Archive for the ‘sociability’ Category

unhinging

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Something has to give.

We have governments throughout the western world busily invoking austerity, and specifically austerity in ways that uniquely disadvantage the already disadvantaged.

We have more surveillance than ever before. We have Internet censorship and monitoring, courtesy of Western governments who routinely criticise other nations for the same — and from governments whose political leanings should suggest less, rather than more, government oversight.

We have governments selling our future down the river: proposing in a Green Paper various ways to charge for public schooling (while, it needs to be said, managing to find money for well-to-do private schools); destroying renewable energy programmes — using questionable logic, at that — in favour of non-renewable energy; spending millions of dollars of time and effort — possibly illegally — on pet programmes while simultaneously claiming that there’s no money available for more essential public services; increasing the basic service charges on essentials while simultaneously claiming a lowering of costs (something that is true for above-average power consumers; people who tend to be better off).

Equality be damned. The trend is well away from anything of the sort, which in the longer term is anything but good for any of us.

internet censorship

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

The Australian Government is once again pushing legislation to censor the internet. And the sky is up, the grass is green and there’s nothing new under the sun.

This time, Canberra is angling to appoint a new e-safety commissioner and create new legislation in a supposed crusade against online bullying. To that end, the Government is proposing new powers for the rapid takedown of offensive material published on social media networks.

It should barely need to be said again: you can assume that you’ll be as successful in censoring the Internet reliably, as you can be in censoring individuals’ thoughts reliably.

This ain’t 1984.

collusion

Monday, January 27th, 2014

In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators.

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

This reminds me that a previous employer of mine had tried — with two other very large tech-related firms in the area — to more-or-less collude on hiring staff, under the guise of better workload management. The theory went that since the resource demands of each of the three didn’t match up very well, that they could simply share staff between each other, moving the resources to where the workload was. As I understand it, the plan was scotched when legal advice intimated that the obvious side effect of suppressing competition for employees was almost certainly illegal.

on expertise

Monday, January 20th, 2014

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

Another way to say this: people are now wont to believe that the phrase, “my ignorance is as good as your knowledge” holds actual water.

the sound of silence

Friday, December 27th, 2013

It’s because Abbott’s approach was so perfectly suited to the age. Much has been written about the 24-hour news cycle, and the culture of sound-bite politics it generates. All that is true. But the problem is much bigger than that. It’s society-wide.

Our entire mode of living is now built on speed. We communicate instantly and constantly, and we command an impressive array of gadgets to facilitate this. The very moment we receive news, we’re reacting to it, usually with virtual people whose role – either as ideological friend or foe – is pre-determined.

A political development is not as important as the immediate argument we intend to prosecute with it. We’ve arranged ourselves into teams, and we take our cues from our teammates. We’re becoming captive to a kind of digital tribalism.
This is a whole new sociology, and it brings with it a whole new politics of obstinate, snap judgment. Put simply, we commit too hard, too early. That’s why political parties take the huge step of replacing leaders so much quicker than they used to. They know we’re not really for turning any more. And that’s because, while we’re smothered with information, we simply don’t have time to digest it.

But since we all have megaphones now, it’s unthinkable to be silent; to have nothing to say. So we make noise. And, in the process, what we’re losing as a society is the capacity for reflection.

The other unfortunate result of this mentality is the “extremist” politics it encourages, both from relatively moderate parties and — dangerously commonly, these days — organisations like both the Tea Party movement and the 99% groups. When the only way to be heard is to be an extremist, then all will become extremists.

This way lies trouble.