Posts Tagged ‘progress’

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

Solar Tech–what needs to happen

January 24, 2018

When I was a young man, idealistic and foolhardy, I attempted to start a newspaper.

I was in Asheville, a progressive southern town that was collectively trying to morph itself into a sort of Santa Fe of the South.

The year was 1977, and the gas-rationing effect of the so-called Arab oil embargo was still fresh in American minds. We, the generation who had convinced the gov. of the US to get the hell out of Vietnam, were convinced that we could also make a constructive impact on the way business and industry was conducted here in the USA.

Solar tech was a rising star in everybody’s minds, or so we thought at the time. With leadership from Mother Earth News and other early sustainability advocates, many of us free-thinking boomers thought we could shift American Big Business interests from dependency on costly oil to a widespread earth-changing acceptance of Solar, Geothermal and Wind technology.

Solari

So the fledgeling “newspaper” that we were promoting did a center-spread on Solar Energy and Solar Collectors. One of our fellows was a fellow named Jim Samsel; he was from Oregon, or had lived there, and seemed to know more about the subject than most us. He included some diagrams that, as I remember, helped us and the readers to get a visual on what solar collectors looked like and how they were supposed to work. We felt good about our tentative thrust into progressive energy conservation.

That was 41 years ago. Since that time, my life has shifted toward more down-to-earth activities such as loving my wife, raising the children, educating them and living as a Christian family. So my interests drifted away from quasi-experimental pastimes such as dreaming of solar tech, which was known to be expensive to install and maintain.

Since that time, my wife and I have purchased and lived in three houses. On none of them have we installed solar collectors. The expenses of of life and a growing family overtook my nascent interest in alternative, home-based, power installations such as solar.

Now we live in Boone, which is home to Appalachian State University.  Here at ASU, the alt-tech professors and students have put together a noteworthy Sustainability curriculum, with appropriate technology workshops and experimental projects that I occasionally hear about. I haven’t been keeping up with it, but I do know there’s a lot going on out there pertaining of improvements of solar collectors and storage cells.

And that is good. I say more power to them. I hope they can make a big  earth-friendly dent in the massive oil-based infrastructure that has for so long held us all in hydrocarbon bondage.

Solar1

Over the years,  I have occasionally pondered the plight of solar pioneers who have stayed with it, and I formed a little scenario in my mind that posits what needs to happen for solar to really get a significant foothold in our American infrastructure, by way of John Doe’s household and Jane Smith’s homestead.

My scenario starts with a fantasy: a widespread societal/economic attitude shift that inspires homeowners to install solar-panels on a massive scale—millions of homeowners thinking (believing) they can actually save money on their electrical bills by gathering energy from the sun on their very own rooftops. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

And the scenario works something like this:

Joe Blow has a few extra hundred bucks in his paycheck this week, so on Saturday he decides to go to the local Lowe’s or Costco or Sam’sClub and pickup another collector or two. He hauls them to the house and mounts them on the roof with a hardware system that has been patently engineered for simplicity of design and installation. The electrical connections below—hooking up to the panel and thereby the household electrical system—have previously been done by his electrician friends Wayne and Bryan.

Solarj

Then, after the connections and installation of the new panels have been accomplished in a half-day or so, he settles into an evening of relaxation with the surety that next month’s electric bill will be lower a a result of his incremental investments up on the roof. As time goes by, Joe uses a few extra bucks here and there to consistently repeat these simple periodic installations and thereby save $ by lowering his household’s power consumption.

Now what would it take for such a scenario to be reality instead of my tech-fantasy?

Starting with a look  back into history, back in the day, over a hundred years ago . . .

Henry Ford figured out how to actuate a new idea called mass production. Within a few decades, a Ford “in every garage” began to be a reality in American development and life. Every Joe Blow now understands that the reason this could happen was because Ford’s mass production assembly line enabled the company (and ultimately the wider automotive industry) to get the unit cost down to an affordable number that Joe and Jane Sixpack could actually spend to purchase a a car or truck for their family.

Now this is what we need for the solar industry in America–mass production and mass-market.

Who will take up the mantle? Who will heave the solartech excalibur out the stone of oil-dominance?

Tesla? GE? Some as-yet-unknown Startup in Phoenix, Detroit, Boone or Montgomery?

That remains to be seen, when and if it ever happens.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .in a brand new 2018. . .

Now suddenly appears an Omen that  perhaps the previously-thought-to-be-conspiracy Industrial Establishment has finally gotten a hold of the Solar vision! The next new expansion manufacturing industry!

What omen is that? The President announces a 30% tariff on foreign-manufactured solar collectors (and washing machines.)

Does this protectionism portend a willingness of American Industry to, at last, leap into solar production because they can now, with a little gov. help, compete with the Chinese and South Korea?

Or, more cynically, does it indicate the continuing Establishment denial of Solar development on a large scale for the sake of continuing oil hegemony?

We shall see in the days ahead what the effects of this tariff will be on our still-nascent Solar industry in America.

SolarStLuke

  Glass half-Full

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 Lady is at Work

June 4, 2016

LadyWork

She heard America singing;

through two centuries’ labors they came a-ringing–

the song and the opus of bringing

a newborn project in a newfound world

‘neath a loud stripey flag ‘t’was unfurled.

From ship to wagon to cart to railroads,

sending out them precious mother-lode payloads

over seas and lands and bridges and field rows–

he hauled ’em in, she bailed ’em out

through highways and byways they sent forth the shout.

Up with the work! and down with the grit

she dug and he hammered; she welded; he shipped it.

Turn up the earth, mine and weld and wield it ’til it fit–

a new land, a new time, new way of doin’

rolling on wheels where used to be horsehoin’.

They rolled up on the far edge of our vast continent,

on the heels of a gold rush at the shore of containment.

Along came the Okies, then Hollywood raiment–

not bein’ done yet, we slid into Silicon valley,

so much bigger and brighter than the old yankee alley.

Now what’s up with that and where do we go from here–

let bruthas and sistahs step to the music we hear

enduring the pain, dodging the rain, overcoming the fear,

we gotta discover what to do to pick up the slack

so we do not regress, do not turn back.

Maybe we will and maybe we will not–

forge a way past our lethargy, this entitlement and rot

what it is we got to do I know not what,

might have to grab that destiny from some ogre or grinch.

Let’s get this ship turnin’–hand me that wrench!

Glass half-Full

Allies in History

July 9, 2015

The Charger rides out upon a cusp of history’s advance

with zeal that flashes in his hand,

brandishing our great weapon of destiny

that had earlier been forged

upon the anvil of progress.

Logan1

He’s duty-bound on pushing the envelope of change

through yonder canyon of chaos, or mountain of

justice, whichever comes forth first.

His steed, chomping at the bit to yank upon the seams

of troublous times,

rips out the evil twins of lethargy and lies, and

by opposing ends them

for a while.

MarqJoliet

Yon Paxateer, on the other hand,

is methodical and principled.

He summons forth coalitions of belief,

taming methods of madness,

crossing rivers of patient sadness.

His armature has accumulated in the crucible of time

from the residue of our Charger’s blood,

and the aggregate left behind when women toil

and men do sweat

for all the progress mankind can get,

although we are not there

yet,

if ever shall we be.

 

Together, between them,

among them and in spite of them,

the wisdom of the ages settles in,

if there is such a thing.

For history is not yet written,

nor the evils that beset men smitten

until the sands of time

are deposited on this body of mine

and yours.

WavArt6u

King of Soul

MLK Parade in Charlotte

January 19, 2015

Last Saturday, January 17, 2015, I attended the parade in Charlotte to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  After watching the festivity, I have been reflecting for a day or two on those celebrations, while viewing some pics that I snapped there.

This reflection ends with a song I recorded in 1978 about the visionary Dr. King: “Mountaintop”

As a white man who grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana in the 1950’s and ’60’s, I want to express to you what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant to me, and correlate my expression with images of some of the people I saw two days ago in that parade in downtown Charlotte. What I am seeing is this:

ParBandYoung
A prophet who saw what needed to happen, then acted effectively to make in happen.

ParGetnRedy
A man who walked, successfully, a tightrope between violent comrades on one side and non-violent believers on the other.

ParStopVio
A builder, who built a bridge of provision and good will between those who have and those who had not.

ParadeMindGo

A drum major for justice

ParHiStepn

A man who did try, in his life, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and forge new opportunity for those who had none.

ParHorses
A man who strove to make a way where there was no way

ParChrtrScool
A man whose hope for mankind has outlasted the injustice that put him in an early grave.

ParFormnUp

A man whose love for mankind has overcome the evil that men do.

ParWCband

An effective Christian antidote to a world infected by people who had perfected the practice of hate.

A reverent Christian response to a world populated by people who had rejected a loving God.

A servant of the Lord,

A man of peace,

A Christian,

ParMacedonia

a sinner saved by grace.

A visionary.

This is only a small part of Dr. King’s legacy.

On the limitations of humannness

April 23, 2011

Law built his kingdom upon a foundation of strength,
hefting beams of order upon discipline length
while
Progress made her society of perfectible members
teaching reason and freedom among liberty timbers.
Then
Love set up a clinic of hope and of healing
upon sacrifice and sweat and their warmfuzzy feeling
till
Truth tore it down, and sent all of them reeling
‘neath a sky that is falling and a chicken in every debt ceiling.

Cluck cluck Selah
whadya think about that
Thanks for the doughnut hole, so long.

Glass half-Full