ordinary madness

http: //cf.mp-cdn.net/b9/42/12f04789eaa51ed84f12d30948cd-is-hypocrisy-the-greatest-threat-to-human-societies.jpg
I am working a bit on digitisation, and with this also looking at these Silicon Valley folks, these CEOs, their strategies and a bit of the ‘academic backing’ some of them get. The wisdom is mostly much inferior tho what my grandmother said, the difference: she did not have income comparable to that of Zuckerberg, McApple or Nadella. What is equally [or more?] worrying: we believe much of this rubbish [sorry] and even admire them. The other day I read about Mr Z., now being celebrated for his outstanding benevolence. And around the same time he had been accused of supporting Anti-Refugee-Campaigs …
In Washington, during the Senate hearing, Z. stated

Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all of the good that connecting people can do. And, as Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool for staying connected to the people they love, for making their voices heard and for building communities and businesses.

BTW, a hearing that was a bit mute people asking a wall, their hearing not able to figure out that, naturally, the reply would be a kind of echo.

  • Is it worthwhile to add that nearly every senator explicitly and pronouncedly expressed gratefulness for Z’s appearance, much more than general curtesy, basic good manners would have suggested? And to ask why he meets the European Parliament’s leaders in private sessions ?
  • Is it worthwhile to ask if everybody who has to appear at Court – the small pickpocket, shoplifter or the murderer and rapist – meets the same curtesy?

It is necessary to ask for the real the reason for such ‘liberal’ case Z. – at least it is obvious that the view on liberalism and market equality deserves some qualified review, looking at the foundation and meaning of the ‘free market’.

Annunci

Tragicomedy of Capitalism Today

A new video is uploaded, referring to short clips from a BBC-biography cast presenting Bill Gates . The presentation here is titled

Tragicomedy of Capitalism Today – A bit of Gates-Peeling

and looks with the reference to short excerpts from the film at some of the socio-cultural dimension of the tragicomedy.

— Tiny aspects – still, if it is true that we are witnessing a fundamental and deep-far reaching change of the ways we produce ad live together, it may be worthwhile to reflect as well a bit on the generational shift and on who this self-appointed avant-garde is.

The five sections are musing around the following items:

  • Predatory and Tributary Aspects of Capitalism Today
  • Alligator Capitalism
  • Cultural/historical heritage without inheritance tax
  • Sense of public service or missionary capitalism?
  • On horses, cars and Microsoft computers

It is a bit of ‘slow reading’ of the sign of apparently turbulent times.

References:

photo in present text: https: //tr3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2017/12/13/7fa674ee-c595-4a22-867a-c5f27b5faaa6/resize/770x/dcc1b021beb10d381e6eed9ab560bd9f/istock-501221160.jpg

The Bill Gates Story: https://youtu.be/fu1fBJ9b0mQ

Garrett Hardin: The Tragedy of the Commons; i: Science, December 1968

Carol M. Rose, 1986: The Comedy of the Commons: Commerce, Custom, and Inherently Public Property; Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 1828; http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/1828

Wassily Leontief, 1983: National Perspective: The Definition of Problems and Opportunities; in: National Academy of Engineering: The Long-Term Impact of Technology on Employment and Unemployment; Washington: National Academy Press

Peter D. Norton, 2008: Fighting Traffic. The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City; Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The MIT Press

The Reason Why …

… the things we cannot understand.

Wednesday evening, I receive the news that Stephen Hawking passed away. And I do not know the reason why it touches me, in some strange way. Just chatting with 艺非, I remark:

Perhaps it is because I never understood him?

The answer follows suite:

He is funny and cool

Yes, well, yes he was – and still he is one of the most profound, most serious scientists.

Perhaps I am touched as the news states:

É morto Stephen Hawking, esattamente 130 anni dopo la nascita di Einstein

– is it the closing of a circle? The birth of Einstein as opening of an era that would fundamentally change the understanding of the world and pout position, the death of Hawking who left us with the No-Boundary Measure of the Universe. which may be easily seen as a follow-up version of the theory of relativity.

Perhaps I am touched for the most banal reason that can come to mind when talking about such loss: the morning we discussed some issues of the new German government, namely the migration policy as lead down in the …, well, Tino talk about the Agreement, literally Koalitionsvertrag translated into contract or treaty. But perhaps that is part of the problem: A government, the party of the old-new chancellor not standing as block behind her, the entire new coalition only having little backing … – and little profile: the few pages on migration issues more pragmatic, managerial, featureless .. are they already living and governing in a post-Einstein-Hawking-era. The final age of which Shakespeare says

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Treaties being watered down to agreements … – Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

There is another thing that comes to mind … perhaps the reason why: The world is admiring, celebrating billionaires and bubble blowers, believes Kurzweil’s statement that Singularity is near

not realising that this is the Amazon-Singularity of big capitalist business, without any cooperate responsibility, acting as private feudal nosey lords in public spaces [the gist of a book-contribution I am failing soon]. It is the google-youtube-singularity that is increasingly coming under threat and actually activates at this stage already unexpected forces or in other words: a singularity of capitalism as we can summarise Negri.

The reason why ….

 

… there are may reasons and many areas where we simply have to accept the greatness of those – things and people – that resist in some way, searching for the breath of the world.

From Elias Canetti: Du bist aus dem Atem der Welt gerückt. [aus Fliegenpein]

Handpressendruck aus der Werkstatt Fliegenknopf, Muenchen, Band IV der Schwarzen Serie. Limitiert, handsigniert von Künstler der Holzschnitte, Wilfried Bohne. 96 Exemplare

I can only highly recommend a visit in the workshop – a pleasure to experience history being alive and meaningful …

Why can’t we do what we like to do?

Why can’t we do what we like to do?
– this was the question a Chinese student asked me when I visited the country the last time and walked across the Campus before going to the conference. It had been one of these somewhat strange encounters: a student seeing a Westener, taking the opportunity to proudly exercise a bit of English. I am never sure what to think about it – it reminds me of what can be read in Bakewell’s ‘Existentialist café’:
Not being black, not being gay, not being in Switzerland, there is still sometimes ‘something special’ about being white and hetero and in China [similar applies in other countries, including the occasional introduction as ‘Herrmann the German’ after having lived there nearly twenty years, and an introduction that actually was meant to be very kind] – sure, there is some ambiguity about it, depending on the ‘other person’ [the one who looks, stares or dares to talk …], the own mood and …, ah, so many things, including a possible nice smile or a somewhat rebukingly-fearing look.Is all this what some people man when they are talking about ‘social skills’?
**********
A sentence in Marten Blix book on Digitalization, Immigration and the Welfare State [Edward Elgar, 2017] made me thinking about this in a wider context. On page 84 we can read:
Whether automation will hit an insuperable obstacle when it comes to to tackling tacit skills remains to be seen. Rather than being brick wall beyond which automation cannot venture, tacit knowledge might be reshaped or subject to circumvention and redefinition.
The highlighted part is as remarkable as easily overlooked: Skills, by [my??] definition have the tendency to be as set of rules, more or less easy to learn and also simple to algorithm-ise – the simplicity consists basically in something we may call ‘cutting off the edges, making the wedges’.
**********
Life and living is not just a technical rule – though in the context of digitisation and IT-development technical rules surely play a more pronounced, more visible role. Underlying is a social rule: the arrogance of a class that aims on shaping a world according to its own image …. Doesn’t this remind the person, well versed in the bible of Genesis 26 ff.? There we read:
 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Those in the dark, remain invisible, are expelled, allowing the untouchables to be amongst themselves:
This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. ‘Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out’, Schmidt explained. ‘We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person.’
(Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press)
Are we really talking about New Princedoms and refeudalisation?
**********
Coming back then to Anhui [and Changsha … – and even some international airports or some ‘melting pots’ of apparently complete and absolute indifference], perhaps one should think also more about the need of social knowledge as something that entails sovereign mastering of technical rules going hand in hand with empathy when encountering the other: fully understanding the other person [the one who looks or stares or dares to talk …], the own mood and …, ah, so many things, not least the respect of oneself as part of the situation: also with his/her own rights, defined by the interaction ….
And coming back to the question of the student:
why can’t we do what we like to do?
I suppose the answer is simple: because we are teaching and learning too many skills, and too little real knowledge. We are, even after the supposed enlightenment, and perhaps increasingly again ruled by gods, not by ourselves. And we do not even need a question as the answer is always the same, not allowing any critique anyway. And not even allowing a question … – boxing people ….

hunter and gatherer

Towards the end of chapter 42 of Montaigne’s essays we read

In Anacharsis’ opinion, the happiest state of government would be where, all other things being equal, precedence should be measured out by the virtues, and repulses by the vices of men.

When King Pyrrhus prepared for his expedition into Italy, his wise counsellor Cyneas, to make him sensible of the vanity of his ambition: “Well, sir,” said he, “to what end do you make all this mighty preparation?”—“To make myself master of Italy,” replied the king. “And what after that is done?” said Cyneas. “I will pass over into Gaul and Spain,” said the other. “And what then?”—“I will then go to subdue Africa; and lastly, when I have brought the whole world to my subjection, I will sit down and rest content at my own ease.”

“For God sake, sir,” replied Cyneas, “tell me what hinders that you may not, if you please, be now in the condition you speak of? Why do you not now at this instant settle yourself in the state you seem to aim at, and spare all the labour and hazard you interpose?”

“Nimirum, quia non cognovit, qux esset habendi           Finis, et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas.”       [“Forsooth because he does not know what should be the limit of     acquisition, and altogether how far real pleasure should increase.”       —Lucretius, v. 1431]

Reading it, I remembered the story explaining the Irony of the Rat: the Mexican fisherman, who was approached by the highly business-qualified American tourist who knows all about how one gets rich by working enduringly hard over many years …, finally accumulating enough wealth to relax … at the beach of a small Mexican village.

And today? The Measuring the World takes new forms again, it is about data, the collection of everything that can be counted, and the deformation of everything in order to make it countable …. entire libraries, galleries, landscapes and cities, people alone and in their encounters … all is just a mouse-click away.

*****

It was Sunday morning, when I read Montaigne, remembered the Mexican fisherman’s story and thought about the new turn of human-kind’s perpetuated existence as hunter&gatherer to data-obsessed beings …

… it was the very same Sunday in the tenth month of the year, well deserving the name golden October, when I met later the day a friend, should I even say: a golden encounter, ‘autumnous spring’** – not counting minutes or hours, going to the gallery, taking account of the non-digitalised treasures of the gallery, the original paintings and joining the special exhibition that brought music and the magnificent painter Botticelli together

– an encounter of people, bringing centuries and continents together.

*****

Well, when it comes to numbers and accounting, there are surely Limits to Cheating History and there is surely the need for Changing the Reference. Check for a revised and edited version of the article the International Journal of Social Quality.

 

**

Botticelli’s painting reproduced below is titled Primavera