is the most effective answer to the dilemma of advancing robotization. Not because robots will take over all the purposeful jobs, but because a basic income would give everybody the chance to do work that is meaningful. I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived. I believe in a future where “jobs are for robots and life is for people.”
  • Ransom — Flea Snobbery:
  • Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict fight on — Robert Fisk in the Independent: A Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis – presented at the conference by Abu-Sitta and Dr Omar Dewachi who co-direct a newly created Conflict Medicine Programme at the AUB supported by Jonathan Whittall of Medecins sans Frontieres – said that multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds. Beyond the physical damage caused by weaponry, Whittall added, “destroyed or degraded sanitation facilitates the microbiological seeding of wounds. The body, weakened by the wound, is reinjured when it interacts with the harsh, physically degraded environment.”
  • The bitcoin and blockchain: energy hogs — Fabrice Flipo and Michel Berne in the Conversation: In a 2014 study, Karl J. O’Dwyer and David Malone showed that the consumption of the bitcoin network was likely to be approximately equivalent to the electricity consumption of a country like Ireland, i.e. an estimated 3 GW. Imagine the consequences if this type of bitcoin currency becomes widespread. The global money supply in circulation is estimated at $11,000 billion. The corresponding energy consumption should therefore exceed 4,000 GW, which is eight times the electricity consumption of France and twice that of the United States. It is not without reason that a recent headline on the Novethic website proclaimed “The bitcoin, a burden for the climate”.
  • The Varieties of Populist Experience — Robert Skidelsky: To be sure, support for a leftist program certainly exists in France. About 20% of voters backed the left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential election’s first round. In the second round, one particularly illuminating Twitter hashtag was #NiPatronNiPatrie (“neither boss nor country”), reflecting many voters’ dissatisfaction with the election’s choice between neoliberalism and nationalism. The task of the left is to direct attention to the truly problematic aspects of global economic integration – financialization, the prioritization of capital over labor, of creditor over debtor, of patron over ouvrier – without lapsing into reactionary politics.
  • I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past. — Tony Schwartz in the Washington Post: The Trump I got to know had no deep ideological beliefs, nor any passionate feeling about anything but his immediate self-interest. He derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments. “Can you believe it, Tony?” he would often say at the start of late-night conversations with me, going on to describe some new example of his brilliance. But the reassurance he got from even his biggest achievements was always ephemeral and unreliable — and that appears to include being elected president. Any addiction has a predictable pattern: The addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to re-create the desired state. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any other human being on the planet. But that’s like saying a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.
  • Renegade Shorts - STEVE KEEN on Government Surplus:
  • Australians don’t loiter in public space – the legacy of colonial control by design — Aaron Magro in the Conversation: While towns and new suburbs in the young colony were deeply influenced by European urban design, a key feature was excluded – the piazza. Governor Richard Bourke made very clear to surveyors that new towns in New South Wales (which at the time encompassed present-day Victoria) must not include public squares as these could promote rebellion.
  • Free Time and the Pressures of Employability — David Frayne at Zed Books: The notion of employability has risen to remarkable prominence in the early part of the twenty-first century, where it forms the lynchpin of a neoliberal political philosophy, in which the state and employers are no longer committed to, or deemed responsible for, providing citizens with lasting and secure jobs. Those politicians who champion neoliberal policies have glorified paid employment, whilst at the same time dismantling the social protections that have traditionally insulated citizens against the uncertainties of the labour market. Within this context, the capacity of individuals to work relentlessly at their employability has come to be understood as the crux of national and individual prosperity.