Tagcapitalism

The problem isn’t technology, it’s exploitative business models

Former Twitter engineer and Simple co-founder Alex Payne writes in response to yet another rant by venture capitalist Marc Andreesen:

We could go back and forth all day on what exactly defines technological change – I certainly have before. But what labor wants is self-determination, not a slowing of technological change. Taxi drivers protesting Uber aren’t saying that they want apps out of their cabs. They want leverage to negotiate wages and working conditions so they aren’t barely scraping by. The pushback is on exploitative business models, not technology.

“Let markets work”, you say, “so that capital and labor can rapidly reallocate to create new fields and jobs.” Well, we’re three decades into an era of systemic deregulation and financialization. The result? Global recession, lingering structural unemployment, and an accumulation of capital at the top of the economic pyramid. In this climate, capital has indeed “rapidly reallocated” … into hard-to-tax, hard-to-regulate asset classes like fine art. Small business loans are still crunched and austerity reigns while tens of billions in corporate profits sit in off-shore tax shelters.

The “severe macroeconomic down cycle, the credit crisis, deleveraging, and the liquidity trap” that you mention in passing? We “let markets work”, and that’s what we got in return. It’s been a failed experiment for everyone but the 1%. Dismissing “the crisis of inequality” as just a “pessimistic economic theory” has not been, historically, a move that’s gone well for aristocracy.

Full Story: Alex Payne: Dear Marc Andreessen

See also:

Marc Andreessen’s Crude and Nuanced Tech Cynicism

Rusty Foster on Andreessen

Remember Who the Enemy Is

Capitalist Realism author Mark “K-Punk” Fisher on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

There’s something so uncannily timely about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that it’s almost disturbing. In the UK over the past few weeks, there’s been a palpable sense that the dominant reality system is juddering, that things are starting to give. There’s an awakening from hedonic depressive slumber, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is not merely in tune with that, it’s amplifying it. Explosion in the heart of the commodity? Yes, and fire causes more fire …

I over-use the word ‘delirium’, but watching Catching Fire last week was a genuinely delirious experience. More than once I thought: How can I be watching this? How can this be allowed? One of the services Suzanne Collins has performed is to reveal the poverty, narrowness, and decadence of the ‘freedoms’ we enjoy in late, late capitalism. The mode of capture is hedonic conservatism. You can comment on anything (and your tweets may even be read out on TV), you can watch as much pornography as you like, but your ability to control your own life is minimal. Capital has insinuated itself everywhere, into our pleasures and our dreams as much as our work. You are kept hooked first with media circuses, then, if they fail, they send in the stormtrooper cops. The TV feed cuts out just before the cops start shooting.

Ideology is a story more than it is a set of ideas, and Suzanne Collins deserves immense credit for producing what is nothing less than a counter-narrative to capitalist realism. Many of the 21st century’s analyses of late capitalist capture – The Wire, The Thick Of It, Capitalist Realism itself – are in danger of offering a bad immanence, a realism about capitalist realism that can engender only a paralysing sense of the system’s total closure. Collins gives us a way out, and someone to identify with/as – the revolutionary warrior-woman, Katniss.

Full Story: K-Punk: Remember Who the Enemy Is

(via Laurie Penny)

Previously: Dystopia Now and Time Wars.

Corporations Are “Bad AI”

Tim Maly writes:

One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us. […]

And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met.

I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it.

Full Story: Quiet Babylon: The Singularity Already Happened; We Got Corporations

See also: Yes, There is a Sub-Reddit Dedicated to Preventing SkyNet

When Microfinance Goes Wrong: Over 200 Microfinance Related Suicides in India

The AP reports that it has obtained internal documents that link SKS Microfinance to a rash of over 200 suicides in India. According to a report commissioned by SKS, the company’s employees had verbally and physically harassed borrowers, even going so far as to tell a borrower to commit suicide. One employee watched another borrow drink pesticide in a failed suicide attempt. Another blocked a women with a sick child from going to the hospital, demanding payment first.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: End Bonuses for Bankers

it’s time for a fundamental reform: Any person who works for a company that, regardless of its current financial health, would require a taxpayer-financed bailout if it failed should not get a bonus, ever. In fact, all pay at systemically important financial institutions — big banks, but also some insurance companies and even huge hedge funds — should be strictly regulated.

Critics like the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators decry the bonus system for its lack of fairness and its contribution to widening inequality. But the greater problem is that it provides an incentive to take risks. The asymmetric nature of the bonus (an incentive for success without a corresponding disincentive for failure) causes hidden risks to accumulate in the financial system and become a catalyst for disaster. This violates the fundamental rules of capitalism; Adam Smith himself was wary of the effect of limiting liability, a bedrock principle of the modern corporation.

New York Times: End Bonuses for Bankers

China Miéville’s Rejected Iron Man Pitch

Iron Man 2020
OK, that’s not Scrap Iron Man, it’s Iron Man 2020

An extraordinary figure in bizarre makeshift power armour the colours of rust and hazard-warning yellow has appeared, fighting burglars, thieves, drug-dealers, graffiti-taggers. Flashback: he’s Dan, an ex-worker in one of the high-tech heavy defence plants, horrified at the social breakdown, going through the many scrapheaps of the town and cobbling together his suit from industrial junk, trying to save his home.

Dan smashes up a crack house, but while most of those within run, one stays and jeers at him, calls him a bully. Dan knows her: Louise was the union rep at his factory. He’s ashamed: he always liked her. They get talking. ‘You really want to do right by Flinton?’ Louise says eventually. ‘By all the other Flintons? Then quit messing with symptoms. It’s time to take down the real villain.’

China Miéville: Rejected Pitch

3 Perspectives on #OccupyWallStreet

Local 40 Iron Worker at #OccupyWallStreet

(Photo via @Newyorkist)

John Robb on #OccupyWallStreet as an open source protest:

*A promise. A simple goal/idea that nearly everyone can get behind. Adbusters did pretty good with “occupy wall street.” Why? Nearly everyone hates the pervasive corruption of banks and Wall Street. It’s an easy target.

*A plausible promise. Prove that the promise can work. They did. They actually occupied Wall Street and set up camp. They then got the message out.

*A big tent and an open invitation. It doesn’t matter what your reason for protesting is as long as you hate/dislike Wall Street. The big tent is already in place (notice the diversity of the signage). Saw something similar from the Tea Party before it was mainstreamed/diminished.

Douglas Rushkoff:

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.

That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.

Justin Boland:

There’s a lot being written right now about what the #Occupy movement must do. What it should be, where it all needs to go. Yet somehow, everything that looked like a mistake at first has unfurled into an advantage. All any single #Occupy cell needs to do is hold their ground for another night, and plan to make tomorrow bigger and better. It’s easy to write a sneering caricature of a Tea Party rally, but it’s interesting to note how many reporters wrote mocking hit pieces on the Wall Street crowd that all wound up being completely different. It’s hard to get a bead on where the consensus is — but the occupation itself is the whole message. Nobody on Wall Street is confused about what it means, at least.

John Ashcroft Joining Blackwater as Ethics Chief (Not from the Onion)

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”

Danger Room: Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft

The mind boggles. More evidence that as far as corporations are concerned “ethical” just means “legal,” and the best way to make sure things are legal is to hire former regulators to find the loopholes.

The Politics of Sacrifice

Thomas Friedman, who I usually disagree with but do occasionally find interesting, has this to say in his NYT column:

Contrast that with the Baby Boomer Generation. Our big problems are unfolding incrementally — the decline in U.S. education, competitiveness and infrastructure, as well as oil addiction and climate change. Our generation’s leaders never dare utter the word “sacrifice.” All solutions must be painless. Which drug would you like? A stimulus from Democrats or a tax cut from Republicans? A national energy policy? Too hard. For a decade we sent our best minds not to make computer chips in Silicon Valley but to make poker chips on Wall Street, while telling ourselves we could have the American dream — a home — without saving and investing, for nothing down and nothing to pay for two years. Our leadership message to the world (except for our brave soldiers): “After you.”

So much of today’s debate between the two parties, notes David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar, “is about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility. It’s a contest to see who can give away more at precisely the time they should be asking more of the American people.”

Rothkopf and I agreed that we would get excited about U.S. politics when our national debate is between Democrats and Republicans who start by acknowledging that we can’t cut deficits without both tax increases and spending cuts — and then debate which ones and when — who acknowledge that we can’t compete unless we demand more of our students — and then debate longer school days versus school years — who acknowledge that bad parents who don’t read to their kids and do indulge them with video games are as responsible for poor test scores as bad teachers — and debate what to do about that.

New York Times: We’re No. 1(1)!

His argument appeals to me because even though I don’t want to understate the role of government and big business in the world’s problems at large (and the US’s economic decline in particular), I also don’t want to let the populace off the hook. There’s a great deal of blame to be placed on the unwashed masses who took out loans they should have known they wouldn’t be able to pay back, or are protesting policies designed to help them get better health care and repair their roads and improve their schools.

However – what’s the underlying cause of the debt crisis? Certainly Americans buy a lot of crap we don’t need, and on credit too. But consider:

The decline in real wages in the US
-Obama only proposes to raise taxes on those making over $250,000 a year
-The bailout, at tax payer expense, bailed out the wealthy
The wealthy routinely avoid paying taxes
-That 23% of the federal budget goes to defense spending (much of which goes to unaccountable private firms)

Who should we be asking to make some sacrifices?

See also:

A Tax Cut Republicans Don’t Like

Taxes and the Rich, take two

Douglas Rushkoff Interviews Harvey Pekar – in Comic Form

Pekar project with Douglas Rushkoff

Pekar Project: PEKAR & RUSHKOFF KIBBITZIN’ HOW LIFE GOT INCORPORATED

(via Dangerous Minds)

© 2019 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑