From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
Vitalik Buterin invented the world's hottest new cryptocurrency and inspired a movement — before he'd turned 20 - "I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Public discussion about offshore tends to focus on the Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands or Panama: sunny places for shady people; remote countries full of dodgy money. But if 29 Harley Street tells us anything, it is that offshore isn’t a place, it’s an idea. Formations House is about as offshore as a place can be, and our government appears powerless to bring it back onshore again.Writing in The Guardian, Oliver Bullough looks into Formations House and its premises at 29 Harley Street, which house 2,159 companies. "Why," Bullough asks, "has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud?"
Guess again. In a move that is sure to provoke a little discussion about licensing/ownership, privacy, and Internet of Things, Nest plans to brick customers' older devices on May 15. (via the always entertaining Pinboard twitter feed.)
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
"They don’t know — here he lowers his voice — that even if they get the money and they left, they could always come back. They don’t know that part. And it’s so scary sometimes because they could come up in the middle of construction and say, “It’s my property, I didn’t understand what I was signing, and I want to come back.” -- DW Gibson interviews a Brooklyn landlord about how they push poor black residents out in favor of affluent whites.
In superheated London, where stratospheric land values beget accordingly bloated developments – authorities are allowing planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled. Places are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off, entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky. We are replacing homes with investment units, to be sold overseas and never inhabited, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our cities are emptied, producing dead swathes of zombie town where the lights might never even be switched on.The Guardian's architecture and design critic Oliver Wainright discusses housing development policy in London and the new city it is ushering in. [more inside]
"Hi, Marc... You seem to think everyone's worried about robots. But what everyone's worried about is you, Marc. Not just you, but people like you. Robots aren't at the levers of financial and political influence today, but folks like you sure are. People are scared of so much wealth and control being in so few hands... Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn't going to make it happen." [more inside]
Congress takes a casual look at the peer-to-peer economy - “Finding new ways to monetise used or existing assets has the obvious and immediate effects of raising their value and the wealth of their owners, while simultaneously reducing the value of comparable stuff owned by incumbent companies — for whom monetisation already wasn’t a problem, and who find themselves burdened by the newly competitive environment. The innovations also provide a surplus to those consumers who previously would have paid more to an incumbent. And all without any new stuff actually having to be made.” [more inside]
Brad DeLong, recently installed at Equitablog, lays out a future (wonkish) where the returns to capital keep increasing relative to labor: "What do we people do to add value? Eight things... [more inside]
Who owns Marvelman? Part I and part II - the concluding chapters of Padraig O Mealoid's epic 16 part history of one of comic's most disputed characters. meanwhile another hole in comics history is about to be filled in as Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's Zenith finally gets collected in full.
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act changes UK copyright law so that only a "diligent search" for ownership is required before a work is considered "orphaned", and put into extended collective licensing. This is one part of a larger act that is supposed to "modernise the UK’s copyright regime to promote innovation in the design industry, encouraging investment in new products while strengthening copyright protections. " Pundits are comparing this to Instagram's assertion of ownership over its users' works last year.
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
The Global Middle Class Is Bigger Than We Thought A new way of measuring prosperity has enormous implications for geopolitics and economics.[...] the number of passenger cars in circulation serves as the most reliable gauge we have about the size of a country's middle class.
Copenhagen's Christiania squatters, famed for their anti-free market ways, are selling shares in their community so they can buy it from the government. What do you get for your investment: "a symbolic sense of ownership in Christiania and the promise of an invitation to a planned annual shareholder party." As one squatter calls it, "ownership in an abstract form." According to the Copenhagen Post, after striking a deal with the state this summer, Christiania residents now need to raise 76.2 million kroner (almost $13 million) to buy the majority of the area’s properties and an additional six million kroner to rent adjoining green spaces. The first 43 million kroner (or approximately $8 million) is due on 15 April 2012. Several prominent people have purchased Christiania Shares, including Margrethe Vestager, minister of the economy and interior, and Mogens Lykketoft, president of parliament. The shares are available for purchase online (Text source)
In a pinch, upgrade the humans or redistribute the robots - "[S]uppose [as a factory owner] I replace all my workers with machines... This squeeze has many implications, one of them being that here is an important sector of the economy in which more or less all the gains accrue to the owners of capital and more or less none to the working class..." [more inside]
An ongoing trial in Tel Aviv is set to determine who will have stewardship of several boxes of Kafka’s original writings, including primary drafts of his published works, currently stored in Zurich and Tel Aviv.
Tragedy of the anti-commons is the opposite of tragedy of the commons - it's when too many owners create grid-lock, nothing can get accomplished. It exists everywhere from copyright law, tech patents, music industry, airport runway expansion, medicine, etc.. it is pervasive across all aspects of modern capitalist societies. The concept was coined by Professor Michael Heller who published a book in 2008 called The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives. In an excellent Authors@Google video, Michael Heller explains what it is and how it undermines capitalism, in particular over the past 30 years with increased privatization.
Can you copyright a tattoo? Yes, you can. But there's more to it. The idea raises a lot of questions and concerns—for the artists, the inked-skin owners, and certain parties seeking to represent or showcase the work. Shortly after Marisa Kakoulas wrote The Tattoo Copyright Controversy guest article, featured at BMEZINE.com, she encountered a small legal battle of her own. [more inside]
CASH is the Coalition of Artists & Stake Holders, a project conceived and initiated by musician Kristin Hersh. CASH is "read-write" — more than consumption; a collaborative online effort — helping make music ownership more of an interactive affair facilitated through Creative Commons licensing.
Big FCC rollback vote this Tuesday. I know a lot of mefites are passionate about this issue and it looks like Senators Byron Dorgan (D–ND) and Trent Lott (R-MS) are doing something about it. More info, free faxes, etc at the ACLU. Read S.J. res 17 here.
So the FCC might let me be... On June 2, FCC commissioners will vote on proposed changes to U.S. media ownership rules. Proponents of eliminating a ban on "cross ownership" argue that mergers between local newspapers and radio and TV stations in large and medium-sized markets will boost the quality and quantity of local news reportage. The nonprofit Consumers Union calls the ban "critical to the independence and diversity of our nation's media". Let the FCC know where you stand (third item on list).
The US Consitution really isn't that concerned with Freedom, nor Democracy (doesn't even use the word) - it's all about Property. Owning stuff, owning more stuff, and making sure everybody else leaves your stuff alone. Implications for foreign policy? Anybody? You at the back?
J.K. Galbraith shocked at scale of corporate failures. "I can only say I hadn't expected to see this problem on anything like the magnitude of the last few months – the separation of ownership from management, the monopolisation of control by irresponsible personal money-makers." Myself and chrispy came to the same conclusion on the drive home from the resolutely un- (rather than anti-) corporate Glastonbury Festival today. Profit is valued and rewarded by the vast majority of corporations above all else. As a consquence, people with the same values dominate executive positions, to the exclusion of those with more 'humanitarian' or longer-term outlooks. Where is the balance? Should we make hippie non-exec directors compulsory? Or should I just go back to bed and let the drugs wear off???
Who owns the rights to your website if you write a book about it?
Michael J. Hammel posed this question today on a mailing list that I am on.
Michael J. Hammel posed this question today on a mailing list that I am on.