Tag Archives | Society

When Does Democracy Turn Into Despotism?

Created by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films in 1946, the still-thought-provoking short PSA Despotism & Democracy doesn't exactly paint our current prospects in a positive light:
Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales?
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On The Reputation Score You Will Soon Be Assigned

Via the The New Inquiry, Rob Horning on how Facebooking will be mandatory:

There is good reason to be concerned about the various data pools of personal information being gathered by communications and social-media companies. It’s used to shape the material conditions of our lives — what we see, what we’re permitted to do, who will talk to us, what sort of service we’ll receive.

It’s no coincidence that [social media management site] Reputation.com is joining forces with the credit-score agencies, as the Economist reports. It’s an extension of the same racket, to create a reputation score that is as actionable as a credit score.

If the reputation score is applied to you, you will have to pay to try to improve it or “clean it up.” But for others, such a score can be used to guide decisions about whether you are worth knowing, worth having as a roommate, worth friending on Facebook, worth offering a microloan to, worth renting a space on Air BnB to, etc., etc.

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Elderly Suicide Epidemic Strikes South Korea

In the new, hyper-modernized South Korea, many older people feel that they have been left abandoned, obsolete, and penniless. A dark omen of things to come in developed societies around the world with focuses on technology and individualism, and shredded social safety nets? The New York Times reports:

The number of people 65 and older committing suicide has nearly quadrupled in recent years, making the country’s rate of such deaths among the highest in the developed world. The epidemic is the counterpoint to the nation’s runaway economic success, which has worn away at the Confucian social contract that formed the bedrock of Korean culture for centuries.

That contract was built on the premise that parents would do almost anything to care for their children — in recent times, depleting their life savings to pay for a good education — and then would end their lives in their children’s care. No Social Security system was needed.

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The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent”

“the CCTV proposals in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are really about manufacturing consent”
No CCTV article ‘The Freedom Committee, CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent’ (2nd May 2011) [1]

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

It’s not often that you get to witness the birth of a new philosophy but that is what we are told is at the heart of the new Surveillance Camera Code of Practice published by the UK’s Home Office this month [2]. Drum roll please, here it is, the new philosophy – “Surveillance by Consent”.

Now as new philosophies go it’s not the best and it’s not really new, nor is it a philosophy. In fact it’s more of a slogan, or more precisely a propaganda slogan. And what it contains a ready-made judgement to save you the trouble of thinking about the issue at hand, in this case surveillance. Surveillance you are told is by consent.… Read the rest

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The Forgotten History Of A Canadian Town’s Experiment With Guaranteed Income

A town in Canada tried the simplest method to end the ills associated with poverty: give everyone a minimum sum of money. Via the Dominion:

Try to imagine a town where the government paid each of the residents a living income, regardless of who they were and what they did. For a four-year period in the ’70s, the poorest families in Dauphin, Manitoba, were granted a guaranteed minimum income by the federal and provincial governments.

Until now little has been known about what unfolded over those years in the small rural town, since the government locked away the data that had been collected and prevented it from being analyzed.

But after a five year struggle, Evelyn Forget, a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba, secured access to those boxes in 2009. Forget has begun to piece together the story by using the census, health records, and the testimony of the program’s participants.

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Bruce Sterling On Technology, Our Fate, And Eternity

Publisher 40kBooks has fresh answers from key science fiction and futurism writer Bruce Sterling, in response to questions from Cory Doctorow and others:

[Is the world] improved by technology? From the point of view of almost anything in this world that’s not a human being like you and me, the answer’s almost certainly No. You might get a few Yea votes from albino rabbits and gene-spliced tobacco plants. Ask any living thing that’s been around in the world since before the Greeks made up the word “technology,” like say a bristlecone pine or a coral reef.

It’s mostly the past’s things that will outlive us. Things that have already successfully lived a long time, such as the Pyramids, are likely to stay around longer than 99.9% of our things. It’s a bit startling to realize that it’s mostly our paper that will survive us as data, while our electronics will succumb to erasure, loss, and bit rot.

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Selfish Science And The Human Genome Project

Via the Daily Beast, Michael Thomsen on the new model of scientific progress:

In a time of dramatically worsening social conditions in the richest country in the world, there is something perverse about chasing scientific advancement that only the tiniest percentage of people will have access to, driven by the optimism of impossible promises.

It’s possible to view scientific advancement not as a marker of human progress but as a separatist illusion used to justify the accumulation of wealth by the few, building new speculative societies with iPhones, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine, while everyone else festers in shanty towns and militarized city slums. Does it matter if there is a cure for cancer but no one will share it with you?

In the thrilling early years of the Human Genome Project, scientists flew all over the world to study the genes of as many different races and ethnic groups as possible.

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Does The Internet Mean The End For Organized Religions?

Tweets from the Pope aren’t going to help—mainstream organized religion requires closed systems of information, and will inevitably be destroyed by the Internet, Valerie Tarico argues via Alternet:

The biggest threat organized religion has ever faced [is] the Internet. A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers, and moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks.

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas.

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Police Mortality: The Movie

From art group Anti-Banality, the first segment of their new feature-length film Police Mortality. It was created by splicing together countless blockbuster action and cop movies, and tells the story lying underneath — a cop's sudden existential crisis leads to the nation's police turning on each other:
Police Mortality is Anti-Banality’s latest wish-fulfillment symptomology of, as one character hallucinates it, “a precisely formulated national conspiracy of police genocide.” It is a paranoid-schizophrenic blitz against police subjectivity, skimmed off nearly 200 movies by that other social superego–Hollywood. In this opening scene, the immaculate suicide of one LAPD officer begins to reveal the contradictions of police existence to a force which, finding itself multiply irreconcilable with itself, resorts to terminal civil war, eradicating the prevailing organization of life in the process.
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What Would A World Without Work Be Like?

What comes next? Via the Guardian, Nina Power argues that work is becoming obsolete:

As with all major institutional entities – law, prison, education – to question work is to tamper with reality itself. As with law, prison and education, it is almost always “never a good time” to talk about reform, or the abolition of existing structures.

But as wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all, because all those issues like housing, food, clothing, childcare will somehow be dealt with in another, mysterious, way.

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, increasing job insecurity, geographically asymmetrical unemployment, attacks on the working and non-working populations, and cuts to benefits – a debate about what work is and what it means has been taking place.

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