Archive for the ‘information age’ Category

From the Brave New World

November 23, 2019

I’m glad I got to hear that before I die.

That’s what I told Pat, my wife, immediately as we stood up to join a standing ovation for the Charlotte Symphony last night.

Pat makes all the arrangements, you see, for our concerts and outings and travels and every other adventure we’ve had in the last forty years.

So I thanked her for making it possible for me to hear Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, in live performance, before I pass into eternity.

And I must say that the Charlotte Symphony’s treatment of it, under the guest conducting hand of Ilyich Rivas,  was masterful—very tender and very strong.

     http://www.charlottesymphony.org/

The oboe adagio in the slow second movement fully met my expectations, after having listened intently to the piece probably thirty or forty times as offered by the New York Philharmonic on youtube.

And those trombones in the final cadence did not fail to summon a tear from my eyes, as their vibrantly forthright sounding forth renewed my confidence in human excellence.

During the intermission I read in the program notes about Dvořák’s composition of that symphony—his No. 9—and its premiere performance in New York, in 1893.

DvNewWorld

The Czech composer had been recruited to our (American) National Conservatory of Music in 1892. His mission was to import a little of that Old World excellence to our New World.

And goshdarn! did he do it!

His New World Symphony ranks right up there as some of the greatest symphonic music ever to be composed on this side of the Atlantic. It’s right up there with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

If you ever have an opportunity to stand in Prague’s Old Town Square and behold Ladislav Šaloun’s statue of Jan Hus, you may catch a  glimpse of the passion that must have driven Dvořák’s resolve to compose such an orchestral masterpiece.

I’m glad I lived to see it.

Since the music was composed in New York City, I will provide here this link to the New York Philharmonic performance of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HClX2s8A9IE   

In other news of my yesterday. . .

Earlier in the day I had finished reading Andrew Marantz’s excellent book analysis of contemporary alt-right online misadventures:

    https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

And I will offer as a closing thought, a quote from Andrew’s account of what he uncovered in the world of ultra right-wing fanaticism. Toward the end of his research project, Marantz arrived at an eye-opening discovery about the so-called media “gatekeepers” in our mad world of media, formerly on the airwaves ~~~ now online.

Because we do indeed live in a “New World”. . . a world that is continuously renewing itself, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.

In the quote below, Andrew Marantz is referring to the “gatekeepers” of our former (20th-century) times. They are primarily the major broadcast networks and news publications that came to dominate our public culture in the postwar 20th-century; but they have in this 21st-century been overtaken by the new superpowers of online media.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Their initials are FaceGooAmazTwittetc. One particular CEO of that cartel, the honorable Mr. Z, was recently put on the Congressional hotplate for public inspection.

As Andrew Marantz, the New Yorker writer, neared the end of his alt-right research opus, Antisocial,

  https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

He exposes a raw nerve in this,  our brave new cyberworld, a world in which the outmoded moguls of 20th-century media have been eclipsed by the new titans of 21st-century webdom.

Like it or not, these denizens of the updated corporate Deep must rise to the public surface to accept some responsibility for oversight in the polarizing electronic net that we’ve cornered ourselves into.

Here’s part of what Mr. Marantz has to say about it:

And yet this is the world we live in. For too long, the gatekeepers who ran the most powerful information-spreading systems in human history were able to pretend that they weren’t gatekeepers at all. Information wants to be free; besides, people who take offense should blame the author, not the messenger; anyway, the ultimate responsibility lies with each consumer. Now, instead of imagining that we occupy a postgatekeeper utopia, it might make more sense—in the short term, at least—to demand better, more thoughtful gatekeepers.

It’s a brave new world out there, boobie. Somebody’s gotta be brave, if not them, then who?

Us? But, but, as Pogo once said, long ago in the old media world: we have seen the enemy . . . and he is us!

King of Soul

From Wealth of Nations to Wealth of Data

September 2, 2019

Our Declaration of Independence is not the only hallmark document of the year 1776.

There was another one: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which Wikipedia refers to as a magnum opus.

Magnum opus means pretty doggone important idea, as the multilectic development of our dialectical ideas shape  history.

Smith’s groundbreaking insights propelled our modernizing world into the age of Economics, a new time when the effects of money and industrial productivity began to channel human culture in ways that outweighed traditional institutions.

The Church, the Royals, such ancient paths of power were, in the long run of history, outmoded by the power of the buck.

Freedom to gather wealth was being distributed widely among new, rising enterprisers in society, instead of being controlled by the purse of the Popes or the money of the Monarchs.

Now the tide is turning again, in a major way.

But it’s turning back the other way.

Oh, not back to the Church or the King, but back to another select group—the data mining Social Media.

Now Wealth of Nations morphs to Wealth of Data.

And it seems it happened in the blinking of an eye, so to speak.

All our data that we generate through ubiquitous universal social media gets scooped up and recycled as fodder to generate future wealth, for somebody.

For Whom? Who is gathering the new Wealth of Nations through our electronic and wifi conduits of the Wealth of Data?

Robber barons, monopolists, capitalists, opportunists, daytraders, speculators, hedgefunders, algorithmists, hackers, gamblers, midnight ramblers?

Future wealth, for somebody. . . for whomever is using the data as a field for harvest —to skim new wealth, through  their privileged knowledge of out trendy, predictable human habits. . . our fashions, fetishes, foibles and infamous freedoms.

Freedom to spend, mostly. Especially with all the cardswiping that you see in every spending venue these days.

It’s so easy to spend money nowadays.

Even if you don’t have any!

Using the data streams to  anticipate where the “markets” are headed, where the money’s going . . .those watchful, AI-wielding movers and shakers behind the scenes can know exactly when and where to lower their clickbait nets, and scoop up a big mess of digital debits or financial fish.

“Markets” being the main concentrations of consumer and business wealth that are being spent every day as we live and breathe and spend.

A lot of people are starting to figure this out, about now.

Some have been noticing the profit potentialities for awhile. Others have known from the beginning. They are the ones who have been establishing data-mining as the latest phase of capitalism.

I learned something about this, this morning, when I read Karin Petersson’s report about it on the Social Europe site.

   https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Karin’s opening statement got my attention in a big way.

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

That is so true, Karin.

I went on to read her concise treatise, which consisted of an insightful cautionary statement about the three main problems of this data-mining development. I will list those three here, while recommending that you read her article in order to get her thoughts from her article—not mine.

Karin’s list of the three problems:

~~Rage machine

~~Winner takes all

~~Survival of Democracy?

She is calling into question the survivability of democracy in these new social media conditions that have overtaken our way of life.

You should read it.  https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Now I do have something to say about her opening statement:

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

So true.

But I confess that my free-thinking mind dropped the KM bomb on me. That is. . . Karl Marx.

. . . not that Karin is a Marxist or anything like that.

My point is that even if you DO understand the forces shaping the world . . . odds are you still can’t change it!

Oh yes, maybe you can make some beneficial contributions, maybe some helpful new ideas, but convincing yourself that you can change the world based on what you know or understand about it . . . that is a dream that will never come true.

Take the Karl himself, and his idea: The factories and businesses of industrial production are owned by a few rich people.  If the regular working people—the proletariat— could take over that means of production and do a fairer job of running it— then society could distribute the wealth in an equitable way. Everybody would have a piece of the pie and we could all live then in an egalitarian commune.

Happily ever after, as they say.

Certainly I am oversimplifying this scenario, but I do it for the sake of simply making this point: You can’t change the world, even if youdo  understand the forces that are shaping it.

My layman’s reading, for instance, of Marx/Engels Communist Manifesto led me to the conclusion that their analysis of capitalism as it was developing in the mid-19th century was, for the most part, accurate!

They predicted, for instance, the alienation that would indeed later take hold of many workers as a result of having to perfoem repetitive production tasks.

So Marx, Engels and others later went on to prescribe a fix for the problem: dictatorship of the proletariat.

When Lenin, Trotsky and others got a hold of this concept they acted on it.

But look what happened. Things got bloody. By the time Stalin got hold of the new development, the formerly fresh thrust of worldwide communism turned into prison gulag.

And it did not recover until the time of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, etc.

That’s one small idea for a man . . . and one giant, very hard lesson learned for mankind.

You can’t change the world, even if you do understand the forces that are changing it.

In the present context of data mining, this principle would perhaps translate to: find a way to regulate the data-miners, but don’t try to take the whole damned machine away from them. This is merely capitalism in its emerging 21st-century form.

DataMining

Neither the technocrats in Brussels, nor the bureaucrats in Washington can stem the tides of history. You just have to regulate those who control the Wealth of Data, insofar as it is Constitutionally  possible, and leave the rest to each individual citizen’s free will and judgement.

The same principle applies, btw, for Climate Change.

Education, for whosoever is willing to learn, is the remedy. Not control. We all need to be convinced to to the right thing.

Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must be assured for all, in spite of all the data-miners  who lurk behind our keypads, sucking the hot air out of our collective social media balloon.

Glass half-Full

The Tower of Signals

August 17, 2019

Thousands of years ago, we built a legendary tower, the shadow of which has seemed to darken our human history even unto today.

According to a certain well-known historical source, the Bible . . . the tower of Babel was erected in some location east of the Euphrates River. The region therein has been known since that ancient time by various names:  Chaldea, Shinar, Babylon, and a few other identities, such as the current one, Iraq.

So an ancient tale about the tower of Babel, especially its fall, has been passed down to us through the ages.   The biblical account says that The Tower of Babel’s undoing happened because the people were unable to communicate. So they were not able to get the thing built.

In our modern reflection upon that archaic project, I think what Will Rogers or Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, or some such sage  said, applies:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s an old story, but true.

Nevertheless, I’m here to tell ya that in spite of ourselves we people of the earth have managed to erect some pretty impressive towers here and there throughout the ages.

For instance, notice this  classic religious tower in San Francisco, which happens to be a double.

Spires2Chrch

This structure represents that spirit of religion that dominated our Western culture for a couple of thousand years.

Here’s a Spanish project representing a more contemporary creative impulse toward the divine.

Sagrada

Very impressive. But the era of God-inspired basilica-building has been overtaken by more humanistic projects. Since the so-called Enlightenment in the 18th-century, people have aspired to ideals even loftier than mere religion. This modern emphasis has wrought even higher and higher feats of skyscraping.

BuildSkysc

The long epoch of God-inspired tower-building has been overtaken by a New Age of Man.

CityPhild

And yet, our rising human spirit has morphed itself beyond mere commercial, citified projections. Check out an Olympic objet d’art that the Barcelonans fashioned for the 1992 Olympics:

BarcOlymp

This fluidic rising structure embodies a humanic zeitgeist; it aspires to inspire ascension to world peace—a peace wrought through zealous sports competition instead of bloody wars fought with destructive weapons on muddy battlefields.

Pretty damned impresseve, huh?!

Higher and higher we strive; higher and higher we arrive.

Now in 21st-century AI, We find ourselves in the upper regions of human accomplishment.

Physical upbuilding has now taken a back seat to the loftiness of our ideals.

So we’ve built a stupendous net of ideas, an electronic network that ceaselessly transmits gigabytes of presciently important data around the world. It is a web as ethereal as the sun itself . . . as surreal as a Dali . . .  as real as a Warhol.

And towards this end, we’ve built towers of a different—a new and different—kind:

The Tower

Towers such as this one–structures of ascending human perfectibility– are slavishly repeating signals all day and all night for the benefit of all mankind!

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, ever and ever onward to greater heights!

We hold these spires to be self-evident—that our updated tower-driven secretions will project a worldwide web of human achievement to rise higher than  the Tower of Babel ever did!

Good luck with that.

Glass Chimera

DNA the best Way

April 1, 2019

The dispensation of DNA

is best when it’s done in an orderly way.

What’s needed is that any man who so yearns

should direct his emissions in loving terms

to the same loving recipient every time:

all his kids have the same mama on down the line.

So let the ladder of life, the DNA

be distributed in a family way.

From the itinerant visionary

LadderJ

to the coding contemporary,

DNAdubhelx

counsel the loopy adventurer with his genital arrow

to find motherly love in the strait and narrow.

So the resulting kids will grow up right,

and not be left in a social services plight.

You may think I’m old-fashioned in this,

but ’tis not a principle to flippantly dismiss:

The distribution of our precious DNA

is bestly dispensed in the family way.

Now if you guys think that I’m not cool,

well I AM cool, y’all. . . and no April fool!

Glass Chimera

Those Two Brave Men

January 27, 2019

Once, but maybe never again,

two men

standing in the cold

one young and one old;

TwoMen

they meet

but decline to greet

in the middle of a confrontation

on hallowed ground of a dividing nation.

They do not speak,

for all around them arise a peak

of anger and resentment—

a country devoid of contentment

in the cauldron of history.

Seems now it’s become a mystery

what has become of our unity,

as now we’re obsessed with impunity—

blame the younger, not the older one

as the chieftain wordlessly beats his drum;

but while the young man struggles to maintain a smile

the world wide web spews a viral pile

of all the blame that’s fit to hint

as talking head trolls make their dent

in the warp and woof of the data tide

in which we slavishly slouch to hide

the downing of civility

and the haughty thrusting of hostility.

We ride the wave of accusative gestalt—

let us assign a verdict who’s at fault.

But whose fault it is I think i know;

let’s blame it on the undertow

of madmen on the right

pulling young men into the fight,

or maybe let’s blame it on the leftist cadres

who would depose those maga padres,

while all the while the widening gyre

spins up in streaming twitter fire.

Hourly it whirls higher higher

while all the while it was nothing more

than a clueless kid who for one moment tore

our torrent stream of data angst asunder,

generating for a moment some online thunder.

So what once was our peace and tranquility

slips beneath the dearth of our virility.

’Twas on a cold gray day, I say,

we beheld it— but  for never again—

those two brave men

standing in the cold,

one young and the other old.

Glass half-Full

Where to now, Homo Developus?

January 16, 2019

Everybody knows that a few years ago we had a big economic breakdown. There were many reasons to explain  what happened in 2008.

Let’s step back in time a little and consider what has taken place on Planet Earth.

During the 1800’s and 1900’s our developed nations undertook a vast, worldwide surge of industrial development, which was accompanied by a universal expansion of business and corporate prosperity. This hyper-expansive phase of human development required very large-scale extractions of natural resources, which were then transformed into mega-stocks of consumer goods.

An abundance of consumer goods brought forth an abundance of consumers.

Consuming.

Consuming the goods, consuming the planet.

The end of the 20th century brought a vast slowdown. It happened in the fall of 2008, and regardless of what the bullish analysts and stimulus-chasers declare, we are still mired in that big slowdown of ’08.

And will continue to be. This is going to morph into a vast leveling out. The industrial age is over. Our planet will not tolerate another 200-year extraction expansion.

Now we have entered into the Age of Sustainable Technology and Appropriate Industry.

And herein a question arises.

Who will run the world?

Is there a cartel of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Edison and JPMorgan-types out there who will forge a new system to transform the old Industrial Infrastructure into the new Sustainable Society?

As the next surge—the post-industrial phase— is being initiated by a new breed of Industrialist . . . the Gates, the Jobs, the Bezos and Buffets . . . the industrialized Civilization stumbles into a new Electronified Zone.

A digitized twilight zone, as it were.

In the wake of the great ’08 Slowdown, we encounter a host of questions that define the logistical problem of where to go from here.

During the Investment Segment’s breakdown of ’08, a lot of very complicated financial engineering became unwound.

One financial analyst, John M. Mason, recently offered an explanation that includes this analysis of what happened in the financial world during the decline of our industrializing phase:

But, in the developed world, the presence of lots and lots of liquidity means very little in the way of corporate capital investment. The environment of credit inflation, built up over the last fifty years of so, has created a culture of financial engineering in the business community and, consequently, corporations act differently now than they did when most of the current economic models were constructed. Government stimulus gets built into greater risk taking, greater financial leverage, and financial investment, like stock buybacks.

   (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4233178-supply-side-world-europe-well-united-states?ifp=0&app=1.)

So it seems to me that the financial guys—the wallstreet wheelers and dealers, etc—having running out of real new industrial infrastructure to invest in, turned to MBS schemes and CDO games in order to keep their game going. Instead of their oversized financial whirligig running on old Industrial Growth stimulants, they rigged it to run on the fumes thereof.

Now in a post-industrial age, we find ourselves as a species, Homo Developus, scratching our heads and wondering where do we go from here?

It just so happens that, in the wake of the Great Industrial Expansion of Planet Earth, there emerges a vast bureaucracy of Smart People—number crunchers, economic theorizers, technocrats, academics, programmers, bureaucrats, not to mention the mysterious ghosts of AI —who propose to reconstruct the detritus of the industrial age into a systemic quasi-social Union that will make sure everybody is taken care of.

And so I’m wondering, what’s the best way to administrate such a civilization?

What’s the best system for governing a federation of post-industrial nations?

What’s the the most effective strategy for managing a cushy, highly-developed Society?

What’s the most humane political structure to assure income and health for all citizens?

Should Europeans, for instance, appoint multiple layers of bureaucracy to enforce labor laws so that every person has a guaranteed income?

Should the State take control of business so that everybody gets a minimal piece of the pie?

And these philosophical, or sociological questions arise:

What motivation compels some individuals to seek opportunity and then develop that opportunity into abundance and prosperity?

What drives the go-getters to excel in economic pursuits? What motivates them to acquire work, money, property, resources, and then manipulate those assets into an overflow of wealth?

What incentive impels them to take care of themselves and their families?

On the other hand, what compels some other people to, instead,  take charge of bureaucratic agencies in order to administrate a Society that assures everyone a minimum of economic assistance?

What drives some analytical people to write laws and devise policies for systematically managing governmental bureaus to assure that everyone is taken care of?

Who is in charge here?

Who is going to run the world?

Will it be the go-getters, the pioneers, movers and shakers, developers, entrepreneurs, rule-breakers, industrialists, business mavens?

Or will it be the wonks who manage the world—the academics, the specialists, bureaucrats, rule-makers, policy-crafters, the tweakers of governmental largesse?

EURomeHdq

Consider Esther Lynch’s observations:

The ETUC has watched the rise in precarious working conditions in Europe—platform working, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and so on—with deep concern. Research in the UK found that young people on zero-hours contracts, for example, were far more likely to report mental and physical health problems than their counterparts in stable jobs. A study by the University of Limerick in Ireland warned that people on non-guaranteed hours could become ‘trapped in a cycle of poverty which strengthens employers’ control’, generating a fear of being penalised if they raised grievances about working conditions. In response, the Irish government has taken steps to prohibit the use of zero-hours contracts, unless the employer can show a genuine business need. Guaranteeing transparent and predictable working conditions would have wide-ranging benefits, in terms of workers’ health, work-life balance and employee retention.

  (https://www.socialeurope.eu/tackling-insecure-work-in-europe)

What does the peaceful development of Civilization require? Management by one, or the other, of these two types? Or Both/and?

Is Civilization founded upon a principle of every man/woman for hmrself?

Or will it settle into BigBrotherSister administering a vast Guarantee for All?

Or something in between.

Keep your eyes open to watch what develops.

Smoke

From Digging to Digitization

October 26, 2018

The history of mankind has consisted of humans pulling stuff out of the ground and reworking it to suit our own survival purposes.

As people became more and civilized, and organized, the underlying survival instinct took a back seat to other motivations—gathering surplus, tribal organizing, development of skills and trades, cooperation and competition. . . eventually industry,  government, education, business, recreation, sports, entertainment.

The progressive developments of all these human activities required something that was necessary and common to all of them:

Resources.

Stuff from the earth itself. Raw material. Basic stuff:

Water, dirt, plants, rocks, ores, animals, hides.

As civilization moved forward, these basics were refined by us— reconstructed, manufactured to fulfill the requirements of human development.

Locomotv copy

The list of basic stuff (above) was revised to include:

Drinks, processed foods, fertilizer, livestock, leather, pets, tools, machines, lumber, metals, trains, cars, planes, appliances, telephones, radios, televisions, computers.

Computers–aha! With these, human development embarked upon a new phase.

Information itself becomes as useful (or at least we think it is as useful. . .) as all the other stuff that we’re using to make the world a more convenient place since the beginnings. Knowledge itself has became a resource. Yeah, though I dare say it—a commodity.

So we notice that over the course of human progress we did move steadily from pulling stuff out of the ground, and reworking it so that we could improve our life, to—

Pulling information out of our data machines.

Like it or not, this is the outcome of human history. We have come to this. Now development is largely about retrieving and using data files to improve life or capitalize upon its developments.

In the same manner as we traditionally removed natural resources from the ground and turned it into our good stuff.

And bad stuff. Let’s not forget that part. Our progressive high-tech life now generates bad stuff. Pollutants, toxins, noxious substances and, of course, shit itself, which still happens every day on a very large scale.

A consequence of our globally massive improvement project is that more and more persons are being driven into knowledge jobs.

Instead of all that plowing, digging, mining, constructing that we did all through history—more and more of us are typing, cataloging, programming, sitting at desks and watching computers do our so-called  work for us. Such activity (relatively, it is inactivity) becomes the order of the day for us as far into the future as many of us can see.

This digitized transformation of human development will bring us to some huge changes. I read an article about it this morning:

  https://www.ips-journal.eu/regions/global/article/show/the-false-hero-called-digitalisation-3050/n

Seeing as how we now have entered the age of information retrieval slowly overtaking natural resources recovery. . . seeing as how we gaze collectively at what seems to be the setting sun of human physical toil, I offer a tribute to the noble enterprise of Human Labor.

RailEngn

This tribute I offer in the form of a song. Gordon Lightfoot wrote it years ago.

It is one of the best songs ever written about the glory of human labor. You may listen to the songwriter’s rendition here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzauTuRG78 

I also offer my own rendition of Gordon’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, a song that I dearly love to sing.

    Gordon’s Railroad Trilogy

As you listen to both versions, imagine you are watching a sunset—the disappearing brightness of human labor accomplishment, being supplanted by a foggy dawn of. . . whatever is ahead for our collective endeavor.

King of Soul

New Robber Barons?

March 24, 2018

Somewhere back there, way back in time, we humans discovered how to make use of fire.

By ’n by, another great development happened. Somebody somewhere started using wheels to transport stuff.

The centuries, the millennia, of time rolled and rolled on and on, passing the past, penetrating the present and ultimately forming our future.

In 1439, Johann Gutenberg’s printing press changed, forever, the development of human writing and literacy.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the undeveloped Western continents that we now call America.

In 1781, James Watt’s steam engine changed forever the development of industry and technology.

But those advances were only the beginning. They set the stage for further developments.

We Americans got hold of these emerging technologies to convert a 4000-mile-wide continent into a New World. And we did it in a magnitude, and on a quickened time-scale, unprecedented in human history.

In the 1800’s, we Americans found ourselves in the right place at the right time to accomplish the largest expansion of commerce and industry in the history of the world.

As it developed, our Revolution morphed into something far more significant than the merely political implications of our Constitution could indicate.

We grabbed hold of Mr. Watt’s steam engine and proceeded to energize an entire continent. As the great zeitgeist thrust of our westward expansion reached full-steam, pioneers reached dizzying heights of exploration and accomplishment.

But a funny thing happened on our way to unprecedented Progress.

A few very smart guys took charge.  Our great, broad-based 19th-century industrial leap was eventually commandeered by a few very smart, very powerful business leaders.

You’ve probably heard their names: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan.

John D. Rockefeller was the “baron” of Railroads

Andrew Carnegie, baron of Steel

Cornelius Vanderbilt, baron of shipping

J. P. Morgan, finance

~ These men were smart enough to identify strategic developments in the expanding industries of their time period.

~ They then acquired manufacturing and/or distribution facilities that ultimately enabled them to assume control of vast swathes of the emerging industries.

~ They were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, recognize their advantageous positions, and develop those positions into incredible accomplishments.

These tycoons, through their respective working lives, assembled huge industrial assets by which they ultimately consolidated emerging industries into vast swathes of economic power.

Others followed. From the “inventor” category we find these names that you have probably heard:

~ Edison, electricity

~ Bell, telephone

~ Ford, automobile assembly line

By ’n by, as 20th-century civilization powered its way into history, other pioneers, not quite so high-profile as those already mentioned, blazed new trails of invention and progressive consolidation.

In the areas of merging electricity and telephony, new pioneers built upon the legacy of Edison and Bell. Marconi is the name we associate with radio’s transmission.  On the old Continent, German physicists Eccles and Lillienfeld developed the triode vacuum tube which further enabled emerging electronic communications.

By the 1940’s, scientists Shockley, Bardeen, Brattain at Bell Labs developed the transistor, which enabled solid-state circuitry.

Nanotechnology, Fairchild, Lucent, Intel—brought forth the computer and the IT revolution of latter 20th-century digitized lifestyle . . . which is now morphed into . . .

Eface

Cell phones, tablets, pads, pods, all kinds of miniaturizing, convenience-enabling “devices.”

Social Media.

And as we look back . . . not as far back as the consolidators of the industrializing 19th-century, not quite as far back as those old-time “barons”, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan . . .

As we look back at the in-our-lifetime pioneers of IT, who have now become the “barons” of Social Media . . .

Gates, Jobs & Wozniak, Zuckerberg, Page & Brin, Bezos . . .

we find that these men are human, just as we are, human and in some ways faulty, possibly unable to comprehend or anticipate the full consequences of their incredible accomplishments, perhaps culpable in matters of ethical ambiguity, maybe even “guilty” of . . .

“manipulating” people’s profiles, and thus

manipulating people’s lives?

Shall we now accuse them of being power-trippers? Will we judge them as predatory opportunists? Will we call into question their integrity, will we revise our hind-sighted historical assessments of them, as some have judged the barons of a former Era to be “robber barons?”

Zuckerberg a robber baron? I don’t think so.

Give the man a break. He has apologized.

He has done all you guys a favor! by presenting your pretty face to the the runways of this world. Everybody gets their fifteen minutes . . .

or fifteen likes, or 1500 likes, whatevuh

As for me, I don’t do Facebook . . .   well maybe every now and then.

Glass Chimera

The Tweaking of the Technos

September 2, 2017

‘T’was about two hundred year ago that the world tilted toward changing at an exponential pace.

The advent of the steam engine had a lot to do with this. Imagine, for instance, what native American tribes, living primitively, must have thought about the first locomotive when they saw a big huffn’puff thing speeding toward them along the steel track.

It was a terrible sight to behold– belching steam and screaming along across the landscape like it owned the place.

Locomotv

And in terms of world history, that wasn’t so very long ago. We humans have definitely picked up the pace of our progress.

We’ve come a long way since those groundbreaking days of the steam locomotives. Back in those early techno times our big deal was extraction. By means of steam-powered locomotion we extracted vast amounts of resources from vast landscapes for a vastly long time and then we transported those extracted elements vast distances, to industrializing cities where they were converted into vast products that were sold and distributed to vast markets of people whose consuming habits were fastly becoming vast.

All this vastness was enabled because our new powering technologies made everything happen on vastly larger scales, and in vastly faster timetables.

Eventually, the trains went the way of the buffalo when our cars and trucks began to roll off mass-production assembly lines and then all across the globe. Before you knew it, everybody and their brother were driving around via internal combustion vehicles of one type or another, spewing carbon emissions and additives and whatnot all around the globe.

Because so many people had jumped onto the industrio-techno bandwagon we found ourselves with vast labor markets which consisted of vast numbers of people cranking out all these vast inventories of consumer goods and services.

That whole industrial revolution thing wrought the humanic world into being a carbon-belching machine. After a century or two it has become an emissions-emitting perpetual motion device. But nowadays our whole vastly spinning automaton of techno progress is being re-evaluated. For the sake of equality-based prosperity, those vast labor markets are being tweaked by office-loads of technocrats who want to do what is best for mankind. But in a world of expending (used to be expanding) resources, it becomes more and more problematical to keep everybody busy in production.

By ‘n by, for management purposes more and more folks have become involved in producing information, so we can be smart about stuff. Information  used to be stored in libraries, but now is stored in digitized files. Our terminology has morphed. As we used to shovel dirt and ore and coal and whatnot we now move vast loads of information. For simplicity sake we now call it info. Furthermore, as our  exponential changes are happening at a vastly stepped-up pace we have  spun into calling it “data.”

We notice that, while the world economy used to run on vast extractions of elements, it now runs on vast iterations of data. And if you believe that, I’ve got some swampland in Houston I’ll sell ya.

But I digress.

In our 21st-century techno-world we have generated vast hordes of data-analyzers, experts, number-crunchers and technocrats, whose mission is to  keep everything cruising along on an even keel.

Their informed consensus is that we need  a steady state, which eventually morphs into a steady State. Old style capitalism is dead, y’all.

The most potent example of this trend is the Fed.

A century ago, we had banks that were fervently financing the great industrial expansion. Now all the banks have become mere bit-players; the real mover and shaker is the Federal Reserve, the financier of last resort, as they are moving vast file-loads of reserve fiat currencies around the world the way JP and John D used to move their earth-shaking  investments.

Now the Fed keeps it all humming along on an even keel, not too fast not too slow. No more boom or bust, no more depressions, but rather one long macro-recession/expansion whereby we perpetually power the world economy at a predictably stable theoretical 2% expansion rate so as to assure that the main characters have assets to pass around  like peace pipes and, along with that, generally everybody has a job to do so we  don’t have too many folks fall into non-productive dependency on the system.

Good luck with that, y’all.

Therefore,  let us henceforth have everybody producing something, but not anything that will aggravate the emissions hockey-stick curve. Let’s keep the proles fat n’ happy—or, excuse me—fit n’ happy, if possible without deepening the carbon footprint, lest we fall into deep sh_t.

A good way to do that is convert everybody to being producers of data instead of them being producers of carbon-spewing autos and such.

In olden days we had vast factories where workers cranked out trains and trucks and autos and washing machines and TVs and then microwaves and computers and now data and data and data and more data.

So now the world runs on data, don’t you know. And if you believe that I’ve got some swamp land in Houston I’ll sell you.

But I digress.

How ‘bout I give you an example of what it means to be living in a blahblah new world where our collective assets are studiously maintained by  tweaking  technocrats.

Check out this data from an analysis of labor/welfare incentives in Europe, posted  last week by Daniel Seikel.

https://www.socialeurope.eu/activation-work-poverty  

“If it were true that employment is the best route out of poverty, including in-work poverty, then, logically, the share of working poor should at least not increase if there is significant employment growth. The combination of employment growth and increasing in-work poverty suggests that activation policies might shift poor jobless persons/households to poor working persons/households. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse the effects of different labour market policies on in-work poverty. In particular, what impact do the different elements of activation policy – conditionality, re-commodification and active labour market policies – have?

In theory, two effects are possible. First, active labour market policies can improve the qualification of job-seekers and enable them to get better paid jobs. This can lift formerly poor households above the poverty threshold (disposable household income below 60 percent of national median income). Second, the demanding elements of activation – strict conditionality and a high degree of re-commodification – can force unemployed individuals to accept job-offers even if the pay-levels are low. In this case, the income of the successfully activated might be too low to lift the household above the poverty threshold – poor unemployed would become working-poor.

That’s true, Daniel, I suppose. I’ll take your word for it. But whatever happens, however all this turns out, I can see we’ve come a long way from

Locomotv

to

TweakTek

In the olden days, the command was:

Move that barge; tote that bale!

The new program is:

Tote that phone; send that file!

This is progress, and this is what progressives have called for. It’s no wonder the outcome is Twitter, in which all the complexity of former times is dumbed down to 140 bits or pieces per event.

Good luck with that, y’all!

Glass Chimera 

“The Press”

January 24, 2017

Our world was forever changed when, about 577 years ago, Johann Gutenberg devised an effective way to reproduce printed documents. His invention enabled the printer man to apply controlled mechanical pressure to an inked image in a manner that facilitated efficient multiple printings.

When the printer man repeatedy applied “the press” (more about this later) to those blank pages, the world was changed forever.

Gutenberg’s innovation enabled printers to print multiple editions of documents and books. Our Library of Congress recently displayed  a centuries-old Bible that was printed by means of the Gutenberg innovation.

BiblMainz

The printing industry progressed rapidly. It wasn’t very long before books and other documents were being churned out all over the world in great numbers.

Books have changed the world.

Our fascination with the stories, literature and information we find in books has revolutionized the way we live. In the late 1800s, the American artist John Frederick Peto painted this image of a pile of books. His picture, recently displayed in our National Gallery of Art, captures the fascination that I find within those printed pages.

BooksPntg

The spread of printing throughout the globe induced an information revolution that has affected the way we think about, and do, just about everything. As people became more and more literate, news of the times we live in became a larger and larger factor in the ways people think about the world. People in the modern world use news and contemporary information  to inform their decisions, and modify their strategies for living life successfully.

TimesLon'37

News became such an obsessive element in our modern life that large institutions were built for the purpose of informing people about what’s happening in our world.

ChiTrib2

Those massive news-spouting institutions now find themselves being cornered into a different role.  The big picture of 21st-century information dispersal is being turned on its ear by an unruly multiplicity of online mini-sources. This development is along the lines of what George Orwell called the “brave new world.”

Actually, it’s the wild, wild West out there. What we have now is like a million Okies hightailing it across the internet prairie, every one of us hell-bound to claim our little stake of the cyber-dirt that’s now being divvied up for the media of the masses.

Or “dictatorship of the proletariat”, if that’s what rings your chimes.

It used to be that “The Press” was all those journalists and editors who gathered and published the news on a daily basis.

But not any more. Our meaning of “the press” is now something else entirely, and I’m not sure how to define or describe it.

But I do surmise that our new understanding of “the press” has something to with that collective pressure applied by reporters on public spokespersons.

Here’s an example. Sean Spicer, the new White House Press Secretary, argues with The Press about how many people showed up for the inauguration.

PressCon

That’s The Press now, and this disconnect between “us” and “them” is the new “news.”

Lastly, as Uncle Walter might have said:

And that’s the way it is, Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Glass half-Full