Lobal Economics

I was riffing on some neologisms last night in Facebook comments…. But here, I can add a picture of a Riemann space to help clarify my point about the way personal and global networks become optimized in non-linear ways to produce substantial influence within the global economy.

– Snip –

RiemannSpaceDon’t get your orthogodoxy in my face, orthogodoxical man. Once you start thinking lobally, you’ll be beyond the local and, even, the hyper-local to the lobal personal influence networks that build trans-national+multi-local-node markets and movements (these can be visualized as a collection of Riemann spaces, crumpled up balls of relationships that tie the world together in fundamentally local ways that defy the orthogodox thinker, who lives in a three-dimensional conceptual space inadequate to understanding the spidery links that make a lobal world), such as the diamond industry, the various “silicon” places connected to one another on the telecom grid like Columbian-era ports are a map of the major and minor sea routes, or the dawning realization of the political importance of global warming to personal identity that is going on now. The word “lobal” also conjures the way the brain develops in mammals, which is a lyrical and biological image at one time.

The next step is to think of some of these crumpled networks as partially tangled, crumpled together, if you will. The global economy grows these new lobes of influence, and they may be inter-related.


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The Cows, a story from the future

Cli-Fi” is a new genre in fiction. Here’s my first and intentionally ridiculous shot at it. If you enjoy this, please donate to Grist.org, an excellent, and often funny, news and commentary site about climate events and sustainability. I’ve become a supporter and you can, too.

The Cows
The following article was discovered in  a time capsule buried at an as-yet unidentified university campus in the former Western United States.

Eventually, the world became so networked and measured it was easy to observe every species on the planet in such detail that we discovered many other intelligences at work around us. We studied ourselves, and like the bees watching a returning scout’s waggle dance we eventually recognized that there are patterns of intelligence everywhere and that those patterns differ based, in part, on our measuring them. It seemed as though we were gods able to predict our future, to program events as it would be best, or from an actuarial perspective, the least risky, they turn out. We felt great, but we looked about for things and species to suspect. A tyranny of probabilistic analysis of the behavior of other species established a hierarchy of intelligences, monitoring each carefully for advancement and potential threats to humanity. We suspect the cows were the worst.

Cows everywhere stand in the same places or wander the same paths around a pasture during the day, not only lying in alignment to the magnetic North Pole, but repeating patterns of standing and walking and standing again, in the same places as each cow did previously, but at regular intervals, so it was inevitable that we recognized a time awareness, as well as a complex geometric calculus, in the bovine species.

This put the cow high on the threat list. But where  exactly did they lie  in the threat matrix relative to the eagle, dolphin and octopus, each ripe with evolutionary potential? Top scientists were deployed to discover the truth about the bovine threat. Of course, the early discovery through the analysis of webcams used by dairy farmers that cows walked and stood in patterns, is well known. It had been a matter of common sense in farming communities for decades, but the press picked up on it with the scientific discovery. Coming on the heels of the realization that dogs were actually smarter than and in greater control of subservient species than cats, the lens of concern shifted to the providers of our milk, cream and other dairy goods.

At first the studies focused on the repetitive patterns and the cows’ ability to course correct when obstacles were placed in their way. The cows variously stopped at the obstacle and defaulted to repeating only their pattern of shifting the orientation of their stance to the pole, walked around or leaped, usually accomplishing of the crushing of the obstacles. Rocks did stymie the bovines who took the latter course of action when blocked by a boulder, and many test subjects were put down in the field as a result. Moving cows to new pastures, the so-called “greener fields” studies of the 2029 to 2034 era, likewise produced unpredictable results. While almost all cows moved from one pasture to another adopted a new pattern, path and timeframe of the repetition, a few did not and instead recreated their previous pattern, path and timeframes despite differences in topography, obstacles and occasional EMP bursts set off by scientists to disrupt the bovine time axis, if one does exist.

We think we’re onto one thing when another sneaks up. At this point, there was clear evidence of intelligence, time-awareness and, it became obvious only after years of study that cows where constantly performing differential equations in their heads in order to keep perfect track of their longitude and latitude, we concluded they possessed the capacity to someday split the atom.

The course-correction epoch gave way to the confrontational behavior studies, in which man challenged cow, examining the cows’ reactions for signs of resistance or rebellion. It was mostly new ways to inflict death that researchers found. Cows were poked with eight-foot pikes, their heart rates, skin galvanic response and brain cells were monitored. Many of these studies, which took place at religious or corporate universities seeking to buttress the public’s concerns about the cows in order to distract everyone from the growing evidence of global warming, reported escalated brutality among the researchers, who ignored the primary evidence in the fact all cows that entered these programs were eventually killed in the programs in order to pursue reports that in the last seconds of a cow’s life it is terribly angry. Grant proposals poured in to pursue the question, if that fading anger recorded as cows were gored, bazooka’d, dropped on land mines or hauled into slaughter houses, as they provided a large sample of angry cows to measure, could at some point in the future be linked to the bovine capacity for complex mathematics?

One animal fought back. Unlike the chimps, orangutans and gorillas who allied to crush humanity in the popular science fiction series that reached its 49th installment in 2051, this bovine, given the name “Willard” by his trainer, would be the exception that proved the rule, as he was the only cow (or steer, as we follow the convention of adopting the feminine when referring collectively to mammals whose species are characterized by their relationship to the dairy industry. — Ed.)  when Willard tore his trainer’s adam’s apple from his neck with his bared flattened teeth. He had been savaged with a chainsaw on the hindquarters. The researchers’ abuses where chronicled in the Congressional investigations that followed.

Meanwhile, the pasture observation movement in science reasserted itself as the terminal weather effects of global warming took hold. An astonishing phenomenon associated with the heavy fogs that blanketed the unflooded valleys of western Washington was reported just as the Willard story broke in the news. The climate was ignored by most mainstream researchers, who juiced the bovine threat to win additional funding. As the general sense of doom increased, we blamed the cows for the fog.

Heavy fogs often obscured the camera views on the farms, sometimes for minutes and often for hours. We don’t know when a new behavior started, but we are certain it accelerated as the fogs have increased in frequency and tenacity. It went unnoticed for so long and all seven films we have of early fogs shows the same behavior: The cows would move when they were unobserved. Let us be very specific: No human witness or camera has been able to see the cows move. They changed their pole orientation from their standard pattern to a new one. As heavy fogs became more frequent, we discovered through additional human analysis, that sometimes the cows switched places  with one another while obscured from observation, assuming the patterns of their new “role” and carrying them on.

The cows were cagey. One could not catch them at it. Ground motion sensors failed to capture their tread against the background resonance of the busy planet. Researchers using cloaking devices to approach fog enshrouded herds were confronted by cows passively chewing, lowing and looking about, apparently disinterestedly, as teams stood by to capture no results. It became a widespread controversy, reported upon heavily before the cows died out, based on the well-worn slogan, familiar from the t-shirts, “What are they up to?” The phrase appeared as a standing banner on the news networks. There were the t-shirts worn by the on-air reporters after the fad hit the global scale. There was speculation the cows were experimenting on us. A lunatic fringe developed a theory about quantum transportation of cows by cows, perhaps not of this world, which felt to many like a plausible answer in a world that has changed so surprisingly so fast. We wanted you to know that this was one of the unsolved questions of our time, but other disasters intervened. Sorry about that.

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These Mariners are good

Wow, the M’s are up 6-0 against the Angels in their first Anaheim sweep, if I am not jinxing them by writing this, in seven or eight years. Who knew Justin Smoak would hit like this? Brad Miller is playing just as well as he did in Spring Training. Zunino’s got a three-run homer. Everyone’s hitting — could there be some sort of Cano Effect. And the pitching is great.

These Mariners are the Mariners you have been looking for.

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Band of Charleys

A good name for a band, if you’ve got a lot of Charleys in your band.

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“Does the love of virtue denote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties.” — William Hazlitt, On the Pleasure of Hating

We like to say we’re all on our own in this day and age, competing for our share of the goods available and free to choose. That simple assumption could destroy liberty by making it appear irrelevant in an age of apparent plenty.

If we are all going to sink into our own little digitally enabled just-in-time worlds, the assurance of liberty we’ll grant one another is all the more important to achieving justice and the diversity of lifestyles we hope to provide to our children.

I want my children to have the liberty to experience the odd and wonderful lives they could, not ones defined only by the services they can afford or a narrow range of choices allowed by the prevailing definition of normal.
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Sovereignty isn’t like money

This is a very readable, cogent analysis of the challenges of democratizing capitalism. While I agree with the spirit of this posting, I think it conflates the process, the result of which we call “sovereignty,” with the fungibility of money, which is the hallmark of capital, the ability to transform an asset from one purpose to the other, regardless of the consent of all parties — A and B may agree, but C, owed money by B, may put that money to any use they want. Sovereignty, on the other hand, is a process that results in compromise without any reference to the specific power of the individuals involved, except their ability to deploy capital. The genius of capitalism is the fungibility of capital, which can be directed purposefully. But it lacks the deliberation between perspectives and equitable distribution of power that Democracy requires, so the analogy fails once you dig into it.

The VRM mailing list I originally posted this comment produced a reply that allowed me to expand on why the sovereignty-fungibility comparison is flawed.

By having a system of money (capital) that is built on the “word” of each individual or their sovereignty we distribute economic power. That is exactly the point of each of us having the ability to create our own IOUs (money, capital, credit).

It’s not a misunderstanding, but a disagreement. What you are describing is a system in which Tom Kleiner’s vision of democracy – “one dollar, one vote” – becomes a reality because the underlying sovereignty-fungibility comparison is flawed. By trading fungibility for sovereignty, we end up with a system in which economic power becomes one with the ability to marshal political power. I think that the evidence for my perspective in the clear in the Koch Brothers’ approach to social media and advertising. They flood the medium with self-reinforcing messages, a “paramedia” takes up amplifying their messages. The Koch Brothers treat social capital, as expressed through the mechanism of “votes,” as a commodity to increase the reach of their messages.

I think you are well intended, but that the aim is off, based on a flawed sovereign-fungibility construct that results in no distinction between doing business and doing politics. I envision a democracy where there is no connection between money and politics, though I am quite aware we are unlikely to get there.

Capital knows your ju-jitsu and will throw you flat on your back if you give them a mechanism like an IOU representing a share of the collective will expressed through democracy.

I welcome a counter-analysis, but will not engage in ideological debates.

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What’s that $19B about? WhatsApp at a glance.

Doc Searls provides an excellent summary of the implications for trends in marketing and consumer privacy related to FaceBook’s $19B acquisition of WhatsApp. Here’s my take on the deal terms:

We have to assume there is a lot of overlap between the FB and WhatsApp user base. And, regardless of what anecdotal information we have about how people pay for or use the service, the potential revenue from the WA user population remains purely speculative. So, what do we actually know?

FB values WA users based on their activity, which represents about one message per day per user at the highest level. They are slightly more engaged than FB users, with 70% daily usage rate vs. FB’s 63% of users active every day. They are paying $1 per message sent per user/day, or roughly $0.00273 per message sent over a year. That’s a manageable low cost of traffic acquisition, but because the payment is concentrated in time, the financial impact on FB’s business could be pronounced, though we must acknowledge there is downside risk to the deal, too.

CNN Money reports that FB sees revenue of approximately $1.72 per user globally. It’s much higher in the US and Canada, where revenue is about $4.85 per user/year. This means the combined company could make up to $0.72 per user in the first year, if they implement ads in WA. However, it is important to note that FB’s ARPU for the Rest of the World and Asia are sub-$1. If most WA users are in Asia and developing countries, which I’ve understood is the case, the deal loses money more often than not under current conditions.

I doubt people will pay for the WA service (it’s unproven now) and, if they were to pay $1 a year, the deal is only a break-even for those users who pay. If 10% pay, which is a typical “Freemium” conversion rate used in projection, there is not sufficient revenue to prevent WA from being mined as a source of user data and implied intentions. As WA is integrated into FB, notably to FB’s user surveillance regime, which is the core of the FB business, it will likely need to add ad or VRM revenue to make the deal worthwhile. And that puts the whole deal in jeopardy, since there is little to no switching cost for users.

My $0.02.

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