Tag Archives | Society

Bank Tellers Rely On Public Assistance, Too

If you think working for a bank is a  good idea, because a bank is a lucrative business, a business which is responsible for handing out the currency that keeps the economy running, the people working, and the masses fed, then why are bank tellers in the same boat as fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees?

VIA CBS Money Watch

Taxpayers spend $899 million annually in state and federal benefits to support bank tellers and their families, according to a new report from The Committee for Better Banks.

One-third of bank tellers receive some sort of public assistance, ranging from Medicaid to food stamps, the financial industry employee advocacy group found, citing research from the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. In New York state, almost 40 percent of bank tellers and their family members are enrolled in public assistance programs, costing the state and federal governments $112 million in benefits.

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U.S. Health Care vs. Socialized Health Care

Say what you want about the PPACA legislation (I certainly don’t support it), it’s getting harder and harder to defend privatized, for-profit medicine when the United States gets ranked below Costa Rica by the World Health Organization. And as much as I want to support government-run health care, it’s idiots like these guys which make me fear what might happen the next time I get sick and there just so happens to be a vote on who gets to be insured and who doesn’t that day. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I grew up in Europe or north of the border.

VIA Christian Science Monitor

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Living Today With Replicant Memories

arminjar 18-17-23Via OMNI Reboot, Roy Christopher ponders whether total media saturation has programmed our memories:

In his 1999 book Culture Jam, Kalle Lasn describes a scene in which two people are embarking on a road trip and speak to each other along the way using only quotations from movies.

We’ve all felt our lived experience slip into technological mediation and representation. Based on this idea—and the rampant branding and advertising covering every visible surface— Lasn argues that our culture has inducted us into a cult. “By consensus, cult members speak a kind of corporate Esperanto,” he writes, “words and ideas sucked up from TV and advertising.”

Indeed, we quote television shows, allude to fictional characters and situations, and repeat song lyrics and slogans in everyday conversation. Lasn argues, “We have been recruited into roles and behavior patterns we did not consciously choose.” Lasn presents this scenario as if it were a nightmare.

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Does Silicon Valley Want To Create Its Own Separate Nation?

balloonPlease leave me behind. CNET News dissects a talk given at Y Combinator this past weekend that echos the recent sentiments of Google co-founder Larry Page, eBay co-founder Peter Thiel, and others who imagine a libertarian, tech-utopian paradise as the ultimate goal:

At Y Combinator, Balaji Srinivasan, a Stanford lecturer and co-founder of genetics startup Counsyl, lays out his proposal for creating opt-in societies “outside the US, run by technology,” Srinivasan said, often reading from the slides he presented onstage with an authoritarian tone.

The idea is techno-utopian spaces — new countries even — that could operate beyond the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government. It’s a decision that hinges on exiting the current system, as Srinivasan terms it from the realm of political science, instead of using one’s voice to reform from within.

Calling his radical-sounding proposal “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit,” Srinivasan thinks that these limitless spaces, popularly postulated by Page at this year’s Google I/O, are already being created, thanks to technology and a desire to exit.

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The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent” Part 2 – Is Mass Surveillance So Bad If You Can’t See It?

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

In the dark ages known as the twentieth century, mass surveillance of entire populations was a sport practised only by elitist totalitarian states . Those unlucky enough to live in a what was then termed a “free country”, had to sit on the sidelines and simply imagine what it was like to be subject to constant state intrusion.

But times change, and after several wars of the twentieth century (including the war to end all wars) mass surveillance was finally liberated. The liberators of surveillance even adopted a snappy slogan to help spread their evangelic message, which today is more commonly used than that one about washing up liquid – “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Don’t bother de-constructing this slogan in any way – just marvel at its symmetry and its almost Shakespearean rhythm.

You see the secret to success of the architects of “surveillance for all” was they spotted that surveillance is so much easier to sell to the masses when it’s invisible.… Read the rest

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Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying Jobs—They Aren’t

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.     ~Isaac Asimov

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
~Isaac Asimov

Change and the unknown may be the commonest fears, along with public speaking. All of which hold the potential of limiting progress. Perhaps some adhere to a notion of singularity, maybe ignorance, perhaps others are prone to the narratives passed down from parents. I don’t know, and I accept that. What I do know is that we all have the power to educate ourselves, and to choose. For the sake of balance I offer you this.

via MIT Technology Review

Many experts would have us believe that robots and other technologies are behind the job drought. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades

american jobs

Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.

Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

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We Are Legion

LeviathanAny experienced manager will tell you that the single most challenging part of his or her job is not to be found within the mass of technical details that run through a given project’s design, but keeping their workers productively occupied during the inevitable yet unpredictable lulls and logjams that force their way through at inopportune moments.  Power outages, equipment failures, traffic jams, sudden, urgent changes in customer specs, etc., etc., will all, at one point or another, intrude upon the orderly execution of any significant project, totally f*ckin’ up your sh*t unless you can convincingly improvise on short notice.

Time is money, and labor is only borrowed, not owned, so you sitting there on your hands is usually not an option.  Unless you do something about it now now NOW you’re gonna be up sh*t creek, mon frere.  The consequences don’t bear thinking about.

And to add insult to injury, your team, just as inevitably as these interruptions will occur, will view them as opportunity to prove the old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”.  Sure, the odd individual here or there may prove to have some initiative of their own, seizing some previously unidentified flexibility within their own assignments.  But that flexibility will always be limited.  And frankly, despite the pseudo-folksy drivel of communistic America-haters like Garrison Keillor, it is simply mathematically impossible for ALL the children to be “above average”.… Read the rest

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The Ugly Truth: What the Drop in Unemployment Doesn’t Tell You.

ratrace

It’s the same game, only harder!

The truth is out.  We are living in a time when a shocking four out of 5 U.S. adults will struggle with joblessness or poverty.  This revelation not only flies directly in the face of another drop in unemployment, but reconfirms what many of us had already known, we’re in trouble.

If you find yourself looking for a job, you’re in an over-crowded market where the young and educated are relegated to jobs well below their intellectual station. This is due in part to the heavy competition at the of the top of the job market among the highly-skilled.  Basically, those left out of the jobs they really want are knocked down a peg, creating what Economist Paul Beaudry calls “cascading.”  The top pushes down on the middle and the middle pushes down on the bottom, burying those who are most vulnerable and under-qualified.

This phenomenon stems from what’s been deemed  The Great Reversal.”  That is, there used to be an over-abundance of high-paying jobs that required skill, intellectual capital and education, but now there just aren’t.  In fact, demand for those types of jobs peaked all the way back in the year 2000.  That’s right, even with all this talk of a “skills gap,” the need for high-skill jobs actually stopped growing 13 years ago.… Read the rest

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The Danger Of Putting A Price On Everything

market societyVia Motherboard, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel on our slide toward a market society:

In recent decades we’ve been in the grip of market faith, which says that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. This assumption has gone largely unquestioned in the past 30 years. As a result from that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society.

A market economy is a valuable tool for organizing productive activity. A market society, on the other hand, is a place where everything is up for sale, in which money and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life. From family and personal relationships to health, education, civic life, and politics. We need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about what the role of money and markets should be.

Utilitarianism assumes that all good things in life can be translated into a single uniform currency or a measure of value, typically money.

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