Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Mayans show that climate change does matter

"During the era when the Mayan empire declined, Droxler said, the region underwent significantly fewer major tropical typhoons — only one or two every 20 years instead of the usual five or six. While typhoons can bring devastating winds and flooding, they also bring much-needed water inland in the form of heavy rains.
These heavy rains were an integral part of growing enough food to sustain the sprawling empire. The first great blow to the civilization came in the form of a 100-year drought between 800 A.D. and 900. When the rains stopped, food because scarce and a period of violent unrest ensued."

Climate change can bring an end to civilizations.  If it's changing, for whatever reason, we need to know how so we can plan ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Woe to the endangered pedestrian

"The pretext Darren Wilson used to stop Michael Brown was jaywalking, the same offense for which Raquel Nelson nearly went to jail. Jaywalking, as Peter Norton shows in his landmark history Fighting Traffic, is an invented crime. It was the product of a massive publicity campaign orchestrated by automobile companies and allied motoring interests in the 1920s. Ostensibly aimed to promote safety, the real purpose of this effort was to push pedestrians off the street so that cars would move faster and be easier to sell.
Along with their invention of jaywalking, the automakers exerted a controlling influence over the nascent discipline of traffic engineering. Industry-funded experts denied that speed was to blame for an epidemic of pedestrian crashes. They designed new roadways with the overriding objective of moving cars faster.
As the years went by, engineering practices evolved to place those on foot at ever-greater disadvantage. Sidewalks disappeared, first on residential streets and then on main roads. Suburbs laid out to funnel traffic onto main arteries sent anyone who walked on long detours. Street corners were reconfigured to promote high-speed turns by cars. Highways widened and signage moved overhead, inviting freeway-speed movement on local roads."

 Some roads actually act as walls between communities.  And I hadn't thought about the economic division before, but it is certainly an aspect that should be considered when cities decide whether cares or people are more important.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More argument for a base income for everybody

"In switching over to a universal basic income, the books will not only stay balanced—they might even move into the black. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 115,227,000 households in the U.S. Split $1.88 trillion among all these households and each one gets $16,315.62. In other words, if you turned the welfare system into a $15,000 basic income payment, you’d end up saving over $150 billion (or $1,315.62 per American household).
The basic proposal can be tweaked, of course, so that the system makes a bit more sense. Households making over $100,000 per year probably get by just fine on their own. Cut them out of the equation, and you would end up with a $20,000 basic income check for the remaining households, while still netting the government some nice savings.
Despite the pleasingly round back-of-the-napkin math, replacing food stamps and other artifacts of America’s welfare system with no-strings-attached cash isn’t that easy. There’s the small matter, for example, of stitching together all of the patchwork social program providers—federal, state and local governments—and getting them to agree to all put in to one kitty. It’s also controversial. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a columnist for The Week, worries that if we gave everyone basic incomes to cover their necessities, it might encourage a mass exodus from the workforce as people no longer 'need” to work to survive.'"

I think this could work.  So long as all other subsidies are rolled into this idea.

Friday, November 28, 2014

solar plants coming on line

"Solar power just hit one of its biggest milestones, in more ways than one. First Solar recently finished building Topaz, a 550-megawatt plant that represents the largest active solar farm on the planet. And we do mean large -- the installation's nine million solar panels cover 9.5 square miles of California's Carrizo Plain. It's an impressive feat that should power 160,000 homes on Pacific Gas and Electric's grid, although it won't be alone at the top for very long. First Solar's Desert Sunlight farm will match that capacity once its last solar cells go online, and SunPower's 579MW Solar Star is due to go live in 2015."

Looking good.  Little maintenance.  No pollution.,-120.0600113,5525m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Disruptive Innovation; how to deal with it

"Disrupt is perhaps the most misused term in entrepreneurship.
Successful new companies can indeed disrupt an industry. Amazon disrupted book retailing. Its ascent caused the failure of the incumbent Borders.
Two conditions are required for disruption.
First, a substantial fraction of the market must prefer the product or service of the new company.
Second, the incumbents must be unable to respond and replicate. When those conditions are met, a new entrant can gain sufficient market share that existing firms fade into irrelevance.
But disruption is rare, and it’s not required for entrepreneurial success."

On the other hand...

"Cabbies in Montreal and Toronto want their cities to put the brakes on Uber, the popular car service app that taxi firms say is disrupting the industry.
The online car-hailing service allows users to summon a ride simply by pushing a button on their smartphones. Uber has been a hit among clients in about 70 major cities worldwide since its 2012 launch, but the taxi industries in the only two Canadian cities with functioning Uber programs worry the app is driving business away.
Uber prices vary city to city, and users have in the past complained about price hikes at times of peak demand such as rush hour or during severe weather. The app introduced a "surge drop" feature earlier this year that lets users know when rides will get cheaper.
Unlike taxi or limo companies, Uber Technologies Inc. isn't licensed as a private car hire business and reasons it doesn't need the same kind of authorization, because it's a tech company rather than a dispatcher.
But that doesn't sit right with Canadian transportation regulators and taxi companies."

Cabbies have to go through training, and pay an annual license fee.  Uber drivers don't.  This is not fair.  So in this case, the innovation is disrupting the city's desire to make sure paid drivers are well-trained and safe.  Uber only goes by a system whereby riders can rate their driver.  So while the innovation is no doubt great for users, it is devastating to taxi driver's livelihood.
A solution would be for the taxi companies to adopt the innovation, but I'm not sure how easy that would be.  Another solution would be for the city to treat Uber drivers the same as taxi drivers, making the same requirements for both.  As can be seen, the word "disruptive" certainly applies in this case.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

480 square foot micro-home is about right for one person

"Really, when you get right down to it, the Solo 40 is pretty much a 'Park Model' design, a legal definition of a house that is 15' wide and less than 540 square feet in Canada, 400 in the USA. This is a smart move; Altius has learned to max out the size, (it keeps getting cheaper per square foot) lose the high tech stuff like solar and keep it simple (parks have sewer, water and electric hookup) get rid of lofts and things that complicate construction and try and find the right balance between quality and price, which is really, really hard to do. (People are still going to complain IT'S $195 PER SQUARE FOOT!!!)"

You still need storage space, though.

Maybe China learned from Tiananmen Square?

HONG KONG (AP) — Workers in Hong Kong on Tuesday started clearing away barricades at one site of the student protest that has rocked the city for the last two months.
The removal comes after a Hong Kong court granted a restraining order against the protesters last week requiring them to clear the area in front of a tower in the central part of Hong Kong as well a separate order against a second protest site Mong Kok brought by taxi and minibus operators.
The workers could be seen cutting plastic ties holding the barricades together. Students, who have been protesting for greater democracy in the former British colony, did not resist. Some protesters had already moved their tents to other parts of the protest zone ahead of the clearance operation."

Students are being peaceful. The government is being peaceful, after first attacking the protesters.  It looks like people are learning how best to do this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Watch this gif of mom-and-pop stores closing across the US

Walmart is an innovative and efficient company.  That is good. They also swallow whole small community businesses as they open up and take away customers from mom and pop stores that can't compete with Walmart's purchasing power.  So as small business owners shutter their doors, Walmart replaces them with minimum wage workers, and sucks the profit back to Arkansas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A tiny apartment where everything is hidden away

258 square feet but still liveable.  But where is his computer work station?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

shipping container apartments in DC

"Two months after breaking ground, if that’s even the right term, the District’s first residential building made entirely out of the giant metal boxes is finished in Brookland.
Designed by Travis Price Architects, the three-story, four apartment unit development at 3305 Seventh St. NE was envisioned as a 'new, bold, ecological, recyclable kit of parts housing module, and to help make use of one of America's biggest problems: No exports of goods — 700,000 (and counting) sea containers left in our sea ports'."

This is a good use of a cheap resource, but I wonder about sound inside.  How is it for noise insulation?  Waiting to hear.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Germany's small power generation solution

"The prize-winning utility, one of Germany's early pioneers in the field, is owned by the old medieval market town of Schwäbisch Hall, north of Stuttgart. Most of the utility's suppliers are private people, farmers, and small businesses, as well as 'energy co-ops,' which are clean-energy facilities owned and collectively managed by a group of local investors.
'It's a complex work of art,' says van Bergen about Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall's daily managing of the county's energy supply. 'Local utilities and citizen-owned energy sources are just the right fit for Germany's Energiewende,' he says, referring to the German term for the country's coordinated transition to clean energy. One of the crucial take-aways from Schwäbisch Hall -- and Germany's renewable energy revolution -- is that small can be big, and become much bigger quickly.
In just a dozen years, industrial-powerhouse Germany has replaced around 31 percent of its nuclear and fossil fuel generated electricity with green power, produced overwhelmingly from moderately sized onshore wind, solar PV, hydro, and bio-energy installations..."

Multiple mall energy producers are less susceptible to attack and natural disasters as well.  In other words, they are more robust.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The world's breadbasket is in a long drought

"Frankly, there’s not much hope. How do we accommodate this new reality? Farming is never going to go back, regardless of how much rain we get next year, to the way it was in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a long-term era of scarcity.
California is much bigger than it was when these reservoirs were built, 40 or 50 years ago. There’s more water going to cities and the environment now. That boom era of California farming, I think everyone recognizes, is just a thing of the past."

the price of food will go up while availability goes down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

making fuel from straw

"Last year a commercial scale advanced biofuels plant was opened in Crescentino near Turin, with the aim of producing 75 million litres of bioethanol every year from straw and arundo donax, an energy crop grown on marginal land.
The Italians recently announced plans to open three further plants in the south of the country.
Novozymes, one of the companies involved in the Crescentino initiative welcomed the government's decision to make it legally binding on fuel suppliers to include advanced biofuels in their petrol and diesel."

This makes so much more sense than using food to make fuel, like corn ethanol.  I hope this comes to the US soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cults like ISIS

Growing inequality and a general lack of concern for civilians living under ISIS's rule could eventually spell the end of the group, Elizabeth Palmer and Khaled Wassef report for CBS News.
In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS's de facto capital, civilians chaffing under the jihadist's strict rule are becoming disenchanted with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Residents are poor and disenfranchised — while fighters for the group are living lavishly. "

From the book The False Messiahs, by Jack Gratus, it's easy to see that ISIS is nothing new in history. Someone like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, comes along, gathers a religious following, builds a movement, and then the whole thing collapses. I suspect, based on how ISIS is utilizing short-term strategies that will alienate most people, it will not last very long either.
A short example from the book is the Pastoureaux movement beginning in 1251 in France. "They were led by one of the three original preachers, a man who claimed to have received a direct call from the Virgin Mary to summons the Crusade. He was said to have come from Hungary and was known as Jacob, the Master of Hungary." Jacob had great sway over those who heard his message, and he gained a large following. "He claimed that his elect would never go hungry or in need because he had the power to increase their provisions indefinitely. In fact, the Pastoureaux provisioned themselves by going into towns and villages and taking what they wanted." They quickly looted over 100 communities.
"Town after town welcomed his people as holy and Jacob as Christ himself." Jacob's movement grew as he plundered and preached. But when he began to preach against the nobility and proclaimed them the enemy, the authorities chose to end his reign, and he was captured and hacked to death. (pp. 74-5).
Several such movements are related in this remarkable book. These movements, like ISIS, had a leader claiming religious dictatorship, claimed to be the restoration of past glory, were extremely violent, and were completely intolerant of outside ideas. They all failed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

civil disobedience used to win back civil disobedience

"Hundreds of Jefferson County, Colo. high school students walked out of class on Monday to protest the district school board's plan to remove the teaching of 'civil disobedience' in the AP U.S. History curriculum.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Does the digital world reduce our ability to read the emotions of others?

"For the study, researchers looked at two groups of students from the same school. The first group, comprising 51 students, attended outdoor school at the Pali Institute, a science and nature camp that doesn't allow student use of electronic devices. The second group, with 54 students, was allowed to use their devices as usual and did not attend the Pali Institute until the study was completed.
Both groups were shown 48 pictures of happy, sad, angry or scared people and asked to identify their emotions, both at the beginning and end of the study. "They also watched videos of actors interacting with one another and were instructed to describe the characters' emotions," according to a news release. "In one scene, students take a test and submit it to their teacher; one of the students is confident and excited, the other is anxious. In another scene, one student is saddened after being excluded from a conversation."
Students who had gone without digital media averaged 14.02 mistakes in the picture test before attending camp. After five days without screens, their scores improved to an average of just 9.41 errors per student. Camping students showed similar improvements on the video test. Students who had not yet attended camp showed a much smaller average improvement on the image test and no change on the video test."

Think of the old days when there were no phones, telegraphs, or fast transportation. What did people do to keep in touch?  Letters.  Sometimes you might get a photo of your loved one included, but usually that was with a stiff non-emotional face because cameras needed you to stay still for a while.  How did people manage to read the emotions of others back then?

I think the better measure would be time spent with actual people, rather than time spent with digital things.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Micro house action in Portland

"The city of Portland, Oregon, is nearing approval of construction for tiny home communities on public land in order to house homeless and low-income residents, the Oregonian reported. Josh Alpert, the city's director of strategic initiatives under Mayor Charlie Hales, said it's not so much a question of if, but rather, when the homes will be built in partnership with Multnomah County, according to the news source. The city will ask various public branches in the area -- including Portland Public Schools -- to provide surplus land for the homes."

Less than 200 square feet is a bit small I think.  400 square feet would provide space for your "stuff" as well as a bit more comfort.

I also like the comment "Looks good but perhaps adding a community garden would aid in feeding the residents, build skills, community and confidence."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the militarization of the police

Ferguson, Missouri shows what can go wrong when the police get military equipment and are trained for military type actions.  They forget that citizens are not the enemy and protesters are not criminals.  I blame the Battle in Seattle for part of this, where the police had to deal with Black Block vandalism and retardedness.  But definitely police need to go back to working for the citizens not having and us vs. them attitude.

Friday, July 25, 2014

War will never be the same; the Gerasimov Doctrine

"In the 21st century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template.
The experience of military conflicts — including those connected with the so-called coloured revolutions in north Africa and the Middle East — confirm that a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war."

No more one side lining up and another side lining up to oppose.  The distinction of what is war and what is not gets blurred, like in Ukraine right now.  Won't be pretty.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The jobless future; then what?

"The only solution that I see is a shrinking work week. We may perhaps be working for 10 to 20 hours a week instead of the 40 for which we do today. And with the prices of necessities and of what we today consider luxury goods dropping exponentially, we may not need the entire population to be working. There is surely a possibility for social unrest because of this; but we could also create the utopian future we have long dreamed of, with a large part of humanity focused on creativity and enlightenment.
Regardless, at best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing."

I'm starting to lean toward the idea of a guaranteed minimum income for everybody.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

This sounds bad; economic problems ahead?

"The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- a pro-establishment, rock-ribbed bastion of pro-market thinking -- has released a report predicting a collapse in global economic growth rates, a rise in feudal wealth disparity, collapsing tax revenue and huge, migrating bands of migrant laborers roaming from country to country, seeking crumbs of work. They prescribe 'flexible' workforces, austerity, and mass privatization.
The report, Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years , makes a number of assumptions about the impact of automation on skilled jobs in the workforce, the end the recent growth in the developing world (especially the BRIC nations), and a series of worsening environmental catastrophes."

I think this is more a call for change then prediction. It's obvious that we are moving currently toward a time when there are only serfs and lords.  The rich accumulate all the wealth, and dole it out as needed to those below.  I thought we had already grown out of this system, but apparently not.

When people talk and cooperate, better things happen

"Using participatory democracy principles, Pitt’s organization organizers met with families and community leaders about their needs and their vision for their new homes, and how the builders can preserve the culture of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, such as doorways facing east or north and using tribally significant colors."

"Pitt’s foundation employs lawyers, social workers, and loan workers to help the former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward whom many of which lost all documentation during Hurricane Katrina to get through the mortgage application process. The income of the applicants does not affect the applicant’s ability to obtain a home. The unsubsidized mortgage is designed to be no more than one third of the applicant’s income."

so many times charitable groups go to a place where people are in need, and they impose their own vision of what the people there need.  Pitt's group first ASKS what is needed before trying to help out. This is wonderful.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Universal minimum income?

"In 2012, there were 179 million Americans between the ages of 21 and 65 (when Social Security would kick in). The poverty line was $11,945. Thus, giving each working-age American a basic income equal to the poverty line would cost $2.14 trillion. For some comparison, U.S. GDP was almost $16 trillion in 2012 and the defense budget was $700 billion.
But a minimum income would also allow us to eliminate every government benefit as well. Get rid of SNAP, TANF, housing vouchers, the Earned Income tax credit and many others. Get rid of them all. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that the federal government spends approximately $750 billion each year on benefits for low-income Americans and that rises to a clean trillion when you factor in state programs. Eliminate all of those and the net figure comes out to $1.2 trillion needed to pay for a universal basic income, still a hefty sum."

I'm starting to wonder if this is a good idea. It hasn't been tried on a large scale yet, though.  But we've got to consider alternatives to our current broken system.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Libraries; moving from passive to active

"Libraries have compensated for this shift by redefining their mission around providing access to new technologies. The slow invasion of computer clusters that has defined the past two decades of library design serves an important purpose, but that mission, too, now seems increasingly redundant. Already, three-quarters of Americans access the Internet at home, with both broadband and mobile access rising steadily, particularly among younger people. It seems unlikely that providing on-site public access to online media will be a compelling justification for funding brick-and-mortar libraries even a decade from now."

"Across the United States, librarians have been experimenting with ways of expanding on this newly elaborated mission—for instance, by opening so-called “maker spaces” in annexes and areas where bookshelves have been cleared out. A throwback to the mechanic’s library of the 19th century, maker spaces collect old and new technologies, from sewing machines to 3-D printers, and encourage patrons to develop and share skills that cannot be practiced over the Internet. "

what's happening with your local library?  Is it embracing social media?  Turning from passive information storage to resourcing innovative creation?  Does your community support your library?  Do you care?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Economic growth" is a problem, not a solution

"Other studies suggest we are approaching real limits to the availability of numerous basic resources necessary to economic advancement. No technological quick fix is going to change the fact that our finite planet has definite limits. And the more we grow, the more we begin to trip over them, in an increasingly chaotic and interconnected fashion. The energy business and its deleterious impact on the environment are only the most obvious of many examples: The trajectory of the hydrocarbon industry toward costly and carbon-intensive tar-sand extraction and extreme deep-water drilling now makes “sense” from the perspective of a market that has exploited most easily available energy deposits and ignores the consequences of its actions with impunity. Meanwhile, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is pouring more carbon into the air while depleting dwindling aquifers and destroying the very rock formations that some had hoped might be available to sequester excess carbon. The planet cannot sustain this type of growth, but the economy, we are told, commands it.
This is a problem. Our national political debate is so constrained that accelerated growth is presumed to be the necessary precondition for broad prosperity. We’re told the only way to help the 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty is to keep enlarging the pie until everyone has a big enough slice. But is this worth it if we lose Miami in the process? A rising tide used to lift all boats, but now it just drowns our cities. A genuine alternative instead of attempting to press beyond the limits we face would distribute the fruits of our technological and economic prowess away from those at the top and toward the vast majority."

We need a new economic theory.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Europe's energy policy saves it from Putin's natural gas extortion

"If the goal is to reduce demand for Russian natural gas, the most cost-effective way is to do much more of what Germany and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the EU is already doing: promote conservation and mass transit and further subsidize the cost of installing solar and wind energy. That might not sound as hard-nosed as drilling everywhere, polluting groundwater and exposing people to the dangers of transporting a highly explosive fuel, but it is the solution that makes the most economic sense.
The EU model also has the advantage of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing global warming. This is an issue that the tough talkers seem to go out of their way to ignore, but ignoring it will not make global warming go away.
In 30 years, when hundreds of millions of people are suffering from the damage caused by global warming, the tough talkers may want to be able to tell their children and grandchildren about the time they stood up to Putin with their drill-everywhere strategy. The rest of us might prefer to be able to tell future generations about what we did to ensure that we passed along a habitable planet.   "

In the US the solution is just drill more oil and natural gas. Europe has figured out that in both the short and long terms this is a dumb idea.  Oil and gas are finite. Wind and solar are infinite.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here come the useful toilets!

"These are lofty ambitions beyond what most of the world's 2.5 billion people with no access to modern sanitation would expect. Yet, scientists and toilet innovators around the world say these are exactly the sort of goals needed to improve global public health amid challenges such as poverty, water scarcity and urban growth.
Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in the Indian capital Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost.
The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion, including loss of life, missed work, medical bills and other related factors. India alone accounts for $54 billion - more than the entire GDP of Kenya or Costa Rica.
India is by far the worst culprit, with more than 640 million people defecating in the open and producing a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day - the equivalent weight of almost 10 Eiffel Towers or 1,800 humpback whales."

These toilets create fuel, electricity, and other products instead of just causing health and sewage issues. Great going!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Off-the-grid woman forced to go on the grid

"City spokeswoman Barron said the sewer would have been capped sooner, but the city decided to wait for the code hearing. The city had actually overlooked Speronis’ setup until she did an interview with a local television station regarding her living arrangements.
Eskin did admit, though, that the city’s code may be obsolete.
'Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,' said Eskin, who actually dropped two of three counts against Speronis."

I can see someone in the city limits having to obey city ordinances.  But I also see a need to make ordinances more flexible for such people to get their power however they can, within reason.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What will become of libraries?

"So for now at least, the American people want their libraries. The question then is, what will be the role of the library in the digital tomorrow? Susan Hildreth, a former top librarian in Seattle and for the state of California who is now director of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, has thought about these issues and offers a sensible vision for what’s ahead. 'I see three big goals for libraries,' she writes. 'Provide engaging learning experiences, become community anchors, and provide access to content even as the devices for accessing that content change rapidly.'
As we’ve seen, libraries are already working hard on providing engaged learning, and have been doing so for decades. As to their role as community anchors, well, that goes back more than a century. Which leaves us with the matter of access to the materials of culture. In the popular mind the best known mission of the public library, of course, is lending books, to say nothing of videos and other material—all the wonderful stuff reductively known nowadays as “content.” And public libraries are well on the road to lending that content in digital form, which will surely be the main form in which it is consumed a decade or two from now. OverDrive, a leading distributor of eBooks for libraries, reported that in 2011 users checked out more than 35 million digital titles, while 17 million titles were put on hold."

"This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.
Why not, Lea suggests, put these two ideas together? Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network."

There is a lot of discussion about what the role of libraries will be now that the digital age has taken over.   Access to the Internet is of course a part of this, for those who need it.  Books will remain an important part of their role, I believe. But community interaction will play a larger role as well.  People need people.  And libraries are a community space where that can happen on a neutral basis.

Income distribution does matter

"Global inequality has increased to the extent that the £1 trillion combined wealth of the 85 richest people is equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion - half of the world's population - according to a new report from development charity Oxfam.

And the report, entitled Working For The Few, claims that growing inequality has been driven by a "power grab" by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour."

"About two-thirds of adults are dissatisfied with how wealth and income are distributed in the U.S., according to a new survey. The Gallup poll was conducted ahead of President Obama’s State of the Union address, which is expected to include a focus on income inequality."

If you have a certain amount of income being generated, and an extraordinary amount of it gets sucked up by just a few people, then you are encouraging poverty.  This is a similar situation in the Middle Ages when a Lord had his castle and ran everything, and everybody else was a serf dependent on the few crumbs left outside the castle.  Is this what we want?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Technology will make the job situation more unstable in the near future

"It is partly just a matter of history repeating itself. In the early part of the Industrial Revolution the rewards of increasing productivity went disproportionately to capital; later on, labour reaped most of the benefits. The pattern today is similar. The prosperity unleashed by the digital revolution has gone overwhelmingly to the owners of capital and the highest-skilled workers. Over the past three decades, labour’s share of output has shrunk globally from 64% to 59%. Meanwhile, the share of income going to the top 1% in America has risen from around 9% in the 1970s to 22% today. Unemployment is at alarming levels in much of the rich world, and not just for cyclical reasons. In 2000, 65% of working-age Americans were in work; since then the proportion has fallen, during good years as well as bad, to the current level of 59%.
Worse, it seems likely that this wave of technological disruption to the job market has only just started. From driverless cars to clever household gadgets (see article), innovations that already exist could destroy swathes of jobs that have hitherto been untouched. The public sector is one obvious target: it has proved singularly resistant to tech-driven reinvention. But the step change in what computers can do will have a powerful effect on middle-class jobs in the private sector too."

   It's going to be hard to guess what jobs will be needed in the future.  Society needs to gear up ahead of time to train people for those jobs, but what will those jobs be?  A tricky dilemma.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Our paranoia is making us poor and weak

Over the past decade, however, another branch of government has emerged, and it dwarfs the other three. It’s powerful, skirts our laws, and composed of three core entities: the military; the Department of Homeland Security, which encompasses airport security, and 15 intelligence services (National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, etc.). All exist to protect America and its citizens from enemies — both real and imagined. We might call it the paranoid branch.
Our post-9/11 paranoia doesn’t come cheaply, though. We Americans spend nearly a quarter of every dollar we generate as a nation on the military ($682 billion), Homeland Security (about $60 billion), and 15 intelligence agencies (combined perhaps $75 billion). While our government raced through some $3.67 trillion in 2013 it took in only $2.77 trillion in revenue, which means it has to borrow about $900 billion just to stay afloat.
Of the money the United States raises from its citizens, more than $1.7 trillion is spent on salving our collective paranoia or borrowed from banks and nations. That’s 40+ percent of the total."

I have nothing to add to this article. Well said.