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World getting better all the time

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However sad things are at home, the trend worldwide is looking good. [via] Then consider this; and this:

https://www.vidio.com/watch/68705-the-beatles-getting-better-lyrics

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kerray
13 days ago
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Brno, CZ
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Paging Agent 007

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History: is it about kings, dates, and battles, or the movement of masses and the invisible hand of macroeconomics?

There's something to be said for both theories, but I have a new, countervailing theory about the 21st century (so far); instead othe traditional man on a white horse who leads the revolutionary masses to victory, we've wandered into a continuum dominated by Bond villains.

Consider three four five, taken at random:

Mr X: leader of a chaotic former superpower with far too many nuclear weapons, Mr X got his start in life as an agent of SMERSH the KGB. Part of its economic espionage directorate, tasked with modernizing a creaking command economy in the 1980s, Mr X weathered the collapse of the previous regime and after a turbulent decade of asset stripping rose to lead a faction of billionaire oligarchs, robber barons, and former secret policemen. Mr X trades on his ruthless reputation—he is said to have ordered a defector murdered by means of a radioisotope so rare that the assassination consumed several months' global production—and despite having an official salary on the order of £250,000 he has a private jet with solid gold toilet seats and more palaces than you can shake a stick at. Also nuclear missiles. (Don't forget the nuclear missiles.) Said to be dating the ex-wife of Mr Y. Exit strategy: change the constitution to make himself President-for-Life. Attends military parades on Red Square, natch. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Y: Australian multi-billionaire news magnate. (Currently married to a former supermodel and ex-wife of Mick Jagger.) Owns 80% of the news media in Australia and numerous holdings in the UK and USA, including satellite TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers. Reputedly had Arthur C. Clarke on speed-dial for advice about the future of communications technology. Was the actual no-shit model upon whom Elliot Carver, the villain in "Tomorrow Never Dies", the 18th Bond movie, was based. Exit strategy: he's 86, leave it all to the kids. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Z: South African dot-com era whiz kid who made a fortune before he hit 30. Instead of putting his money into a VC fund he set his sights higher. By 2007 he had a tropical island base complete with boiler-suited minions from which he launched satellites and around which he drove an electric car: has been photographed wearing a tuxedo and stroking a white cat in his launch control center. Currently manufacturing electric cars in bulk, launching absolutely gigantic rockets, and building a hyperloop from Boston to Washington DC. Exit strategy: retire on Mars. Bond Villain Credibility: 9/10 (docked one point for trying too hard—the white cat was a plush toy.)

Mr T: Unspeakably rich New York property speculator and reality TV star, who, possibly with help from Mr X, managed to get himself into the White House. Tweets incessantly at 3AM about the unfairness of it all and how he's being persecuted by the false news media and harassed by crooked politicians while extorting fractional-billion-dollar bribes from middle eastern regimes. Has at least as many nukes as Mr X. Rather than a solid gold toilet seat, he has an entire solid gold penthouse. In fact, he probably has heavy metal poisoning from all that gold. (It would explain a lot.) Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mrs M: After taking a head-shot, M was reconstituted as a cyborg using a dodgy prototype brain implant designed by Sir Clive Sinclair and parachuted into the Home Office to pursue a law-and-order agenda. Following an entirely self-inflicted constitutional crisis and a party leadership challenge in which all the rival candidates stabbed each other in the back, M strode robotically into 10 Downing Street, declared herself to be the Strong and Stable leader the nation needs, and unleashed the world's most chilling facial tic. Exit strategy: (a) Brexit, (b) ... something to do with underpants ... (c) profit? Bond Villain Credibility: 6/10 (down from 8/10 before the 2017 election fiasco.)

I think there's a pattern here: don't you? And, more to the point, I draw one very useful inference from it: if I need to write any more near-future fiction, instead of striving for realism in my fictional political leaders I should just borrow the cheesiest Bond villain not already a member of the G20 or Davos.

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kerray
22 days ago
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Brno, CZ
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Voters

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
When I said you should compromise, I didn't mean about the thing that matters to ME!

New comic!
Today's News:



Red Button mashing provided by SMBC RSS Plus. If you consume this comic through RSS, you may want to support Zach's Patreon for like a $1 or something at least especially since this is scraping the site deeper than provided.
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kerray
23 days ago
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Dissociative psychedelic Ketamine may help suicidal children

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Ketamine is a short-acting dissociative anesthetic commonly used on animals and sometimes people. Of course it's also beloved by many psychonauts for its unusual dreamlike or "out of body" psychedelic effects. While Ketamine has been shown for years to help treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults, researchers at Yale School of Medicine now report that it has great promise as a fast-acting intervention for children in crisis. From Scientific American:

It was less dramatic to watch than I expected, but the kids were definitely high. There was a lot of giggling involved, and they often said that they felt like time was changing and that their bodies felt ‘funny’ and sometimes numb. Nicole, (a suicidal 14-year-old,) admitted, “I’m not gonna lie. I like the feeling of it.”

Perhaps more dramatic than the trips themselves, which happened in a carefully controlled procedure room with a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist ready to intervene if needed, were the interviews that came after. I could see the weight of depression lifted from these patients within hours. Adolescents who were previously ready to end their own lives became bright and hopeful. Psychiatry has never seen a drug intervention so powerful and fast acting. While most anti-depressants take weeks to work and offer modest improvement, ketamine offers dramatic improvement in less than a day...

Dr. Michael Bloch, Yale child psychiatrist and principal investigator of several controlled trials for ketamine for adolescents, points out that the drug is only used for select patients who have severe mental health problems that have not responded to other medications. The infusions are provided in a clinical trial setting, where doctors collect efficacy data and carefully watch for side effects. For each of his patients, the theoretical risks of ketamine are carefully weighed against the risk of suicide. For Nicole, who seemed likely to die from suicide, the calculus was not difficult.

"The Ketamine Breakthrough for Suicidal Children" (SciAm)

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kerray
25 days ago
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The Philosophy Force Five vs the Scientismists

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Some people are going to say this was an unfair portrayal of Sam Harris, but considering I didn't have him say anything openly sexist, I'd say it was pretty generous.
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kerray
51 days ago
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Brno, CZ
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56 days ago
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tante
57 days ago
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The Philosophy Force Five vs the Scientismists
Oldenburg/Germany

Fast Company: Amazon Eats the World

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With its mega-acquisition of Whole Foods, the retail behemoth moves to suck the value out of yet another market.

“Amazon just bought Whole Foods,” my friend texted me seconds after the announcement of the proposed acquisition. “It’s over. The world.”

This unease is widespread, and has raised new calls for breaking up Jeff Bezos’s impending monopoly by force. Surely the company, which now generates 30% of all online and offline retail sales growth in the United States, and already controls 40% of internet cloud services, has reached too far. The 3% hike in Amazon’s share price since the announcement—which would alone more than pay for the acquisition—may attest less to the deal’s appropriateness than to investors’ growing fear that missing out on Amazon means missing out on the future of the economy.

Whatever you may think of Jeff Bezos, and whether or not antitrust regulations can justifiably be applied to a company whose expansion doesn’t raise but actually lowers costs for end consumers, may be beside the point. Many of us get that something is amiss, but are ourselves so deeply enmeshed in the logic of last century’s version of free-market industrial capitalism that we can’t quite bring ourselves to call this out for the threat it poses to our markets, our economy, and even our planet.

The reason why monopolies were broken up in an industrial economy was that they tended to gain control over the platforms through which their products were distributed. The biggest oil company ends up controlling shipping and refineries, the biggest airline controls too many gates, and the biggest phone company controls the wires.

But in a digital economy, the platform is the business. Netflix content sells its platform. Apple’s devices sell its supposed “ecosystem.” Amazon’s book business, like Uber’s cab business, was just an easy foothold—the low-hanging fruit of an existing but inefficient marketplace—through which to establish a platform monopoly. From that beachhead, the company then pivots to other verticals.

The problem is, when an existing market is merely a means to another end, the company doesn’t consider the long-term effects of its actions. Amazon treated the book industry the same way companies like Walmart once treated the territories into which they expanded: Use a war chest of capital to undercut prices, put competitors out of business, become the sole employer in the community, turn employees into part-time shift workers, lobby for deregulation, and effectively extract all the value from a given region before closing up shop and moving to the next one.

This model of doing business—one that even a proto-fascist like Henry Ford would have considered obscene—has not served corporations well. As the data now reveals, corporate profits have been steadily decreasing relative to corporate size over the past 75 years. That’s right: Corporations are great at extracting all the value from a marketplace, but really bad at deploying the money they accumulate in the process. They take all the poker chips off the table, leaving nothing for the other players to exchange between themselves. And by sucking their customers and suppliers dry, such companies end up destroying the marketplaces on which they depend for revenue. It’s a form of financial obesity, where the only thing left for the company to do is acquire a new marketplace, extract all its value, and move on.

In the real world, such extraction took years, even decades to run through its cycle. In a digital economy, “network effects”—which is when a product or service’s value increases the more people who use it or work to create it —accelerate the cycle so that an entire taxi industry can be turned into an “internet of things” in a matter of months.

It’s not that internet founders are somehow more evil or rapacious than their forebears. It’s simply that when companies are platforms, survivability and scalability amount to the same thing. Just as winner-takes-all network effects lead to just one Taylor Swift and millions of penniless artists, these same dynamics promote the establishment of platform monopolies like Amazon.

The problem is less that these single platforms emerge than the fact that their business plans are taken from the obsolete play books of the industrial age, where extraction was the only game in town. While internet servers and financial capital can scale up almost infinitely, the real world cannot. Humans only have so much time and attention in a given day, and the topsoil only has so many nutrients in a given acre. As the merchants of abstracted digital products, like ebooks and streaming media, apply their same business models to the markets and environment on which real people depend for sustenance, power-law dynamics become a lot more dangerous.

Not that Whole Foods was ever a sustainable business in itself. Healthy food and sustainable agriculture are simply incompatible with year-round organic summer produce in all 50 states. However catchy the slogan, capitalism really has no room to be conscious. Of the three factors of production—land, labor, and capital—the “consciousness” part of the equation has always been provided by the places and the people.

Which means that if we’re actually going to confront the devastating potential of an Amazon monopoly, we have to come to grips with more than the way one company has seized control of multiple verticals. We must look instead at how we’ve employed our digital platforms solely in the service of an extractive industrial-age model of growth, and decide whether we’re capable of upgrading to a genuinely digital and distributed form of capitalism. This would mean adopting circular, even revenue-based models that sustain our marketplaces—instead of simply colonizing them.

First published in Fast Company

The post Fast Company: Amazon Eats the World appeared first on Rushkoff.

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kerray
51 days ago
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Brno, CZ
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