It seems a bit… what’s the word?…Cheeky. It seems a bit cheeky to put anti-Facebook ads up on Facebook, but that’s precisely what Elizabeth Warren did. Predictably, Facebook took the ads down. In the ads Warren called for the break-up of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, all of which Warren is calling out. I really respect what Warren has been doing in the early phases of the 2020 campaign. She’s come out swinging, challenging the domination of corporations with an intense and uncompromising sense of urgency, which is precisely what we needed if we hope to even make a dent in the corruption that both parties have made normative in America. Here’s more from the article:
I sent an email to a client recently, sending them some forms that I had completed and requesting their approval. It was a small project that, upon the client’s approval, we would then file with the appropriate agencies, etc. The response was prompt, “Excellent, thank you.” Being new to the firm and quite unfamiliar with our clients, I was confused: was the reply message approving the forms and the filing? Or was the client merely acknowledging receipt of the forms? I wasn’t sure, so I forwarded the message to the partner who handles this client and asked her whether this was an approval or an acknowledgement. Her response: Excellent, thank you!
I spent a pleasant New Year’s Day in my pajamas, binge-watching the first season of Westworld with one of my friends. Westworld is a beautiful show; it’s visually elegant, the pacing is deliberate but builds on itself, and the writing is fantastic, there’s nothing wasted. I’ve heard, in fact, that they interrupted the whole production process, putting the show on hold, all so that the writers could fine tune the show. It certainly paid off. It hooked me in, and I stopped only to satisfy the most basic of biological needs. It all made for a hellagood New Year’s Day.
Short animated video by David Graeber, economist with a wry and witty anarchistic inclination. I think he’s really onto something, here, in terms of analyzing a certain shift that a lot people seem to be having, in our perception of work. For example, how people seem more aware that their jobs don’t really have value and how more and more people are looking to do work that matters and/or that benefits humanity and/or has some greater meaning. It certainly isn’t the first time that workers have felt disgruntled with work and/or disenchanted by corporate bullshit. The potential, though, now, is that people seem to be connecting their underwhelming experience of work with the bigger picture and with politics. For example, A lot of the folks who got active with Occupy, a few years back, were from “caring occupations,” which caused Graeber to view Occupy as a sort of revolt of the caring class. So, could this shift toward more meaningful work completely change how we structure society, poltically and economically?
Amazon packaging… Like a Russian nesting doll.
I watched Solo last night. I like these anthology films, these stand-alone, supplemental add-ons to the Star Wars universe. Solo is the second installment, Rogue One (2016) being the first. In many ways, I like them better than the continuing epic trilogies, now numbering eight in total. The filmakers for these big blockbuster trilogy films are putting a lot of effort into trying to finish playing out the George Lucas formula so as to pull themselves loose from the Lucas strings, but while they are busy trying to sort that out, there are the satisfying supplements.
Question: If you had the chance, would you consider living someone else’s life?
Facebook took a hit on the stock market, like big time, record setting stuff. I’d like to take credit for that, since it came within a week or so of my announcement that I was Phazing Out Facebook, but I’m not sure that I have that much influence.
“I’m off the book,” says my friend Scott. We stand together on the porch of the Golden Saloon, drinking a few beers in the early evening. We’re a little buzzed, it’s a nice beer buzz without being completely swept away into intoxication. “Off the book,” I repeat. I’d never heard it put quite like that. “I like Facebook,” I say. “I really do. But I think I’m winding it down.” I’m still connected to the Book, I tell Scott. My Facebook account is still active. I just haven’t been checking it very often. It’s gone from a daily scanning to a weekly review.
Quite the fascinating article today by Chris Hughes, one of the group of plucky young Harvard students who founded Facebook. In response to the recent Facebook fracas, Hughes suggests not merely that we regulate Big Data companies like Facebook but that we find a way to share the revenue with the pubic, with the users. Here’s how Hughes puts it: “the principle underlying it should be clear: companies that benefit from the data we voluntarily provide should be required to protect it and to share that wealth with the people who made it possible.”
So pundits and politicians are up in arms about Facebook exposing our data. My question: what did we expect, exactly? Is there anyone still naive enough to believe that corporations are working for the best interest of the public? Did we expect that Facebook would forego the pursuit of profit and make the public good it’s sole priority? I suspect that most of us, the common folk, aren’t as worked up as the columnists and the talking heads on TV. We follow the money. We know why Facebook exists, and it isn’t for some hippie purpose of making the world a better place or to bring the world closer, as Facebook puts it in their mission statement.
No one wants to be a cog in the machine. That’s one of the values that we post-Baby Boomers were taught. We were encouraged to pursue our passions, to follow our dreams, and to be our true selves. Americans are especially enamored by individuals who buck convention to pursue their own idea of freedom. We idealize the cowboy on the open plain, the pioneer forging ahead into the frontier, and yes, even the hippie. Whether it’s The Dude abiding or Clint Eastwood riding into town with one hand on his holster, our greatest heroes are not cogs in a machine. Yet most of us are cogs in the machine. The economic system of capitalism flourishes from such cogs, from the “yes man” who dutifully follows orders within a massive, impersonal corporation. Clint Eastwood isn’t the corporate type.
Manhunt is an intriguing series. It dramatizes the story of Ted Kaczynski, aka the UNABOMBER. Those of us who grew up in the Nineties remember the story of bombs that arrived by mail and exploded in the hands of the recipients. It went on for years and years, the FBI’s most expensive manhunt. The new Netflix series, Manhunt, is a compelling crime story, but it’s far more. Before he was caught, Kaczynski was actually able to negotiate to have his manifesto printed in the Washington Post. At the time, the public dismissed the manifesto whose premise seemed ridiculous: The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. It was easy enough, back then, to reject Kaczynski as mentally insane, but this Netflix series raises the provocative question: was Ted Kaczynski right?
A bit of trivia: Which nation invented the Internet? Which nation’s tax dollars helped build the infrastructure of the Internet? Which nation’s consumers gets the worst deal (i.e. they pay some of the highest prices for Internet connection while at the same time getting fairly mediocre service)? Yes, oh yes, the answer is one and the same for all questions: The United States of America. Like so many things, the Internet was a publicly funded enterprise paid for with our tax dollars, then it was essentially given to a few corporations so that they could monetize it. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts last year made $33 million. #thankscapitalism But things don’t have to be this way. There are real alternatives, and we have a unique opportunity, now, to change course.
This just in, from a recent Guardian article: The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee’s vision for an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators. “I’m still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence,” said the British computer scientist.