Category Archives: Life & Everything Else

The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters. – The New York Times

The challenge for the United States over the next two decades is the distribution of prosperity, including health improvements across all segments of society. Efficiency is the driver, but the product will be greater equality.

In some parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.

Source: The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters. – The New York Times

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Improvisational Writing

I’ve been writing a bit every evening, using comments or postings on Facebook as a prompt. When something captures my attention, I start writing, trying to take an analytic view in the case below of riff on the 2016 Presidential campaign. Some replies on Facebook become a complete idea sometimes.

For example, this evening my friend Scott Anderson commented on an article I posted about Donald Trump.

He wrote: Is he worse than Cruz? They are all bat shit crazy

And the improvisation started:

They’re both in the batshit crazy category, but it is so batshit crazy inside that category that you can never say which is currently more batshit crazy.

You may think one is batshit crazier than the other with a high degree of certainty and just then, with an audibly sharp “Frack,” the other goes batshit crazier to take the lead. I haven’t been able to test it, but I theorize that this happens several thousand times a second. The egos of Trump and Cruz are so massively bat shit crazy that the pressures must be intense. If we could tune into the signal, see the singularity of batshit craziness in the Republican primary, where would that insight lead us?

How about Gore/Warren, with Bernie Sanders designated to become Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services, against Rubio/Kasich (Strident and Duller)? That’s my prediction. Gore’s too rich now to be bought, an idea the Trumpies seem to value, and he could tap the Kennedy era spirit of reinvention in the face of global warming. Gore has the money, and could bring plenty of Democratic money, to battle the Koch Network. Finally, he can take the mantel of economic growth from Bill Clinton, something Hillary can’t do. Just spitballing that Gore idea.

Jump in, Al Gore, jump in! [End improvisation]

I’m going to keep this up. I’ll post the complete ideas that emerge. Some of these will be steps toward broader consequences of the election, but I’ll write about technology and business, too.

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We live in the Age of Guile

The following in response to Joe Eisner on Facebook:

Maybe Trump will be the man who sells the world. He and his sidekick, Vladimir Putin, will have a reality show that satisfies their insatiable egos. We’ve lived to see the stranger become truth and everything, from the economy to political decisions, fiction.

I hope his presidential reality tv catchphrase will be “Come on Vlad, let’s find some broads” instead of the insidious evil in “Build walls and burn the disagreers–we’ll rebuild at a higher margin per square foot,” which seems to be his current game plan.

Your friend in confusing times. Etc.

Our ancestors lived in various golden and guilded eras, which counted only money as outcomes. The new aspect of our times involve the use of social capital massive advantage. A rich television star and a democratic socialist are leveraging those uncounted advantages this election cycle to rally apparently powerful political bases.

I suggest our current economic-political environment be referred to as “The Age of Guile.” Cunning use of social capital produces a Trump, on the one hand, and a Bernie Sanders on the other. Bernie uses more truth than Trump, as a recent Washington Post analysis, which is debated here, as all analysis ought to be. Nevertheless, Sanders hones his message to be attractive to his base, who are prepared to repeat it in social media wherever he says it, very much like Trump. That’s why Bernie Sanders can marshal millions of dollars in small donations each month without a lot of spending. Trump has broken all records for campaign spending efficiency using the same strategy.

Guile can be used for good, as the Star Wars franchise demonstrated in its first trilogy, when the Force triumphed over evil. Since then the Force has always been on the struggling side of the Skywalker family’s internal battles. Likewise, there seem to be more quiet bigots in waiting for Trump than there will be college kids fired up by Senator Saunders.

Guile has outwitted the Republican and Democratic establishments. Rabid libertarian capitalism has more money to throw behind its candidate than all of academia combined. Wealthy guile is likely to triumph over rambunctious age combined with a youth movement, and only if Sanders can get past Hillary Clinton.

Trump looks like the potential winner who is most tyrannical of all available choices. He’s emblematic of The Age of Guile, and guile’s most dangerous practitioner.

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Explaining the Local On-Demand Economy

What does the local on-demand economy mean to companies and their customers? In this keynote address at BIA/Kelsey NOW, Mike Boland and I explain the rise of logistical systems for small business and individuals and how it changes the nature of work. In a nutshell, society built the old economy to keep needed resources on the bench and ready to work. Today, work will be assigned and completed through systems that put customers in control of the supply chains that serve them. It raises issues of fairness, as labor struggles to adapt and rethink how to build a “career.”

The whole talk is on YouTube, in case the player below doesn’t load in your browser.

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Why, I wonder, are we…

as species always just one step away from declaring “We’ll be better off without these kinds of people,” and acting on that nutty reasoning to the detriment of the next poor son of a gun to have their ox gored, until, reason suggests, a few people are left battling over great fortunes while the rest wait to learn our fate? It’s time for a second act, humanity. Now. You heard me.

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Where systems and worlds collide you’ll find politics

Over at Doc Searls’ excellent VRM list, there is a discussion about “governance.” Some like the word, others hate it — the concept is naturally troubling for engineers who generally ignore abstractions. But this is an inevitable crossroads for any large-scale systems development. It’s the Technologist’s Bane: We still have to do society, there’s no building successful systems that will ignore social priorities. That’s what we are arguing about here – the “governance” of the Net, the organization, the partnership all need at every level to be negotiable within a reasonable range in order for transactions to have novel outcomes not reinforcing of previous models.

Government served this function, as the setting for negotiation and enforcer of rights, but we’ve hit the limit of governmental flexibility and responsiveness – thank you, Congress – when crossing the national-transnational boundaries that the Net naturally crosses with impunity. Here, where people’s lives are shaped and reshaped by the system, we cannot shrug off the hard problems because of a distaste for politics, allocating them to the future, so we can “figure them out later.”

This is where trust meets the road, where the cogs have to be aligned, where our initial agreements will be born. Right here is where VRM must say “the battle of all against all” is over and a new alternative exists that can be understood easily and intuitively by all while producing novel socio-economic outcomes.

While working with Dee Hock’s Chaordic Alliance, which worked to establish organizational models that could be adapted, and adopted to specific needs, I repeatedly saw the governance argument derail implementation of a new organizational model. Concerns parochial often won out, preventing organizations from changing too drastically, undercutting the Chaordic model that emphasized self-organization and shared governance to ensure ongoing transparency for NEW members in relation to the founding members. Without the inflow of new members, there is no growth and the system will become moribund.

Rather than reject governance, we need to find a new respect for the nuance of social interaction involved in negotiation and decision-making so that systems can be engineered on standards that include sufficient flexibility for a wide range of experimentation within the model. Instead, people tend to either reject governance or monopolize governance by making the process opaque. Then the system becomes either an ongoing battlefield that quickly destroys the value of the system or it results in a hegemony by the early participants, who know how the system “really works,” which is just another way of saying we’ve found a way to facilitate bald political power in a new environment and you, new people, are on the outside.

This will be the hardest mountain for VRM or any variation on these ideas to overcome. It killed the Chaordic Commons. Tom’s call for analysis and reflection on the existing system and the proposed new system is the only viable next step. Some parts of the old models will still be valuable, represented here by the concepts of private property and fungible value, the ability to engineer a transactional environment in order to profit from facilitating the transactions, among others.

It’s time for experimentation and pragmatic debate.

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