The Vicious Cycle of AIV*

We enter a vicious cycle

Doing what we hate to do,
loosing any virtue
just in order to gain virtuosity which is
in fact nothing else then virtual perfection
– escaping then … into some virtual world
 gaming, drug-binge, bungee experience …
… and in fact the weird excitement of entering with your friend
an exhibition,
getting the spectacles that allow
experiencing the virtual reality
fearing …, not being able to help yourself,
in order to allow helping your friend —
the fear to fall
together from the narrow beam,
so close
– you thought
you would be to heaven,
so close you are
to the ground
awaking, having learned something
* the artificially intelligent virtuality
Annunci

Stop googling …

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

(Leonardo da Vinci)

The other day a friend of mine sent me a link to an article — indeed, a very interesting article, raising many questions, and perhaps also some puzzled thoughts. One of the latter is on “the seven minute rule”. Spontaneously “speed dating” came to my mind. Never did it, cannot even imagine doing it — though I can imagine or even experienced if not love, so “attachment”, “sympathy”, “attraction” at first sight — and first sight is surely less than 7 minutes.

But there are two main points I am thinking about now:

First:

Of course, all these gadgets etc. are supporting this “turning away” from “deep communication”. At the same time I think there may well be a general shallowing of communication that supports the development of the reference to such means. If (taking an example) we (not necessarily as individuals but as “system”) ask for “power point knowledge”, nicely wrapped, offered in multiple choice packages … … can we expect people to think and engage in wider terms? I mentioned it frequently when teaching, and in different places: Often my students showed huge difficulties in the beginning; but after a while at least many had been attentive, engaged and liked the exercises of “eye opening”. After a while = after they learned that they will not get “slide-wrapped info” and after they learned and accepted: I am not interested in “tick-box” knowledge when they participate in class or when they are sitting their exam. I hate the term knowledge-based society, as in my opinion those, using the term, are actually often talking about skills and information based functioning. At times, the results of such tick-box-orientation is weird: I received the other day a “peer review” of an article I submitted. Some reasonable points. One …, simply stupid, sorry. The reviewer said:

With a reference to such classic thinkers as Marx and Bordieu, and new leftist thinkers such as Pikketty, the author calls for a revaluation of class-based analysis …

And then he criticised that I actually contradict in the following of my article Bourdieu’s class analysis. Leaving the question aside, if we can “qualify” and “classify” Marx, Bourdieu and Piketty (yes, with one k, not with two, dear reviewer) “in one pot”, the point is: I did by no way mention Bourdieu’s class analysis, let alone affirm it. Bourdieu wrote on other topics too and it is not enough for reviewers to show off by throwing names of authors into the debate, without recognising why they are turning up in the first instance …

Part of all this is also the overproduction: of students, of publications, of …. — I am very much in favour of mass education. But what we currently see is not mass education. We have more BA-graduates, but is their educational attainment really so much higher than the attainment of previous leaving cert attainments … ? Is not the MA today very similar to the previous BA, the PhD very similar to the previous MA …. — now we have post-docs and soon post-post-docs, and then ….

Sorry, I loose occasionally some patience here — it is all about increasing productivity of exchange values, completely forgetting the dimension of use value. It is about input and throughput and output …., every hen shows more sense with the put put put … in the chicken run —…

But there is surely a very serious thing about it — and it is for me a “problem”, a question. I am born BB, i.e. belong to the “before Bologna generation”, obtained a diploma in Germany. When I came to Ireland many years ago (I have had my doctorate at that time too), somebody said:

Your diploma is more than our PhD.

My first thought: nice, flattering …, but nonsense. I am not sure if I would maintain this “nonsense” today. And it is not about the German versus Irish but about the old-fashioned doctorate versus the new and highly commercialised PhD.

Complex and complicated issues. And part of it is the control of teaching by “blackboard”, by computerised systems …. — Then the frequently asked question:

But can we turn back the clock?

gains a new slant. Do we really want to turn it back? Do we have to look for another clock that allows “educating the masses” and doing it in a way that I would see as qualified (= really qualifying) way?

Yesterday I saw an interesting documentation on Cuba: on the medical/health system. It is geared towards prevention. Very close to the patient as coproducer … — the doctors highly committed although they are not well paid. Amazing: a ratio of 1 doctor on 170 patients. When I had been in Cuba I “enjoyed” the medical service (well, one never really enjoys it, especially when one needs it after collapsing). It had been unbelievable, and it is a very long time ago that I experienced something comparable – it had been in Finland, with an excellent health care system that is now under huge pressure. On the other hand, one of the “highlights”, just before I left Ireland: I had to go for an eye test — and the doctor (GP) asked me what she should do. Short time before: I have had a pneumonia, went to the GP and he said: it may be that you have to go to hospital. Here is the referral – if it is not getting better, you can go to the hospital. BTW, it had been “the same GP”, a surgery, a medical centre and though it is the same you never know who will finally will be looking after you. finally they are not looking after you but after their money.

Doesn’t all this show that may of the gadgets and much of their use is simply a matter of “escape”, substitute, often due to US reinforcing it? US, i.e. we are doing it — any other reference of US may be accidental and accidentally relevant.

Second:

Yes, personal contact, face to face communication …. — I appreciate it, I miss it … and then there is a BUT. A BIG BUT. I suppose it is particularly felt by those who left home. No, I should not write “Who left home” — instead, I should write about those who truly consider the globe as a village and see the world as their home. Paradoxically, they may not have a home in the traditional sense of nation states, municipalities, family, parish etc. To some extent it is a matter of priests who spend their life on missions (though they are member of the family of god – and still, look at Aodhán’s kettle). To some extent it is a matter of comrades who spend their life, acting in different contexts (though they are member of The International, with all their difference as we can see them here and here and here and here and here.

To some extent it is a matter of artists who spend their life on tours (though they may be member of the avant-garde of thinking). Or to some extent it may be a matter of the business elite spending their life in private jets, hotel lounges, in the extreme case even living their own time, not manipulating their watch or their body clock and expecting others to adopt to theirs. All this is also a bit about New Princedoms.

Anyway, there is in general terms and in the different realms of life the phenomenon of “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” — with the numerous variations: “One craw does not attack another” (a more suitable translation of the German saying than the usual “There’s honour among thieves” and even the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, indicating the need to personalise the other and making him/her very close to oneself. People making promises, people convincingly offering help and collaboration — and as soon as the door is closed, all seems to be forgotten, all and everybody. The concrete is concrete …, and any abstraction is for many difficult to handle.

It is an interesting phenomenon: xenophobia disappearing with the appearance of “the other”, “the stranger” in front of us. Note well: as individual.

In other words: there is always the problem that face-to-face communication can easily entail exactly this attitude, the one I mentioned and of which I said that there are numerous variations – I mentioned few, but the most dangerous remains to be added: NIMBY – not in my backyard.

This is surely one of the tensions we can observe now in connection with the phenomenon of migration. Instead of talking really about a general human right (as Rafael Correa did when addressing the UNGA did), we usually fundamentally maintain the idea of nationhood, of nationality, defining migration as flight only. Though it surely is currently for most such an escape, the very same attitude misses that only this basic pattern of nationalism, regionalism parochialism is nothing else than imperialism. I do not want to elaborate on this — Abby did this in her docu on the empire files; and in some veiled, though still frightening way Obama did this when addressing the 15th General Assembly of the UN   — It is a long time ago, I visited with two friends, Yitzhak and David, the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Just before reaching the exit a collection of “statements”, written on paper, had been exhibited …., impressions. One paper said something like this:

Why are we so empathetic with just one girl though her conditions had been actually relatively good — why do we not worry about the thousands who suffered the same or worse fate? The answer is that it is already difficult for us to deal emotionally with the one case — feeling the burden of all who suffered would break us completely.

It is not about heroism nor martyrdom ….; it may be the weakness to push the suffering, the joys, the strives and efforts of those who are not present, out of mind though …

Is it this attitude that made Leonardo da Vinci saying

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

Hidden Slavery

Chrystia Freeland, in her book
mentions something interesting, a bit sublime perhaps, and subtle, but surely more shocking than all the calculations by beancounters as Piketty – though their work may also be of some importance – at least for those who prefer the wooden hammer info of numbers instead of approaching harsh reality shows of life. So, the reality, the real meaning is grasped in the book I just mentioned, talking about Eric Emerson Schmidt, whom wikipedia sees simply as “Software engineer and businessman” and his “interesting views”.

If you traveled to Mountain View to visit Eric Schmidt when he was CEO of Google, you would have found him in a narrow office barely big enough to hold three people. The equations on the whiteboard may well have been scribbled by one of the engineers who works next door and is welcome to use the chief’s office whenever he’s not in. And while it is okay to have a private jet in the Valley, employing a chauffeur is frowned upon. “Whereas in other cultures, you can drive your Rolls-Royce around and just sort of look rich and have a really good time, in technology it’s not socially okay to have a driver who drives you to work every day,” Schmidt told me. “I don’t know why, but you’ll notice nobody does it.”

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. Which I find sort of offensive, but it is the way it’s done.”

This is also mentioned in a presentation that is available on the web.
Doesn’t this remind a bit of the treatment of slaves – we are frequently shocked when thinking about the blunt ignorance of ancient times, or the slave trade in modern times. And we may be shocked (only “may be” as not all are) when we hear about migration and the fortress Europe. But the day-to-day trafficking within this system is easily ignored, not even recognised by so many.
I remember, taking part in a conference organised several years ago by the European Commission, taking place in Birmingham. The event’s concern: labour market and using the ESF as means for the integration of the weakest. During the conference dinner a friend of mine asked the waitress a few questions – about income, working conditions … We learned that the lady had been underpaid, and “on call”. Whenever she heard (short notice) that she would be “allowed” to work few hours she had to do it: “you can say “no” once, but surely not more. She had to look then for somebody taking care of her little boy.
All this surely appalling – but it came worse: We went to somebody from the Commission – the organiser. “We cannot do anything. This service had been advertised. We looked for the best bid – and we can only check the technical correctness ….”
****
Switching scene, back to Eric Schmidt. Wikipdia also lets us know:

Schmidt was a campaign advisor and major donor to Barack Obama and served on Google’s government relations team. Obama considered him for Commerce Secretary. Schmidt was an informal advisor to the Obama presidential campaign and began campaigning the week of October 19, 2008, on behalf of the candidate. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Chief Technology Officer position, which Obama created in his administration. After Obama won in 2008, Schmidt became a member of President Obama’s transition advisory board. He proposed that the easiest way to solve all of the problems of the United States at once, at least in domestic policies, is by a stimulus program that rewards renewable energy and, over time, attempts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

He has since become a new member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology PCAST.

****
Switching scene, back to Europe again: there is something in all this, that reminds me of an article I read recently, talking about refugees and consumerism. The main argument: The crisis is not least a warning that we have to move away from consumerist attitudes – a bit of solidarity as sharing attitude. Yes, may be there is some truth also in that. But to be honest, the baseline of it is in my view not much more than a left good-doer attitude, not looking FIRST AND FOREMOST at the untouched relations and mode of production. The comments on the article are actually quote telling, and though I agree on many issues with the author, I see (and disagree) as well with the “quasi-religious attitude” behind it, pleading nolens volens for all of us tightening the belt …. Eating less meat and vegetarianism does not make a revolution.
And thus it easily leaves the old patterns intact – the following little episode could well be one that we find referred to in the works of Milton Friedman – I had been revisiting his work recently more or less extensively. There is no free lunch – but the “free market” surely guarantees that inequality remains:
In the journal distributed in Italian trains I saw this ad for luxurious transport bytrain:
Later then, in the same travel journal, the editorial or a dedication presented the move to make train stations public, offering space for those most in need – yes, and it is even free of charge:
And next to it again a fancy ad – but we know such clash from earlier. So to say, the free lunch, falling from the table of the super-rich ….
****
Switching scene, back to the world.
Currently we can follow the UN-debates on the New Sustainability Goals.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa made some valid and crucially important points in his speech, highlighting the necessity to change the foundations of the current system – not by changing the determinants of exchange (more just etc.), but by changing the foundations of the current system. And these foundations are not about changes of norms, of consumerism etc.: they are about the change of the mode of production. And though we are talking (rightly) about globalisation, and even if we criticise war-mongering, we forget that nationalism is still one of the fundamental features of the current system. It causes the externalisation of cost; and it causes the ongoing debate on migration as matter of “accommodating people from other countries” instead of acknowledging the need for a more fundamental re-thinking, looking for
human mobility laws based on human rights
In his speech, Correa  also criticises “social minimum approaches”, vehemently arguing for the need of moving to social maxima.
Indeed, religion, also in a modernised form, will not get us anywhere. Dealing with distribution, has to be about production.