The Memory Bank*
September 4, 2023 9:06 AM   Subscribe

A Hidden Currency of Incalculable Worth [ungated] - "We need to start thinking about policies aimed at freeing up time for impoverished families as a form of aid. We could begin by defining a healthy society as one in which everyone has a place to stay, food to eat and time to enjoy the fruits of their labor with those for whom they labor. A living wage should be one in which there is space for something beyond work." [link-heavy FPP! ;]
Most studies show that the time parents spend with children has an outsize impact on their emotional health. Kids are better adjusted and perform better in school when parents are more involved.

Though we know time is important, we seem to have trouble finding it. It keeps going missing. And time with our children during their youth is a nonrenewable resource; it only diminishes...

I am not arguing for a better work-life balance, although it involves that. I am speaking about recognizing that the rabbit of more wealth we are chasing is always a bit ahead of us, and we can lose sight of our children while seeking it.

Thinking about this may seem like the dilemma of the privileged who have the luxury to ponder existential questions. That criticism is fair but possibly shortsighted. We cannot value things for others that we do not value for ourselves. If money isn’t sufficient to make the wealthy good parents, increasing cash flow is not enough for struggling families. Time and material aid need not be in competition.
Learning to be a loser: a philosopher's case for doing nothing - "Doing nothing in a world where everybody seemed busy doing something – anything – struck Cioran as the only lifestyle worth pursuing and defending. A life devoid of action and practical ambitions, of distractions and busyness, is a life in which room has been made for meaning: 'Anything good comes from indolence, from our incapacity of taking action, executing our projects and plans,' Cioran wrote. And he behaved accordingly."

Idle Theory: Life Does The Least - "Idle Theory doesn't fit in with the current economic paradigm. Idle Theory is a variant of Utilitarianism which replaces 'utility' or 'happiness' with leisure or idleness. In Idle Theory, economic growth is increasing social leisure, not GDP. Inherent in this is a limit to growth, when a society is completely at leisure. And implicit in complete social idleness is social equality." dematerializing...
Intellectual Property investment is overtaking Business Equipment investment (as a % of GDP) into an attention economy...
The Attention Economy and the Net - "The attention economy that is emerging is radically different from any prior economy, and certainly from the industrial market economy. In its pure form, it doesn't involve any sort of money, nor a market or anything closely resembling one. It involves a quite different pattern of life than the routine-based, industrial one with its work/home, work/play and production/consumption dichotomies. What matters is seeking, obtaining and paying attention."

The currency of the New Economy won't be money, but attention—a radical theory of value - "The rise of the attention economy has a parallel: at the height of the feudal order in Europe, bloodlines and titles were replaced by a new form of wealth—money."
Remember Rheingold's advice: Pay attention to where you pay attention.[1,2] That's because the attention economy is a star system, where Elvis has an advantage.[3,4] The relationship between stars and fans is central. Even without cyberspace, celebrities in show business, politics, and every other discipline accumulate huge amounts of notice... The importance of stars will increase, with a corresponding decline in power for those who insist on anonymity.[5,6]
I Talked to the Cassandra of the Internet Age - "The internet rewired our brains. He predicted it would."

Competing for Attention - "What are the implications for art and art education if, as Michael Goldhaber predicts, the new economy is based upon the allocation of limited 'attention' rather than on limited materials or labor?" where information goods are (pure) public goods -- non-rival and non-excludable -- which breaks capitalism (as we know it!), requiring public financing and/or differential pricing where "the marginal willingness to pay should be equal to marginal cost" for optimal allocation :P

Speculative microeconomics for tomorrow's economy - "The data processing and data communications revolutions shake the foundations of the standard case for the market. In a world in which a large chunk of the goods valued by users are information goods that can be cheaply replicated, it is not socially optimal to charge a price to ration demand. In a world in which cheap replication produces enormous economies of scale, the producers that survive and profit are not those that can produce at the least cost or produce the goods that users value the most; instead, the producers that flourish are those that established their positions first. In a world in which the value chain is only tangentially related to ultimate value to users - in which producers earn money by selling eyeballs to advertisers, say - there is no certainty that what is produced will be what users value the most."

Scholarship and Academic Libraries (and their kin) in the World of Google - "Once produced and put on a server, digital materials become public goods."[7,8]
The phrase “public good” has come into fairly common parlance, among university leaders and communitarians. The idea is that there are good things — things of special social value — that on normative grounds ought to be produced for public use, rather than in the market place. The knowledge that resides in universities, and much of art and the arts, are spoken of in this category.

There is also an economic construct, not unrelated, but not the same, called a pure public good, defined by Paul Samuelson (1954, 1955, 1958). The idea was well articulated as early as Adam Smith. It is a technical term, deriving from the structure of production and use of a good.

The key technical property of a pure public good is that one can add more consumers without diminishing the quantity of the good available to others. The example that I often use in teaching is the huge flagpole at the center of the University of Michigan campus. Within the plausible range, one more person seeing it does not in any way diminish the experience for others. National defense, the system of contract law (as distinct from litigation itself), standards, and, yes, information, are pure public goods. Once we know some constant in physics or that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 adding another person to the cognoscenti is without cost to the existing holders. Private goods, such as apples, are a clear contrast. If I eat the apple, you don’t. If I teach you how to spell apple, we both know how, in full glory.

The technical property that matters most is that the cost of adding another consumer is zero (or approximately so). The good is non–rival. It then follows, as a matter of economic efficiency, that the market price ought to be zero. Why? Because if I charge you something for an item that costs nothing to produce at the margin, I am passing up possible value. I could make you better off while doing no harm. This notion of efficiency underlies what economists love about market economies with respect to private goods. But when there are public goods, charging invariably reduces social welfare relative to what is technically possible.

With respect to information, Thomas Jefferson (1813) put it beautifully. (I’m giving you the long form of the quote, because it’s simply lovely.)
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point and, like air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property...
Unfortunately, although public goods can be extended to more users at zero cost, they can still be costly to produce in the first place. The case of digitally produced scholarship is of course an excellent example. What the theory tells us is that we ought to charge nothing for it at the margin — give it away. It tells nothing about how to pay for its production or how to determine how much to produce. What it tells us is that markets will under–produce. It also tells us that as a general matter, the solution of public goods problems requires collective action.
Differential Pricing and Efficiency - "The classic prescription for economically efficient pricing---set price at marginal cost---is not relevant for technologies that exhibit the kinds of increasing returns to scale, large fixed costs, or economies of scope found in the telecommunications and information industries. The appropriate guiding principle in these contexts should be that the marginal willingness to pay should be equal to marginal cost. This condition for efficiency can be approximated using differential pricing, and will in fact, be a natural outcome of profit-seeking behavior."

  • "The social prerequisite for technological dynamism is a universalist welfare state that reduces the coupling between fluctuating labor income and human thriving."[9,10]
  • "plutocracy is just not consistent with rule of law. plutocrats have the resources to hijack the state or undermine the legitimacy of state action. our current politics is unstable because plutocracy is illegitimate (because duh) while state action to counter plutocracy is made illegitimate by the work of the plutocrats."
  • "they take as axiomatic that success in the market implies creating social value, while they work assiduously to undermine the institutions that might align market forces and social value."
  • "Maslow never represented his hierarchy of needs as a pyramid. Further, here's what he wrote 23 years later: 'self-actualization is not enough. Personal salvation and what is good for the person alone cannot be really understood in isolation. The good of other people must be invoked as well as the good for oneself. It is quite clear that purely inter-psychic individualist psychology without reference to other people and social conditions is not adequate.'" (The Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow's Hierarchy)
Cosmopolis | The Chief of Theory - "We want to think about the art of money making. The Greek's have a word for it, Chrimatistikòs, but we have to give the word a little leeway, adapt it to the current situation because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality, the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself."
Money makes time. It used to be the other way around. Clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism. People stopped thinking about eternity and they began to concentrate on hours, measurable hours, man hours using labor more efficiently. It's cyber capital that creates the future. What is the measurement called a nanosecond? [I]t tells me how rigorous we need to be in order to take adequate measure of the world around us. Because time is a corporate asset now. It belongs to the free market system. The present is harder to find. It is being sucked out of the world to make way for the future of uncontrolled markets and huge investment potential. The future becomes insistent and this is why something will happen soon, maybe today, to correct the acceleration of time and bring nature back to normal, more or less.

You have to understand the more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth. The force of cyber capital that will send people to the gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality? It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds. This is a protest against the future. They want to hold off the future, they want to normalize it, keep it from overwhelming the present. The future is always a wholeness, a sameness. We're all tall and happy there. This is why the future fails. It can never be the cruel and happy place we want to make it.

We know what the anarchists have always said... The urge to destroy is a creative urge. This is also a hallmark of capitalist thought. Enforced destruction. Old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed. And old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future. This is the thing about genius. Genius alters the terms of its habitat. Technology is crucial to civilization. Why? Because it helps us to make our fate. We don't need God or miracles or flight of the bumble bee. But it is also crouched and undecidable. It can go either way.
A New Philosophy of Nature - "In philosophical terms, this means that just as we once killed God, now the time has come for us to kill nature."
I see a lot of confusion, a lot of panic, and anger, and lately also, a lot of despair, and I think this is largely because we too have been holding on to nature as this separate domain, as that which was once steady and dependable, like a still frame in one of those pastoral paintings, and that we now have to fix so we can put it back in its place and go on with our lives... with two separate domains; nature and culture, we find ourselves, as Latour put it, with two forms of having-to-be, with two moralities instead of one... And hence the great despair: by imagining two incompatible domains, we can’t envision a way to reconcile them without sacrificing completely one or the other. No wonder it is so often said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, the end of our culture...

But what is the alternative? What happens after the death of nature? Well, Latour proposes a construction of nature, or rather, of reality as a whole, as a sort of hybrid network of colliding forces and countless different agents continuously acting, affecting and rearranging the structure of the web. Note that this is not a fatalistic, everything is chaos, nothing that we do matters kind of perspective. On the contrary, it is not really a state of chaos, rather it is one of continuous negotiation, one that can breed conflict, but also one that can result in cooperation. With hybrid network, Latour suggests an integration of nature and culture, of facts and values... which in turn means that the playing field is now wide open, that we can no longer lay claim to value-free objectivity, and that everything becomes a potential moral agent...

What does it look like to include animals, plants, trees and entire ecosystems into a democracy? How do we, especially from a more legal perspective, give a voice to the literally voiceless? ... But if we can imagine separation, and this, I think, is what the death of nature truly means, then perhaps we can also imagine connection. A while back, I downloaded this non-profit app called the deep time walk, which lets you listen to a dramatized dialogue about the entire history of the Earth, 4.6 billion years, as you walk 4.6 kilometers... there was this brief moment that really stuck with me where they talked about the emergence and meaning of consciousness. I’m paraphrasing here but they suggested that we can see because the world is visible, that we can touch because the world is touchable and therefore, that we can think because the world is thinkable. And I thought this was such a nice way to articulate all this: maybe we attach meanings to the world simply because the world allows for itself to be meaningful. Maybe our subjective mind is not a sign of our detachment, but in fact demonstrates our connection, something that engages us in just another aspect of the world’s being. It may sound a little cheesy, but I do believe that these changes in perspective, even the small ones, can have significant consequences for how we shape our relation with the world over time.

As Latour wrote: “There is no cure for the condition of belonging to the world. But, by taking care, we can cure ourselves of believing that we do not belong to it.” He suggests that, despite our outspoken longing for structural changes, for radical action in our global ecological crisis, we have failed to see that the great ecological and socio-political transformation has already happened, that it is not a fate that awaits us in the future, but an event in the past that we are still struggling to make sense of, that most of us, in some way or another, are still trying to resist. It was us who set it in motion, but now, all the natural forces around us haven taken it up, and will continue their transformative efforts, as Latour put it, “without us, against us, and at the same time, through us”. In other words: the revolution is already here, and we are all part of it.
*Money in the Making of Humanity - "The idea of money as a source of social memory was also crucial for John Locke who figures prominently in our story as the philosopher who inaugurated the modern age of democratic revolutions. Locke was obsessed with money's role both in establishing a progressive social order and in subverting it as its criminal antithesis. Indeed he believed that money launched humanity from the state of nature onto the road to civil government. As long as men's possessions were limited to perishable products, the scope for property was restricted. Money, by offering a durable store of value convertible against all useful things, unleashed the potential for property accumulation and for the intergenerational transmission of inequality. For Locke then, money was indispensable to that development of cultural memory on which civilisation depends."[11,12]
posted by kliuless (7 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Ironically, it will take time to get through all of these links, though my guess is they will be worth your attention.
posted by chavenet at 11:08 AM on September 4

So much interesting stuff here! I wish MeFi did discussions better on your "link-heavy FPPs", kliuless. Maybe we could do some sort of delayed discussion, book club style.
posted by ropeladder at 3:01 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]

....Latour suggests an integration of nature and culture, of facts and values... which in turn means that the playing field is now wide open, that we can no longer lay claim to value-free objectivity, and that everything becomes a potential moral agent...

I would argue to keep them separate because historically they have been the same, where values are pure facts to people who hold them dearly, with poor results. Only the few who have learned to hold them separately would ever achieve any meaningful unity, and they were never the problem, although Latour said they were. We developed objectivity to get ourselves away from cultural religious baggage in the service to the cultural elites. We've been unnaturally justifying our loyal existence since we were primates in the cult of the big man. Knowledge was the one thing they couldn't carve their faces and fake eternal laws upon. It is not a loss to see arbitrary relative values disappear. They never fixed our so-called fallen natural state, but made us genocidal instead, no coincidence. Our understanding of nature is an evolutionary imperative of no return, but not for the big man's profit, but to conserve our sources of clean air and water. We might not want to pretend we deserve to swarm the place because we can achieve group-subjective unity with facts. I remember when local species were brought into classrooms, in aquariums, and instead of teaching respect, it led to abuse and negated any idea that they naturally belong to a terrain. A separating line must exist for nature, because we live too much in our unobjective imagination.
posted by Brian B. at 9:12 PM on September 4

Knowledge was the one thing they couldn't carve their faces and fake eternal laws upon. It is not a loss to see arbitrary relative values disappear. They never fixed our so-called fallen natural state, but made us genocidal instead, no coincidence. Our understanding of nature is an evolutionary imperative of no return, but not for the big man's profit, but to conserve our sources of clean air and water. We might not want to pretend we deserve to swarm the place because we can achieve group-subjective unity with facts.

as cosma shalizi puts it:
The late social anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Gellner had a really profound analysis of the political aspects of scientific rationality (see e.g. Plough, Sword and Book, or most centrally Legitimation of Belief; or the exegesis by Michael Lessnoff), where he pointed out that one of the effects of rationalism and empiricism was to "locate the well of truth outside the walls of the city", i.e., to create a source of epistemic authority which was not under social control, and which could be appealed to by those currently lacking in power. (He was, of course, fully aware of all the ways in which this is only an imperfect approximation.)
or jim keller:
I've been more convinced that the abstraction layers were right. You don't overstep human capability - that's the biggest problem. If you want to build something bigger and more complicated, you better solve the abstraction layers, because people aren't getting smarter... But as a human, you know, group beliefs are really interesting, because when you're building things, if you don't have a group belief that makes sense then you're not going to get anything done. Group beliefs are super powerful, and they move currencies, politics, companies, technologies, philosophies, self-fulfillment. You name it.
just as we once killed God

soundtrack for the thread...
posted by kliuless at 11:19 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]

Disney's Taylor Swift Era ... pulled a punch after talking about Swift creating scarcity and then relenting, in that I thought Disney+ was The Vault. The punch could've have landed: a better vault for Disney, where basic Disney+ is merely a cheap sampler with a premium tier available for those who pay pilgrimage to the scarce and hallowed turf of Disney's theme parks.

The Attention Economy needs to be matched with its siblings in "Fight or Flight in the Lizard Brain" and society causing fear: the 24-hour news with time to fill will recap the most-impactful stories for people who dip in and out, but it's also important to stay tuned for the latest breaking stories and so the terrible-ness of the biggest news items is replayed again and again, traumatising and re-traumatising viewers by putting them in the lizard-brain fight or flight state.

The prescience of creating minor stars and doom-scrolling with all your spare attention in the Wired 1997 parent piece (here via archive. org) is striking: influencers don't pay for things. Maybe it was always so.

The other tags are about uncritical thought, keeping your voting population ill-educated and unable to discern worse from better outcomes, and grift so that people almost-but-actually-don't have agency. We are all mugged sometimes, it's in the game, you know...
posted by k3ninho at 9:11 AM on September 5

It's been covered over and over again in economics: stadiums don't create very much actual positive economic impact - that's why they are heavily subsidized. They displace it/replace it, or occasionally move it around a tiny bit in time. They are just empty far too often, and Taylor Swift or Beyonce or the Rolling Stones or football season or the Super Bowl notwithstanding. All these things just move economic activity around, removing it from other businesses.

Also $11b in the 3rd quarter sounds like a lot - until you hear the US GDP per quarter is like $25 trillion dollars. And saying it's bigger than 50 countries is dumb too, like the ones she's surpassing are mostly tiny isolated islands.

People really like stadiums though, so that the Dallas Cowboys or Alabama Crimson Tide or Taylor Swift can come by and say they were a part of something. But they are only contributing a tiny amount of the money for that experience, and if they come to your town you are contributing equally as much, even if you don't attend.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:16 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]

Scotland is planning a transition to a 4-day workweek for civil servants and wants the private sector to follow suit
Advisers are hoping a success in the four-day work-week program for the public sector could spur the private sector to adopt the practice, The Times reported, in a bid to improve productivity and promote work-life balance.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government told Fortune in a statement that the pilot program was intended to "assess environmental, health and wellbeing benefits, and efficiency gains this could bring," and that specific details on it would follow "in due course."
Germans question value of working after new welfare increases - survey - "More than half of Germans believe work is not worthwhile after the government's planned increase in welfare payments and child benefits, a survey showed on Tuesday."
The government said it was raising benefits, first introduced in 2005, to fight child poverty and help citizens cope with inflation, but added it did not want to deter people from work altogether.

Welfare payments, dubbed "citizens' money", for more than 5.5 million jobless in Germany will rise to 563 euros ($605.06) from 502 euros per month for single people from next year.

Rent and health insurance costs are also covered by the government for those receiving the benefits.

The increase coincides with a large rise in support for parents on a low income from 2025. They will receive up to 636 euros per month for their first child and another 530 euros for every other child. The sum is currently fixed at 250 euros per month per child.

With a minimum wage of around 12.4 euros per hour or 1,450 euros net income per month, some 52% of Germans have the impression that it's not worth working as those in fulltime employment on a minimum wage don't earn significantly more than those living off welfare, a survey by pollster INSA published by Bild newspaper showed.

Germans are divided whether the increase in welfare payments is justified with 45% in favour and 44% against it, the survey of 1005 respondents showed.
also btw...
Geopolitics has spread like a rash – it is both a con and a dead-end theory - "It isn't just a neutral term to describe relations between countries, it is a pernicious mindset around land, belonging and the use of force."*
Instead of dealing with issues that have triggered waves of populism across the rich world, pundits take refuge in the inherent nihilism of geopolitics – because there are no ‘values’.

“Geopolitics should be recognised as what it is: an attempt to understand the world by people and countries that believe they are losing out. As in post-1919 Germany, it looks like an appealing way of explaining a newly chaotic world to the confused,” Harold James, professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton, wrote in December in Aeon magazine.
posted by kliuless at 11:44 PM on September 5

« Older Cry Hard II   |   Don’t think of ‘super’ in relation to size. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments