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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Digital Creativity and the End of Capitalism

At the recent Toronto Global Forum, everyone was talking about driver-less cars.  The image was clear - transport costs down, accidents reduced, efficiency increased.  All the sticky human elements that get in the way of both profitability and safety would be gone.
Along with a whole lot of jobs, of course.

The driver-less car becomes a great symbol, then, for the broader economic shifts happening right now.  The emphasis on cutting costs has supplanted doing new stuff under the guise of a capitalist "so what" mentality.  Increasingly, pressure is on employees to justify their existing value and for entrepreneurs to dedicate the vast majority of their energy to the hustle to employers/consumers who aren't going to come part-way into the deal at all.  

In theory, this is supposed to ensure the tightest possible efficiency and that only the best, most saleable ideas come forward.  Again, in theory, this is supposed to mean only the best, most useful and innovative ideas and services will exist; everything else will atrophy under a lack of funding.

Competition is clearly a big part of this picture.

All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win.

Can a person out-race a machine?  Can a horse outmatch the horse power of a car?

Why should we think that's any different on any kind of labour, physical or cognitive?

So - what happens when the competition is a computer, a robot, a digital network of systems increasingly working like one brain, except the size of the entire Internet?  How does anyone compete against that?

Robots can carry more weight, work without breaks, don't need maternity/paternity/compassionate leave and don't expect salary raises to keep doing the same job.

That's just the manual labour.

Bots can learn to do customer service, project management, crisis communications, military strategy, even artistic performance.

There's room for variety and a comfort level of wanting to work with a person, of course, but in the big picture the value of mechanised and digitized labour has broad-based appeal for everyone.

As bots creep into the workplace and reshape our economy, there will be less and less need for human labour.  There will be no way for humans to retrain on new skills, because there will be fewer and fewer jobs for which humans are better qualified to work than their data-driven, mechanical counterparts.

Look at the video linked above at the 13:49 mark.

Western society puts the capitalist system above the individual, with the notion being that the markets will inherently lead to consumers having the best possible lifestyle.  

As computer stock markets increasingly interact only with other computer stock markets and drones fight wars against other drones, there is a dwindling role for humans to play as producers and providers in that economy.  

If we're not producing, however, we're not earning - and if we're not earning, how can we consume?

Our focus on quick wins and low-hanging fruit ensures that we will collectively ignore this problem until, like Mike Duffy, it grows too severe to avoid.

Don't worry about any of that, though - it's all someone else's problem somewhere down the road.

Just watch a Hatsune Miku video instead.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Accountability in the Age of SM

I have decided to step down as a candidate. Please read my full statement on my FB page:

... which can be found here.

I don't know Ala Buzreba - she blipped onto the radar today and likely will be blipped out before too long.  I hope some sincere self-reflection is in her near future.

What stands out for me, though, is that she stepped down, and did so on the same day the story blew up.  Sure, there was no doubt backroom coaxing on that front, but how often do we see this happen in modern politics?

You can argue the severity; is the vitriol on her page worse/equal to telling Canadians you're with them or with the child pornographers?  To offering political truth versions of the facts that misrepresent the actual truth to the public?  

Stepping down was the right thing to do.  If a young woman at the starting of her career can quickly admit and take responsibility for her poor judgement, you'd kinda hope some of the older war horses might be willing to do the same.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Emotional Intelligence

It's no small irony that I spent much of today discussing emotional intelligence, then had this story waiting for me when I sat down to catch up the day's news.

I don't know Ala Buzreba, nor do I have any inkling on her past or present views about anything. What I do know is that she's a human being, built of the same fibre as any of us, and as such driven by the same cognitive hardwiring as any of us.

This doesn't excuse her offensive tweets, but that's not my point.  What interests me is where they come from.  

You can make whatever comments you want about youth, or Islam, or social media; my interest with stuff like this tends to start at the neurochemical level and stretch up to society and broader sociological shifts.

Have you ever been really mad?  Mad enough to feel the hate swelling within you, washing over you like a purifying (or expunging) force?  Mad enough to say or do something you regret?

There's a reason anger feels like a hot flash in your veins; that's exactly what it is.

Any flush of emotion - love, shock, anger, lust, even hope - involves the brain flooding your body with specific hormones in response to external stimuli (or, as is the case with endorphin runner highs, internal).  Our bodies are programmed to react in certain ways in certain circumstances to promote our survival and reproduction.

Of course there's more to being human than fight/flight, food, mate competition and mating and nurturing of relationships, but those activities are the basic functions of any living creature. 

Whatever else we are is mapped on top of that.

Part of the added layers is the layer of our brain that enables us to think logically, exercise self-restraint and train ourselves into differing behaviour sets.  It's both hard and counter-intuitive, but it's possible.

Emotional self-regulation, empathy (the ability to read and respond to the emotional states of others), etc. are the tools we have developed to domesticate our emotions the way we have domesticated animals like cows and sheep.

To function in a complex, increasingly diversified society where so much of what we're surrounded with can easily be interpreted as a threat (differing skin tones, clothing styles, gender preferences, etc), the ability to step beyond the constraints of our emotional nature and be pro-social is a necessary one.

The problem - especially in politics - is that much of our communicative culture is all about evoking emotions, stimulating the part of our cognitive selves that's more prone to gut-instinct reactions than thoughtful considerations.  Attack ads are a great example of this.

When partisans dehumanize each other and break their own codes of ethics in political combat, they justify doing to others what they wouldn't in good conscience do to another human - because they aren't human.

It's a step down the same spectrum as justifying murder as a political act.

War room politics, hyper-aggressive tactics and messaging and whatnot may make for good vote-motivational activity, but there are consequences to it.

Sunday 16 August 2015

What Harper will be Remembered for

Could have gone so differently.  That's what happens when you wanna be a boss instead of a leader, though.

But things changed by October of 2013...
Oct. 28, 2013 – Harper Says He 'Dismissed' Wright
Harper contradicts what he said in May by telling radio station News 95.7 Halifax that he "dismissed" Wright for writing the cheque.
"I think the responsibility whenever things go wrong is for us to take appropriate action," Harper said, according to a transcript from journalist David Akin. "As you know I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed."

The Innovative Gardener

What worked?  What grew, and what didn't?  What showed the hints of promise - and why didn't it succeed further?

Which plants to try next year?  Which positions in relation to the sun?  How does the soil composition need to change to nurture the growth you want to see?

What do you want to try differently next year, just for variation?

Then, of course, the fruits of labour, which include the labour itself - tilling soil, straightening plans, removing weeds, watering - tending the growth you want to see in your plot of land.

To understand success in business, with innovation and of course, with policy, understand gardening.