Friday, December 30, 2016

robots take more jobs

"The first phase of Foxconn’s automation plans involve replacing the work that is either dangerous or involves repetitious labor humans are unwilling to do. The second phase involves improving efficiency by streamlining production lines to reduce the number of excess robots in use. The third and final phase involves automating entire factories, “with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing, and inspection processes,” according to Jia-peng.
The slow and steady march of manufacturing automation has been in place at Foxconn for years. The company said last year that it had set a benchmark of 30 percent automation at its Chinese factories by 2020. The company can now produce around 10,000 Foxbots a year, Jia-peng says, all of which can be used to replace human labor. In March, Foxconn said it had automated away 60,000 jobs at one of its factories."

I mentioned before that when I was growing up, the rosy view of the future was that robots would be doing most of the work, which meant workers got more and more leisure time.  Instead, robots get more and more work, while we get less and less income.  The savings go to the corporations, not the workers.  Should known...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Millenials screwed royally by my generation

"Between 2005 and 2015, those under 30 went from owning their home at about a 34.5% rate down to 27.7%. Over the same decade, we went from owing $350 billion in student loans to over $1.3 trillion by the end of the first half of 2016. It’s likely that graduates coming out of school with a significant amount of debt are putting on buying homes out of necessity, at least for several years after they are done with college."

My generation used to brag that we needed to make sure that the next generation was better off than us, just as our parents had done for us.  Phht.  What a joke.  We let the 1% soak up all the money and left you all in horrible debt.  I apologize.  And I hope this can be reversed somehow.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Economic growth versus quality of life; how to gauge progress

"Therefore, as we try to reform the Democratic strategy, it's necessary, as Herbert Marcuse once said, to promote a values transformation, away from the cruel, competitive performances and unrestrained expectations of consumer capitalism and toward a simpler, less hurried, more cooperative way of life, where work sharing is at least as important a strategy to reduce unemployment as federal jobs programs.
It's necessary to understand that the values of affluenza, about which I have written at length, spur endless competition for scarce resources, and result in the overwork Bernie Sanders criticizes, as well as our declining health, our lack of social purpose, our lack of enough leisure time to be good, informed citizens and volunteer in our communities, and a host of other ills. To begin, we need to make the case that we need a new measure of well-being -- indeed, one former Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O'Malley, has been a leader in developing a Genuine Progress Indicator, but such ideas never entered the debates. They should be part of our future vision.
A less acquisitive society with less focus on 'hard work' will not be a poor one, either materially, or more importantly, in terms of quality of life. This is a point that must be made and something Bobby Kennedy knew back in 1968, when he first spoke out eloquently against the Gross National Product. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency studies show that 30 hours of work a week may well be optimal for well-being -- 30-hour workers outperform 40- or 50-hour workers in almost every quality of life measure -- life satisfaction, work satisfaction, time satisfaction, health, and importantly, in this time of climate change, lower greenhouse gas emissions."

Even a simplistic look at economic theory shows this obsession with growth is impossible. We need to step back and rethink how we gauge where we are as a society.  Are we getting better or worse?  How can we tell if we're going in the right direction?  What can we do to make life for more people better?  What does better mean?  THIS is the discussion we should be having.

Monday, December 5, 2016

More jobs go buy-bye; retail grocery goes high-tech

"The idea is that Amazon's machine-learning technology can automatically identify when a product is added to your cart, so you don't have to do it yourself. When you leave the store, Amazon automatically charges your Amazon account."

We keep making jobs obsolete but still haven't planned what to do with employment.  Universal Basic Income would go a long way toward fixing that.

When I was a kid the coming robots would make for more leisure time for all workers, while their salary supposedly stayed the same.  Instead, corporations just pocket the savings and fire the workers.  That is not a long-term solution for anything, including corporate profits, which require someone with an income to buy their products or services.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What happens when you can't trust the news anymore?

"Middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. More than 7,800 student responses were collected.
In exercise after exercise, the researchers were 'shocked' — their word, not ours — by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information.
The students displayed a 'stunning and dismaying consistency' in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting duped again and again. They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a 'reasonable bar' of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles."

So what happens when the news is no longer dependent on fact?  What happens to our society when we believe things that aren't real?  How can we maintain a news feed that at least sticks to reality?

I blame Fox News.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Someone with a basic income explains how it works

"Perhaps the most transformative effect of basic income I’ve personally experienced is the power it gives in any negotiation. For many people, this will be experienced as the power to refuse to work for insufficiently low wages (potentially nullifying the need for minimum wage laws), or unacceptable terms of any kind, be it work conditions, hours, benefits, etc. For freelancers like me, it means asking for what I’m worth, and also being able to choose to work for free on anything I consider important enough.
When I didn’t have a basic income, I’d accept a writing assignment for $50 even if it took me an entire week to research and write, because $50 is better than $0. If someone wanted to publish something I’d already written, I’d worry about asking for any compensation in case asking meant not only not getting paid but not getting republished. I don’t think I’m alone in these ways either.
Now that I have a basic income, I know my work has value. I know my time has value. I know I have value. I’m never again going to spend a week writing an article for $50 that’s going to be owned by someone else, but I will and have done it for $1,000. I’m not going to just allow some publishing company to profit off of something I’ve previously written without at least asking for a fee. If they say no, that’s okay, and we can go from there. But I’m not afraid to ask."

This is a great article from someone who is living with a basic income.  He shows how much it can change a life by providing security and consistency.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Elon Musk promotes universal basic income

"Musk’s Tesla Motors is leading the way to self-driving cars, while also pushing factories to new levels of automation. And he thinks that workers displaced by those and other forms of automation will need help permanently, and on a broad scale.
'I think that there’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,'  Musk said. 'I’m not sure what else one would do.'
The Universal Basic Income concept has gained broad traction in recent years, particularly in the tech community. The idea is that all citizens would receive a small regular stipend—enough to cover basic housing and food needs, but little more."

This is gaining traction but is still years away.  We also need to switch to single payer insurance like the rest of the world, and cheaper higher education.  Maybe if we didn't spend as much as the rest of the world on defense, we could afford such things?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Will fake news drown out real news?

I've been on Facebook for about 6 years now. I like the posts my Facebook friends put up, because it's things I have an interest in that I probably wouldn't have otherwise seen. Of course there are the funny videos and such too. But I like the history, news, and such that I find.

But lately there has been an avalanche of fake news.  This comes from facebook posts directly, and sometimes from a friend inadvertently thinking such posts are actual news.  It wouldn't be too bad  if this was just a once in a while occurrence, but lately it has become almost as frequent as all other posts combined.

"A dozen or so of the sites are published in-house, but posts from the company’s small team of writers are free to be shared among the entire network. The deal for a would-be Liberty Alliance member is this: You bring the name and the audience, and the company will build you a prefab site, furnish it with ads, help you fill it with content and keep a cut of the revenue. Coca told me the company brought in $12 million in revenue last year. (The company declined to share documentation further corroborating his claims about followers and revenue.)
Because the pages are run independently, the editorial product is varied. But it is almost universally tuned to the cadences and styles that seem to work best on partisan Facebook. It also tracks closely to conservative Facebook media’s big narratives, which, in turn, track with the Trump campaign’s messaging: Hillary Clinton is a crook and possibly mentally unfit; ISIS is winning; Black Lives Matter is the real racist movement; Donald Trump alone can save us; the system — all of it — is rigged."

Click bait will destroy Facebook, and maybe a large chunk of the Internet.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What will become of libraries?

"Besides, it's easy to criticize. But when was the last time any of these traditionalists even stepped foot in a library? When I was growing up in the 1970s, libraries were where you went to read books and research papers. They were a portal to new and exciting worlds, a pathway to adventure.
Today, we do all that through electronic devices we can hold in the palm of our hand. Public libraries could soon become just another relic of the past, like the full-service gas station, the five-and-dime and the soda fountain in the corner drugstore."

So what should libraries be doing now that almost any needed bit of information or entertainment can be found in a little magic box we carry around?  How about Internet connection for those who can't otherwise reach it?  How about access to the latest technologies before most people know how to use them?  And how about video games?  
I am happy to see that libraries are flexible enough to move with the times and still provide useful stuff for the public.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The future of farming? Using sea water

"It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future.
An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today."

wow, I hadn't heard of this before.  Looks great!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Using vacant homes to handle the homeless problem

"The non-profit Well House is moving people out of homelessness and into permanent shared housing by buying up vacant homes, bringing them up to code, and then renting rooms to people who have no housing. All at a cost of just $275 a month.
VandenBerg told FOX 17 Thursday that Well House has pulled 121 people off of the streets in just three years, and 92 percent of those people have stayed out of homelessness.
In addition, Well House is providing individuals with jobs, hiring them to work on other vacant homes to provide even more housing."

This seems to me to fix 2 problems at once, abandoned houses and homeless people.  I would think this would be especially good for homeless families. There are long-empty houses in my neighborhood that I would like to see filled with people who need shelter.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Blogger promotes universal basic income

"I'm a writer and now increasingly an activist spending as much time and resources I have working to spread awareness for the idea of a basic income guarantee (BIG) - one whose time has come here in the 21st century where technology is now forcing our hand. Without an income platform set just above the poverty level as a bare minimum, I believe poverty and inequality will continue to grow, the middle classes will continue to shrink, and the livelihoods of all but the top fifth of society will continue to slip away. But it doesn't have to be that way. We're better than that. We can turn all of this on its head, and instead of things continuing to get worse, we can make things better than they've ever been. We can reduce risk and so propel innovation and creativity to new heights. We can reduce fears of unemployment and purposely eliminate low-skill jobs better performed by machines, freeing us to intrinsically do all the work that drives us. We can stop wasting so many resources on fighting the fires of our lives, and instead prevent them from ever lighting in the first place. We need only make the choice. The path is ours to take."

here's  a guy thinking this stuff through.  A good resource.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

a small idea to keep people safe

"Denton Police Chief Mark Hicks said his department established the exchange site April 18. The farmers market is located across from Harrison Park and is under 24-hour video surveillance.
“My main goal is for people to feel safe when they do their Internet exchange for items they are buying or selling,” Hicks said.
Hicks said he got the idea after he saw an exchange site in Apex. He thought it would be a good idea because of people making transactions through yard sales pages on Facebook and through Craigslist.
Hicks said there are stories of people meeting who get robbed or even killed. While there haven’t been any of these incidences in Denton, Hicks is trying to prevent them from happening.
Anyone, regardless of where they live, can utilize Denton’s exchange location. Hicks said all of the videotapes of the surveillance from the farmers market will be stored at the Denton Police Department, so officers can go back and look at the footage if there is an incident."

Just a simple idea to fix a small problem.  Makes the world a better place.

strain between capitalism and democracy

"High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

Yet, as Professor Dani Rodrik of Harvard University has noted, globalisation constrains national autonomy. He writes that 'democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three but never have all three simultaneously and in full'. If countries are free to set national regulations, the freedom to buy and sell across frontiers will be reduced. Alternatively, if barriers are removed and regulations harmonised, the legislative autonomy of states will be limited. Freedom of capital to cross borders is particularly likely to constrain states’ ability to set their own taxes and regulations.
Moreover, a common feature of periods of globalisation is mass migration. Movement across borders creates the most extreme conflict between individual liberty and democratic sovereignty. The former says that people should be allowed to move where they like. The latter says that citizenship is a collective property right, access to which citizens control. Meanwhile, businesses view the ability to hire freely as invaluable. It is not merely unsurprising that migration has become the lightning rod of contemporary democratic politics. Migration is bound to create friction between national democracy and global economic opportunity."

This is a jam-packed article that brings up a lot of important issues.  I hope it gets widely read and considered.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More on Universal Basic Income

" But there will also be popular resistance. In June, a Swiss referendum resulted in only 23 percent support for a nationwide basic income. This skepticism was not unique to that prosperous and fairly conservative nation. Basic income will generate resistance because of practical matters, like a rise in taxes. But even if those challenges are overcome, the reform will confront resistance because of the cultural upset it will generate. There will be deeper fears in play, not easily assuaged by wonkish arguments showing how the bills can be paid.
Could it be that people are afraid of being freed from wage work, even from a portion of wage work? What would they do with their newfound free time? Watch television or play with their iPhone? A shorter work week, or no work week would make a rich leisure life possible, and it would make a dense social life possible. There would be time to invest in our communities, and time to care for one another, and especially to care for the young, the old, and the sick. But if the patterns of that leisure, the elements of that community, have become invisible to us, well, maybe everyone might as well go to work for whatever camaraderie the workplace provides."

 This article covers some of the skepticism of the plan.  I am a firm skeptic of current economic theory and think this will actually help economies in the long run.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Have we built an infrastructure that's too big to maintain?

"Simply, un-paving is less expensive than repaving as petroleum-base asphalt isn’t cheap. Faced with dwindling annual road repair budgets, rural towns like Montpelier are finding that regressing saves a significant amount of cash — cash that might be better used for larger and more urgent infrastructure needs. Case in point: by un-paving in lieu of repaving Bliss Road, a notoriously pothole-y lane just outside of town, Montpelier saved $120,000. With a population hovering just above 7,000, the city’s annual road repair budget is a mere $1.3 million.
If Montpelier’s happens to become flush with dedicated funds for road repair projects in the near future, workers can always go back and repave."

This article fits into my concern that we have built an infrastructure that's too big to maintain.  Here in my home town, the main street needed to be rebuilt.  It will take 3 years to accomplish. That's 3 years with the 4-lane road reduced to 2 lanes.  And then it's good to go for 30 or so years.  But also, it's on to all the other roads in town that need maintenance.

Have we built our infrastructure without thinking about how or whether we can maintain it all?  Roads, bridges, equipment, on and on?  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

living wage calculator by state

"The living wage model is an alternative measure of basic needs. It is a market-based approach that draws upon geographically specific expenditure data related to a family’s likely minimum food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities (e.g. clothing, personal care items, etc.) costs. Detailed description of the data used in the tool can be found on the landing page of each state."

This is pretty useful. Planning to move?  check this site out for your future home.  Is the economy keeping up with family needs?  Find out here.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Basic income pilot project for Oakland, CA

"OAKLAND, Calif.—Earlier this month, Y Combinator, the famed Silicon Valley incubator dropped a bombshell: it had selected this city to be the home of its new 'Basic Income' pilot project, to start later this year.
The idea is pretty simple. Give some people a small amount of money per month, no strings attached, for a year, and see what happens. With any luck, people will use it to lift themselves out of poverty.
In this case, as Matt Krisiloff of Y Combinator Research (YCR) told Ars, that means spending about $1.5 million over the course of a year to study the distribution of "$1,500 or $2,000" per month to '30 to 50' people. There will also be a similar-sized control group that gets nothing. The project is set to start before the end of 2016."

This is one of those great ideas that will be universal after my lifetime.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The demise of the truck driver job

"Based on your research, how are automation and technology hastening policies like a basic income?
I think the tipping point will be driverless trucks. It’s the largest job in 29 states. It’s 3.5 million truck drivers. Then there are 6.8 million people in auto repair, insurance, rest stops, gas stations and emergency rooms that all live off those 3.5 million people. They won’t disappear overnight, but you know business will deploy labor-saving technology before you or I debate whether we want it and wait until our next car comes.
Business is not going to wait if they can eliminate large numbers of workers. And then we’re going to have this mass problem. Let’s assume it’s two or three million people distributed all throughout the country. That will make what happened in the steel or auto industries look tiny."

Bus drivers too.  And taxis, Uber, pizza delivery, etc.  What will these people do?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What's the barrier to universal basic income?

"Speaking to Business Insider in late May, Bregman - whose book Utopia for Realists explores realistic ways of putting into place ideas like UBI and working for just 15 hours per week - said that before there's a real chance of a basic income being accepted worldwide, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we think about the concept of work, what we define as work, and why we pay for some types of work but not others.

'The most important obstacle for basic income is a moral obstacle, it is in the ideas that we still have about work. We still work with a very outdated definition of what work is. We define work by getting a salary in a hierarchical relationship with an employer, and you have to get paid.
'All the other things, caring for the children, caring for the elderly, doing housework and volunteer work - we don't consider that as work, even though obviously it is. Try and stop doing those things, go on strike as a careworker or stop doing the dishes and you'll see that it is going to be a problem.'"

I'm still thinking this will happen, though probably not in my lifetime. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Switzerland rejects universal income

"Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all.
Final results from Sunday's referendum showed that nearly 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.
The proposal had called for adults to be paid an unconditional monthly income, whether they worked or not.
The supporters camp had suggested a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,755; $2,555) for adults and also SFr625 for each child."

Alas, we'll have to wait for a test of this idea.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nobel Prize winner gets behind basic universal income

"His thinking: Government intervention on the scale of regular monthly checks, handed to people regardless of working status for the purpose of meeting their basic needs, may be the smartest solution.
In the past, Deaton has firmly supported the idea that wealth inequality will only continue to increase unless some larger safety net acts as an insurance agent to bind people together. He won the 2015 Nobel Prize for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare. His research has focused on the ways people's individual choices intersect with larger, macro-economic outcomes."

Only experiments on this idea will happen in my lifetime, but I hope it takes hold in the future.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

another look at universal basic income

"That is the sort of freedom that sounds like blasphemy to conventional, liberal, 'free-market' economists. In today’s understanding of the economic facts, individuals have the freedom to choose how they are exploited – but they cannot choose to escape exploitation, unless they are born wealthy. Basic income seeks to change that, not just because it is the right thing to do but because the coming labour crisis may soon leave world governments, whatever their orthodoxy, with no other choice.
'If we don’t disconnect work and income, humans will have to compete more and more with computers,' Bohmeyer explains. 'This is a competition they will lose sooner than we think. The result will be mass unemployment,' he says, 'and no money left for consumption.'"

I look forward to these tests.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Testing Universal basic income in Kenya

"GiveDirectly currently uses M-PESA and MTN, cellphone-based payment systems popular in East Africa, to distribute big lump-sum payments to desperately poor people in Kenya and Uganda. So far, it's gotten results: A randomized evaluation of the charity found that recipients ate more and experienced less hunger, invested in expensive but worthwhile assets like iron roofs and farm animals, and reported higher psychological well-being. They were less hungry, richer, and all-around happier.
For its basic income project, the group will randomly select dozens of villages in Kenya (it already has a specific region selected) with about 6,000 people in them total and, starting at the end of this year, provide every current resident with a basic income for the next 10 years, potentially continuing even after that. The group is still finalizing details, but the payment is expected to be about $0.70 to $1.10 per person per day. It will likely vary from village to village to allow for more testing. More than 15,000 people total will get some form of cash transfer from the project, including the 6,000 getting a full UBI."

All of this will be proven and implemented after my generation, unfortunately.  I have hope for the future.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Architects helping to fix the world

Activate14 is an outreach initiative of AIA North Carolina and the Center for Architecture and Design (CfAD) to strengthen the civic role of architecture and design in our community. 
Our goals are to
  1. Promote the Center for Architecture and Design as a public resource.
  2. Engage architects, artists, and designers in exploring “big picture” questions.
  3. Convene the public around environmental and social issues.
Our initial goal was to activate the Center, located at 14 E Peace Street – hence the name, Activate14.
We organize and host events at CfAD that marry architecture, design and the public. Each event is a call to action for those interested in building community and designed to empower people to make a difference in shaping the world around them."

It takes input from all areas of life to help improve things.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What are libraries for anyway?

"As for Esguerra’s role, when she meets a homeless person there she does a full clinical assessment. She then presents it to her colleagues at the San Francisco homeless outreach team and they provide case management and housing.
San Francisco, which has about 6,600 homeless people, has started something of a trend.
Today, 24 public libraries provide support systems for homeless patrons, according to City Lab.
In Pima County, Arizona, for example, nurses roam the county’s 27 libraries offering blood pressure checks and identifying people in need of medical care, according to the AP.
The Queens Library in New York City connects patrons to emergency food, shelter and legal services through a mobile phone application."

My library started a Maker Space, including 3D printers and green screen for making videos. Libraries, being no longer the main place to get textual information (thanks Internet!), are looking for their major role in the community.  And what they finally settle on is whatever the community needs.  Flexibility and inventiveness are the key.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Can we have Nordic Utopia in the US? Yes!

"But the truth is that free-market capitalism and universal social policies go well together—this isn’t about big government, it’s about smart government. I suspect that despite Hillary Clinton’s efforts to distance herself from Sanders, she probably knows this. After all, Clinton is also endorsing policies that sound an awful lot like what the Nordics have done: paid family leave, better public schools, and affordable day care, health care and college for all.
The United States is its own country, and no one expects it to become a Nordic utopia. But Nordic countries aren’t utopias either. What they’ve done has little to do with culture, size, or homogeneity, and everything to do with figuring out how to flourish and compete in the 21st century."

Ok, not utopia.    But we CAN learn from them and implement the things that work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Another country tries Universal Basic Income; Canada

'“As Ontario’s economy grows, the government remains committed to leaving no one behind. Maintaining an effective social safety net is one part of the government’s broader efforts to reduce poverty and ensure inclusion in communities and the economy,' Ontario’s budget statement said."

In a few years we should know how this system works.

I think back to the years when I was growing up. the plan was for robots and machines to start doing more and more of the drudgery work so humans would have more free time.  So we got the robots and machines, but the benefit went to corporations, not people. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Water shortage to hit 4 billion people

"We find that two-thirds of the global population (4.0 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round. Putting caps to water consumption by river basin, increasing water-use efficiencies, and better sharing of the limited freshwater resources will be key in reducing the threat posed by water scarcity on biodiversity and human welfare."

This is scare. And it's another reason to worry about anything that might hurt the fresh water supply, like fracking.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Experts weigh in on Universal Basic Income (UBI)

"My favored model is an unconditional basic income, high enough to cover a person’s basic needs and given to every man, woman, and child as a right of citizenship. There are many good ways to finance it. I favor taxes on resources and rents. Start charging the market rate for the broadcast spectrum instead of giving it away; the Fed should make money off the banks instead of vice versa; land value should be taxed; all forms of pollution should be taxed; and so on. But there are other ways to raise revenue. A wealth tax is a great idea, but you could also finance a basic income with an income tax—even a flat income tax. All of those are workable, good ways to do it, and all of them will effect redistribution from the very wealthy to the middle and lower classes."

"I approach UBI by dividing people into three age groups: You have children, you have elderly, and then you have adults. Children should receive allowance handed out by the parents. Elderly people receive old-age pensions, which are often already a kind of basic income. And adults would get the universal basic income. One approach would be to have it replace all other adult benefits. If you’re going to do that, you could make it pretty high, probably equal to 10% of GDP."

A good starter conversation for this topic.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Does social media help or hurt activism?

"Here is what [Ghonim] concluded about social media today: 'First, we don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.' Second, 'We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else. Third, online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. … It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.'
'And fourth, it became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet.'
Fifth, and most crucial, he said, “today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. … It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.'”

I think the lesson is that if you have 1 simple goal, social media can help you reach that.  If you have a complex goal, like turning a country from dictator to democracy, that is where things break down.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How Taiwan activists use technology

"Taiwan has been at the forefront of digital democratization for some time. In 2012, Taiwanese netizens created alternative, crowdsourced .g0v (a number 0 where an O would otherwise be) versions of Government websites where they released data in formats that helped people more easily understand what government ministries were doing.

Audrey Tang (Isis Kang/CC BY-NC-ND)
'Most of the technologies we have deployed in Taiwan were neutral; they were intended to encourage people to talk, that’s all. We had a very strong code of neutrality,' said Audrey Tang, a self-professed 'conservative anarchist,' and member of, now a civic movement aiming for true, participatory self-government.
Youth leaders,, and other hacktivists all came together last year when the Government’s move to limit public debate on a trade deal with China angered citizens upset at the blatant disregard for democracy and potentially adverse economic impacts. In just a few days, this morphed into a mass movement.
Technology played a key role from the very beginning. During the movement, a central web portal was used as a common entry point for information on the movement. A host of mostly open-source, hosted tools were used in the portal to network, engage, and empower activists."

It's good to look around and see what other people are doing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lords and serfs, that's all that's left

"The wealth of the richest 62 has increased an astonishing 44 percent since 2010, to $1.76 trillion. Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half of the world dropped by 41 percent.
'This is terrible,' Gawain Kripke, Oxfam's Policy Director, told The Huffington Post. 'No one credible will say this is good for the world or good for the economy.'
While the wealthy might argue that their rising wealth is just a fabulous sign of economic prosperity (the "you're just jealous" rationale), the disproportionate growth at the top is keeping those on the bottom from climbing out of poverty, Oxfam notes in its report."

There will be no middle class soon. This is going back to the Middle Ages, where the lords in their castles held all the wealth, and the serfs outside the wall toiled in the fields just to survive.  Progress?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Looking for a hot career? Solar might be it!

"The number of solar jobs in the U.S. has more than doubled in five years. In fact, there are more people working in solar now than at oil rigs and in gas fields.
The solar industry added 35,000 jobs in 2015, up 20% from the previous year, according to the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington D.C.. The group is not funded by solar companies.
In contrast, oil and gas firms slashed nearly 17,000 extraction jobs in 2015 as energy prices continue to plummet. Oil prices are down a stunning 70% in the last 18 months and hovering just over $30 a barrel, a 12-year low."

Wind energy is also growing fast.  Maintenance people are needed as well in this area;

Friday, January 15, 2016

outliers cost society dearly

"Lariat Comes, a 27-year-old homeless Rapid City man, has been arrested 77 times in the last 7 1/2 years, and twice in the first five days of 2016. He has been accused of stealing everything from the boots of a fellow destitute person to the ramen noodles a man had just purchased from a convenience store at 2:30 one morning."

"For a recent grant application to the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, a local consortium attempted to assemble costs associated with “chronic recidivists” and discovered that a few such as Comes cost local organizations nearly $1 million a year. The consortium includes the Police Department, Rapid City Fire Department, City/County Alcohol & Drug Programs, Regional Health, and Pennington County’s Public Defender’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Health & Human Services, and Community Health.
The study, which did not include Comes, tracked 28 repeat offenders ranging in age from their mid-20s to their mid-60s from Oct. 1, 2013, to Oct. 1, 2014, and found costs associated with their arrests, indigent-defense counsel, incarceration, health care and substance-abuse treatment totaled $931,441.27, said Barry Tice, director of Pennington County Health & Human Services."

So this one drunk jobless dude costs the rest of us $1 million a year.  Perhaps it might be better to put him in a jobs program of some type?  Has that been tried?  This is astounding, and I suspect that trying to help him might have a better result than repeatedly incarcerating him.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Universal Basic income (UBI) finds another believer

" The idea is so refreshingly contrary to the petty conditionality that is killing the welfare state that it began to fill me with optimism that there may be a few people lying in this political gutter still looking at the stars. Once upon a time, universality was the underpinning principle of welfare. Every mother got child benefit; every child got free school milk, until that was snatched away by … Oh, I can’t remember – I’m not one to bear grudges.
In Britain we’ve already experimented with a system in which one group of people receive a guaranteed income with no obligation to work for it. But what if this was extended beyond the royal family? Imagine now if everyone in the UK started out with a guaranteed minimal amount of money each week.  All other benefits would be done away with, along with the stigma and entrapment that came with the old system of welfare (and the expense of policing and administering it)."

I like this idea because it takes care of so many problems at once; homelessness, beggars, people between jobs needing a bridge, etc.  I work amongst the poor in my town.  Very few could be called moochers. Some are unable to work. Others are desperately looking for a job every day.  A bit of support could keep them afloat until they do find that job.