Tag Archives: Economics

Pondering the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu

Not a direction the #immersivestorytelling symposium flagged up, per se, but one that springs to mind of being of interest due to references of “doing things in different ways” and Future Thinking, is the thought of relying less on traditional, conventional, old-world models connected with funding, finance, and commercial concerns. If wonderful new applications and uses of technology (AR, VR, XR, AI) are just around the corner, and it seems they are, and we don’t yet know just how much of an impact they will have on human evolution, which undoubtedly they will, then why would we shackle their development by confining them to purely profit driven activities? Won’t pressures of profit for shareholders, and the wish for ever more growth, etc., lead us back to the same old results, where exploiting an idea for profit is the sole motivating factor (meaning that the full potential of an idea may not be reached if it is not commercially viable, for example)?

A term I particularly liked was Julia Scott-Stevenson’s “seeking preferred futures,” and at this point in human evolution shouldn’t we all be attempting such a thing? Phil Charnock’s reference to the Whole Earth Catalog and the idea of democratised knowledge and access to information speaks to new ways of future thinking that we’ve been theorising about but have not yet been bold enough to bring into actuality. Perhaps these evolving technologies could be the spark that ignites such a flame…

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Working Class Kids’ Perspectives (or, just shut up with this victim culture stuff (see very foot of post))

The need to be articulate, to be able to source facts from history that are often purposefully obscured, and then, after all that, to be confident enough to place thoughts and ideas springing from the former into the public sphere, by whatever means and no matter the abuse that comes from this, is a talent worth having. However, it is not easily taught, especially when your upbringing is a working/lower/and/or/under-class one. Akala’s recent appearances, on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and on Robert Peston’s Peston on Sunday, respectively, capture the extent to which the working classes (and those lower forms of classes) continue to be used as cannon-fodder, though both metaphorically and literally these days.

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On Peston on Sunday, Akala discussed technical qualifications such as Apprenticeships, amongst other things, stating that kids from Harrow and Eton aren’t the target market for this type of education, and that working class kids are being ushered into working class jobs. At which point Alistair Campbell piped up to mention the inequality that continues to be touted, shamelessly, through the private education system – if an education system exists that is meant to be so good that it equips youngsters to do the best jobs and to enjoy great earning potential as a result, then why is that that system is not the model used to educate all children who would benefit from it? That an education model exists that cannot be accessed unless a child has funds in excess of £20-30,000 per year is disgraceful, yet the practice continues with not even a hint of its proponents viewing it as so.

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On New World Order, Akala brought the narrative round from “black gang violence in London” to violence that occurs across the country as a by-product stemming from a range of inequalities (access to education and funding, etc.) that serve to affect the working (and lower) classes disproportionately. A kid, no matter how bright, living in a tower block or on an estate where decades of neglect conspire to blight her/his surrounding environment with petty and serious crime, drug and other substance abuse, predominantly welfare-based “living” (or merely existing for the most part), and with access to only the most basic form of state education (which Gove and his cronies have recently tinkered with to make it all the more difficult for kids to achieve “good grades”), will struggle to leave such a cycle of neglect, and may not wish to because of the plight of those they will have to leave behind. Class struggle is as real now as it has ever been, it’s just that 42” TVs, a BMW/Mercedes on the drive, and semi/detached houses blind us to such facts.

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Growing up in “cut paper row” terraced houses similar to those described by Sylvia Plath, where there seemed from a child’s perspective to be little in the way of dissent detectable in mainstream media, it is noticeable, now, that there are voices with platforms to challenge centuries’ old systems of repression. Akala is just one of those voices, and any hope that we have of “things” changing are likely to involve people such as Akala spreading messages that pierce the thinly veiled construct that serves to promote the message that we live in a society of democracy, justness, and aspiration for all. We don’t. As a working/lower/underclass citizen with access to an internet connection, thirty minutes to an hour of researching “family tree history” on a site with free access will reveal that you are just as much in the gutter as descendants from years gone by – it’s just that your gutter affords you occasional trips to buy stuff you don’t need on credit terms that will punish you if you don’t continue to tow the line.

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And just because it is so good, here’s a link to Akala’s performance piece, The Ruins of Empires (but on this link it starts from around 6 minutes in).

And just because comment feeds descend into chaos the farther down them you go, here’s one from Peston’s Twitter page following the uploading of Akala’s comments on race and class. Look out for this delightful person (below):

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Leaps of Imagination, Like When You Were a Kid

Having the chance to flick through old tales once read as a child, or variations of them, has led to a profound thought: why not just solve the world’s problems by employing a child-like “leap of imagination?” An evil stepmother infiltrates a queen’s bedchamber disguised as a nurse (queen just given birth so she’s a bit knackered and off-kilter) – now, yep, fully aware of the portrayal of gender, here, but the writing of the tale nothing to do with me (adaptation of Grimm’s tales???), and if it were I’d probably opt for some sort of gender-ambiguous setting (open pronouns and stuff) – and then this nurse/evil stepmother just assumes control of the situation, no border checks taken place, no visitors’ pass scanned in the hall, just basically a total bypass of security protocols.

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So, what if the average thinking-person who worries on a daily basis about the inequities of life, wishing that they could end wars, humans mistreating other humans (whether individually or as past of a corporation or country), and who views hunger and water poverty as completely reversible given a bit more emphasis on compassion and a lot less emphasis on profit, starts to assume the same sort of control, but obviously, not with the same wicked end in mind as the evil stepmother/nurse person?

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Watching yet another documentary that tries to pick its way through the “this is not a conspiracist tale but you’d better wake up” waters of contemporary views about “leftist, liberal intervention tactics” (Ethos Movie) left the impression that, well, it shouldn’t have to be all that hard to effect change if you really want it. What I do most days is think of a problem, say lack of access to clean water for a good deal of the world’s population, and then start to work through the layers of things that would need to be done in a conventional, ordered sense (contacting politicians, NGOs, etc.), and then think about how the shortage-of-water problem is often caused by corporations that are deeply embedded in the political scene, so that, really, you know before you start that things are not going to be easy after all, and then that’s kind of depressing and debilitating, and then the mind starts to drift and something comes along as a distraction and then it all seems too much because you’re just one small person in what seems like a huge system of unfairness.

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But here’s the rub. Breaking that feeling of uselessness could actually be simple to achieve by employing the Grimm Practice (that’s what I’m calling it – GP for short). Think of a solution, and make it so. Now, the suggestion at the end of Ethos Movieis that we as consumers, as a starting point, can choose where to spend our money, and in doing so can provide incentive to corporations (but this could also be applied to governments, but that will be attended to in another post) to act responsibly, ethically, and basically, as good human beings (because a corporation is made up of humans). My very simple suggestion in this regard is to set up a system of an international boycott on the purchasing of any and all items from corporations that exploit people for profit. The boycott can be levied according to how much a corporation needs to change its ways – one day per year just to keep it in check; one week per year to push the message harder; and so on, until the people see that corporations change their ways.

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If, say, a company like Starbucks (just for example) saw not one person cross its thresholds to buy its products for an entire day (anywhere in the world) it would likely start to change its ways (exploitation of low-paid workers; prices paid to coffee growers; the effects on communities where coffee is taken at a fraction of the price it will eventually retail at; and stuff like that). Now, if the opposite is true, that Starbucks turns round and says “fuck you, do this again and we’ll have to lay-off many of our workers,” what I’d say is ramp up the boycott action until it comes in line, which it will be forced to do (rather than go out of business altogether, which happens when a company’s turnover is 0 ($£€, etc.)). And here, we see the power potential at play. The Grimm Practice puts power in people’s hands. Don’t overthink things. Don’t analyse the possibilities endlessly (because that is debilitating), simply use the tools that we now have at our disposal – the internet to spread the word, social media to chart our successes, and our disposable incomes to withhold from those corporations that do not act in the interest of humanity as a whole. Vote GP.

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The “Could AI Really do a Worse Job” Posts

Post #3 – When facts and figures just get a bit stupid. Quoting directly from Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism once more, it is astonishing to learn that:

McDonald’s […] is the thirty-eighth biggest economy in the world – bigger than that of Ecuador – and is also the biggest toy distributor in America. In addition, one in eight people in the USA has worked for McDonald’s (277).

 

Now, stop and break that down for a moment. More powerful, economically, than Ecuador (does McDonald’s have a seat at the UN? Should it after learning how huge and influential it must be? Is there some sort of ethical and moral code that should kick in when a burger joint gets to be this huge? And here comes the vegan bit of me – is it acceptable for a company to grow to become this huge when it pretty much occurs on the back of ceaseless, horrific slaughter of animals?).

 

And it’s not a toy company, so what do we think that the above statistic speaks of? The coercion of minors for profit? The shameless exploitation of a child’s propensity to want the toy that is linked to the latest movie/TV/gaming craze?

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And where do the other 7 out of 8 people work?

Potential AI solution: on the back of a justice system overseen by the logic and impartiality of AI (rather than the self-interest and bias of humans), we will… seize the illegal profits of McDonald’s; jail its owners for mass genocide following war crimes tribunals; turn over the running of the company to its employees, on the proviso that it turns to plant-based, sustainable foods; and use the excess profits to fund research into alternatives to plastic use, and into better recycling of the millions of plastic toys spewed out over the years. Good job, AI.

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#WorldFuture2016 – A Tiny Critique @Bob_Richards

Do you ever have one of those moments where you read something and you’re immediate reaction is, WTF? Well, here’s my WTF moment for the day, where I can’t type as fast as my mind seems to be spitting out the words in response to the following tweet from the World Future Conference in Washington D.C.:

“To go to space to stay, it has to pay. There has to be an economic element.” – ‪@Bob_Richards ‪#WorldFuture2016

Now, if you’re a #World Future2016 keynote speaker, as @Bob_Richards is, WhyTF are you banging on about economics in relation to space exploration (namely the desire to populate the moon)? Economics is an outmoded concept for this planet, devised over a long period of time and currently culminating in late stage capitalism, in “developed” countries, where companies and governments are trying to keep it all together by kicking the can down the road in the hope that we don’t get to realise that economics, capitalism, the acquisition of money, etc., is all a load of BS.

So, people of the World Future Society, just how “futuristic” is your thinking when you can’t get past Cantillonian, Smithian (is that how you refer to Adam Smith?), Keynesian, blah blah…, economics?


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